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I Thought She Was the Owner

Often someone from my staff would enter my office and say, “I have an idea.” Often I would answer, “Great! Run with it!”

“But don’t you want to hear it first?”
“Is it consistent with our Core Values?”
“Yes.”
“Will it cost the company a lot of money?”
“No.”
“Run with it. I hired and trained you. I trust you.”

In Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive, he shows how “autonomy” is one of the key elements for motivating your staff to do their best. Autonomy gives them a feeling of ownership and a sense of pride. Autonomy also empowers them to make decisions and take care of customers the best way they can.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink

I know. This is scary. But what if they screw up? But what if they don’t make good decisions? But what if they aren’t as good as I am?

Have you ever thought if you hired well and trained well, they just might end up being better than you?

Sure, giving autonomy to your staff is scary, but in the long game it is how you build a winning team.

I was in Athens, GA recently when my tennis shoes died. I went to the New Balance store where Cameron helped me find the perfect pair for my needs. (Did I mention I have odd-sized feet? Oh yeah, yesterday.)

She was smart. She was well-versed on the products she sold. She studied how I walked. She asked questions about what I did when wearing these shoes. She listened, repeated things back to me, asked more questions, then told me why she was suggesting the pairs she suggested. She was amazing!

As I was checking out, I just had to ask, “Are you the owner or manager?”

“Oh no, I just love working here.”

Cameron had the autonomy to make decisions and act as if she owned the place. She was in such control that I believed she was the owner.

That should always be your goal—to hire and train so well that your customers are so impressed by your staff member that they think he or she must be the owner.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Autonomy is letting your team members do the jobs they were hired and trained to do without someone breathing down their neck or constantly looking over their shoulder. Note the word “trained.” Don’t give them autonomy until they are trained, but once trained, set them loose. They’ll make a mistake or two at first, and you’ll help them learn from those mistakes, but in short order they will become the person you expected them to be when you hired them.

Having Fun, Helping Others, Eating Lunch

For the past three weeks I have been making several drives from my home in Jackson to the Oakland County area for lunch. For those of you not in Michigan, Oakland County is one of the three counties (including Wayne and Macomb) that makes up the Greater Detroit Metropolitan area. Oakland County is the northernmost of the three and includes several cities, villages, townships, and lakes.

Oakland County is home to twenty-one Main Street programs in the various cities, villages, and townships, and also home to one of the largest county-wide Main Street support programs. It was Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) that hired me to make these drives each week to do a “Lunch-and-Learn” series of workshops. The workshops are four-week-long tracks on one of three topics: Selling & Customer Service, Marketing & Advertising, or Retail Math.

We rolled this out to three different communities. Two of the communities chose Marketing & Advertising, one chose Selling & Customer Service. All three are reporting back with incredibly positive feedback. Other communities are already bugging MSOC to be included in the next round.

The fun part for me is that I like driving and I love doing these presentations, mostly because I know the difference one or two good tips or techniques can make for a small business.

The fun part for the attendees is that they get a free lunch (or breakfast) and four 45-minute presentations jammed with eye-opening ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and surprisingly simple techniques to improve their businesses.

The fun part for you is that there is still time to plan a Lunch-and-Learn in your neck of the woods (as long as you are within two hours driving time from Jackson which would include Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Fort Wayne, Toledo, Detroit, Flint, and Lansing areas).

Here are the three tracks with class titles and descriptions.

Option A: Marketing & Advertising

  • Week #1 Boosting Your Brand to Attract the Right Business – A quick lesson in branding to show you how a well-crafted brand makes a huge difference in attracting the right types of customers and business. You’ll learn how to uncover the true value in your brand and make your brand stand out in the crowd
  • Week #2 Marketing Your Business on a Shoestring Budget – Seven different ways you can get the word out about your business and draw traffic in without spending a fortune. You’ll learn how to leverage your talents and time to attract more customers to your business right away.
  • Week #3 Making Your Ads More Effective – We hate ads, not because there are too many, but because most ads suck. This presentation will show you the six principles that make the difference between your ad being remembered and acted upon or being simply ignored. You’ll learn techniques even the most highly paid professionals sometimes get wrong, and how you can apply them to your own advertising efforts
  • Week #4 Generating Word-of-Mouth Advertising – We all know Word-of-Mouth advertising is far more effective than traditional advertising, but do you know what it takes to actually get your customers to talk about you? This presentation shows you four proven ways you can generate word-of-mouth advertising. You’ll walk away with tips and techniques that get people talking the very next day.

