Pavement and Pizza

Most people would think there's little relationship between "pavement" and "pizza" -- other than the "Ps" -- and they would be correct. But is there a similarity between a pizza business and a pavement business? Could be. Sunday's Chicago Tribune did an interesting article on Great Lake, a small (a very small) pizza place in Chicago. The place only has 14 seats, is open four days a week for only a few hours each day, and all the pizzas are made by hand (leisurely by hand) by co-owner Nick Lessins. His wife, Lydia Esparza, handles the counter and takes the orders... and you wouldn't believe how many orders there are. Most days there is a 4-hour wait for a seat and a 2-hour wait for a carry-out pizza. Oh, and Great Lake only makes three kinds of pizza each day, determined by Lessins each morning when he heads out searching for ingredients for the day. Still not sounding like a pavement business? Okay. But consider this: Great Lake does what it's good at, does what it wants to do, has identified a market to serve, and is the type of business the owners want to operate. And it's successful. Not only do the long waits hint at the quality of the pizza, but Great Lake has been named the best pizza in the country by a number of magazines and polls, and the couple has been encouraged to expand, add locations, add staff, hire a PR firm, and in general to become a bigger business. But Lessins and Esparza aren't interested. They know what they're good at and they know what they want. They want to run the type of business they have, the type of business they're good at, and they want to be able to spend time at home with their dog and their newspaper. So by knowing what they want and doing a good job at what their customers want they've got people from throughout the country beating a path to their door -- and standing in line waiting for the product they provide. The Great Lake approach sounds an awful lot like many contractors I've talked with in this industry, and it sounds like an approach many contractors are encouraged to pursue: Know your market, do a very good job, serve your customers, (though Great Lake has some disgruntled ones but even their take on that is worth taking a look at), and know what kind of business you want to operate. No matter how you slice it (there's an ongoing debate in Chicago about triangle-cut vs. square-cut pizza) business is business -- not that I'd want Great Lake to sealcoat my parking lot or XYZ Contractor to make my pie.