Home » Building Business

Category: Building Business

Few Things Go As Planned

Back in the early 1990’s I ran a wilderness trip program out at YMCA Storer Camps. I had a team of trip leaders who would plot out backpacking, biking, rock climbing, and canoeing trips around the Midwest and Ontario. One of the planning stages for the trip leaders was to build an itinerary showing what they would be doing each day, where they would be camping each night, and what goals they hoped to accomplish on the trip.

Papa Moose and family on the Missinaibi River, Northern Ontario 1987

Before each trip I would go through their itinerary with them, making sure the trip looked sound on paper. Then I would have them fold up the itinerary, place it in a Ziploc bag, and stick it in the bottom of their rucksack to only pull out if necessary.

Rarely if ever did a trip turn out exactly as it was written on paper. Flat tires, flash flooding, lost canoes, or other unexpected obstacles would always throw the itinerary off track. Sometimes the itinerary had to be adjusted to meet the needs of the group. One of my bike trips added an extra 100 miles to their trip because the kids had the skills to make that extra jaunt. There was always something.

What I learned through this exercise was one simple lesson—the future will not turn out exactly as you planned.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for it. The two most important days of the itinerary were the first and last. The first set the tone, the last got you home. What happened in between was subject to change at a moment’s notice. A skilled trip leader knew when to adjust the itinerary to make the trip fun for everyone. A skilled trip leader expected to make changes mid-stream and was prepared to do so.

So here is my best New Year’s advice to you.

2018 will not turn out how you planned.

I’m not being a Debby Downer here. In fact, 2018 may surpass all your wildest dreams. Or it may take a hard 90-degree turn down a path you never imagined that might be the best path you ever could take. It may be close to what you thought, but there will be plot-twists, obstacles, detours, re-routes, and even a dead-end or two along the way.

That’s okay.

It is impossible for you to foresee that much of the future to meet every challenge perfectly prepared, knowing what will happen before it happens. (If you had that skill, you likely wouldn’t be reading my blog.)

With that said, you still need to plan your itinerary. You still need to plot out where you are today and where you want to be at the end of the year. You still need to put down a plan for how you will get from Point A to Point B. Without a plan, I can promise you won’t get anywhere close to Point B.

A skilled retailer will plan the following:

  • Marketing: What events, what advertisements, what other ways will you draw traffic to your store? At the same time, how will you measure new, unforeseen opportunities as they come along? What will you need to see to jump at an opportunity or take a risk with your advertising and marketing?
  • Staff Training: What skills do you want your staff to learn and strengthen in 2018? At the same time, how will you deal with the sudden change should you lose a key employee or two along the way?
  • Customer Service: Where are the holes in the service you provide and how will you raise the bar for 2018? At the same time, how will you spot new opportunities to surprise and delight customers in the future as their bar of expectation rises as well?
  • Inventory Management: How will you raise margins and turn ratios (to increase cash flow) while keeping prices attractive and keeping enough inventory on the shelf to maintain sales levels? At the same time, how will you respond to fads? What criteria will you use to jump in whole hog when something is going hot (or jump out quickly when something has died?)

 

A skilled retailer like a skilled trip leader knows that the goal is to start the year out on the right foot and make it to the finish line intact. What happens in between will never match the plan, but if you’re prepared, will be a helluva lot of fun.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Those four categories will be the main focus of this blog for 2018. My goal for the New Year is to prepare you to see the opportunities, the detours, the 90-degree turns, the obstacles, and the dead-ends for what they are so that you can navigate through them or around them. Sound good?

A Little Forethought Keeps Little Things Little

When I was a kid, I loved riddles. I especially loved the gotcha riddles where if you didn’t pay attention to everything you were sure to get it wrong. One of my early favorites was,

“What weighs more? A pound of feathers or a pound of gold?”

Once I learned the devil was in the details, I would never answer a riddle until I heard it several times, always paying attention to every little detail. Another of my favorites was,

“You’re the driver of a bus. The bus goes west one mile before turning right. Then it travels two miles, drops off one person and picks up three. The bus turns right again and travels 4 miles, dropping off six and picking up five. The bus turns left and goes a half mile dropping off two and picking up nine. What is the bus driver’s name?”

