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Christmas Quick Tip #14 – Get Away

In the interest of time during this busy holiday season, these blog posts will be short and sweet so that you can get back to business more quickly.

Here is tip #14 …

GET AWAY

No, I’m not suggesting you take a holiday this time of year (wouldn’t that be nice?). But I am reminding you that you need to leave the store for an hour or two each day. You need to go home and rest or go to a restaurant and have someone serve you.

This time of year we get in early, stay late, and always seem to be running errands whenever we leave the store. I know. I was part of that grind for twenty four years.

Unfortunately that is a recipe for disaster. If you work yourself too hard you will …

  • Learn to hate the holidays
  • Wear yourself out (often too soon)
  • Get so tired that you accidentally snap at a customer or staff
  • Ruin your health so that you miss out enjoying Christmas Day or New Year’s Day
  • Become so cranky your kids won’t like you

When I was young, my sister and I talked about how our “Christmas” dad was so far different than our friends’ “Christmas” dads. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

Every day take at least an hour break just for you.

No errands. No hiding in your office where they can find you. Get out of the store and try to relax.

Your store won’t implode if you’re gone for an hour (or if it will, then we need to talk about a little reorganization and maybe some staff training?). But you might implode if you don’t take those breaks.

The next ten days will be your busiest stretch of the year. Make sure you take care of yourself while you’re taking care of your customers. It makes the holidays so much more enjoyable.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Since I was working from 7am until 9pm I usually took a couple hours mid-afternoon. Often I would go home and nap. If that wasn’t possible, I would go to a restaurant and read the newspaper. That’s what got me through over two decades of holiday retail sales with my sanity (somewhat) intact.

PPS Put the calmest person on your team in charge. They keep everyone else calm, which keeps the fires to a minimum before you return.

Christmas Quick Tip #11 – Catch Your Employees

Christmas is only two weeks away! This is a quick tip to fire up your staff for the final push.

Here is tip #11

CATCH YOUR EMPLOYEES DOING SOMETHING RIGHT

By now, if you trained them well, your newbies should be doing more right than wrong. Pay close attention to them over the next couple days. Find something they did exceptionally well and praise them for doing it.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Simply say …

  • I love how you handled …
  • You did a nice job with …
  • That was really nice how you …
  • You’ve really gotten a handle on …
  • You do (_________) so well!

“There are two things people want more than sex or money… recognition and praise.” -Mary Kay Ash

Give your veterans some love, too.

  • You’ve really stepped up at doing …
  • Thank you for (_________)
  • I’m so grateful for all you did to …
  • You are my rock star!

Build up your staff with praise and recognition and you’ll see their energies rise. 

It will give you the necessary momentum to finish these last two weeks strong.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Don’t stop at just catching them once. Whenever you see energy levels fading, pull out the praise card. It works wonders!

When You Need to Change Things Around

We had two warehouses in our store. We called them “Warehouse #3” and “Warehouse #5” Yeah, I know.

Those names actually made sense based on our phone paging system. The first warehouse was button number 3 on our phone system. The second warehouse – created when the store expanded in 1972 – was button number 5 in the system.

Since the front line staff called those warehouses as often as they visited them, the names made sense.

We also had six numbered doors on the back side of the building. Door #5 was where we sent customers to pick up large, bulky items like Little Tikes and Step2 products or baby furniture. Door #5 was located in Warehouse #5.

A long time ago all of our warehouse aisles were also numbered. Because of reconfigurations, only one aisle number remained. You guessed it … Aisle #5.

Aisle #5 was in Warehouse #3. Aisle #5 was the “junk draw” of the Toy House. All the shelving odds and ends ended up in Aisle #5. When something needed to be put back in the warehouse temporarily, it went to Aisle #5.

The New Baby Department May 2006

Confused?

My new staff regularly was.

Every year I would ask my staff for a new name for Aisle #5. I would even have been happy with “junk drawer.” But every year they said don’t change it. It will be too confusing.

