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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.

Hiring People Who Believe

I stepped out of my comfort zone tonight. You read this blog because you’re an independent retailer. At least that’s who I normally write and speak to. Tonight I spoke to dentists. I spoke the Jackson District Dental Society about hiring and training.

Image result for jackson district dental society
Jackson District Dental Society

Their issues are interesting. They hire hygienists and assistants who need specialized skills and training and degrees. They hire front office staff who need to know deep terminology exclusive to their trade and the idiosyncrasies of dental insurance. They need a well-balanced staff to maximize their profits. If they aren’t seeing patients, they aren’t making money. Not exactly the same as hiring for retail.

Or is it?

As I learned years ago, there are certain skills I can teach and certain traits you have to bring with you. When you hire the right traits, your team is better right from the start.

Simon Sinek said it best… “The goal is not just to hire people who need a job; it’s to hire people who believe what you believe. I always say that, you know, if you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money, but if they believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears…”

Hire people who believe what you believe.

In a dentist’s office or a toy store, it makes a huge difference. If you like to joke around and have fun and you hire someone who doesn’t, you’ll both be miserable. If you like everything to go exactly like the book and you hire a maverick, you’ll both be miserable.

As we went through all the steps outlined in my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel, it was obvious that hiring and training is the same no matter what industry. If you follow the steps the potter follows, you’ll end up with a team that is a work of art.

And when you’re a dentist, the better your hiring and training, the longer and stronger your staff becomes, the more time you can devote to taking care of your patients.

Okay, so I wasn’t that far out of my comfort zone. I believe in having fun helping others. Tonight I spoke to a group who believes the same.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The only thing about giving talks in my hometown is that the questions usually get around to the radio ads I would run and how they were different than everything else you heard on the air. I told them that presentation happens as soon as this one ends.

In Retail it is All About Location

Let’s get the elephant out of the room right away.

How can I write a blog about being a successful retailer when I closed my retail store? I can sum that up in three words…

Location. Location. Location.

Yes, we were having a tough time with cash flow. That’s the usual culprit behind any store closing. Much of that was due to our location.

Location Issue #1

The population of Jackson has been stagnant at best the last several year. The youth population, however, has shrunk considerably over the last several years as birth rates declined for all groups but teens, and school enrollment is down huge since 2007. On top of that, average household income in the city fell from around $35K per household to $27K per household (well below the national average of around $56K).

I have constantly talked about paying attention to your Market Share. To know your Market Share you first have to know your Market. Ours has shrunk over 40% since 2007. Fortunately, our share of that market only dipped a little. We still had our piece of the pie, but our pie had turned into a tart.

Location Issue #2

We own and occupy a large building on the north edge of downtown. We have been a large toy store for decades, carrying toys, hobbies, baby products, sporting goods, scouts, and more. When the market could bear it, we had a ton of inventory, but scaling back inventory to match the needs of the community meant less efficient use of space and less of the “impact” of being that large store that had everything.

We discussed converting to a smaller store, more in alignment with the population and income, but that would have led to many long-time customers lamenting that we just weren’t the store we used to be or the store they remembered. Better to close while the memories were still positive.

Location Issue #3

I am a big believer in downtowns. Call me naive but I still believe downtown shopping districts can be successful. It takes dedication from the shop keepers, the landlords, and the city leaders to make it work. It takes smart policies, united fronts, and strong relationships to make it work. We have some of that in Jackson, especially among the retail owners. We also have a city council dedicated to improving the streets and sidewalks and green spaces in our downtown. Unfortunately, that also means a ton of disruptive construction. Two years of it! (and counting.)

Our city leaders are not retailers and don’t understand how construction affects retail. They saw an opportunity to get roads fixed and attract new development (all good things), but didn’t see the consequences to the existing retailers and restaurants. When you are trying to dig out of a cash flow hole, having the busiest street in town – the one that goes right by your building – be restricted from three lanes to one with backups that stretch for blocks for an entire spring and summer is not a good recipe for success. At one point we had so much construction downtown that one detour actually led you to another street closure dead-end, and only if you had local knowledge would you know which alley would get you back to open road.

