A default position is the standard position that something rests in or its usual pattern of behavior. Your computer’s cursor starts off in a standard position when you open a new document, your GPS starts at your current location, and the clock on your coffee pot flashes 12:00 after a power outage. On a personal level, partners lie down the same side of the bed each night, commuters take the same route to work every morning, and some people see the glass always as half empty and others as half full.
Default positions abound in our daily lives and do offer some time-saving short cuts. If you have a default position for where you set the toothpaste after you’ve finished coating your brush, you always know where to reach for the toothpaste. A family with young children might have default positions for who sits where in the car so that there isn’t an argument on every trip. And, if the keys go in the same place every time you get home, there is no need to search for them when you leave.
However, default positions create patterns of behavior that lead us to act without thinking and that can lead to unfortunate results.
One place where default positions can lead to decisions that may not have the best outcome lies in consumers’ purchasing decisions. Many people shop at a particular store or couple of stores every week without ever considering other locations. Some buyers automatically turn to the internet for bargains without ever considering the ubiquitous “shipping and handling.” Some shoppers head for the one-size-fits-all store while never recognizing more tailored options exist.
Working with start-up businesses at the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Lincoln Land Community College, we see business owners every day who have to challenge people’s default positions. If a popular chef is hoping to start her own restaurant, she is going to have change people’s current “first choice” of where to go when going out to eat. A new salon is going to have to attract clients who may have used another stylist for years—even decades—before. The new retail store somehow is going to have to move to the top of the minds of shoppers who are looking for products like theirs.
This is particularly challenging for business owners starting on a smaller scale. Without the enormous advertising budgets, incredible inventories, and national name recognition that support their larger competitors, the “mom and pop” shop faces a daunting challenge that many like them never can overcome.
And that’s where your personal default positions come in. If your current defaults are national chains, the internet, or giant all-in-one outlets, why not think about a local store once in a while? We publicize events like Springfield Buy Local Month and Small Business Saturday as reminders, but what about the rest of the year?
Anyone can get comfortable with products, services, and suppliers they use all the time, but rather than letting your default position turn into a rut, why not give a new item, an unfamiliar provider, or a different operation a try? Keep your eyes open for something unusual and unique—maybe someplace local.
No one is suggesting that you never shop at the big places; people in this area are blessed with a staggering and excellent array of quality national businesses to serve them. What every small business owner asks, though, is that you stop and think about them as an option as well. One of their primary goals may be to become your new default position.
Kevin Lust is the Director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Lincoln Land Community College and the founder of Lust Development Group, Inc., an international training and speaking business.