There are still people in town who call the mall on the north end of town Paka Plaza even though it changed its name to Jackson Crossing twenty-eight years ago!

We are resistant to change. We don’t like change. We cling to the old even after change happens.

So how do you change the things that need to be changed?

First you need to identify the type of change. Is this a tweak or a wholesale change?

Tweaks are easy. Explain why the change is better/easier/faster/more-customer-friendly and everyone will jump on board fairly quickly.

Wholesale changes need buy-in.

Wholesale changes need key employees leading the charge or being the cheerleaders for the change. You need your managers and assistant managers on board. You need your veterans on board.

If you need to make wholesale changes such as completely revamping a policy, changing your hours and/or days of operation, or adding in a new POS system, you need to identify your key people, not by their role (manager, assistant, etc.) but by their likely position regarding the change. You need to know …

  • Who will be most resistant to the change
  • Who the change will affect the most
  • Who will be the most happy for the change

Unless change is a constant in your particular business, your elder statespeople will most likely be the keepers of the we’ve-always-done-it-this-way flame. You need to sit down with one or two of them and have a conversation before you announce the change. In that conversation, don’t ram the new way down their throats. Instead focus on the problems the old way causes. Get them to buy-in on the old way being “broken”  first and they’ll be much more open to new ideas.

The employees most affected by this change are your next group. You don’t have to meet with them before (although it helps to have a similar conversation like you had with the previous group), but you do need to meet with them after you announce the change. You need to sit down with them and tell them you understand how much more difficult this change will be for them than the others. You need to tell them what you’re planning to do for them to help them through the transition.

The third group is who you want to call on when you announce the change. Get them to give their input right away and their positivity will infect the rest of your group. They will become your head cheerleaders.

Follow this blueprint and you will have much quicker and better buy-in by your team. You’ll still have some trials and tribulations. You might have an employee or two who won’t adapt well to the change. You might even have to fire someone over this.

You will likely also have a dip in productivity while you go through the transition to the new procedure. That’s okay and expected. You’re in business for the long run, remember?

The right changes now will keep you in the game long enough to wonder why people still remember what you did twenty-eight years ago.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We changed computers and cash registers once on my watch. We changed hours several times including being open Sundays year-round. We changed closing procedures, too. We even closed for three days to totally revamp, renovate, and relocate every product, shelf, computer, and cash register in the store. The more I followed the above blueprint, the better each change happened.

Change or Stay the Course?

I read a quote the other day and it has stuck with me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to work it into a worthwhile post. The quote is from author William R. Inge. He says …

“There are two kinds of fools. One says, ‘This is old, therefore it is good,’; the other says, ‘This is new, therefore it is better.’ “

“This is old, therefore it is good,” is the trap we get into when we say things like, “We’ve always done it this way.”

“This is new, therefore it is better,” is the trap we get into especially whenever a new form of advertising comes along. We think we need to be on the cutting edge or we will get left behind.

The problem with both of those statements is that they are completely right and completely wrong at the same time. Some old things are really good and shouldn’t be changed. Some new things are truly better and will disrupt your industry and kill your business if you don’t adopt them.

I was at a presentation a few years ago when the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we had any employees that had been with us twenty or more years. I raised my hand.

He said the best thing we could do for our business is to fire those people the day we got back. They were the keepers of the flame of everything old. They were the standard bearers for, “We’ve always done it this way.”

I didn’t fire those people (I had two at the time), but I took to heart his meaning and paid close attention to who was willing to change and who wasn’t.

The other side of the coin was fascinating, too. Back in the early 90’s we had newsprint, radio, TV, billboard, yellow pages, and direct mail as our advertising options. There was no social media, email, or mobile marketing. The movie theaters weren’t running pre-show ads. Most of us didn’t even know the word Google, let alone have our own website with SEO optimization.

Yet each one of those was going to disrupt the advertising industry and change it forever (or so we were told).

The sales pitch from every rep was the same. “If you don’t jump on this bandwagon, you’re going to miss out on the biggest change the industry has ever seen, and you’ll be left in the dust by your competition.”