Option B: Selling and Customer Service

  • Week #1 Selling in a Showrooming World – Online shopping is here to stay. So is the concept of Showrooming, where a customer uses your store to touch and feel the product before ordering it online cheaper. This presentation shows you the two types of customers, how to recognize them, and the very different ways you sell to them. Learn this and you’ll close far more sales than ever before.
  • Week #2 Raising the Bar on Customer Service – Every store thinks they offer Great Customer Service, but every customer can regale several stories where the customer service fell far short. This presentation gives you a different perspective on customer service and shows you how to up your game so that Great Customer Service is only the minimum. You’ll learn how to surprise and delight customers at every turn.
  • Week #3 Building the Perfect Salesperson – Finding the right salesperson is the key for any organization. But how do you identify the perfect fit? This presentation will change the way you look at interviewing and hiring and even training. When you’re done you’ll have a better understanding of how the best companies find the best employees time and time again.
  • Week #4 Training and Motivating Your Team to Perform Their Best – The carrot and stick might be good for a donkey, but it won’t get the best out of your team. This presentation will show you what really motivates people to do their best work and how to get the kind of creativity from your team that sets you apart. You’ll also learn how to turn staff meetings and training times into something your staff looks forward to attending.

Option C: Retail Math

  • Week #1 Reading Your Financial Statements – Your accountant will be glad you attended. This presentation will show you in layman’s terms how to read the two most common financial statements – the Profit & Loss and the Balance Sheet. You’ll learn how they are calculated, what they show, and an intuitive way to use them to check the financial health of your company. It isn’t as scary as it sounds.
  • Week #2 Inventory Management – Cash is King. In retail, the biggest use of your cash is your inventory. This presentation will show you simple and smart ways to manage your inventory levels better including how Open-to-Buy programs work and easy ways to increase cash flow. You’ll learn how to turn slow moving merchandise into cash and make your inventory work for you.
  • Week #3 Pricing for Profit – Most businesses leave thousands of dollars on the table because they don’t understand the principles behind how to properly price their products or services. This presentation shows you how you can raise prices and increase unit sales by harnessing the power of perception. Learn these techniques and you’ll start making more money the very first day.
  • Week #4 Unlocking the Hidden Cash in Your Business – There is more to retail than just buying and selling product. This presentation will show you some different ways to measure your business and some simple ways to make a little extra cash that might just be the difference you need to pay yourself a bonus this year.

If you just read those and said, “Dang, I could use this!” pass this post along to your DDA Director, your Chamber of Commerce, your Main Street Director, your Economic Development Director, your Shop Local director, and tell them, “Dang, we could use this!”

(Heck, you don’t even need one of those organizations. Just get a few other small businesses together and give me a call.)

Then contact me. We’ll go over what it would cost, creative ways to finance it, how to get the food and venues, and what dates to schedule this fall to have some fun helping small businesses grow and thrive, all while having lunch.

Sound yummy to you?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Not within that two-hour drive? No worries. Instead of four lunches, we’ll do one big brunch and put all four lessons into a three-hour workshop. Call me.

PPS The beauty of what you’ll learn in these tracks is that the dividends are immediate. With many of the lessons you’ll see results right away. Having this information fresh in your mind leading into the busy holiday season will make a huge impact on your bottom line this year. Lets get some dates locked in now.

PPPS If you’re in Oakland County, MSOC is already working on the budget for 2019. Contact John Bry at MSOC and let him know you want in. If you want something this fall, however, check with the other organizations in your community to see if they will help you organize this.

Delegate to Make Two People Happy

I started working full time at Toy House on April 30, 1993. It wasn’t my first job at Toy House. That started when I was the cute kid on the float in the Rose Parade through downtown Jackson at the age of three. At seven I was getting 10 cents and hour to put price tags on boxes. At twelve I got paid to mow the lawns. In 1980 I showed up the day after my 14th birthday with work permit in hand to work on the sales floor selling handheld electronic games.

