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“Everything Cheaper Somewhere Else”

I used to hate anonymous commenting on news articles and blog posts. It is so easy to hide behind a pseudonym and take unsubstantiated potshots at people and businesses, spread rumors, and even spread downright lies.

As a retailer, I took every negative comment and review of my business personally. Some of them hurt, especially when they weren’t true. The misunderstandings were one thing but the outright lies were the worst. They cut to the bone.

I remember one day in the infancy of online news when a fellow downtown business owner alerted me to comments posted on an online news story that attacked both my store and me personally. He warned me not to read them. I didn’t heed his warnings.

One person had taken it upon him or herself to just rip the business up one side and down the other, calling us, among other things, price-gougers who were just out to destroy the little people in town. This person claimed that he or she could find everything we sold in our store cheaper online.

I took offense to the first part. The person posting the comment had no idea what I paid myself or my staff or our profit margin or what we gave to charity or what causes we supported. I am a forgiving person, though. I will forgive them their ignorance.

The second part, however, was pretty much true. Not only could that person show you the items cheaper, I probably could, too. After all, I had Internet access. I could also show you sites and stores where just about everything we sold was more expensive than our prices. That exists, too.

In fact, if prices weren’t fluid across different channels, Retail would look a whole lot different and be a lot less fun. Everyone would pretty much do the same thing and charge the same for it. Yawn.

Image result for valueRetail is a game, and the game can be boiled down to this … Find the Value you can give the customer that will make it worthwhile for them to pay the price you wish to charge.

At the ballpark they charge you more for a single beer than you would pay for a twelve-pack at the store. You buy it because you want to drink a beer during the game. There is enough Value in enjoying that beer while watching the game that makes you pay the price. (Don’t want to pay their outrageous prices? You can eat before you go to the ballpark. Most people can handle 3-4 hours between eating. You can also drink water for free. They have to provide it to you.)

People call them price-gougers all the time. It doesn’t stop them from raising their prices and making money. They offer you the Value of being at the game and watching the action in person.

The real question you need to ask yourself as a retailer is … What Value are you adding to the equation and will that Value be enough to get people to pay your prices?

You can add Value in several ways. You can:

  • Offer services other stores don’t have (i.e. layaway, free gift-wrapping, assembly, delivery)
  • Curate the selection to help customers get only the best solutions
  • Align your business with a social cause
  • Offer follow-up services (such as the free 30-day riding tuneup that we used to offer with every bike we sold)
  • Build relationships to the point that the customer feels as much ownership in your store as you do.

Any one of those is a way to “play” the Retail Game. Play more than a few of them and you’ll never worry about how someone can find “everything cheaper somewhere else.”

Were we the lowest priced game in town? Nope. Never tried to win that race to the bottom. But in a 2007 survey of Jackson County residents about stores that sell toys in Jackson, we were rated as having the highest “Value” ahead of Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, Kmart, and Meijer (all whom love to advertise their “lowest prices”.)

What Value are you adding to the equation?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I have a good friend also named Phil who also ran a toy and baby store in the other Jackson (MS) who never liked MAP (Minimum Advertised Pricing) because it made everyone price their goods at the same price. He said true merchants have no problem with the undercutting of prices on the Internet because they know how to offer Value and make sales at higher margins. As much as you hate to admit it, he’s right. MAP only protects you at the margin the vendor thinks you should make, not the margin you deserve for all the value you offer.

PPS As for anonymous negative comments online, if they are an attack on your character or the character of your business, ignore them completely. Your actions speak louder than your words. Use your actions to prove that person wrong. If the comments are simply something misunderstood, you can respond for clarification, but only if you can substantiate your claims without putting down the person who made the comment. More often than not, however, it is best to ignore anonymous comments, period. I’ll talk about how to respond to Reviews in a future post.

PPPS A few of those ways to play involve the skills and training you give to your front line staff. As I pointed out before, that is probably the easiest way to add the kind of Value your competitors are not adding to their equations.