Miss that first detail and you miss the whole riddle.

The Toy House Team during our Summer Fun Sale

This Friday, every year, was a detail day. Tomorrow you will be as busy as any day of your year. You’ll likely have to fight to get a break just to eat some cold leftovers (unless you were smart enough to cater lunch for the team). You’ll feel overwhelmed at times. You’ll feel pulled in several directions at once. The last thing you need tomorrow is to have to take care of problems that can be nipped in the bud today.

The night before a big day we replaced all the cash register receipt tape with fresh, full rolls. We checked the ink levels on the registers and in all of the pens nearby (and made sure there were plenty of pens nearby). We restocked all the giftwrap paper we used to wrap gifts and had extra rolls on standby. We checked all the tape dispensers, refilled all the staplers, and made sure there were plenty of our yellow note pads at every register and phone.

Those all seem like simple things that should be done every night, but on Friday nights especially, the team is tired and wants to go home. Those few minutes spent, however, make a huge difference when there are lines at the register the next day and everyone in line has somewhere else to be, too.

I’m not a detail guy by nature. But I understood at an early age the importance of paying attention to the details and seeing how they would payoff in the long run.

Tomorrow is going to rock and roll. You’ll have your moments. And if you take a little time tonight to take care of some little things, those little things will remain little things and not blow up into big things tomorrow.

You might even get a moment for a quick bite.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Murphy’s Law states that the register will run out of receipt paper at the worst possible time. Doesn’t it always seem like it takes twice as long to change the paper when people are waiting in line staring at you than it does when no one is at the counter? That is stress making you feel that way. You have enough stress already. Eliminate that one before you even get started. You’ll have plenty of days in January to use those partial rolls of paper.

Two Pictures to Make You Feel Better (Or Worse?)

I started writing this blog August 9, 2008, shortly after my first gig as a public speaker for the retail industry. My first post was about a Christmas present I received and the announcement that I would be playing guitar in public* for the first time at the Nomad Bookhouse.

(*Apparently back then I didn’t consider playing guitar in church as part of worship “playing in public”.)

By October of 2008, a group of us local business owners had launched Jackson Local First, our Shop Local organization for the community, and my blog changed. From that point forward it was less about toys and Toy House and Phil, and more about you, the indie retailer and small business owner finding new ways to compete with national chains and the Internet.

Since those early days (and you can find every single post archived on my website) my goal has always been to help you feel good about being in this career by showing you concrete ways you can compete and win, while also giving you the background information why those ways work. If you are new to this blog, you might want to sift back through some older posts. There are some true nuggets tucked away for those willing to look. (Okay, so maybe you’re a little busy right now. Put it on your calendar for January.)

This post, however, might not make you feel all that great. I’m going to post two pictures taken in the two malls here in Jackson.

Here is picture #1 …

This picture was taken on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend—a typical shopping holiday—in Westwood Mall at 11:30am (anchor stores of JCP, Younkers, and Walmart). Notice the lack of shoppers. Now, in all fairness, Jackson is a county filled with lakes, so it is possible the lakes trumped shopping. You could roll a bowling ball the length of that mall without fear of hitting anyone.

Here is picture #2 …

This picture was taken last night at 7:46pm in our other mall, the bigger, busier one with Toys R Us, Target, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Sears as anchors.

Once again, this could be the result of the economic woes in our county and the shrinking population—the two factors that led to our choice to close shop. Or it could be a symptomatic problem with a much bigger cause. (What I find most amazing in this pic is that this is the “walkers” mall and there isn’t even a group of walkers pacing the corridor.)

Malls everywhere are in decline. This problem was reported heavily in 2016. And now with the Retail Apocalypse of 2017, you can expect traffic to decline even further.

Like I said, this may not make you feel better, especially if you are in a mall location.

Here is why you should feel better.

The decline in mall traffic is really caused by two things—cellphones and incredibly poor customer service. Cellphones have replaced meetups. You don’t go meet your friends at the mall anymore because you’ve been texting them all day long. Many people thought teens hanging out at the mall would be a bad thing. It wasn’t. Someone had to drive those teens (malls weren’t typically located in high-density neighborhoods). Parents who drove their teens to the mall would often stop in so as not to waste a trip. That familiarity led to future trips.