My dad convinced me to come back to the store full time in 1993 to help expand the baby department. We had a baby department since 1962 when my grandfather bought out Bennet’s Furniture that had been located across the street from the store at the corner of First and Franklin Streets. Dad felt there was a lot of room for growth in that area. (He was right.)

By 1996 the baby department was growing fast. Dad decided it was time to shed more of his responsibilities. The first was marketing. Dad never really liked marketing and advertising. He wasn’t the creative type. He didn’t want to deal with the salespeople. He didn’t want to craft any messages. On the other hand, I loved it.

The second task dad turned over to me was hiring. My dad is introverted. He likes his alone time to recharge his batteries. Oh sure, he can be outgoing and friendly when he wants, but he prefers to work alone. Interviewing employees, hiring them, and training them were not high on dad’s list of favorite things to do.

Although my dad was fairly quick to delegate certain tasks over to me, it took me time to appreciate how he delegated. Prior to my arrival I had heard he had a hard time letting anything go. Partly because he knew he could do it faster and better, partly because he didn’t want to spend his time teaching someone else. I felt both of those as I took over my first two roles. He lamented how much time and energy I put into those roles yet left me to my own devices to figure things out for myself.

In retrospect, I appreciate how he delegated because he gave me room to develop my own style and systems for doing those tasks. Sure, we butted heads often on how and what I was doing in those roles, mostly over budgetary concerns as he still controlled the purse strings. And there were days I felt he was holding me back. But in the long run it worked out quite well for both of us. He got rid of two tasks he never really liked and I got to do two tasks I really loved.

That’s what this post is about—delegating the tasks you don’t want to do to someone who wants to do them.

If you truly want to make your business more fun, hire someone who loves to do the stuff you hate to do.

 

That used to be my office!

I hate filing papers. My desk is a mess. My piles are everywhere. I know what is in each pile, but I still need to pick up the pile and sort through it to find what I want. At Toy House my desk was equally as messy. So I hired an office manager/bookkeeper who loved filing and keeping things organized.

By giving her free reign to clean up my office, I made both of us happy. It also freed me up to do the things I loved to do.

I know there are some things you have to do that you cannot easily delegate such as paying bills, taxes, etc. But you can always ask yourself this question. “If I pay someone else to do that stuff, will it free me up to make more money so that I can afford to pay that person?”

You might be surprised how many times you can actually answer yes to that question. When you do delegate those things, you find you enjoy your business that much more.

When you delegate you have a couple options. You can teach them how you want it done or you can let them figure out their own way. My dad did the latter. Since I loved those two tasks so much, I spent a lot of time learning new and better ways to do them. I did the same with my office manager. I showed her what we had done, but then let her figure out better ways to do it.

After my office manager got me organized!

When you find people passionate about doing a task you hate, they will often find a better way to do it than you ever could.

When you run your own small business you wear many different hats, often too many hats. See how many of the hats you hate to wear that you can pass on to someone else. Not only will it free you up to wear your other hats better, the people you delegate to will wear those hats you hated better than you did.

That will make a lot of people happy, you most of all.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Once I saw the light, delegating became a lot easier for me. Whenever a team member came in and said, “I have an idea,” I would often respond, “As long as it is consistent with our Core Values, run with it.”

“But don’t you want to hear what it is?”

“No. I trust you. After all, I hired you.”

PPS It seems almost too simple, but so many people get this one wrong. Hire people who love to do what you want them to do and they’ll not only work their tails off, they’ll find better ways to do what you want them to do, and they’ll be happy to do so.

Getting the Help You Want

Ever have one of those moments where things just clicked for you and everything that was a little hazy before now came into focus? I feel blessed that I have had several of those moments in my life and business career. One of them happened in October 2006. I wrote the following script for a radio ad looking for seasonal help at Toy House.