Some of those new things (like email and having your own website) really have changed the game for small businesses. Some, like closed-circuit TV, haven’t been quite as lucrative as promised.

How do you know when to change and when not to change? For many of us, that is the biggest question and hardest task. I wrote about it once before and came up with these three points of what to change …

Never Change: Your Core Values, Putting Your Customer First

Don’t Change Now: Anything that is productive and efficient

Change Now: Everything else

The best way avoid becoming one of the two fools above is to have a process for when and how to change.

WHEN TO CHANGE

When someone asks you to change something you’ve always done, you get defensive. That is a natural reaction. Here is a process to help you decide when to change the old (or chase after the new.)

First ask this question …

  • Is this a tweak or a wholesale change?

If it is a tweak and the tweak makes the current process more efficient and/or more customer-friendly, you should do it.

In fact you should always be looking for tweaks, small changes that make things work better.

If it is a wholesale change—some shiny, new bauble—then you have to ask a few more questions …

  • Does the new process/system fit within our Core Values?
  • Is it customer-friendly?
  • Is it faster or more efficient than the old way?
  • Can it be easily taught to everyone on the team?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then it is a good change.

If you answered no to either of the first two questions, you’re better off staying the course.

If you answered no to the third question, but a strong yes to the first two, it might be worth considering. sometimes it is worth giving up a little efficiency on your end if it helps delight more customers.

If you answered yes to the first three but not the last question, just understand there will be some growing pains to get the new system implemented, but it is still worth making the change.

If that isn’t enough to help you decide, you can do what I did. I always liked to ask two more questions …

  • Is the old way no longer working?
  • What statistics were slain to make this bauble look enticing?

Change costs time, money, and other resources. Change is not always easy. In Seth Godin’s book THE DIP, he shows how change often causes a dip in productivity at first, followed by the gains you were hoping to get when you made the change.

Sometimes it is better to keep the old ways. Sometimes it is better to embrace the new.

The true fool, however, is the business owner who doesn’t have a process to evaluate when and how to change your business for the better.

Fortunately, you’re no fool.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We’ll explore how to change later this week.

PPS I had one more technique I used for making decisions on the shiny, new baubles presented to me, especially in advertising. I slept on them. If something new is good, it will still be available tomorrow. In fact, if it is really good, tomorrow there will be two more people trying to sell you on it.

When it came to new advertising methods, I would also ask …

Two Books Every Manager of People Should Read

I had a gal on my staff a few years ago who was a hugger. She hugged me when I hired her. She hugged me when I changed her position from seasonal to permanent. She hugged me when I encouraged her to pursue her dream job. She hugged me when that didn’t work out and she came back to work for me.

I had no problem hugging her back.

In today’s #metoo world that might not be such a safe position. Hugging your staff, especially your female staff if you are a male boss, is probably a no-no.

But I had no problem hugging her back because to her, the hug validated her and made her feel appreciated. (Plus, if I were to need a defense, she did initiate the hug.)

Each person on my team had a different way of feeling appreciated.

Some needed words of encouragement. I would heap praise on them whenever I could. I knew a kind, affirming word here and there would rock their world, and they would, in turn, rock the customers’ worlds.

A couple of my staff members needed a little “token” of appreciation. I’d pass along a freebie or two their way, knowing that it was as equally powerful as the hug was to my hugger in terms of making them feel appreciated.

One person in particular just needed my time. This person needed me to just listen, just be there. My ear was her way of feeling appreciated.

Those of you who are familiar with Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages probably have already recognized what I’m talking about. In this book Chapman claims that there are five different ways we show and receive love:

  • Physical Contact
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service

He calls them our Love Languages. Each of us has a primary language we receive love and a primary language we show love (sometimes the same language, but not always). Knowing the language of my staff made it easier for me to show them Appreciation (love) in a way they would best receive it.

The purpose of the book is to help couples understand how to show love to each other. If you show love in a different language than your partner, if you don’t learn to speak his or her language, he or she might never feel the love you actually have.