In a couple years, our downtown is going to be new and fresh and repaved and ready for business. But the last two years were pretty tough on the businesses already here, especially for us as our market declined.

Yeah, Amazon is a deal-changer for many retail categories. Yeah, our own vendors are making decisions that hurt the indie retail channel. Yeah, customers are as fickle as ever and have power like never before. None of those are insurmountable. You can still compete. Even as we closed, we were holding our own for our market. We just didn’t like the direction our market was heading.

If your market is your problem, you can do one of four things, Move, Close, Change or Wait. We chose to close.

Now you know.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I’ll discuss the other three options and what would make them attractive in future posts. Right now I have to go let the big elephant in the room out to roam the savanna.

Friends With Benefits

Align yourself with charity. Pick one or two local organizations (or more if you’re up to it) that you feel strongly about. Do something special for them. Help them out. Be their friend and ally.

You’ll both benefit from the friendship.

Santa Paws 2015 #1

This is a picture of the Cascades Humane Society doing their annual Santa Paws event – pictures of your pet with Santa Claus. They called me a few weeks ago looking for a space to take the pictures. I have a stage. I love dogs – especially rescued dogs. I said yes.

They coordinate getting Santa here. They hire the photographer. They set up the backdrop. They sign up and schedule the photo shoots. They work the tables. They get the profits.

We get the traffic. We get the goodwill. We get the customers telling us how nice it is that we are doing this for them. We get the social media exposure. We get exposed to everyone on their mailing list. We get our name mentioned in their press releases (and non-profit press releases get picked up far more often than for-profit press releases).

Our friendship with them brings benefits to both of us.

When you partner with a charity, you expand your reach. You get exposure to a crowd of generous people who love to give to charitable causes (can you think of a better demographic for the independent retailer?). You get touchy feely goodwill because you are helping out. You don’t just look like a greedy merchant. You strengthen your community (the better the non-profits do, the better everyone does).

Make friends with a charity or two. You’ll reap the benefits.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Your charity doesn’t have to be aligned with what you sell. We don’t sell pet toys or pet food. Pick charities based on a few different factors such as…

  • Do they have an active base of followers?
  • Do they want to “partner” with you (or simply have you do all the work)?
  • Do they align with your own personal core values?
  • Are they well-respected in the community?

Those are all good reasons for making friends.

You Aren’t as Well Known as You Think

Back in 2005 we hired a Statistics Class at a local university to do a study for us. They determined how to get a random sample size that would accurately reflect Jackson County and then called people to ask them one simple task…

checklist-154274_1280

“Name all the places you can think of in Jackson County that sell toys.”

The students would write down every store mentioned. Then they would say, “You mentioned…” and repeat the list back to the person. They would then ask, “Can you think of any more?” and repeat this until the person had thought of everyone.

Here are the results of how often the top six stores were mentioned.

  1. Toys R Us 84.1%
  2. Meijer 82.3%
  3. Wal-Mart 69.5%
  4. Toy House 64.8%
  5. K-Mart 59.1%
  6. Target 45.2%

Interesting that 35% of the population of Jackson County could not think of us even though we had been here 56 years at the time of the survey.

More interesting was that Wal-Mart had only just opened a few months before this survey was done. Was that 69.5% too high or too low seeing that they had just received about four months of wall-to-wall news coverage prior to opening?

Even more interesting was that less than half of our population thought of Target as a place that sold toys even though Target, nationally, is only behind Wal-Mart and Toys R Us in overall toy sales.

Most interesting of all was that not one single store broke the 90% (even with the 4% margin of error).

NOT EVERYONE KNOWS YOU’RE THERE

One takeaway from all this is the reminder that you have to keep marketing and advertising your business. You are not the Field of Dreams. People will not come. Mainly because they don’t even know you’re there.

35% of my hometown did not know that an award-winning store with one of the largest selection of toys in America was located right downtown in a brightly colored building for over 50 years.