Unfortunately, those days are long gone. The mall is no longer a meet-up, drawing its own traffic. You have to want to shop there to even bother making the trip.

That’s where the stores, themselves, have failed. Too many mall stores relied only on the mall and its anchors to draw their traffic. They never knew how to draw traffic themselves. As the malls drew less and less traffic (and/or the anchors kept expanding their departments to eat into the mall stores categories), these stores cut back on personnel to match dwindling sales. Of course, that led to a downward spiral in what was already poor levels of customer service.

Is it any wonder that Outlet Malls, where Transactional Customers don’t expect any service in the first place, continue to draw traffic while traditional malls suffer? When someone else is drawing your traffic and options are fewer, you can get away with poor customer service. That type of retail climate no longer exists.

Nowadays ALL retail is destination retail. People only go to shops by choice.  Since independent retailers have always been destinations by nature, you are best suited to win the brick & mortar dollars of today (of which by last count there are still over a trillion of them). You win in this game by being the destination, the store everyone wants to go to because it is fun, exciting, worthwhile, important, friendly, helpful, surprisingly delightful.

Those pictures aren’t meant to scare you. They are meant to inspire you. The malls didn’t lose to the Internet just because the Internet exists. They lost because they didn’t take care of their customers.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS This does beg the question … If you are in a mall, should you move? The answer is complicated. If you truly have created a destination store, you can make it work almost anywhere. If you are paying mall prices and not getting mall benefits, however, you might want to contact a realtor and see what is out there. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of location later, okay?

Now is Not the Time to Panic

Long before there was ever Cyber Monday, there was Letdown Monday. You worked incredibly hard gearing up for Black Friday (and now Small Business Saturday). You planned events, did marketing, trained the staff, decorated the store, and had a nice busy weekend. Then Monday hits and you wonder where all the customers went.

You feel a little letdown. You feel a little worried that you didn’t get enough momentum to carry you through the season. You worry that Cyber Monday is stealing your dollars while you sit there feeling helpless. You start to wonder why you didn’t put more energy into building your own website, or why you didn’t plan a lot of deals for Cyber Monday to keep the customers in your store, or that you have too much inventory, or that you don’t have enough inventory.

In the immortal words of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Don’t Panic!

Image result for hitchhiker's guide to the galaxyI know the feelings of this week. I lived it for twenty three years, and lived with it for another twenty seven. The slowdown from the busy weekend gives you too much time to think about what you might have done differently, what you haven’t done, and what you’re afraid might happen.

That’s a natural reaction, but not all that productive. I’m here to put it all into perspective.

First, let’s talk about the slowdown. It is a natural ebb of the season. Happens Every. Single. Year. The busiest days of the year are typically:

  • Saturday before Christmas
  • December 23rd
  • Second Saturday before Christmas
  • Black Friday/Small Business Saturday
  • First Saturday in December

This year the 23rd of December happens to be on a Saturday making it extra special. Also you get a bonus of having four Saturdays in December prior to Christmas. Still plenty of big days to get the sales you need. You just won’t get many this week because there are too many days before customers truly get into that Christmas mood. This year, with Thanksgiving extra early, you have a long season. Expect a little customer (and staff) burnout.

The slowest week of your season is this week.

This is not the week to panic. This is the week to prepare. 

In a marathon race everyone sprints off the line. That’s Black Friday. Then they settle into their strategy. That’s this week and next. Finally, they go into their kick down the homestretch. That is your last two weeks. Now is strategy time. Now is preparation time.

  • Put a little extra time into training your staff. Work on role play, on greeting customers, on working with multiple customers at the same time.
  • Put a little extra time into decorating. Sure, you got it done for last weekend, but now is a good time to tweak it, upgrade it, spruce it up. Make it extra special because for the next few weeks customers will actually have the time to appreciate it more than they did in the frenzy of last weekend.
  • Put a little extra time into merchandising. Highlight the high-profit stuff you really want to move. Put the stuff they come in asking for by name at the back of the store so that your customers travel past everything else to get there.
  • Put a little extra time into Social Media. Start polls. Compare two items side by side. Share heartwarming stories. Tell the backgrounds of you, your store, your staff, your vendors, etc. Don’t make it about discounts or drawing traffic. Make it human and interesting,
  • Put a little extra time into you. Do something nice for yourself this week. Your staff can handle it. Take some time to go shopping (if you haven’t already). Take some time to catch a movie or go to a show or go outdoors. Those little things will keep you refreshed for those last two weeks that will be busy enough.

