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You’re in the Retail Blog Archives. Here they all are. Everything since I started writing. You’ll find some incredible nuggets of wisdom hiding in here if you’re willing to dig for it. 

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 9 Samples (Part 3 of 3)

April 24, 2020

Chapter 9 – Samples (continued) (Note: These are actual businesses that gave me permission to create ads for them using the principles from the first eight chapters. This is purely an exercise in showing you how to be more creative with your own advertising. You will find links at the… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 9 Samples (Part 2 of 3)

April 23, 2020

Chapter 9 – Samples (continued) (Note: These are actual businesses that gave me permission to create ads for them using the principles from the first eight chapters. This is purely an exercise in showing you how to be more creative with your own advertising. You will find links at the… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 9 Samples (Part 1 of 3)

April 22, 2020

Chapter 9 – Samples “Ad writing is much easier to teach than ad strategy.” – Roy H. Williams Whew! You made it. You’ve come to the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the chapter where I show you how to use all of these principles to create… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 8

April 21, 2020

Chapter 8 – Make Your Customer the Star “Bad advertising is about you and your product. Good advertising is about your customer and their life.” – Roy H. Williams After watching Simon Sinek, you start wandering all over the net. You read some of the quotes from Roy H. Williams.… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 7

April 20, 2020

Chapter 7 – Speak to Your Tribe “Ads that change hearts and minds say, ‘This belief is why we wake up in the morning. It’s why we come together. Here’s how we live out our belief. Do you believe what we believe?’” – Roy H. Williams You kept your promise.… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 6

April 17, 2020

Chapter 6 – Speak to the Heart “Before you can take people where you want them to go, you have to meet them where they are.” – Roy H. Williams The workday is done, but not really. Your workday never seems to end. Owning your own business gives you a… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 5

April 16, 2020

Foreword Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck Chapter 2 – It’s the Message, Not the Media Chapter 3 – Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad Chapter 4 – Make Only One Point Chapter 5 – Tell a Story “Gurganus is right. The truth happens to everyone, but stories only… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 4

April 15, 2020

Foreword Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck Chapter 2 – It’s the Message, Not the Media Chapter 3 – Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad Chapter 4 – Make Only One Point “Use half as many words and you’ll hit twice as hard.” – Roy H. Williams You finally… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 3

April 14, 2020

Foreword Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck Chapter 2 – It’s the Message, Not the Media Chapter 3 – Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad “If you want to waste a lot of money on advertising, just target exactly the right audience and then make an offer that fails… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 2

April 13, 2020

Foreword Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck  Chapter 2 – It’s the Message, Not the Media “I’ve never met a business owner whose advertising failed because they were reaching the wrong people.” – Roy H. Williams The game ended late. You got home later. Your spouse has already rolled over… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 1

April 10, 2020

Foreword Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck “Every customer is the right customer. What you’re looking for is the right moment.” – Roy H. Williams You’re in a room with friends, a plate of nachos in your hands. It’s the first Sunday in February. It’s a Super Bowl Party. Everyone… Read more

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – The Foreword

April 9, 2020

Foreword Who will use this book? Anyone who writes content to persuade including web content, ad copy, magazine articles, emails and newsletters, and even speeches. If you write to persuade, you’ll find this book relevant and useful. If you write to connect, you’ll find this book relevant and useful. If… Read more

Launching a New Book on Advertising

April 8, 2020

Three years ago, right after closing down Toy House, I wrote my fourth book titled, “Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t)”. It was going to be the second signature book to augment my speaking career. (My other two books were written for the toy industry and for expectant daddies.) My plan… Read more

Great Video on Advertising During a Crisis

March 26, 2020

Last night, while hunkered down watching TV, I was amazed at how quickly some brands have reacted to the current situation and revised their ads. It was refreshing. If you are doing any mass advertising (radio, TV, billboards, etc.), I’d like to suggest to you two things: Don’t stop or… Read more

Impact & Repetition – Keys to Better Training

January 8, 2020

If I were to ask you where you were when you first heard about the Twin Trade Towers getting hit on 9/11, you could tell me instantly with exacting detail. But if I were to ask you for details about New Year’s Eve 2006, it might take you a little… Read more

One Simple Change to Make 2020 Your Best Year Ever!

January 2, 2020

My New Year’s Resolution is to get back to posting blogs regularly. Now with a Christmas Season under my belt in my new role, I have a little better handle on the time requirements of this job and should be able to fit some more writing into it. Here is the… Read more

The October 1st List

October 1, 2019

Do you have an October 1st List? If you’re a holiday-driven retailer, you should. What is an October 1st List? An October 1st List is all the things you need to remember to do for the busy fourth quarter. It is a growing list, one you add to each fourth… Read more

The Conundrum of Choice

September 17, 2019

I used to advertise the heck out of the fact Toy House had the largest selection of toys under one roof of any store in the area. In our heyday we had over twice the selection of a Toys R Us and five times the selection of the Walmarts, Targets,… Read more

A Simple Game to Help You Improve Your Store

September 10, 2019

I was visiting a good friend and toy store owner in Lawrence, KS (The Toy Store – you should visit if you’re ever in the area) and she asked me, “Does visiting stores like mine make you miss being on the retail side?” My answer was an immediate and definitive… Read more

Inefficiencies Can Derail the Experience

August 30, 2019

The line didn’t seem that long. I’ve been in longer lines waiting for food. The menu showed three lunch options, likely for efficiency’s sake. I expected the line to move along quite rapidly. Twenty-five minutes later the line felt more like eternity. There was one line and two windows (which… Read more

Trying to Give Great Service is NOT the Same as Actually Doing It

August 26, 2019

Ever have that experience where you know what someone is trying to do, but they just keep missing the mark? You want to give them points for trying, but close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and atom bombs. I had that experience last week at a Barnes & Noble… Read more

The Death of Mom & Pop Retailers?

