The conditional as a tool of economic non-development

Dany Marquis

According to Wikipedia, the Conditional is a mode used to express an event or a state subject to a precondition (hence its name), to report facts while expressing doubt about them, or as "future of the past".


  • If I had the wings of an angel I would leave for Quebec!
  • If I had a tank, it would change my life, I would go for a walk on the edge of Gaspésie.

But why tell you about the conditional? Because for a company to survive in a small environment or a small market, it must survive a crucial period that I have called: the conditional stage.

This reflection comes from my observation of the evolution of a small business inspired by my own experience, and that of the companies around me. Note that I do not consider myself an expert on the subject and I am trying to describe a situation common to several businesses that have closed their doors or are currently experiencing difficulties.

In my opinion, there is a recurring phenomenon in business development within the four stages below:

  1. The excitement of the beginnings

Yay! A new café, bakery, microbrewery, chocolate shop, bookstore, delicatessen, etc. near our house! That's wonderful! And if we are lucky enough to know the owner, directly or indirectly, we feel part of the adventure. We arrive en masse at the official opening. We bring flowers, we wish good luck to the entrepreneur whose heart is so full. Sales skyrocket and the entrepreneur tries to juggle this new life while adapting with his knowledge, his means, his energy.

  1. The ordeal by fire

Once the honeymoon is over and, let's say the first 6 months, a certain plateau is then set up where customers come to buy the product. At this point, consumers will be merciless if the product is bad, the service is poor, the kitchens dirty, the atmosphere rotten. The law of the market will then do its work and the entrepreneur will have to return to do his homework before starting another business or applying for a civil servant job if he is burned to death. At this moment, I calmly accept the merciless law of the market and the conclusion that struck the defunct company during the first year.

  1. The conditional stage

I will describe this stage a little further but will simply say that this stage can last up to ten years of work and it is this stage which ends 95% of businesses by pushing them to close following financial difficulties or a major frustration of the entrepreneur, which can even go from burn-out to depression.

  1. End of the desert crossing

Here, the local business has passed the stage of uncertainty and reached a balance allowing the entrepreneur to harvest a little and rest, no longer having the sword of Damocles over his head and being able to work to become better without having to deal with the subjective factors described in “The conditional stage.

It is difficult for me to describe step #3 because it is a concept that I have never seen in my management books, and which has never been discussed. Always according to my little experience obviously. To illustrate this point, let's take a fictitious company, Sugar Daddy biscuit factory, and its owner Marc. He passed the first two stages with an incredible product, at a good price and he is 100% invested in his business. Our friend Marc will undeniably reach a sort of plateau in terms of his sales, and even a gradual decline. And this despite an exceptional product. For what? Because of this famous conditional step.

The entrepreneur will then hear a litany, recited in chorus, in which everyone will express the reason why they no longer go to Marc.

If/if he ________________________, I would go…

  • made small meals
  • The walls were a different color
  • The music was quieter
  • Hadn't hired Ms. Chose-binne, it seems she slept with the guy from the garage and had a breakdown
  • Was open on Sunday
  • Cut his beard
  • Had a terrace
  • Had a liquor license
  • Served breakfasts, you know there like Cora, with small fruits
  • Didn't fall in the moonlight the other time when I was late for work and he didn't give me a chin when he heard my horn
  • Didn't give her children chocolate covered granola bars as a snack
  • Her ! »/$%?&*() of chihuahua doesn't chase me when I'm jogging on his street
  • Did not vote for Pauline Marois
  • It doesn't stink as much when he bakes his cookies
  • Didn't fire my wife/cousin/brother-in-law, etc., who worked for him last year, because he/she did an amazing job and fired her for no reason
  • Had smiled at me the other time at the grocery store, no, but what a snob!
  • Wasn't so arrogant with his damn cookies
  • Had not said on Twitter that “star academy” produced soulless artists
  • Don't yell so much when he's coaching the soccer team
  • Don't jabber in Arabic to the Moroccans who have just arrived, "choukran" what is "choukran", we are in Quebec here
  • Her toilets were clean, the last time I went the trash can was overturned
  • Didn't have that much grant
  • It was bigger
  • Had air conditioning
  • The parking lot was better located, like at Tim Horton's, they have it covered,
  • The parking lot was asphalted
  • Didn't have a Harley Davidson
  • If he made his biscuits with fair trade and organic flour whose cereals were blessed by a descendant of Brother André