If you are worried about your inventory, keep this in mind. The last week before Christmas will be approximately ten percent of your entire yearly sales. If you don’t have enough inventory for that, then do some buying this week. Other than restocking a few hot items that will sell well after Christmas, too, trust your inventory levels and go have some fun.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It is too easy to second-guess everything based on last weekend. Unfortunately, that’s the worst barometer you have. The only time to properly analyze the season is after it is over. Right now your only job is to prepare this week to make those last two weeks the best ever.

More Advertising vs Better Customer Service

Today I spoke to the Marshall Area Economic Development Authority (MAEDA) about Raising the Bar on Customer Service. This is one of my favorite talks because it is filled with ideas you can use right away to start making a difference for your customers and raising the level of their delight to the point that your customers start talking about you.

Isn’t that the true goal of any business—to give your customer such an amazing experience that she can’t wait to tell someone, can’t wait to come back, can’t wait to bring her friends with her?

If that isn’t your Customer Service goal, it should be. It is the only goal that is sustainable long term.

This is me helping Kingman Museum “Raise the Bar”

I spoke to this same group last May about Making Your Ads More Effective, the presentation based on my newest book coming out (soon!) That is another of my favorite topics because it shakes to the core any mistaken beliefs you might have had about advertising, and teaches you how to get people to notice your ads, remember your ads, and act on your ads.

Advertising and Customer Service are two areas where you can stand out the most compared to your competition. But when resources are limited, which should get the majority of your focus?

The dream for any retailer is to have exclusive, high-demand product that no one else sells. You have that and all you have to do is run an ad and start printing money. Unfortunately, the Internet killed that dream for the vast majority of retail. It is highly likely that you won’t have an exclusive on your merchandise ever again, and you likely won’t have the best price in town (not that you should ever want to be the lowest price in town).

The second dream for any retailer is the falsehood perpetuated by the movie Field of Dreams.

If you build it, they won’t come.

You have to build it, talk about it (advertising), and make it spectacular (customer service).

  1. Build it
  2. Talk about it
  3. Make it spectacular

That’s the order the customers see.

But for you, the order should really be …

  1. Build it
  2. Make it spectacular
  3. Talk about it

When you think in those terms, that third element—the talking about it—could be done by you, or better yet, by your customers.

  1. Build it
  2. Make it spectacular
  3. Get your customers to talk about it

Before you spend another dime on advertising, spend the next dime on training your team.

Spend the next dime on figuring out new ways to surprise and delight your customers. The best businesses are fueled by a high level of repeat and referral customers. Repeat business comes from great customer service. Referrals come from surprisingly delightful WOW customer service. Once you have that, then you can spend some money telling the world what you built. Then they will come.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes it is the slower way to build your business, but it is also the stronger way to build it because the customers you win are much more loyal than the customers you buy. Right now you have the advantage of the larger crowds of shoppers for the holiday season to win more customers. Don’t miss this opportunity. You could also think about it in reverse. What happens if you spend a lot of money to attract large crowds before you make it spectacular? They won’t be back, but your advertising money will be down the drain. You’ll have to spend more money to attract more first-timers.

PPS Yes, I do one-on-one business coaching to help you find where you can raise the bar on your customer service. Yes, I do presentations to large groups of businesses like the wonderful crowd today. Yes, I do half-day and full-day workshops that not only talk about the broader picture, but also include in-depth ways to find and train the kind of staff that can consistently offer the experiences that people talk about to their friends. Give me a call or send me an email. Scott Fleming, the MAEDA director said, “I was sad to see your last slide. I really didn’t want this presentation to end.”