“Are you reliable and trustworthy?  Positive and cheerful?  Friendly and outgoing?  Do you love to help others, no matter how difficult the challenge might be?  Are you continually seeking to improve yourself, to be better tomorrow than you were today?  Are you willing to give up your weekends just to bring smiles to people’s faces?  Do you desire to work for a company that believes in the value of education, the importance of family, and the merit of hard work?  Are you willing to forgo upward mobility for stability and satisfaction of a job well done?  Apply in person at Toy House, 400 North Mechanic Street, downtown Jackson.”

Image result for help wanted adThis ad was a far cry different from previous help-wanted ads.

This was the first I ran that was more about the person than about the job.

Two things happened when I ran this ad.

First, I had fewer applicants than in previous years. This is not a knock on radio because I had used radio several times looking for seasonal employees.

Second, the quality of applicants went up dramatically. I had far more people I was excited to interview than in any year prior.

Actually, three things happened. the third was that I started to see a cultural shift in the team. Oh don’t get me wrong. We had a crack staff in 2006 and, for the most part, for most of our 57 years in business at that point. The sweetest music to my ears was when people told me they loved hiring former Toy House employees because of the quality people they would get.

After running that ad in 2006, however, I never ran a help-wanted ad again. I made a few posts on Facebook. I put a blurb in the email newsletters I would send out. But I didn’t have to pay for another ad. Partly because I found seasonal people who came back year after year for the season. Partly because the team really began to embrace those traits more openly, which, in turn, attracted more people who shared those traits, without even having to run ads.

It really was amazing to see the difference in the quality of people I attracted when I made the help-wanted ad about the person and not the job. Some people heard that radio ad and said, “Oh wow! He’s talking about me!” Others heard it and said, “No way. Not for me.” 

When you write your classified about the person, not the job, you are pre-selecting candidates who believe they have the right traits for the job. You’ll attract more of what you want, less of what you don’t want, and have a better pool (even if smaller) of qualified applicants.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I’ll be teaching this along with other tips and techniques for “Building a Better Salesperson” for Main Street Royal Oak tomorrow at noon at Cafe Muse on S. Washington in Royal Oak. Hope you can join me.

When to Bend the Rules, When to Break Them

When I was writing my new book Most Ads Suck I had a long internal debate about the word “Rules” versus the word “Principles.” There are six elements that the great ads incorporate to make them more effective. You don’t have to incorporate all six, but the more you use, the more powerful your ad can be. My question was whether to call these six elements “rules” or “principles” to follow.

I chose the word “principle” for the book because of one phrase. “Rules are made to be broken.”

If I had called them “rules” some of you rebels would have broken them just on principle alone (you know who you are.) Others would have believed you need to follow all six to be effective. You also know who you are. Principles are guides to help you be better. Rules are made to be broken.

Image result for rules made to be brokenIn this world there are the Rule-Followers and the Rule-Breakers. We need a third category. We also need Rule-Benders. These are the people who are smart enough to know when a rule just doesn’t apply to a specific situation, and are willing to make exceptions to the rule without throwing the rule completely out the window.

Here is an example …

I was in Athens, GA last weekend. We had a party of five and called a local restaurant on Saturday mid-day to see about getting a reservation for that evening. The hostess said, “I’m sorry. We don’t make same-day reservations. You have to call in advance to make a reservation.” (The Rule)

Then the hostess said, “But it’s the summer and with the students gone, we aren’t very busy, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting a table.”

“… we aren’t very busy …”

If you aren’t very busy, wouldn’t you want to make all the reservations you could to get more business?

With a reservation, we tell everyone in our party, “The reservation is at 6pm. See you then.” Without a reservation, someone in our party might say, “Hey, maybe we should try that other restaurant down the street.”

I don’t know enough about restaurants to know why they have such a rule in the first place. Maybe it was designed to show off their exclusiveness? Maybe it was designed to encourage people to plan earlier? Maybe it was designed because the hostess isn’t trained for fitting new reservations into the grid of existing reservations? If you take both reservations and walk-in traffic, it seems like a rule that needs to be broken and even eliminated. But I will give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt that the rule exists for valid reason.