What if, what if, what if…

I think I'll stop here because I feel the irony rising in my face. But now our friend Marc will quickly find himself discouraged, because he makes very good biscuits of which he is proud, but people start to shun him for all kinds of reasons. Some of which directly affect him as an individual. People will go even further and use their purchasing power to harm him:

“Not able to smell this Marc, so I will buy my biscuits in a biscuit factory 600 km from us”

There will even be companies, which bought biscuits from him, who will start buying those from the competitor and will proudly display it in their window. Hold on Marc! You just had to… (choose from the list above).

Either Marc throws in the towel, falls into depression or he takes a step back to see the options available to him. Because at this stage, the conditional stage is inevitable. No one is a prophet in his own country. Marc will have to modify his business to be profitable without depending on his local clientele, so loyal yesterday but so tough today. So, he will try to sell his biscuits outside, via the internet, perhaps even in the town of the other biscuit factory, probably a victim of the same local phenomenon. Fortunately, there will always be a small core of die-hards who will continue to visit Marc and appreciate his biscuits and his work.

And if Marc ever asked me for advice, I would tell him to listen to his customers only with one ear because even by investing and adapting to satisfy his local customers (revisit the list above again), they will then find another excuse not to go.

One day a customer shared with me comments from his mother, who had not set foot in one of my cafes for 3 years. No air conditioning, it's too hot according to the lady. I explained to him that installing air conditioning cost around $15,000 and that for the moment, we couldn't afford it. So I asked her why she didn't come during the winter. The customer looked insulted and told me that she preferred Tim Horton's anyway.

All this to tell you that we are all responsible for this stage of the conditional and that for companies it corresponds to a real crossing of the desert which can be fatal. For the company and even for the entrepreneur, because we talk a lot about business success, champions, abundance, especially for those who remain in the stands: consultants, speakers, accountants, bankers. We don't often hear about bankruptcies, depression, divorcing couples, suicide. Yes, yes, suicide. We encourage boldness, risk-taking, we salute the entrepreneurs who have crossed their desert. Alone. And we are surprised that there are so few. And everyone in our corner boycotts, until the entrepreneur crosses his desert, until he demonstrates that his product is appreciated elsewhere.

A collective effort should be made to overcome our reluctance, to forgive the mistakes of beginners, and even sometimes the sulphurous personality of entrepreneurs. Because to cross the desert, you don't need a hard rind, oh no, but a soft, flexible and very, very thick one.


For a concrete and real example, I invite you to click on the link at the end of this text which was the trigger for this blog. My partner comes from Coaticook, well known for its ice cream, and perhaps one day for its microbrewery. A Facebook page (Coaticook my city) has been created and you can read the daily life and the pulse of this city through announcements, citizen comments and newspaper clippings.

A publication by Mr. Stéphane Lafrance caught our attention:

[…]There is something that I have difficulty understanding... I love being at the micro brewery located in front of the Coaticook dairy. There is a good white beer that [sic] I love to taste and every time I go there, whether with my wife or with friends, I always find something to fill my stomach. […] There is something that I have difficulty understanding... Rarely do I meet a lot of people there. However, there is plenty of room to accommodate you... I am told that it is echoed when there are a lot of people... I cannot confirm because there have rarely been “a lot of people” when I have been there. But, even if it were true... I would go there the same... because I don't yet know of a place where you can whisper when "crowded with customers"! Yes, I have difficulty understanding... An investor who would be very happy to see his dream: welcoming YOU, come true!


I invite you to click on this link, which is public, and to read the reactions there.

Click here, but don't click too hard please

I have never been to this microbrewery. And I can't say with certainty that the company is past the trial by fire stage. However, it looks to me like a company that is going through its conditional stage and going through its desert.

