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Small Is Beautiful

By Sasha Schriber – CEO @ NANOS

I am by nature, a loyal and conservative person. I always go to the same grocery store, hairdresser, carwash, esthetician. You get the idea.

I tend to avoid big chains whenever possible. If and when I do go to a large hotel or restaurant chain, I tend to remind myself: while it’s acceptable to expect a certain value of services, do not anticipate a personalized approach or an excellent, positive experience. Otherwise I‘d be heading straight to disappointment central.

 I prefer to shop, eat, buy seasonal produce and travel locally. Small cafés, family-owned restaurants and local boutique hotels are my jam. What’s amusing is that when I’m on my daily routine in Zurich, I’d either have a lunch meeting or dinner at the same Thai café for lunch repeatedly or at another Thai restaurant for dinner. Personally, I don’t even like Thai food that much — for those who are not familiar with our Zurich office location, there are at least six restaurants on our street that serve Thai food. It’s local, close by and family-owned.

 The place I’d go for lunch offers quick, hot food options – three choices of protein, vegetables and sauces, with either a choice of rice or noodles. I could go there and eat in or have it as a take-out. It would take no longer than 15 minutes and every day, there’s a new menu. It gives me the impression that the food planning has something to do with availability and the concept of fresh food. The Thai dinner restaurant, on the other hand, would prepare me a special meal. I would be able, to some extent, devise it however I’d like it, as long as the ingredients were available.

 Convenience does matter in this regard ­– both places are literally less than 100m away from our office door. I can rush back to the office to resume my day. Price and great service are so on point, that it would often lead me to disappointment each time I’d try a different eating spot in our office’s vicinity. What’s interesting is that these cafés and restaurants are not even findable on Trip Advisor, because the owners don’t speak either English or German! They don’t own a laptop, let alone a website. The other four Thai restaurants in our vicinity, by contrast, are easily found online, yet they have mediocre reviews.

 How would I find a similar place to eat when I travel, if it could be hidden a mere stone’s throw away from my hotel? What if in our digital age, I would fall under the category of lacking true access to real-life circumstances, due to our dependency on online search results? Here’s hoping that the concierge or receptionist of the hotel would know better!

 Similarly, when I’d prepare dinner for friends or family, I stick to buying seasonal, fresh, local ingredients, from vegetables to protein. Switzerland may be a farmer’s paradise, but seriously, who has the time to travel the narrow and winding roads, in search of signs of “Zum Verkaufen – eier, honig, milch, tomaten” (For sale, eggs, honey, milk and tomatoes). You might be able to guess what I’m about to say next: it would have been easier if I’d just google a farm in the area, order online and pick up everything I need. Unfortunately, most of those farms have an outdated website and therefore, not Google-worthy to be seamlessly findable on its search results!

 On this note, from my own personal and work experiences, one thing you could deduct when you see someone advertise their business with Nanos is this: do pay attention and treat them with respect. These are the folks, who in their daily work, would wash their customers’ hair with care, while cleaning the floors thereafter, then promptly place an order of necessary merchandise and simultaneously balance their books and file their taxes. These are the kind of hard-working people, who’d usually smile when I asked them how they’d place their online ads to bring in more customers. Some of them might either be primary caretakers of their families, while juggling everything under the sun. Occasionally, they might outsource by hiring a student, an apprentice, or intern, who could assist them from time to time. Some small business owners might have experienced the frustration of having spent $500 on a marketing budget with very little ROI. Their genuine hope is that their existing loyal customers would hopefully, organically spread the word about their awesome business. 

The truth is, that doesn’t invariably happen. In reality, I’d walk down the street and notice a new business moving into a new location. They had taken great care into purchasing furniture, setting proper lighting, music and ambiance, while spending hours interviewing and training staff. The thing that affects me the most is each time I witness a business owner’s happy face – those who are managing the renovation, taking care in gathering the right furnishings and decorations. These people spend a significant amount of money, effort and time. Unfortunately, not all of them achieve their dreams of success. Six months in, some may experience great financial loss due to their business appearing “invisible” online.

 Why do I think small is beautiful? It’s the people I encounter on a day-to-day basis – they carry the world on their shoulders for their family’s future, while contributing to one country’s economy by creating new jobs in their communities, and still abiding to their local rules and regulations, as rigorous as they may be. These are the kinds of people I noticed on my daily visits to their restaurants. And the ones I am proud to support.