YOU CAN’T REACH EVERYONE

Another takeaway is that no matter how hard you try, there will still be people who haven’t heard of you.

35% of my hometown could not name the toy store that runs radio ads every day, gets mentioned on TV every day, makes monthly appearances on radio and TV, is all over social media, and gets coverage in the local newspaper all the time.

35% of my hometown could not name the toy store whose logo is on the shirt of the guy who attends networking events, teaches classes at the local hospital and even wears his colors on his jacket all winter long.

Heck, even 15% couldn’t name Toys R Us despite them spending billions on advertising.

You could sum it up simply as…

  • Always be farming for more customers
  • Not every seed planted will sprout

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS This post took a turn after I started it. It was supposed to be about the importance of Networking, especially as a low-cost marketing method. I’ll get to that soon enough. In the meantime, download my FREE eBook Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget for six other ways you can get the word out about your business at little or no cost.

PPS The cool thing about the survey was that I quickly knew what the people of Jackson thought when they needed to buy toys. I knew where I stood and where everyone else in the market stood, too. That is some powerful information.

Give Them Something to Talk About

Roy H. Williams told you that to get Word-of-Mouth you have to do one of three things…

  • Over-the-top Design
  • Over-the-top Customer Service
  • Over-the-top Generosity

This falls into that first category.

Huge kudos to Kristina Smith, who made all the signs (that’s her in the photo). Notice that we positioned this so that when you take a photo of your kid next to it, you get the big Toy House sign in the background.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Roy says there are three, but I’ve discovered two more ways to get customers to talk about your business. Check out my free download Generating Word-of-Mouth.

PPS Yes, this is also a form of Branding. If you remember, two of our Core Values are Fun and Educational. Not only are the signs fun and interesting and whimsical, they also point in the right directions (almost) and they have miles on them.

The Mortar Between Your Bricks

They call us Brick & Mortar stores. Physical locations where you go to pick out and pick up your goods.

But many stores are simply Brick stores – no mortar. Those are the stores being Showroomed.

Bricks are the products. Bricks are the items you choose to put into your store. Bricks are the items you buy, hoping to sell for a profit. Bricks are the reason you believe customers will beat a path to your door.

Oh, but you would be wrong on that last one.

Sure, you better have some nice bricks. But everyone knows that just stacking a bunch of bricks will not build a sustainable structure. Anyone can come by and knock it down.

Mortar is the glue that holds the bricks together. You need a good mortar.

Mortar is the staff you hire and train. Hire the right people and train them well. Give them autonomy to do the job they are capable of doing, mastery to do it better each successive time, and a purpose greater than themselves that will motivate them to do their best.

Mortar is the way you service and take care of your customers. Build policies around your Values. Build policies around the Feelings you hope to give your customers. Build policies around Delight, around going above and beyond what your customers expect.

Mortar is the way you invest in your community. Mortar is the charities you support, the issues you champion, the involvement and commitment you make to the greater good.

Mortar is the special touches you offer. Mortar is turning off the overhead music when an autistic child enters your store because you know it bothers him. Mortar is carrying the heavy item out to the car – even though it is parked hundreds of feet away – so that mom can manage the stroller and the toddler who wants to walk. Mortar is calling that customer who really wanted your sold-out, discontinued science set because somebody returned one the next day. Mortar is saying Yes! when everyone else says No.

The stronger your mortar, the stronger your store, regardless of which bricks you use.

Bricks are everywhere. The bricks that make up your store can be found online, in hundreds of other stores, all over the place. They can be found right in your customer’s pocket, one click away. If you want to make it in this retail climate, you need some incredibly good mortar.

Tell me what is your mortar?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Mortar is also your financial strength, your ability to manage your inventory and cash flow, your ability to manage your expenses and cost of goods. The best retailers find ways to strengthen their mortar everywhere they can. If you are in the Jackson area and want to strengthen the mortar in your store, sign up for the Jackson Retail Success Academy class starting in January.