As a boss, however, it also helps you learn how to show Appreciation.

According to Daniel H. Pink in his book Drive, what motivates your staff is Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. But what creates loyalty and happiness and job satisfaction is Appreciation. We all have a basic need to feel loved and appreciated.

If you manage people and haven’t read those two books, I know what Santa needs to get you for Christmas.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, some of my staff received Appreciation through Acts of Service. Fortunately for me, that was how I best showed love, so it was easy to appreciate those members of the team. Knowing that, you now know why I write this blog and give away so much on the Free Resources page. It is my way of showing love.

PPS No, I wouldn’t use The 5 Love Languages for hiring purposes. While it would seem that having a team that all spoke Acts of Service would be a good thing, remember that your customers speak all five of the languages. It is good to have a team fluent in several languages.

Make Change with a Purpose

While I know I should probably avoid the drive-thru restaurants, I don’t. I go even though I don’t particularly like the drive-thrus. It isn’t the food. It is the experience, or more accurately the final moments of the experience.

Two things happen far too often at the end of a drive-thru experience that shouldn’t. One is partially my fault. One is simple training that would make the experience far more pleasurable.

Don’t you just hate when they give you your change?

They always stack the bills on your hand first and then drop a wad of coins on top of those bills. My only hope is that when the coins start sliding off (as they always do), they will slide into my vehicle and not on the ground.

There is a far better way to give back change. I’ve highlighted it here.

The second problem is making sure I got the right stuff. I don’t want to hold up the line so I rarely ever check the bag. Sometimes they are polite enough to tell me what they are handing me. Sometimes they aren’t.

Yesterday, however, I found a third reason to be annoyed.

This picture is the dollar bill I got in change for my meal yesterday. I actually flattened it out some for the picture. It was pretty crumpled. I was afraid to put it into my wallet.

All I could think about as I drove away was why wasn’t this drive-thru cashier instructed to put the nasty, slimy, crumpled, torn, barely readable dollar bills at the bottom of the stack and only give out the good ones as change?

You do that, don’t you?

If there was anything I was OCD about at Toy House, it was clean dollar bills in the drawer. Every morning when I counted out the drawers I held back the nasty ones for the deposit and put the clean ones in the drawers. I used to beg the teller at the bank to give me the clean bills whenever I bought bundles of ones. (She used to hold the better bundles aside just for me—that’s customer service!)

It seems like a silly, minor thing, but it is those little details that set you apart from your competition.

Your customers won’t notice you did it, but sometimes the best customer service is doing something nice they don’t notice rather than having them flame you on Yelp for something not so nice they did notice.

Teach your staff to give back the right kind of change the right way. It quietly makes a difference.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Oh, I would love to go into a fast food joint and whip them into shape. After giving back change, the other thing I would teach them to do is to put the lettuce in the sandwich, not in the outer folds of the wrapper. I would have taken that picture of me becoming a salad yesterday if I wasn’t driving.

PPS I was in a Chick-fil-A restaurant once where the cashier handed me back change the right way. It was so refreshing that I had to thank her. She said it was the way she was taught. See? It can be taught. While that isn’t the only reason why an average Chick-fil-A restaurant does over three times in sales of the average KFC, staff training is definitely a major contributing factor.

Small Business Academy Homework Part 2

I am taking a class to work on my business. It is a class for startups, primarily, but the exercises will not only help me with my business as a speaker, writer, and business coach, they will help me help you become a better business.

My instructor, Frances Schagen, has granted me permission to do all my homework worksheets live here on this blog. You can read the first worksheet here. Time for Part 2.

DISCOVERY DANCE – WHO?

The previous step was about me, what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. This next exercise is for me to think more about who I want to work with. I have three questions to answer …

  • What problem are you solving?
  • What are the characteristics of the people you most want to work with? What is it about them that makes them a fit for your solution?
  • List 20 people who have those characteristics and who you think might need your solution.
Don’t adjust your monitor. This is Alpine Soccer – a real thing!

What problem are you solving?