Other Uses for Market Share Knowledge

The first time I was truly introduced to the idea of calculating my market share was from Roy H. William’s second book Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads. It was 2003 and I was trying to learn all I could about marketing and advertising. My math was rudimentary. I didn’t adjust for local economy or youth population. Simply raw numbers. I came up with our market share at about 12%.

At first I was a little disappointed. Roy teaches that the gold standard for any business is 30% market share. That’s a big number. Despite its dominance, even Walmart only has 25% of the grocery market. The optimist in me, however, said 12% was a good starting point and now I had a goal to shoot for. I had just read an article (which 14 years later I cannot find—go figure) that said only 9% of the general public was inclined to shop at local indie stores in the first place. I was already 3 points above that number.

I never did reach 30%, but I did have some other revelations about my Market Share number.

Image result for upward trend free clipartFirst, after going back and adjusting my market size for economy and youth population, our 12% was really closer to 16%. It stayed in that neighborhood until a Walmart Supercenter opened in 2005. We dropped into the 14-15% neighborhood and stayed there until Amazon became a serious player in the toy industry around 2010-2011. We stayed around 12.5% for the next several years until we closed. Even though you can beat a big guy head-to-head, the more big guys in town, the more businesses taking a piece out of the same pie.

Second, that original 12% number got me thinking. A full eighty-eight percent of the market were NOT currently shopping with me. That’s almost 9 out of 10 people. When you look at it that way, it changes your perspective on a lot of things.

In terms of marketing and advertising I realized I didn’t need to reach the entire market to grow my business. If I could just convince 1 more person out of 20 people to shop with me I would have growth beyond my wildest dreams. I really only needed to convince about 2 more people out of 100 to shop with me to have double digit growth. If you only are trying to sway two people out of a hundred you might say something totally different than if you’re trying to sway fifty out of a hundred. With two you can say something direct and personal to a small audience that gets right to the heart of the matter. Trying to reach fifty, you say something generic and non-offensive hoping other forces will come into play to swing them to your side.

In terms of product selection I realized I didn’t have to be all things to all people. I could pick and choose the products I wanted based on my beliefs in the products and how they benefited my customers. Not only does that help with the buying decisions, it helped us stay true to our core values in terms of what we sold and why.

Speaking of Core Values, we didn’t have to be someone we were not.

Meg Cabot said it best when she said, “You’re not a hundred dollar bill. Not everyone is going to like you.” We didn’t have to be liked by everyone. Sixteen percent is a pretty low approval rating. Yet it was higher than any other single store in our market.

Knowledge is power (France is bacon). Knowing your market share might be the piece of knowledge that finally liberates the way you think about your place in the market and the risks you can now safely take with your business.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Let me first admit that 16% is actually pretty high for an indie retailer. Many of you might do the math and find yourself in the 3-5% range, especially if you have other indie retailers fighting for the 9% that skews shop local. But before I pat myself on the back, you should know that in the early 1980’s we were at that mythical 30% gold standard and then some. Of course that was before Jackson got Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, Sam’s Club, a second Meijer, a new KMart, and a whole slew of other big chains in town (without a population growth to match), and well before Al Gore invented the Internet. We were the large store that was here first. That’s what gave us much of our edge. But even if you do find yourself in the 3-5% range, if the market is big enough, you can do a lot of business with only 3-5% of your market. Plus, when you only have to convince 1 more person out of 100 to get 33% growth, advertising becomes a whole lot more fun.

PPS It used to upset me that about half my friends were not regular shoppers at my store. My parents saw about that same percentage from their friends. Then it dawned on me … Fifty percent of my friends versus twelve percent of the general population. I was ahead of the game. I slept much better that night.

Who Killed Black Friday?

I was never big on shopping on Black Friday. I don’t think it was just because I was a retailer. Many of my staff would be up before dawn hitting all the sales before coming in for their shifts. I knew other retailers who would also hit the streets looking for early-bird deals. Since I wasn’t a bargain hunter in general, it wasn’t a big attraction to me.

I also knew a secret. I knew that the same retailers filled with door-busters that day would have similar or even better discounts the week before Christmas. Such is the nature of the season year after year.

Image result for black friday doorbustersAccording to Wikipedia, “Since 1952, [Black Friday] has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the U.S.” What most people don’t know is that it wasn’t the “busiest shopping day of the year” until 2003. The Saturday before Christmas regularly held that title most years.

