If you have ever studied the topography of Lake Erie, you’ll know it is one of the shallowest of the Great Lakes. It is shaped much like a swimming pool with a shallow end to the west (25-30 feet deep) and a deep end over near Buffalo, NY (210 feet deep).
When the winds come strong out of the west they blow that shallow end all down to Buffalo. Storer Camps used to have a sailboat docked at a marina on the west end and some days the boat would be resting on its keel at the dock because the water had drained completely out of the marina and blown east.
All boats rise with the tide. But also all boats fall.
Your business rides on several tides.
There is the tide of the economy. When the economy is booming, even the mediocre retailers can make money. When it is in the dumps, only the smart retailers who shored up their business rather than just rising with the tide are making any money. (This affects you both locally and globally.)
There is the tide of your sales team. The worst person on your sales team is blowing all the water to Buffalo. Hopefully you have enough good people pushing the water back.
There is the tide of products. A good fad or hot trend can fill the marina fast. You just never know when it will drain.
There is the tide of demographics. As they grow, so does your sales, but as they grow, so does your competition. The competition just doesn’t wash away as fast as the demographics might.
People who live or work along the shores of the Great Lakes and the coasts pay close attention to the tides. Their tides are predictable.
Your tides are not.
But you still need to be paying attention to them.
Are you tracking the local and global economy and adjusting your inventory to match?
Are you measuring your sales people and training up the lower producers?
Are you following the trends in your industry and comparing them to past trends to see how your store fares with each passing fad?
Are you measuring the demographics and watching for any major changes and how those would impact you?
All boats rise with the tide, but only the smart boats know when to set sail to take advantage of the rising (and lowering) tides.
Sometimes it is best to set sail and go get those sales before the tide falls too far.
PS I’m channeling my oceanography degree and sailing background for this post. Just remember that when you’re rising, so are your competitors. In a sailboat race the lead boat always wants to do whatever the trailing boat does to keep that boat from gaining. The trailing boat, however, has their best chance to overtake the lead boat by following a different path.