With that said, I do know that if your hostess is saying, “We aren’t very busy,” she needs more training. The proper response would have been, “We’d love to see you tonight! What time would you like your reservation?” That would be a bending of the rule that would greatly benefit both the restaurant and our party of five.

In every type of retail there are rules in place. Usually those rules are created by the owner or manager to make it easier to train and set boundaries for employees. While I understand how this makes life simpler for the employee and manager, it also robs the employee of being able to do what you hired her to do—to surprise and delight your customers. if your rules are for these purposes, empower your employees to bend those rules when the opportunity arises to make a difference for a customer.

And when they do bend the rules, always applaud them for doing so, even if they bent the rules more than you would have liked. Otherwise you’ll stifle their desire to bend rules in the future. (Say, “Great job!! Now, next time…”)

Sometimes those rules are set to protect the business from the unscrupulous customers who might try to take advantage of the retailer, or simply to give the business control over the customer. If you have rules like that, those need to be broken.

  • Bend the rules when it will surprise and delight the customer
  • Break the rules if they aren’t customer-centric in the first place.

Got it?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When you hire people who are compassionate problem-solvers, you’ll have some rule-benders on your team already. Explain to them why the rule exists and they’ll know when to bend them to make a difference.

It Never Feels Like Work

Last weekend YMCA Storer Camps celebrated 100 years of camping. I was there celebrating with over 834 of my closest friends. I’m not exaggerating when I say 834 of my closest friends. Many of them are people I haven’t yet met. But I know if and when I do meet them, we’ll hit it off immediately.

One of the reasons I know this is because the camp’s Core Values are perfectly aligned with my Core Values and shared by the other 834 people in attendance.

Toy House Character Diamond and Core Values
The Toy House Character Diamond and my Core Values!.

Having Fun? Check! It is a camp after all!

Helping Others? Check! The motto of camp is “I’m Third” meaning God is first, others are second, and I’m third. The camp also celebrates different mottos for the first five years of your camping experience. The fifth and forever motto is Service.

Education? Check! Storer is one of the largest Outdoor Education Centers in the country and has been leading the way with innovative curriculum for environmental and experiential education for decades. I learned how to teach on the banks of Stoney Lake.

Nostalgia? Check! I did say it was the 100th anniversary, right?

It is quite rare that you will ever work for someone else’s organization and have it align so perfectly with your own values. The one organization you can count on to most perfectly align with you will be the one you run. That’s one of the benefits of being your own boss.

The beauty of having your business aligned with your Core Values is that it never feels like work. That is why I always encourage business owners to spend some time uncovering their Core Values.

  • Once you know them, you can tweak your business to align more perfectly.
  • Once you know them, you can change the parts that don’t align at all.
  • Once you know them, you can amplify them within the business so that others who share your values will be attracted to your business.
  • Once you know them, you can hire people who share those values.
  • Once you know them, you have a blueprint for making all decisions going forward.

I am willing to bet that all 834 people at camp last weekend shared at least one of those Core Values with camp (and with me). It was those values that drew these people back for the reunion and celebration.

I am lucky and blessed to have worked for two organization, encompassing most of my life that have perfectly aligned with my Core Values. The work I do under the banner of Phil’s Forum is more of the same—Having fun helping others through education (with a healthy dose of perspective from reliving my past experiences and drawing out their lessons).

When you align your work and your values, it never feels like work and you never want it to end. Who wouldn’t want that?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Here is a link to some worksheets that will help you uncover your Core Values.

PPS There were hundreds more people who couldn’t make it to the camp this weekend for the celebration who also shared some of the camp’s values. There are thousands in your town who also share your values. How do you become a beloved business? By creating a tribe of customers who feel the way you feel.

“Customer Service” is Dead

I make a living teaching businesses how to raise the bar on their Customer Service. It is one of my favorite presentations that always gets rave reviews. In fact, I have several presentations built around the concept of how and why to offer better Customer Service.

Yesterday I got an email from a toy store manager who was struggling to get her new team to connect their Customer Service Training with actually serving the customers. She was looking for ideas to help them understand and deliver the concept of Great Customer Service. It was then I realized something profound …

“Customer Service” is dead.