If the new study from Market Track LLC is right, you might see Saturday, 12/23 reclaim the title as fewer people in their surveys say they will be out shopping Black Friday this year. Is this the end of Black Friday as we have known it? And if so, who killed it?

The easy answer is eCommerce. The article linked above is already calling it “Cyber Friday”. More people reported in the survey that they would be shopping online. The online sellers are no fools. Rather than give up on Black Friday and wait until Cyber Monday, they are going after the customers’ dollars all Thanksgiving Week and especially on Friday.

The other culprit is the big retailers themselves. In a quest to win the Black Friday customers, they started opening earlier and earlier until a bunch of them decided to do sales on Thanksgiving, which led to sales on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, too. You do all that and you take away the frenzy of Black Friday. The problem is most employees only have Thursday through Sunday off. Twenty-five states actually have Black Friday as a government holiday. Start offering your deals Monday through Wednesday and you lose some of your customers. They figure they might as well go online since they can’t get out of work.

Some want to blame the media. News reports of fights and people getting trampled will dampen any crowd. The reality is that those stories don’t match the experience for most people since those events are few and far between.

Last but not least, some are saying that American Express with it’s Shop Small Business Saturday campaign also had a hand in Black Friday’s demise. We certainly saw that in our last few years of business. Small Business Saturday beat Black Friday for us in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Add it all up and you might think Black Friday is on life support. Before you pull the plug, however, think about this.

Twenty-five states still have Black Friday as a government holiday. Many corporations also give their employees that day off. That puts a lot of shoppers on the streets ready to get started on their Christmas shopping. Whether they shop online, in stores, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday doesn’t matter.

What does matter is one thing and one thing only—are you the store where they want to spend their money?

The big chains, in their race to the bottom to win the Transactional Customers, only have one tool in their tool box—the red markdown pen. You have a whole bunch of tools at your disposal to win everyone else, the Customer Experience being one of your biggest.

If you are a toy store you could have a whole bunch of toy expert stations with people ready to show off the hot, new toys and answer questions parents might have (many toy stores I know already do this earlier in November for Neighborhood Toy Store Day.)

If you are a clothing store you could have a fashion show with real fashion experts on hand to share tips and help people explore new wardrobes for everyone in their family.

If you are a shoe store you could have certified orthotic fitters on hand to do demonstrations and talk about foot health and the importance of proper support.

If you are a caterer you could partner with a local retailer and offer food to their customers creating a festive atmosphere for the shoppers that becomes a win-win-win for everyone.

There are many ways to win customers during Thanksgiving Week. You know already what the big box and online sellers are going to do. There are a whole bunch of people actually happy that Black Friday won’t be as mobbed with bargain hunters as usual. Go talk to them and show them how shopping at your store will be different, better, and tons more fun.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It might seem weird to talk about Thanksgiving already. It is only 6 weeks from today. I want you to have enough time to plan something amazingly cool to maximize your weekend sales. If you’ve already seen your sales shift from Friday to Saturday like we did, then plan something special for Saturday to win the Relational Customers. But if you can, plan something special for Friday, too. There are a lot of people not working that day that still want to go shopping.

PPS Don’t read too much into your Friday or your Saturday numbers. Look at the week as a whole. The retail world is changing. Black Friday is no longer the sole focus of the week. But attracting customers hasn’t changed. Go find a way to capture your share of the market.

The Aha Moment (Or the Simplest Business Success Formula Ever!)

I’ve been looking at different job titles and job descriptions lately. The two that seem to grab my attention the most are the Marketing & Advertising jobs and the Managing People jobs. At first glance I figured I was drawn to those because those were two of my favorite things to do at Toy House.

Another thought hit me this morning on my drive home from dropping my son off at school.

Those two different jobs are really the same thing. Stop and think about it.

  • Awesome Customer Service is about figuring out your customer’s expectations and then exceeding them with surprise and delight.
  • Top-Level Selling is about figuring out your customer’s needs and then fulfilling them better than she expected.
  • Powerful Advertising is about figuring out your customer’s desires and then offering a solution better than she expected.
  • Amazing Events are about figuring out what your customer likes and then offering her more than she expects when she attends.
  • Incredible Managing is about figuring out what tools your team needs to be successful and then giving them better tools that take them beyond what they thought was possible.