Giving tools other than the markdown gun to retailers and small businesses to help them create successful businesses that can compete on a field slanted against them.

What are the characteristics of the people you most want to work with? What is it about them that makes them a fit for your solution?

Business Owners and Managers of small, independent businesses who:

  • Can make their own decisions
  • Want to learn new and better ways to run their businesses
  • Believe in continuing education
  • Are open to trying new things
  • Care about their customers
  • Care about their community
  • Want a push in the right direction
  • Want to learn new skills

Notice that these characteristics align with my Core Values of Having Fun, Helping Others, and Education. Your answer should align with your Core Values, too.

Notice also that I did not limit myself to just retailers. I go back and forth on this part of the answer. Although my background is in retail and some of my presentations are strongly retailer-focused, the characteristics listed above are not just limited to retailers. Nor are all my programs and teachings just limited to retailers.

My book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art works with any business that must hire people. I have a couple Fortune 500 companies that use this book and its teachings. I have a couple international companies doing the same.

There is something to be said for narrowing your focus so tightly that you become the known expert in a narrow field. There is also something to be said for keeping the net more broadly focused not on any single type of business or individual, but on the characteristics. I love that part of this question. If you own a non-retail business and have the characteristics listed above, I am sure I can help you.

There are still a couple problems with my original answer of “Business Owners and Managers of small, independent businesses.” Most of those people cannot afford my services on an individual basis and I prefer to work with large groups of these people at once.

Therefore, to truly reach them in the ways I can help most, I have a secondary customer that is in many ways my primary customer. I have to go through the gatekeeper.

My true customers are typically Trade and Business Organization Leaders who, along with the mindset above, also:

  • Plan learning events for their members
  • Hire people from outside their echo chambers to give fresh perspective, new insights, and sharper tools to their members

Those organization leaders are the gatekeepers to the first group because A) they have the money to plan learning events, and B) they can corral a number of businesses into a group setting.

Therefore, to reach my preferred customers, I have to find these gatekeepers who share these characteristics and reach them.

This is an important understanding and distinction. I write this blog and create the content on my website for you, the small business owner. I have to find another avenue to convince the gatekeepers to hire me. This blog isn’t for them, nor will it ever get me hired by them*.

When you understand your customers at this level, it changes the way you look at how and where to find them.

List 20 people who have those characteristics and who you think might need your solution.

I think Frances wants me to list specific people or businesses here. I’m going to take a slightly different approach in my answer.

I think the following businesses need my solution …

  • Independent Retailers & Restaurants
  • Locally Owned Franchise Retailers & Restaurants
  • Service-based businesses such as insurance agencies and beauty salons
  • Anyone involved in Sales

who belong to …

  • Downtown Development Authority districts
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Shop Local Organizations
  • Industry Buying Groups
  • Industry Trade Associations
  • Main Street Programs
  • Merchant Cooperatives

and/or attend …

  • Industry Workshops
  • Educational Conferences
  • Local Seminars

I also think the following people need my solution because it can help strengthen their members, which strengthens their organization …

  • DDA Directors
  • Chamber of Commerce Directors
  • Main Street Program Directors
  • Shop Local Directors
  • Economic Development Directors
  • Trade Association Educational Committee Directors

One of the first questions I always ask when I meet this last group of people is,

“Do you offer or have you considered offering any training programs for your members?”

Listing 20 people can be challenging. For your benefit, I thought about my business at Toy House and came up with this list:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Children
  • Aunts & Uncles
  • Teachers
  • Home Schoolers
  • Hobbyists
  • Gamers
  • Librarians
  • Interior Decorators
  • Coaches
  • Athletes
  • Event Organizers
  • Daycare Workers
  • Therapists
  • Pediatricians
  • Dentists
  • Anyone with a waiting room with kids
  • Musicians
  • Entertainers

I’m sure with enough thought you can come up with a list like this for your business.

Here are my takeaways from this exercise for you.

If you can clearly identify the problem you are trying to solve and clearly identify the characteristics of the person with this problem you would most like to work with, you’ll understand more clearly the advertising and marketing you need to do to get more of the customers you want (and less of the ones you don’t want).