Two Lessons From Selling a House

I’m typing this while surrounded by boxes, some full, some waiting to be filled. I’ve told you many times I’m not the most organized guy. I fear that most of the contents of my home office are just going to get dumped into whatever open containers are left, to be sorted (if at all) at some later date.

Yes, my house sold. It took seventeen months from listing to closing.

It took seventeen months, a dozen gallons of paint, a new stove, two dozen borrowed items for staging, fifteen open houses, four prices changes (the last one upward), and three written descriptions of the house before the sale happened.

I want to talk about those last two.

For the first year, we started with the house listed at $249,900, hoping to get $230,000 plus. We listed in late July 2016 so we missed the window for the families who wanted to move over the summer and be in the new place before school started. Although we had some traffic early on, most people complained about the old, dated kitchen.

Our old, dated kitchen

To their credit, the kitchen was old. And dated. And included four different types of wood (light maple pergo floors, dark cherry cabinets, dark oak trim around a tile counter, and medium oak trim around the light fixtures, oh and wood paneling—yuck!) But it was also functional and efficient and filled with good, usable storage.

No offers.

We lowered the price to $245,000 and then to $239,900 hoping to refresh the listing (by the way, the comparable values put it in the $250,000 range.) The rest of the first year was all the same. Plenty of traffic. Everyone had the same comments. Loved the location. Loved the spacious rooms. But the kitchen was dated. A few commented that the price was too high because of the kitchen.

No offers.

At the end of the first year I took it off the market for a month. I painted the remaining rooms that had yet to be painted, re-staged it, and put it back on the market at $259,900.

I also rewrote the listing to include the following paragraph …

The kitchen is dated—but completely functional—and will serve you well until you decide to build the kitchen of your dreams and turn this house into the home you’ve always wanted.

The higher price meant fewer lookers, but one thing changed dramatically. Not one person mentioned the kitchen as being an issue. Surprisingly, no one mentioned the price either.

Those two changes led us to the buyer we needed—someone who would see the house for the incredible value that it is, and not be scared away that the kitchen has to be redone.

Through our new price and new description we eliminated all the traffic that was pointless, and only brought the traffic that would be interested in a house like ours.

NEW PRICE

As I have been teaching for years, price is a perception game. In housing, that game has changed dramatically thanks to the Internet. Almost every house hunter goes online first. One of the first filters you use is price. You put a minimum and maximum price into the filters and your search appears. With a price of $249,900, we were at the top end of the $250,000 filter. People who put $250,000 as their top filter are not looking to buy a $249,900 house that needs a $20,000 kitchen. We needed to get out of that search mode.

Going to $259,900 put us into searches for people who put $300,000 as their upper limit. Now our $259,900 price looked like a value. Even with $30K worth of work, the buyer will have a $300,000 house for less than $300,000.

Yes, the perception of this new mode of search is that every house that pulls up in a search of houses between $200,000 and $250,000 has a maximum value of $250,000 because they put “$250,000 maximum value” in their search. Every house that pulls up between $250,000 and $300,000 is likewise a $300,000 home.

By changing our price, we changed the perceived worth of our house. Instead of being an expensive house that needed a lot of work, it went to being a value-priced house that needed a little bit of work.

NEW DESCRIPTION

My agent was good with my new description—even the part about the kitchen being dated. I heard from other people in real estate that you should never say anything negative about a house in the description. I respectfully disagree. By admitting the downside, I earned the trust that the other statements would have a better degree of accuracy.

Most of us know that keywords like “cozy” means “cramped” and “charming” means “hasn’t-been-updated-in-years.” Yet, by admitting the kitchen was dated, not only did it make the other statements feel more truthful, it eliminated any house hunters who didn’t want to remodel a kitchen.

Our traffic was down, but we got a buyer and closed the sale.

The lessons are two-fold.

First, price has a huge impact on the perception of an item. Sometimes a higher price is actually better than a lower price. You have to look at your prices through the eyes of a customer and see what she sees and reads into your prices. Do that and you can find the sweet spot that gets you the most bang for your buck.