It’s all the same thing.

  1. Figure out what she desires, needs, and expects.
  2. Give her more than she desires, needs, and expects.

That is the formula for a successful retail business. That is the formula for a successful service company. That is the formula for successful manufacturer. That is the formula for a successful advertising campaign. That is the formula for successfully managing your team. That is the formula for being successful as an employee.

The first part requires research. The first part is about studying human nature, watching market trends, thinking like a customer. The first part is about asking questions, listening, and analyzing what you hear. The first part is about testing and clarifying and testing some more. You’ll get it right some times and you’ll get it wrong some times. The better you do your research, the more often you will get it right.

The second part is about having that character trait in you that wants to help others. When you hire and train your team, look specifically for that trait and you’ll find the second part of the formula becomes second nature to your company. Your team will already want to give. You just have to show them what to give.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS An employee that figures out exactly what the boss wants and then gives the boss more than she wants will always have a meaningful job. A manager that equips her team with tools to make them better than they thought possible will always find people wanting to work for her. A marketer that can figure out the true desires of the customer base and speak to those desires will always move the needle. A salesperson who can figure out the exact problem a customer is trying to solve and then offer a solution better than she envisioned will always make more sales. A manufacturer who anticipates the needs of both the end user and the middleman and sets up a business to exceed both their expectations will find growth.

PPS I answered my own question. My Core Values include Helping Others and Education. I already have that character trait of giving (that’s why I write this blog and publish all the Free Resources). The Education side of me wants to do the research to figure out what to give.

When You’re Good to Momma

On a trip to NYC for Toy Fair a few years ago I met a family that came to the city just to go to Broadway shows. That sounded like a dream trip to me. I love musical theater. I wish Netflix had more “live Broadway” shows than they currently do. In spite of what the critics say about them, I even love movies based on Broadway shows (yes, including Evita!) One of my favorites is Chicago. There are a few songs I could watch over and over.

One is Queen Latifah singing “When You’re Good to Momma” about the Law of Reciprocity.

Last night I had my own Law of Reciprocity moment. I received an act of great generosity from someone because of the generosity this person received many decades ago from my grandfather. I will have to pay it forward as she did.

That’s how it works. You do something good for me and I feel the urge to do something good for you. If I can’t do something good for you, I pay it forward.

Bob Negen gives the example of walking through a set of doors. If two guys approach at the same time and one offers to hold the door open for the other, at the next set of doors the the other guy will hold them open for the first. It is a social contract.

Liberty Mutual did a whole commercial campaign around the idea of paying it forward (here is the full video, grab your tissue.) 

It also works in reverse. If you’re rude or disrespectful to me, I may fire back in kind. We’ve certainly seen a lot of that in the past several years.

As a business owner, however, you have one choice that works long term—Generosity.

Be generous in your offerings. Be generous in your kindness, your helpfulness, and your time. Be as generous for the customer spending $2.50 as you are for the customer spending $2,500. It pays in the long run.

Generosity helps your business in many ways.

  • First, it leads to more word-of-mouth. When your generosity is genuine, unexpected, and sincere, people talk about that to their friends.
  • Second, it leads to reciprocity. Generosity more often leads to trust, which leads to more sales. Yet even if your customers are not generous directly back to you, they may pay it forward, and that helps out everyone.
  • Third, you feel better. An eye-for-an-eye leaves the whole world blind.
  • Fourth, your customers are watching and judging you by your actions. In fact, unfair as it is, they are judging all small businesses by your actions.

The little things you do that you don’t have to do are big things in your customers’ eyes.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” -James D. Miles

You have the choice of the reciprocity you wish to receive and the reciprocity you wish to foist upon the world. Generosity is the winning formula for small businesses.