Not the action, just the phrase. It means nothing. It has no basis for today’s workers. It is vapid and useless and needs to go on Lake Superior State University’s list of banished words (might I also suggest adding “omnichannel?”)

The phrase is meaningless because so few retail outlets actually offer anything remotely resembling what it used to mean. Think about today’s young adults. Where are they shopping in brick & mortar? Big-box discounters like Walmart and Target? Check. Discount and close-out rack stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Home Goods? Check. Cheapie stores like Dollar General and Five Below? Check. Under-manned and under-trained department stores like Macy’s, Sears, JC Penney’s and Kohl’s? Check.

When you tell your staff to focus on offering great Customer Service, they have no point of reference to understand what you mean. Most of them have never been in a Nordstrom’s at the peak of their game. Most of them have never been in an indie store like yours that spends the time and energy you do on training your team. They have heard the phrase, but cannot connect it to anything meaningful in their experiences.

Image result for problem solvingMy response to that toy store manager was to quit training on Customer Service. Drop that word from the vocabulary and instead focus on something for which they have a frame of reference like “Problem Solving” or “Surprise and Delight.”

Problem Solving is something we all have to do in our lives, something we all have experience with doing, something to which we all can relate. Instead of telling your staff to offer better Customer Service, teach them to be better at figuring out what problem a customer has come in to solve.

It might be someone needing a birthday present, or someone changing their wardrobe, or someone just killing time. Because of all the churches downtown we often had families in nice clothes show up on a Saturday afternoon just to kill time between the wedding and the reception.

It might be someone working on a project, or someone trying to replace an heirloom, or someone who saved up their money for a big purchase. In a toy store we often got kids with allowance or baby-sitting money burning a hole in their pocket.

Whatever the problem, your team’s true goal is to figure it out and help the customer solve it. We had a dad in the store one Saturday morning with the kids. He was filling time. We showed him all the demos and displays so that he could be the hero taking his kids around the store to play. We often had customers on their way to a birthday party that started ten minutes ago. Our staff would take the item before they checked out, leave the price tag at the register, and start wrapping it just to save time (and with a nice helium balloon on top, it was the hit package at the party.)

Surprise and Delight is another frame of reference to which we can all relate. We’ve all had that moment when something really cool and unexpected happened. Work with your staff to identify those moments when you can surprise and delight customers. Maybe it is something you give out of generosity. Maybe it is saying, “Yes!” to some crazy request. Maybe it is identifying what the customer truly desires and offering not only that but a little more. Maybe it is doing something totally unexpected. On several occasions, including a few Christmas Eves, I made after-work deliveries of large, bulky toys and baby products to customers who couldn’t be home during our normal delivery hours, or who needed the items right away.

When you get your staff laser-focused on Problem Solving or finding new ways to Surprise and Delight, they can relate better and understand their role better. At the end of the day, they are raising the bar on Customer Service, whether they know it or not. You just aren’t using that phrase.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Reinforce this concept with your staff by always having them regale the tales of when they solved a problem or delighted a customer. I always started my staff meetings with Smile Stories (our tagline and my focus with my team was, “We’re here to make you smile.”) These were the moments when the staff truly made a customer happy. Not only did it reinforce our purpose, it started our meetings off on a positive, feel-good high, which made the meeting far more productive than the typical here-is-what-you-did-wrong-last-week berating that poor managers use to start their meetings.

PPS Since closing Toy House, I have abdicated the throne of being the “Largest Independent Toy Store in America.” There are some amazing contenders for that throne. One of them is The Toy Store with locations in Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas. It was one of their managers, always seeking better ways to train her staff, who reached out to me with the question above. I have full confidence her team will be solving problems and delighting customers at every turn by the time they reach the fourth quarter. If you want to see a magical toy store, check them out if you’re ever near their towns.

Five Proven Recipes

I saw the recipe online. It was from the legendary Paul Harvey so it had to be true, right? A simple concoction for eliminating mosquitoes in your backyard. Heck, I could even hear Paul’s distinctive voice in my head reading off the formula …

“You take blue mouthwash, the minty kind. Pour it into a bucket. Mix in three cups of Epsom Salt. Be sure to stir it well. You want all that salt to dissolve. Then … pour in three stale beers. Stale, mind you. Don’t waste the good stuff on those pests. Put that into your spray bottle and you’ll enjoy a whole summer mosquito-free … I know … I’ve been doing it for twenty years. And now you know … the rest of the story.”

