The Lean Silver Bullet - Single-Crew Workplaces like the Rum & Bean


The Rum & Bean is doing what all the experts consider impossible: it’s a business in a new neighborhood that hasn’t yet closed on a single house, yet it’s already turning a positive cash flow. Mahogany Bay Village on Ambergris Caye in Belize does plan to close on several dozen units we’ve designed before the end of the year, but as of now, there are exactly zero residents. Meanwhile, the experts say you need a thousand homes to justify just a simple corner store. How is the Rum & Bean even possible?

Rum & Bean front porch frames the setting sun at Mahogany Bay Village on Ambergris Caye in Belize
Tweet: A Single-Crew Workplace is the closest thing there is to a silver bullet for business. http://ctt.ec/JKyDX+

A Single-Crew Workplace is the closest thing there is to a silver bullet for business.

This is a workplace that can be run by one crew. In the case of the Rum & Bean, which serves coffee (the bean part) by day and rum by night, that crew is just one person. In the case of a restaurant, it’s one person to cook and a second person to serve. A workplace with only a single crew can be incredibly small… the Rum & Bean is 14 feet by 24 feet, or 336 square feet. This reduces the overhead to unthinkably low levels, and makes all sorts of things possible that would be impossible for businesses burdened with all the normal assumptions.

mahogany steps leading up to the tiny apartment above the Rum & Bean at Mahogany Bay Village in Belize
Tweet: Want to be Lean? Do business with a single crew. http://ctt.ec/dLgc3+

Want to be Lean? Do business with a single crew.

Some really smart people are working right now on an initiative known as Lean Urbanism. I’d suggest that a Single-Crew Workplace is about as lean as you can get. Here’s my take on what Lean means. I believe that Lean is the new green.

Tweet: Single-Crew Workplaces are predisposed to be the coolest places in town. http://ctt.ec/6_YdW+

Single-Crew Workplaces are predisposed to be the coolest places in town.

This is because of the Teddy Bear Principle, which basically states that the smaller something gets, the more charming and lovable it becomes. Test it this way: ask your friends what’s the coolest shop in town. Most likely, it’ll be quite narrow. It is never, ever, ever the 400-foot-wide WalMart. And it’s this inherent charm that has helped the Rum & Bean attract customers from the surrounding town and neighborhoods. It’s simply the coolest place around, and so people come and hang out all day.

Rum & Bean and Mahogany Bay Village sales office share an inner courtyard under the blue Belizean sky
Tweet: You can jump-start neighborhood centers years before it’s thought possible with Single-Crew Workplaces. http://ctt.ec/yr0YA+

You can jump-start neighborhood centers years before it’s thought possible with Single-Crew Workplaces.

The Rum & Bean actually does two things heretofore thought to be impossible. I mentioned turning a positive cash flow with zero residents. But there’s something else: it, and the sales office next door, both live/work units, were the first two buildings we built at Mahogany Bay. Have you ever heard of a new neighborhood in a fairly remote place leading with two live/work units? That’s just unthinkable. Most neighborhoods wait years for basic services. But that’s what happened, thanks to the Lean silver bullet that is the Single-Crew Workplace.

Want to know more? Leave a comment, and let’s discuss.

~Steve Mouzon

PS: Here are more pictures of the Rum & Bean.

Legacy Comments


Steve Mouzon · Board Member at Sky Institute for the Future
Here's a story about things they say can't be done. How do you build a business that turns a profit in a place with no residents? And how do you start out with live/work units as your first two buildings? By using a technique best characterized as a "Lean silver bullet." Your thoughts?
Sep 25, 2014 9:52am

Erin Lane
When my husband and I were younger, we lived in an apartment above a bookstore in the centre of a large country town. It was one of the most comfortable, convenient and enjoyable places for a young couple to live, yet a majority of the similar units were either unoccupied or non-existent in the case of post-war buildings. We are currently designing a home I hope we'll be in for a long time and your work has been such an inspiration. We found the dream: water view with rear lane access for our separate live-above garage, room for several small garden areas fit for different purpose and specs that make it as Original Green as possible for us. I can't wait to see more pics of this project. It looks awesome.
Oct 5, 2014 6:48am

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