(Time to read this Blog is about 2½ minutes)

Before we get to the main topic, here are a few things to get you thinking:

  1. My biz quote of the week:
    Here’s a simple question that every business needs to ask…
    “Are we trying to get our customers to do what we want them to do, or are we committed to helping them do what they want to do?”
    …Donald Cooper.
  1. What will you do in 2021 to be a better place to work? In survey after survey, the companies that are rated the best for delivering an amazing ‘customer experience’ are also rated as one of the best places to work in their industry.
    This is not a coincidence!   You cannot be a great place for your customers if you’re not a great place to work. So, what 4 or 5 things will you do to be a better place to work in 2021?  Ask your team for their input. Trust me, they have a list. Remember, the best people have to work for someone…it’s just that you have to deserve them!
  1. IKEA discontinues its famous catalogue after more than 70 years. More than 200 million copies of the IKEA catalogue were printed each year, in 32 languages.  But, no more!  The trend to online buying, hastened by COVID-19, has diminished the print catalogue’s effectiveness, so it’s gone!  This is a huge saving for IKEA…but a big blow to the already struggling printing industry.

    So, what should be transformed, reinvented or discontinued in your business in 2021 …and when will you start?  


Now, to this week’s important topic:

5 important business lessons from the bird feeder!

Note:  I wrote this article a few years ago, but it’s a ‘classic’ with a timeless business message.  Enjoy! 

At the end of every year we retreat to our country place for two wonderful and peaceful weeks to reflect, refresh and relax.  Although it’s only two hours north of Toronto, it feels like a million miles from anything ‘city’…especially in winter!  But, even here, one learns important business lessons. 

As soon as we arrived this year, I hung a bird feeder right outside our kitchen window.  Think of this as a new business start-up with a great product (ok, so peanuts from Bulk Barn), no customers, but great potential in the form of a nearby forest full of hungry birds.  This new venture had ‘success’ written all over it!

But how, I wondered, do I promote my ‘grand opening’?  First, I thought of advertising but birds don’t read newspapers, don’t listen to the radio or watch TV…but they do ‘tweet’.  Then, I thought that maybe I should create a ‘grand opening special’ by lowering my price…but hell, I was giving my peanuts away.  How much lower could I go?  I even considered sampling, but didn’t fancy myself standing outside, under the feeder, at minus 35 degrees, holding out a handful of free peanuts. 

Here’s what happened during the first five days of my new ‘business venture’…   

Day #1…No customers.  Not one single bird. Our new business was a failure!  

Day #2: Things are looking up!  We are visited by one chickadee, who apparently loves free, imported Spanish peanuts. He stays to shop the entire day.

Day #3:  Things are really looking up. We have dozens of chickadees and two kinds of nuthatches.  Apparently, birds tell other birds. Funny how that works.

Day #4:  We have dozens more chickadees, endless nuthatches, several pushy blue jays, brilliant cardinals and two kinds of woodpeckers…both males and females.  Apparently, peanuts are a one-size-fits-all item …and not gender-specific.

Our ‘grand opening’ is officially declared to be a huge success!  We now have line-ups. It’s like an IKEA grand opening…our customers are actually fighting for the ‘merchandise’. 

By the end of the day we’re running out of peanuts and I make a special trip to town to replenish our inventory and purchase two additional feeders to expand our operation, eliminate line-ups and improve our customer service.

Day #5:  Our customer base grows even more with the addition of one blue jay and a red squirrel.  He doesn’t fit our demographic, but we welcome him anyway, as long as he doesn’t frighten away our primary target customers.

So, here are your five important business lessons from the bird feeder…

  1. You can’t build a business in one day. Be in it for the long haul.
  2. Word-of-mouth works!  One delighted customer can profoundly affect the success of your business.
  3. Don’t run out of what your customers want.
  4. Expand your business only when you have lineups. Don’t get ahead of yourself.  Too much inventory or too much overhead can kill you.
  5. You may get customers that you didn’t expect.  Welcome them!  They create a whole new possibility to grow your business.


That’s it for this week…

Stay safe…live brilliantly…and do at least 3 important or kind things each day!       

Donald Cooper 


Donald Cooper speaks and coaches internationally on management, marketing, and profitability.  He can be reached by email at donald@donaldcooper.com in Toronto, Canada.

4 Responses to 5 important business lessons from the bird feeder!
  1. Comment *Love this story!! Finally some encouraging news for 2021!! Planning, preparing and patience works every time!

  2. This is a modern day fable, Donald. Thank you for the insight and the lesson.

    I wish you and all your other readers a safe and prosperous 2021.

    Alex in Australia.

  3. What a great (and timely) reminder. Perfect time to get back to a solid philosophy for my new venture.
    I see the disruption of Covid 19 as the perfect opportunity to change long held and outdated industry expectations in my area of expertise and your blog reminds me not to lose track of how we manage that in our own business and stay grounded. Thank you.

  4. […] educational component through his regular posts. Here is the recent one from his blog, entitled “5 important business lessons from the bird feeder!” and I can imagine his brain ticking along with another great idea right […]


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