Image result for blue mouthwash(Note: that is not an actual quote, just how I heard it in my own mind.)

As I walked into the grocery store, scratching the mosquito bite on my elbow, on my way to buy blue minty mouthwash, Epsom Salt, and cheap beer, I quickly Googled it. Sure enough, it was legit.

I sprayed my yard three days ago. My backyard smells minty fresh and I haven’t seen a mosquito yet. As soon as I post this, I’m going to The Poison Frog and spraying their backyard by the campfire circle where I’ll be performing this Thursday night.

I’m seeing a resurgence in old home remedies like this. I’ve been using a vinegar, salt, and dish soap remedy for the weeds in my yard. Much, much cheaper and safer than the chemical solutions on the market. And nearly as effective.

Here are the recipes:

Weed Killer

  • One Gallon White Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Dish Soap

Mosquito Killer

  • One Large Bottle Blue Minty Mouthwash
  • 3 Cups Epsom Salt
  • 3 Cheap, Stale Beers

Yes, there are more costly solutions. I used to spend a lot of money on Roundup and Ground Clear to keep the weeds at bay. I used to spend a lot of money on Cutter’s yard spray to be able to enjoy the backyard. The old recipes seem to be working just as well as the newer, more costly solutions.

I’m telling you this because you are being bombarded with a bunch of new-fangled (often costly) solutions to your business problems. There are some less-costly yet incredibly effective old recipes for success you should try cooking up. Here are three of my favorites.

Customer Service

  • Find out exactly what the customer expects.
  • Give her that and a little more.

Advertising

  • Don’t let your ads look or sound like an ad.
  • Tell a story.
  • Make it about your customer, not you.
  • Speak to the heart of your customer.
  • Speak to your tribe, the people who share your Values.
  • Make only one point.

Hiring & Training

  • Identify all the traits and skills of the perfect candidate for that particular job.
  • Hire the traits and skills you can’t teach.
  • Train the traits and skills you can teach.

Five recipes that are proven to work, don’t cost a bunch, and have stood the test of time. You’re welcome to try any of them.

Cheers!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, you can hire me to teach you how to use those last three recipes in your store, either one-on-one or in a group setting.

Hire Me to Be Your Coach

I played the role of Father in The Nutcracker Suite on stage at the Michigan Theatre. I was in eighth grade. It was part of our LEAP class (Learning Experience for Academic Progress). It was a play more than a ballet, although we did have a dance troupe come in and do some dance numbers. I don’t remember much of anything about the play itself. I couldn’t tell you anything about the story, the other characters, or even my performance. About all I remember was I played the role of Father and I loved being on that stage.

Panorama of Phil Wrzesinski speaking to a large crowd
Phil Wrzesinski speaking to a packed house in Grand Rapids, MI

I’ve never really been afraid of standing on a stage in front of people. Oh sure, I had a kaleidoscope of butterflies fluttering in my stomach moments before I took the pulpit to do a guest sermon at church. But those butterflies settled down the moment I began to speak.

Whether it is a crowd of 500 at a trade show conference, a group of screaming kids in the dining hall at camp, or a room full of revelers at a brewpub, I love to perform.

That’s why when I began building Phil’s Forum I focused on speaking and presenting, doing workshops and seminars and webinars. That’s what brings me the most joy (and people said I was pretty good at it.) 

But my real goal, my true focus of Phil’s Forum is about YOU. Your success. That’s all that matters.

That is the reason behind all the Free Resources for you to download. That is the reason behind writing over a thousand blog posts for you to consume. That is the reason behind offering all those classes, presentations, workshops, and webinars for you to attend.

That is the reason why you’ll find a new page on my website.

Many of you have contacted me about private, one-on-one consulting and coaching. While I often said yes, I didn’t have a plan in place for how to handle and structure those requests. Nor did I have a firm concept for how I felt I could best work with you.

Until now.