Second—and this is something Roy H. Williams has been drilling into my head this entire century—you have to choose who to lose. Through our description and pricing we eliminated a lot of potential buyers, mainly because we knew they weren’t going to be the right buyers. Just having traffic to your website doesn’t make it good traffic. Just having traffic through your door doesn’t make it good traffic. You want to specifically attract your kind of buyers. You do that with your message. Our new message brought us the buyer we needed and got the house sold.

Time to go fill up those boxes.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Before you ask, we got $230,000. We got where we wanted, but only after attracting the right people. The housing market hasn’t changed much in our area. We didn’t get any offers with the old description and old price during the peak selling season of April to July. We got our first offer during the off-season and only after the new price and new description. (Speaking of off-season, I am currently staring at a snowstorm out my front window that has closed one of the major highways through town. This is Michigan. When they close the highway here, it’s a real storm. Fun for my son because school was closed, but not so fun for packing and moving.)

PPS I apologize for the sporadic posts the last few weeks. It will probably continue into next week as well while we make the move. Stay tuned, though. I have some fun thoughts for how we can make 2018 amazing. You might want to tell your other retailer friends to sign up for the blog here.

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?

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.

Spotlight on Marketing & Advertising Class Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Here is your chance to learn the equivalent of a degree in advertising in just one night. As one MBA professor told me after sampling the material, “No one is teaching this stuff even at our level, and it needs to be learned!”

If you are a small business owner, you should take this class.
If you are an entrepreneur, you should take this class.
If you are a student studying business at any level, you should take this class.

SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING 

Next Class: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 – 6pm to 10pm

Tuition: $250 (Half-price for any businesses that are JRSA™ Alumni)

Famed retailer John Wanamaker said it best, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The problem is, I don’t know which half.” Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on advertising every year. Most of it poorly.

This Spotlight covers everything from how different types of advertising work to the best ways to use social media to marketing on a shoestring budget to learning the secrets to getting the press to talk about you. You will learn best practices for marketing your business whether your ad budget is $500 or $50,000. You will learn how to create memorable messages that move customers toward your business and you toward your goals. You will learn how to get far more out of your advertising dollars than any of your competitors.

When you take this class you will get…

  • Better, Smarter, More Effective Advertising – You’ll learn secrets that only a handful of businesses know that get greater results per dollar than any of your competitors.
  • One full year of Advertising Support including help finding your message, creating a campaign and buying ad packages
  • A Network of current and previous JRSA™ graduates for support and encouragement
  • Half-Price Tuition for any future JRSA™ programs

Click here to sign up for the class.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, this will include the material from my new book MOST ADS SUCK. That will only make up about 25% of the material covered. If you have a business to market, this will be the best money you’ve spent on “advertising” ever.

Not Just for Retailers

I was having a conversation this morning when the light bulb went on. I was asked by someone considering enrolling in the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop this Wednesday (it is not too late to sign up) whether he would learn anything useful since he “wasn’t a retail store manager.”

The answer is a resounding YES!

In fact, most of what I teach has implications far beyond just the retail landscape. I have followers from all over the world in all types of industries.

If you are in any position where you have to hire people, you need to read my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art.

If you are in any position where you write copy to persuade people to buy or use your products or services, you can learn from my articles on marketing (and my new book coming out later this spring). 

If you are in any position to teach and lead your staff you would benefit not only from the Spotlight class, but also from the Free Resources on Team Building and Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend.

I know where the confusion began.

The SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop is being offered through the Jackson Retail Success Academy™. While JRSA™ is mostly geared for retailers, we have had many graduates from other industries. Other than the inventory management segment, most of what I teach there applies to all types of businesses. I run all local classes through JRSA™ because of my partnership with Spring Arbor University and their Hosmer Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. They provide a fantastic venue for hosting events like these and have been a wonderful partner.

You don’t have to be a retailer to take any of the classes or workshops I offer. You only have to be open-minded and ready to learn.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I am already working on a date for the next SPOTLIGHT workshop. This will be an advanced degree in Advertising and Marketing in four fast-paced hours for anyone who has a business to promote. Stay tuned for details.