(Having read ahead in the course work, I think Frances will take this info to send us in a slightly different and more fascinating direction than that. Sit tight. I’ll explain it when we get there.)

Thanks, Frances!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS *This blog actually can get me hired by “them,” but it involves YOU. When you tell your DDA/Chamber/Shop Local/Trade Association person about wanting opportunities to learn more and having educational programming available to you, then they are more likely to hire me to do that. Tell your organization directors about me. Send them to this page.

Why, Why, Why, Why, Why – A Simple 3×5 Question We All Need to Answer

You know me. I like to learn. When a friend of mine offered me the chance to sign up for her new six-week online tutorial for launching a new business, I jumped at the chance.

Frances Schagen has helped over a thousand businesses get started. That’s an impressive number. You might remember her name because I quote her at the beginning of the Free eBook Reading Your Financial Statements.

“What gets measured gets done.” -Frances Schagen

Frances was instrumental in proofing and helping me get the math and concepts right in that eBook and also a bigger financial statements book I wrote for the toy industry. She is a smart lady and I’m lucky to get to learn from her.

You can join Frances’ club, too!

Her new project is “Six Stages to Building Your Effortless Business.” Earlier today she had an online chat with those of us in the current class. She also gave us homework.

With her permission, I am going to do my homework throughout the class live on this blog. 

Not only will you get to see how I am building my business, you’ll get ideas that will help you with your own business.

THE OWNER’S STORY

The first stage is The Owner’s Story. The first worksheet and homework for me to do is the 3×5 Whys Project. I have three questions I need to answer. For each question, however, I need to answer five “whys.” The purpose of this sheet is to really dig deep to uncover my story, why I want to start this business, why I want to go into this field, and what I hope to accomplish. Here are my answers:

Why are you starting a business? Why have you chosen this way to make your living?

Why #1 – I have chosen this way to make a living because of my Core Values of Having Fun, Helping Others, and Education. I find writing and speaking to be incredibly fun, helpful and educational.

Why #2 – I am starting a business because I like being my own boss, calling my own shots, being responsible and accountable for my own mistakes, and choosing my own schedule. As a single parent, it gives me flexibility to be the parent I want to be, too.

Why #3 – I have chosen this way to make a living because I like travel and meeting new people.

Why #4 – I am starting a business because I need to make money. I have one child in college and another starting college next year. I have living expenses and not enough retirement money saved up.

Why #5 – I have chosen this way to make a living because I see a decent income potential. While I don’t ever expect to be one of those high-profile speakers who gets tens of thousands of dollars every time he steps on stage, if I can find two or three opportunities to speak or lead a workshop each month I can make a decent living. I also believe I can do this type of job long past the typical retirement age, which not only gives me more income potential, but also keeps me active and fulfills my own needs for a long time.

Why have you chosen this field? Why are you doing this work?

Why #1 – I have chosen writing a blog and books, and doing workshops and presentations for small business owners because it is the topic I know best and have the most personal experience.

Why #2 – I have chosen this field because I know how little true help there is out there for indie retailers. I have belonged to several retail owner groups over the years and have heard the questions. We all bring some expertise to the arena, but running a retail business requires you to wear so many different hats that it is impossible to know everything. Too much of our learning as business owners is done on the fly, often the hard way through trial & error and learning from our mistakes.

Why #3 – I am doing this work because I believe I have a talent in both the writing and the presenting. I have been told several times that my super power is the ability to break down seemingly complex ideas into understandable thoughts.

Why #4 – I am doing this work because it satisfies me. I take more pride in hearing how something I said or wrote made a difference for your business than I do in just hearing, “Nice job,” or “You did good out there.” My favorite testimonial to date came from a guy at SuperZoo a few years ago who said, “You’ve saved my business AND my marriage!”

Why #5 – I have chosen this field because I have been on the other side of the equation, asking the questions small business owners ask, searching for the resources and answers. I know a lot of the answers from making the mistakes and learning from them. I also know where to go to find more answers because I have done those searches. I want to be that resource for others.

