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What to Change, What to Keep the Same

Johnny’s Toys, a fixture of the Cincinnati toy market for decades is dropping out of the toy business. Their flagship store in Covington, KY, just across the river from Cinci is converting the sales floor into more space for birthday parties and events that they host in the back of their store, an area called Otterville. They’re keeping their electric train business, but cutting out the toys and baby products.

I had a chance to visit Johnny’s a few years ago. Johnny’s has been one of few remaining giant independents like us carrying a wide variety of toys, hobby & baby products. In the electric train world Johnny’s is legendary. While we have a nice train display, ours is only one fourth the size of theirs. A full 24×8 feet of trains, track, bridges, crossings, landscape and wide-eyed children.

It was awesome!

I just wish the rest of the store had been as exciting.

Talking to a sales rep, together we lamented their getting out of toys. But then he added, “Phil, you’ve been far more proactive in your business, staying current on products, marketing, etc. I’m not really surprised they’re doing this.”

Proactive? Staying Current? Aren’t those minimums for running a business? I mean, we’re not talking advanced retail. Shouldn’t every business be staying current? Unfortunately, it is too easy to fall into the trap of believing that what worked before will work again.

The real skill in retailing is figuring out what to keep the same and what to change. Isn’t that the real skill in all business?

What do you hold fast, what do you let go? What do you never change, what do you constantly change? Where do you stay old-fashioned, where do you modernize? Principle questions being asked by businesses of all shapes and sizes all across the world.

I have an answer to those questions and I think the answer applies to every type of business.

What do you keep the same? Your Core Values! The principles that guided you when you began your business. The traits that define you and your business. David Freeman calls this your Character Diamond. It is the three to five traits that consistently identify you and guide every decision you make. Because these traits are inherent in both you and your business, they never change. In fact, they should be the rock upon which everything else is built.

What do you change? Everything else!

The key is to know what are your Core Values, to know your Character Diamond. Once you identify these traits, change becomes easy. Just ask yourself if the change you are looking to make is consistent with your Character. If yes, make the change. And make changes, you should.

You need to be current on products and trends, changing to meet the needs of your customer base. You need to know marketing and accounting principles and the changes happening in those worlds so that you perform at your best in both categories. You need to be on top of the best hiring and training practices so that your staff regularly exceeds your customers’ changing expectations. Yes, you need to change everything else. But you already know that.

Do you know your Character Diamond? Join me on Wednesday, May 20th at Jackson Coffee Company for the Midtown Morning Breakfast and I’ll help you identify the Core Values that are the foundation of your path to greatness. We’ll get started at 7:30am with a free continental breakfast and some of the most valuable information you’ll learn all year.

And as a bonus, I’ll show you how to use your Character Diamond to attract new customers and new business in ways you never imagined.

It will take a little over an hour of your time, but I promise it will be worth every minute.


PS The May 20th event is actually Part 2 of my How Ads Work presentation. I’m doing Part 1 on Wed., April 15th same time same place. Hopefully you’ll join me for both.

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