Sign Up for the Spotlight on Managerial Success Workshop

If you’re still sitting on the fence about signing up for next Wednesday’s SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do you manage a team of three or more people?
  2. Do you feel that your team is not working up to their best potential?
  3. Do you believe you could improve your communication skills?
  4. Do you hate confrontational situations?
  5. Do you believe that team building can be fostered and led rather than just happening organically over time?
  6. Do you believe your new hires need a better, more consistent training program?
  7. Do you believe your current team would benefit from further training?

If you’re answering No then you can stop reading. You’re good to go.

If you’re answering Yes, then ask yourself these two questions…

  1. What will help your business more in the long run – you being there at your business all day Wednesday or you taking a day to learn new skills, techniques and tools to make everyone on your team more productive?
  2. Where else could you get hands-on training to teach you how to lead team building, teach you how to communicate better, and help you build training plans for your employees for only $50 and eight hours of your time?

If you’re still not convinced, let’s make this really simple… If you don’t find value in the program, I will refund your money. Period. (If you read my blog regularly, you know I’m serious about that. Customer first. Always.)

Sign up today!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Here’s a benefit I have yet to mention. Attend this Jackson Retail Success Academy™ event and you will become an alumni, eligible to attend future JRSA™ events at discounted prices!

 

Talent, Practice, and Luck

One day I would love to go to The Masters in Augusta, GA. I have watched it on TV so many times that I know every green instantly before the announcers even tell me the hole. I love golf. Love to play it, love to watch it. Especially this tournament.

These guys are amazing!

Image result for the masters

I have played golf all my life. I know it takes three things to be successful at golf – Talent, Practice, and Luck. Then again, you can say that about pretty much everything.

Talent in business is the skills you hire.

Practice is the training and preparation you offer.

As the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Unfortunately many businesses, especially retailers, think the only preparation they need to offer is training for new hires. That would be the equivalent of trying to play The Masters after six weeks of golf lessons. Not enough preparation for the opportunity.

That’s why part of the focus of the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop I’m offering on April 26th includes creating an ongoing training program to help your staff be better prepared for the opportunities that arise. Talent alone won’t win the day. Experience alone won’t make you lucky.

If you manage three or more people, this workshop will bring you the kind of luck that wins major championships. Sign up today!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I would take tickets to a future Masters golf tournament as barter for my services. I already know where I would stay and what I would do on the course.

The Team, The Team, The Team

If you know me well, you know I’m a Wolverine. Been one since the day my grandfather took me to The Big House at seven years old. It was the only university I applied to attend. If you know the University of Michigan and follow their football team, you’ve heard the immortal words of the late, great football coach Bo Schembechler, “The Team, The Team, The Team,”

Heck, if you’re a sports fan of any team, whether it is women’s gymnastics or men’s lacrosse or anywhere in between, you understand the power of teamwork and cooperation and working together as one unit. Ask any coach in America and they’ll take amazing teamwork over individual stardom every day.

Image result for bo schembechler the team

Why is teamwork that is so important on the playing field so neglected in the workplace?

I used to work on a team for the Los Angeles Unified School District. There were five of us on the team and each week we worked with inner-city LA teenagers at the Clear Creek Outdoor Education Facility in the Angeles National Forest north of the city. We did team building exercises with these kids. We taught them about nature and an outdoors they rarely experienced back home. We had bears foraging our dumpster, snakes slithering under our cabins, and coyotes howling at the moon.

And we had a Team.

At our staff meeting before each group arrived, we discussed who would lead each activity. That was the only person assigned any task. It was naturally assumed that the other four people would do everything else to support the activity and make sure the entire event was successful.

Now, on some teams, this might be a recipe for disaster. If something doesn’t get done, there would be plenty of people to step up and say, “Not my job.” The NMJ’s are killers to productivity and morale.

On our team, because we were hyper-focused on the experience we offered these adolescents, that was never the case. If one of us saw a job undone, we did it. Period. Everything was our job. There was never any resentment because we all had each other’s back and we all had the overall success of our guests as our goal. It was the most amazing work experience of my life, one I still think about to this day.