What global problem do you want to solve? (however you define that) What change do you want to make?

Why #1 – I want to help small businesses, primarily indie retailers and entrepreneurs, to find their success.

Why #2 – I recognize that the field is slanted toward big businesses with deep pockets and strong lobbies, but I believe there are plenty of ways for small businesses to compete and thrive. The tools are available, but sometimes we need people to show us how to use those tools. I want to be that person.

Why #3 – I want to encourage shopping local. I have seen enough studies to know a strong local retail presence will further strengthen the local economy. But I also believe local businesses need to be better than they have been if they want to keep the local dollars in town.

Why #4 – I believe small business owners care more than large corporate CEO’s. CEO’s focus solely on the shareholder. Small business owners don’t have shareholders, so they care more deeply about their employees, their customers, their community, and even the environment. If I can help small business owners develop, grow, and find success, I can bring caring back to this world.

Why #5 – I believe in generosity. When we give more of ourselves, we encourage others to give. Whether they pay it forward or pay it back. I want to live in a world where generosity is the default, not an outlier. It starts with me. That’s why I have this blog and the Free Resources page. That’s why I answer every question emailed to me.

 

Whew! That was a little harder than I thought. Coming up with five answers to each of those questions was not as easy as I originally thought. But I can see the importance of this exercise. In our online chat today, Frances helped us try to clarify what we want to do and why we want to do it. Some of those answers above have helped me realize what I really want to do.

I would encourage you to answer these same questions for you and your business. Often we get into business because of one reason, but once we get there and have to juggle all the day-to-day problems and wear the many hats, we forget why we’re here in the first place. That’s when business is no longer fun and you’re merely in the game for survival. As you can see from the above answers, I don’t want that for you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You can still get in on this class if you want. We only just started today. The real meat begins next week. Contact Frances if you want to play along.

PPS Now you also know a little more about what drives me to do what I do. The ultimate goal for me would be to have two or three paid events each month where I am presenting or leading a workshop, leaving the rest of my time to write and mentor other business owners. If you know of any organizations such as your Chamber of Commerce, DDA, Main Street, Shop Local, or trade association looking for a professional speaker, please let me know. I’d love to do a live event in your town or at your next event.

Who Challenges and Inspires You?

Every morning I check the email on my phone and see several familiar faces. There is always an email from Jackson Coffee Company, always something from Land’s End, Duluth Trading, Kohl’s, and DSW. Being a mostly Relational Shopper, these transactional discounts they offer Every. Single. Day. are somewhat of an annoyance.

I don’t unsubscribe, though. One of these days I’ll need to go to their stores. Since they are so regular with their discounts, I’m not going to ever pay full price again. Ever. (Yeah, there’s a lesson in there, but that’s for another day.)

I also get emails with links to stories from the New York Times, Chain Store Age, Retail Dive, and Total Retail Report.

Once a week I find out all the news in the toy industry by getting an email from The Bloom Report.

Most days I hear from retail speaker Bob Negen and Whizbang Training.

I also subscribe to different blogs. I start every single day learning from Seth Godin. Sunday nights I hear from Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor. Every Monday I read Roy H. William’s Monday Morning Memo. It is my favorite part of Mondays. Most weekdays I get posts from Josh Bernoff.

Josh writes about non-fiction writing, books, press releases, and the such. He also writes about analyzing data and drawing conclusions. His blog is called without bullshit and is quite instructive. In fact, because of Josh I play a game every day with the other articles I read. I put on my analyst’s hat and think …

“What would I say if The New York Times called me up for a quote on this article?”

I tell you this not to brag or sound important, to look like I am informed, or to give you my credentials above and beyond just running a high-level independent retail store. (I am sure I suffer from Dunning-Kruger Effect to some degree somewhere—I believe we all do. And every now and then I suffer from its opposite—Impostor Syndrome where I feel the need to prove to you I actually do know something about retail, besides what I learned working retail for thirty six years of my life.)