And don't think that I'm trying to tell you that we have to consume locally out of pity, and force customers to consume in certain establishments. The entrepreneur has the responsibility to give the maximum to obtain our dollars, and on the other hand, we must realize that these same dollars invested in the small business have much greater returns than by investing them in certain other businesses . I therefore believe that, as consumers, we must make a minimum of effort in order to keep this type of company in our economic landscape. A nice cluster small business economy, instead of one Wal-Mart per town. Because if we let the law of the market run rampant in our communities, Wal-Mart will win.

And if. Yes, yes, yes.

And if you are an entrepreneur in the conditional stage, in the middle of the desert, don't give up! Because over time, even the most cloudy and muddy water eventually clears up.

And if. Yes, yes, yes.

And if you find me idealistic, I say: thank you.

Danny Marquis

Facebook page of the Coaticook microbrewery: Microbrasserie de Coaticook

Suggested reading: The small-Mart revolution – How local businesses are beating the global competition by Michael H. Shuman


  • Madame l'intruse

    J’ai à peine touché L’effervescence des débuts que je me retrouve dans un désert bien esseulée. En ce moment seule dans une région loin de mes proche là où j’ai rêver un jour de m’établir pour la beauté du paysage et pour avoir cru en cet endroit et les gens de la place, là où les gens passent devant ma boutique comme s’ils traversaient sur une lumière rouge ‘’ attention’’ zone proscrite’’ On me dit que cela va prendre au moins 5 longues années avant que les gens de la place accepte l’entreprenneur et son produits( moi et ma boutique). J’ai investi chaque sous que je ne possaidais pas, un de mes enfants a vécu dans cette joli ville que l’on dit acceuillante, de l’intimidation grâve au point où je doive mettre un avocat pour la faire retirer pour sa sécurité car la direction à protégé les agresseurs, quelqu’un est venu me dire à ma boutique que mon commerce n’est pas le bienvenu ici, des gens influant se sont permis de venir dans mon commerce pour m’infliger l’humiliation par la suite ventiler en propageant des idée fausses sur moi mais Le plus marquant de mon histoire sera ce soir :) , la façon que j’ai découvert votre article. La personne qui a partager sur sa page facebook votre article se dit triste de voir qu’une population agis de la sorte. Elle trouve cela triste … mais c’est exactement ce qu’elle me fait, en m’excluant des entreprenneurs de la place sur ces post de facebook. Aujourd’jui, pour être franche la seule et unique cliente qui est passée dans ma boutique a levé le nez sur mes produits que ‘’ ça va couter cher ça ! ’’ et elle est reparti non sans ricaner..dsl avec sa chumy sans oublier de me rappeler ces mots ‘’ on va voir làlà ..’’ … ??? La rage me monte quelque peu dans le coeur. Votre aide me serait précieuse.

  • PIerre

    Bonne analyse du démarrage d’un coffee shop: ouvert en mai dernier, j’ai un menu du jour depuis septembre! Effectivement, l’option resto prend le dessus, les ventes déclinent malgré le groupe d’irréductible appréciant la vision café. Une suite pertinente à votre commentaire serait de mettre en lien ceux qui subissent ou on surmonté ces revers afin que les bons coups soient partagés.
    Ma propre analyse des commerces locaux fait ressortir une démarches commune:essai de divers type de publicités, réorientation de l’offre, égarement de la vision de départ…
    Un mentorat spécialisé dans le lancement d’un coffe shop serait le bienvenue! Ça éviterais d’enrichir les consultants et autres publicitaires.

  • Ghislain

    Très intéressant, je n’avais jamais vu cela sous cet angle.

  • Anita

    Félicitation pour votre audace à parler de cette réel problématique en région mais j’ai un malaise avec cet article. Je dois donner envie à mes clients de venir dans mon commerce, ils ne doivent pas avoir l’impression qu’ils y sont obligé. On est seul maitre de nos choix, et si c’était si facile, la réussite n’aurait pas si bon goût. La vie est remplie d’essai non concluant, si ça ne fonctionne pas à droite, va à gauche! Qu’est-ce qui nous différencie des grandes entreprises ? C’est là qu’on doit mettre notre énergie, pas sur les fausses critiques.

  • Pierre

    Beau et bon billet. Bonne continuation. Le bonheur est dans le coeur. Le succès ne se compte pas uniquement en dollars.

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