What made the difference?

When we weren’t leading team building exercises with the kids we were doing team building exercises with each other. We were all experienced at leading these exercises so we spent the summer creating new exercises to try with the kids. We tried them out with each other first. Our leader, Dana (he was a top-level college wrestler in the ’80’s, would love to find him again but I can’t remember his last name), worked with us all the time on communication, cooperation, problem-solving and trust – the core elements of any team building.

It made a difference for us. More importantly, it made a difference for our students (customers, clients, guests…).

This is why I am leading the all-day workshop SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS here in Jackson on April 26th. I want to teach you Team Building skills so that you can build your team to this level.

If you manage three or more people, you have a team. That team needs a foundation in teamwork that you can bring to the table through what you train and how you train. This workshop will show you how to do it the right way.

Space is limited. Sign up today!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Our team disbanded when the LA Unified school teachers went on strike in October 1992. When we headed down the mountain after our last group, we didn’t know it would be the last time we saw each other. I headed back to Michigan and joined a new team that was as dysfunctional as my previous team had been functional. The difference? Leadership. Be your team’s Leader by learning how to build your Team.

Hinkley Donuts, Or How to Go Above and Beyond

I had a Hinkley Donut this morning. My favorite is chocolate frosted cinnamon, but I could eat any of about a dozen of their different donuts with equal pleasure. Those of you in Jackson know what I mean. In a statewide competition Hinkley’s Bakery won Best Donuts in Michigan (if they hadn’t there might have been an uproar – or at least a road trip to see if it was true that there existed something better).

When I eat Hinkley Donuts I often think about Ernie.

Hinkley’s Donuts – Best in Michigan!

Ernie sells chairs. Not just any chairs, but fully customizable, fits everyone, incredibly comfortable, office chairs. I put Ernie in the hot seat and asked him about his sales process. He led me through the cold calls, the visits, the dog-and-pony shows, the follow-ups, the closing of the sale and the delivery.

At each point of contact I asked Ernie what his staff was instructed to do. Then I stopped him, and everyone else in the class, and asked, “What does the customer expect out of you at this point?”

This was an eye-opener for everyone in the class. We know what we do, but we rarely stop to think about what our customers actually expect and want. Yet, that is the secret to great customer service – meet your customer’s expectations. In fact, that is critical in today’s connected world where if you fail to meet their expectation, all 962 of their friends on Facebook will know by tonight, and visitors to Yelp and Google will read about it for years.

If you aren’t doing this exercise, you might be missing a critical problem in what you thought was your awesome customer service that has been holding you back.

Once we established the customer’s expectations I asked Ernie a second question. “What would it look like to exceed your customer’s expectations?” If you want to take your customer service to the level where it generates Word-of-Mouth, you have to exceed your customer’s expectations. 

Ernie’s sales team did early morning or early afternoon visits to show off his chairs. We wondered what would happen if the sales people showed up with Hinkley Donuts (well, okay, the equivalent in that town) for morning meetings or Klavon’s Pizza for afternoon meetings. All it would take is a simple call to the local Chamber of Commerce to find out which local bakery or pizza joint is best known in town. A good salesman could probably find a way to get that info in a conversation. I told Ernie, don’t announce you’re bringing the yummies. Make it a surprise. As Roy H. Williams says, “Surprise is the foundation of delight.” It was a simple change, an inexpensive change, but one that would pay high dividends.

By the time Ernie was out of the hot seat he had several ideas of how to meet and exceed what his customers expected. I’m pretty sure he’s been doing that ever since.

When you go above and beyond what your customer expects, you will delight her and win her as a customer. No matter what competition you face, no matter what technology disrupts your future, that will always be true.

That’s what I think about when I eat a Hinkley Donut.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I can be bought with food. But it isn’t so much the food itself as it is the gesture. You went above and beyond because you found the local source and made the effort to ply me with something unique, not generic or mass-produced. That’s a powerful statement that earns a lot of trust.