Having recently visited my Teacher's Buddhist monastery in Eastern Tibet (an amazing place in a beautiful valley well over 14,000 feet above sea level), I can say that none of the business advice I write up for my blog readers would have had any impact on the stores and offices in the small, adjacent village where we stayed. On my several meanderings to find this or that in the stores there, it seemed a wonder to me that they survive at all. Still, everyone seemed reasonably happy and no one was starving....so what do I know about running a business? Obviously nothing if you happen to live in rural Tibet! Just goes to show you that every culture has different rules and what works in one place would never fly in another.
What struck me first was that no one wanted to pay for electricity. Almost universally, the stores and offices were dark inside. They had lighting in most cases, but did not turn it on. Even the local Tibetan doctor's office did not have anything other than whatever natural light filtered into his office storefront. It was often difficult to see the merchandise and just as often there was no one in the shop when you walked in. One had to shout and hope that your voice was louder than the video game playing in the back room.
Second, there were no posted hours of operation on the doors. I suppose if you know everyone in town, they may know where to find you if you aren't in your shop! Anyway, just one more common situation that would not work for us in the West.
Then there were the dirty floors and counters, even in the food shops. I guess this is balanced out by the fact that there is clearly no stress due local or national authorities inspecting and handing out fines for cleanliness violations. Everyone was pretty laid back and friendly. If I was worrying about the dusty food bins, no one was joining me in my concern!
Last of all, most shops had no signage. Again, a very small village and everyone knows where everything is (unless you are a visitor). For example, it was only on the last day that we discovered there was a bookstore in town a block from our lodging, but you'd never have found it unless a local took you there. The whole experience made me think of the wild west; maybe that's what it would have been like to shop in Silver City, NM or Laredo, TX a hundred years ago.
Here we could never get by with non-existent lighting, no posted hours, questionable floors and counter-tops, or no signs on the front of our clinics! So what did these people have that allows them to stay in business? It's a small village where everyone knows everyone and everyone is imbedded in the community. That rule ..."imbeddedness in your community"... was exactly the same there as it is here. Clearly there were no brochures, biz cards, or websites required, and I've said it before that the smaller the community you live in, the less you need a website and the more you simply need to know everyone. That same phenomenon was operating in this village.
One interesting note. The Tibetan doctor there (many monasteries have one) did do house calls and was extremely solicitous of his patients. Our Blue Poppy formula, Immortal Qi®, which has among its uses the treatment of various symptoms of altitude sickness, worked nicely for most of us but was the wrong formula for one of the people on our pilgrimage. For this person, the Tibetan doctor prescribed a packet of granules (that looked like Chinese herbs although he was not able to explain to us what was in it) which thankfully helped her. He came back several times to her room to check her pulse and inquire about her improvement. We were told they had had visitors in the past who'd had to be driven 10 hours back to the closest hospital due to altitude sickness, so perhaps it's not a wonder he was worried about her.
Speaking of herbs, another thing we found interesting is that the Chinese have created an insane market for the local hong hua, gou ji, dong chong xia cao (cordyceps), and a dark/red-orange version of ju hua, all grown/produced in that area. These were all sold in fancy packages at varying outrageous prices, especially the cordyceps, in hotel and tourist stores in Qinghai province.
Upon my return to Colorado, a combination of Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan and the Blue Poppy Original Resolve Depression and Stabilize Sleep® got me back to a normal sleeping cycle in fairly short order, just to give that quite versatile formula a small marketing moment.
Here's hoping you're having a great Summer, perhaps interesting travel opportunities, good health, and that the lights are on in your clinic! By the way, if you read my blog and enjoy the articles and suggestions, please forward it to a friend. With the advent of the new website, people have yet to find my new blog. Thanks for helping me spread the word.