Coach /kōCH/ (noun) An instructor or trainer. A tutor who gives private or specialized teaching.

A Consultant is someone you consult for advice and opinions. A Coach is someone who teaches you how to do what you need to do to be successful.

I am chock full of advice. I give it away freely. You can shoot me an email with a question and it is highly likely I will answer it (for free). If you read this blog regularly then you can probably guess my opinion on a topic before you even ask. Lots of people get paid for their opinions. It always seems a little disingenuous to me. If you make your living that way, you always want to keep your client in a position of needing your opinion. There is almost a built-in need for keeping a client partially in the dark so that they don’t form opinions on their own.

A Coach, however, knows that his role is to teach you something so that you can do it yourself. A coach puts you in the best position to succeed.

I know this is mostly semantics. There are amazing consultants out there who really are more like coaches. They teach. They instruct. They help you grow. They never hold back.

Words, however, are important. Choose the right words and your advertising messages will sparkle. Know which words make up your Core Values and your business will attract the right people. I needed to know which word I wanted to use and why before I could be of best service to you.

I chose the word Coach.

If you want one-on-one, private, specialized instruction to learn how to:

  • Hire Better
  • Train Better
  • Serve Your Customers Better
  • Market Yourself Better
  • Manage Your Inventory Better
  • Manage Your Staff Better
  • Manage Your Cash Flow Better

Let’s get together for an exploratory meeting.

The first meeting is FREE. In that meeting we’ll discuss where you are, what problems you’re facing, what tools you might need to solve those problems, and how best I can help you. After that I’ll send you a few different proposals explaining what I will do, what it will cost, and how we’ll measure success. From there the choice is yours as to how much coaching you want.

While my love is still the stage and I hope to spend as much time there reaching as many people as possible, coaching is the next best way I can help you find your path to success.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I do coaching remotely. We’ll use phone and email to get the job done. (Or if you want to fly me out to meet face-to-face, I’ll let you do that, too. The best way to get me to town is to convince your local Chamber or DDA to hire me for a presentation and have them pay my way.)

PPS One thing I will ask of any client who wants my coaching services is for you to know your Core Values. You can download the new, updated worksheets here.

PPPS Yes, you can hire me to do stuff for you, too. I’ll run a Team Building event. I’ll write your Hiring ads. I’ll write your advertising messages. I’ll teach your staff how to sell. I’d rather teach you how to do those things yourself, though. That’s what serves you best in the long run.

Don’t Ask these Illegal Questions in an Interview

I remember the first year I was in charge of hiring seasonal employees for Toy House. I was ill-prepared. I had done no research into how to interview a candidate. Heck, I had only sat through three job interviews in my life on the other side of the desk. I don’t think I asked any illegal questions. I don’t think I asked any insightful questions either.

Of the ten people I hired that first year, all on a yet-to-be-honed gut instinct, I found a couple good employees, six warm bodies that took up space, and two people we were better off letting go before we got busy. Not that great of a track record.

Hiring and the Potter's Wheel Book Cover
A Business Parable that will help you create a masterpiece of a staff.

Things changed a few years down the road when I had the epiphany that would lead to the book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art. The aha moment was when I realized I needed my candidates to show me who they were, not tell me what they might be.

I started asking questions that began with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when you …”

Actions speak louder than words. Ask your candidates to tell you what they have done, not what they think or believe, and you will get a more accurate description of who they are and what they will do for you.

Now that you know what to ask, Proven.com—a website for finding and hiring new employees—has put out the definitive list of illegal questions you cannot ask. These are illegal. You can get in trouble for asking them. Download the infographic and keep it right next to your list of “Tell me …” questions.

We all know it is illegal to ask, “What medications do you take?” but did you know you cannot ask, “How many kids do you have?” Being a toy store owner I probably made that mistake in an interview or two. I wish I had this list before that first round of interviews. I owed it to the candidates to be better prepared.

Now you have this info so that you can be better prepared. Believe me, it will help.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Many of the books I read on hiring told me to “hire for experience.” As you already know, not all “retail experience” is the same. When you hire for character traits and core values, you’ll consistently find candidates that fit better with you and your store.