I tell you this so you will know my influences. You will know where I find inspiration and ideas and new tools I can share with you for your retail toolbox. I want you to have more to offer your customers than just the transactional customer discount emails I get Every. Single. Day. from retailers where I would likely pay full price otherwise.

Seth Godin challenges me to create something of value to others. Roy H. Williams challenges me to look at human behavior differently and understand what motivates us to do what we do. Josh Bernoff challenges me to write with purpose, clarity, and insight.

They all challenge and inspire me to be better at what I do (so that you can be better at what you do.)

Now you know where I get my inspiration. Who challenges and inspires you?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I left off a few other emails I get and read regularly because they aren’t as helpful as they used to be. You’ll tell me when this blog is no longer helpful, right?

PPS When you get the Monday Morning Memo ALWAYS click on the picture at the top of the memo. (Click on the beagle picture in this blog to go to the MMM page.) It takes you into the Rabbit Hole where you’ll find all kinds of inspiration. It also ends at the Monday Morning Radio page where you can listen to a great interview each week. This morning I heard an interview with Steven D. Goldstein, former chairman of Sears Financial, who said this …

“Scale doesn’t help if you have two different businesses that are underperforming and don’t really know what their place is in the consumer’s mind.”

Yeah, I’m going to see if he has a blog I should be adding to my list.

Payroll is Not Just a Line on Your Profit & Loss

My dad was a journalist. Got his degree from University of Michigan in 1965 and started writing for the Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper right out of college.

He worked for his future father-in-law at Toy House all through high school and college to pay for that degree and even worked part time around his journalism job to help pay for the expenses of having a new family.

There is a legendary story about how he got his start at Toy House when my grandfather gave him a 40% raise to lure him away from another job at age sixteen.

Four years after college my dad got another job offer, this time to move to New York and write for Newsweek. Once again my grandfather made my dad a substantial counter-offer 33% higher than the Newsweek offer to stay and work full time at Toy House.

1974 – 25th Birthday of Toy House
My dad and grandpa are in the white shirts on the left. My sister and I are in the clown costumes in the middle.

Now some might say my grandmother was behind this offer. She didn’t want to see her grandchildren (my sister and me) leave town. But my grandfather knew a good employee when he saw one. He always told me …

“You can never overpay for great help.”

Talking about Sears these last few days has struck a nerve. Along with the comments here, I’ve received emails with stories of families with long ties to Sears.

One long-time reader of this blog told me how his grandfather who worked for Sears for 33 years talked about how they changed their employee stock options program in the 1980’s. He speculates that started some of their “well-trained staff” attrition. 

Wikipedia tells of how Sears changed their hourly pay structure in 1992 that ended up cutting pay for several employees. This followed on the heels of Walmart and Kmart surpassing Sears in total retail sales in 1990 and preceded by a year the demise of their catalog. Coincidence?

Circuit City did the same thing in March 2007, cutting starting hourly pay and laying off 3,400 higher-paid employees. Less than two years later they liquidated.

In both cases the C-Suites were only looking at payroll as an expense to be cut instead of an asset to invest in.

You can treat your employees as an expense instead of an asset and get away with it. Amazon has done that for years. Even their new round of raises was offset by a cut in bonuses and other benefits (and was politically motivated to decrease the chance of Bernie Sanders getting the Stop BEZOS Bill passed).

It only works, however, if you didn’t treat your employees like assets first.

I may be biased but I think my grandfather had it right. How you treat your employees affects how they treat your customers which affects your bottom line.

Go find some people to overpay.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I wish I could have paid my employees better. I wish I could have offered them better benefits. Since I couldn’t, I did other things to help them out like grant all their time-off requests, work with the schedule to make sure they got the hours they wanted, feed them every now and then, train them, treat them with respect, give them responsibility, pay a stipend toward their continuing education, celebrate their birthdays and achievements, and bring in a masseuse during the Christmas holidays. Even when you don’t have the budget there are things you can do to make your staff feel appreciated.