Be good to Momma.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Calling another store to see if they have something you don’t carry is generous. Carrying heavy packages out to your customer’s car is generous. Offering free valet parking in a downtown setting is generous.  Making the customer look like a hero to her family or friends is generous. Adding an unexpected gift-with-purchase is generous. Spending time to get to know the customer, talk to her kids, and be interested in her life is generous. Treating the customers “just looking” with kindness, respect, and helpfulness is generous. Ask your staff at your next meeting. I am sure they can come up with some more ideas of ways to be generous.

Where I Can Help You

I gave you my resume. Now let’s talk about you and what you might need.

If you are a Small Business Owner …

You wear many hats, some better than others. Your choices are simple.

A) Learn all the skills you need on your own.
B) Hire someone else to do the things you can’t (or don’t want to) do.
C) Hire someone to teach you those skills you might be lacking.

Image result for wearing many hatsYou might need help with your Hiring and Training. I will help you identify the positions you need on your team, help you identify the traits and skills needed to do those jobs, write up a job description, write up a killer help-wanted ad to attract the right kind of applicants, and give you the interview questions that help you identify the perfect candidates. I will help you create a new-hire training program and teach you how to stage your own training workshops on a continual basis.

You might need help with your Customer Service. I will lead you and your team through all the touch-points a customer has with your business, identifying where you are meeting their expectations and where you are missing the mark. You’ll learn simple tips and techniques that raise the bar across the board. Your staff will help develop the next level of service you offer with complete buy-in.

You might need help with your Marketing & Advertising. I will help you identify your core values and beliefs. I will help you identify and create content that attracts the right type of customers. I will help you identify the best use of your advertising budget and resources to get the most bang for the buck. I will evaluate your website, your social media presence, and your other marketing attempts to help you maximize your efforts.

If you are a Large Corporation …

You likely already have a specialist in each of the above areas. If you don’t, you might want to give me consideration. If you have someone internally you are grooming for those roles, you might need someone to come in and do one-on-one training for certain skills.

You also might need help with your general Training Programs. I can run your Team Building workshops for all levels of your corporate structure, fostering better communication, cooperation, and trust amongst your teams. I can help you roll out new initiatives through presentations and workshops that get your team to buy-in quickly and efficiently.

You might need help with Management Training. I can work with your managers teaching them better ways to identify, hire and train their teams. I can help them learn better ways to motivate and inspire their teams to greatness. I can give them tools for training and evaluating the individuals on their team to help them maximize production within their payroll budget.

If you are a Community Economic Developer …

You have read the reports that show how a strong, locally-owned businesses climate is better for the overall health of your economy.

You might need help to strengthen the presence of your local retail market by teaching retailers the foundational skills necessary to compete in today’s retail climate. The Retail Success Academy covers everything from Customer Service to Retail Math, designed specifically for mom & pop indie retailers and restaurants.

You might instead need someone to lead workshops and presentations for small businesses on individual topics such as Generating Word of Mouth Advertising or Marketing on a Shoestring Budget that gives them the competitive edge and helps keep your local economy strong.

If you are a Conference Planner …

You need to hit homeruns with your speakers and presentations and workshops.

You might be looking for a keynote speaker who can put on a presentation your attendees will be talking about for years, one filled with equal parts inspiration and realistic action steps that lead your attendees exactly where they want to go. I’ve been on the stage and in the audience. I know exactly what your attendees want.

You might be looking for an emcee to make sure all of your events and activities run smoothly and on time with a professionalism not always present among your volunteers. I know how to handle a microphone and handle a crowd.

You might be looking for a workshop leader, someone who can dig deeper into a topic to give your attendees a more comprehensive understanding of Marketing & Advertising, Hiring & Customer Service, or even Retail Math, I can take them to a level of understanding equivalent to an upper level college course.

If you are a College Professor or Dean …

You might be looking for a guest speaker to offer your students a fresh perspective from someone in the field.

You might be looking for someone to offer a relevant lesson or two not found in your current curriculum.

You might be looking for someone to teach an elective that is not currently available for your students.

I have ideas for all three of those.

You have problems you need solved. I have solutions. Let’s get together.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Conventional Wisdom says I need to pick a niche and then be the best option in that niche. The problem is there are a lot of niches out there where I could fit. I just haven’t figured out which one you want me in the most. Then again, I’ve also never been one to just do what conventional wisdom says (which is why my seminars and workshops are so highly rated.)