The Importance of Microcosms

Jim Fisher, Founder and CEO, IMST Corp.

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This fall marked the beginning of a new era for our family and com­pany associates, because we sent our oldest granddaughter off to college. We often heard a primary philosophy related to her entry into various universities across our nation: the simple fact that “each student is going to have to create his/her own community” while on cam­pus. Individually, he or she must take the macrocosm and reduce it to a specific microcosm that will become the center of his or her academic experience.

Webster defines microcosm as “a little world; a world in miniature,” and macrocosm as “the universe, the cosmos, the whole of a complex structure.” That is about as stark of a dif­ference as you can imagine— talk about 180 degrees.

However, it is within this “world in miniature/microcosm” that we each live our daily lives. And it is within the microcosm that our retail loca­tions must operate.

Daily Life’s Radius

We live in Houston. According to the 2010 Census (won’t go into the legitimacy of this particular census), the Houston MSA has a population base of more than 6.4 million people. Our “2012 Coolest City” (as named by Forbes) is the macrocosm in which exists the nation’s top medical center, unsur­passed restaurants, heralded theater and museum districts, a tremendous business environment and a charitable heart that is second to none. Yet that is not our daily life; that is not our community. Our com­munity is only a mere fraction/microcosm of the city/marketplace.

This is probably the case of the vast majority of those living in large urban centers. Our lives are focused on a micro portion of a macro area. The only excep­tion to this might be an extended daily commute. Other than commuting, the majority of us live our daily lives within an 8- to 10- mile radius of our homes. Think about your daily life radius and its overall relevance to you and your normal activities. Just how big is it?

Routinely, how far do you travel to pur­chase fuel, visit a convenience store, go to a supermarket, dine out (non-special occa­sion), patronize an entertainment venue, seek services and medical professionals, and all of the other errands and needs of living? The majority of life’s spontaneity likely occurs within your daily life radius.

Buying and Serving Locally

We Houstonians “venture inside the loop” or go downtown to eat at a favorite-special-occasion restaurant, see a play, attend a special showing at a museum or attend a Texans or Astros (not much this year) game. But day in and day out, our “lives are local.” Take a moment for a little self-analysis—you must believe your “life is local” in its core. It is developing this understanding of the absolute relevance of how vital this core is to us as indi­viduals to understand how each of our retail locations must be “local” in terms of serving individual trade areas.

The hot, recently promoted theme of “buy local” is indica­tive of our having to “serve locally.” The marketplace is a macrocosm, and each retail facility is a microcosm of that marketplace/macrocosm. It is for this reason that the mar­ketplace cannot be approached from a single-point perspective, but rather many micros com­bining to properly serve the marketplace on a local/individual basis. A macro fix cannot be applied to a micro world; how­ever, allowing the reverse (the micros to build the macro) is most applicable in serving our customers’ “daily lives.”

Our customers’ lives are our lives. They have (and exist in) their “daily life” just as we do. When we see ourselves, we see them. It is not a mirror—it is the core from which our retail facili­ties’ service and caring are derived, and long-term relationships are formed. Once again, we bear witness to the fact the concept never changes, but the marketplace always does.

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