July 23, 2019

Do you remember when the Sears Catalog was going to destroy all the Mom & Pop Retailers? Yeah, probably not. That was back in the early parts of the 20th century when you could even buy a house (IKEA-style) in the catalog and have it delivered right to your property.… Read more

Competing with Amazon

July 15, 2019

I sit here typing about Amazon while millions of people are shopping on Amazon, taking advantage of the Amazon Prime Days specials. To say that Amazon disrupted the retail climate would be like saying Jesus got a few people to think differently about God. Here is something Amazon didn’t do.… Read more

Pricing Mistakes That Lose Sales

July 8, 2019

Almost invariably when you compliment someone on the clothes or shoes they are wearing, they tell you the origin story of how they found that outfit. More often than not, you’ll also hear about the fabulous deal they got when they bought it. While deals and discounts are great for… Read more

Making it a Better Place to Work

July 1, 2019

When the tech world exploded onto the scene, everyone talked about the amazing workplace environments at these start-ups. Ping Pong and Foosball tables everywhere. Open floor concepts and collaboration-fostering layouts ran rampant. Legacy companies started changing their infrastructure to match, thinking it would help them attract better people. News flash:… Read more

You Can’t Overpay Good Help

June 25, 2019

My grandfather stole one of his best employees away from another job. The young high schooler was making 75 cents an hour. My grandfather offered him $1.05 to work at Toy House. He took it. I still recall the big grin on my grandfather’s face when he told me the… Read more

What Emotion are You Selling?

May 30, 2019

I have a new game I play when I walk into a retail establishment. I try to guess the “emotion” that store is selling based on the look of the store, the approach to the store, the front door, and what hits me when I walk through the door. One… Read more

Your Signs Tell Customers More Than You Think

May 23, 2019

I snapped two pictures of signs recently. I probably could have taken several. Apparently proof-reading is a thing of the past. One sign I drive by regularly is on too busy of a road to safely snap the pic. It says “Comeing Soon.” I cringe every time I pass it.… Read more

9 Out of 10 People Don’t Recommend Your Store

May 10, 2019

I think a lot about Market Share. Maybe too much. I find it the most fascinating piece of data you can track because it tells you so much more about how you are performing than just sales, profits, or cash flow. For one, it tells you how well you are… Read more

Show Me Something New

April 29, 2019

I was talking with one of my sales reps earlier today when she reminded me of the most common phrase every salesperson hears (one I uttered several times) … “What have you got that’s new?” Every smart vendor knows they have to be showing new stuff all the time to… Read more

Removing Barriers and Obstacles the Toledo Museum of Art Way

April 25, 2019

I could probably go back through the records of Toy House and tell you when the first nice Saturday of spring hit every year. You know the day. After a long winter, it is finally sunny and warm enough to not need a coat. We never had much traffic on… Read more

Be Yourself, Be a Unicorn!

April 10, 2019

I love those signs that say, “Be yourself. Unless you can be a Unicorn. Then be a Unicorn.” (Substitute Batman for Unicorn for those who identify that way.) Be yourself is the best advice I could ever give to any business owner. Know your Core Values, what drives you in… Read more

Making the “Experience” Over-the-Top

March 29, 2019

Last night my bracket got busted. As a diehard University of Michigan Wolverine fan, my NCAA tournament bracket lasts until the Wolverines bow out. (I know, I know. I shouldn’t always pick them to win it all, but then I would have to root for them to lose, and I… Read more

Getting Internet Customers Back Into Your Store

March 25, 2019

I did a mash-up of two presentations at an event for the pet store industry last week. I took elements from Selling in a Showrooming World and Generating Word-of-Mouth and put them into a new presentation we called “Getting Internet Customers Back Into Your Store.” It worked. One of the… Read more

How to Get a Block of Time to Work ON Your Business

March 14, 2019

The phone rings. The email dings. The customer clings. The UPS driver brings. When you run a retail store, your schedule is not your own. Too many distractions, too many variables, too many interruptions for you to get any kind of time to work ON your business. Yet if you… Read more

I’ll Get Right Back to You

March 7, 2019

You know those little red numbers on your iPhone? The ones telling you how many unread emails and texts you might have? I hate those numbers. I am obsessed with getting rid of them. You should be, too. I know you’re already too busy. You barely have enough time to… Read more

When a Raise Isn’t a Raise

March 4, 2019

A friend of mine posed an interesting question a few weeks ago. He asked, “How much of a raise should you expect each year?” In light of what is happening with the Sonic restaurants in Ohio, that is a valid question. The problem is that the answer has too many… Read more

Upgrades Versus Shifts – Choose Wisely

February 26, 2019

Back in the 1990’s we had four big spiral notebooks on a table in the office. I’m talking huge, four-inch-wide, thick plastic covered, heavy-duty spiral notebooks. They contained our Inventory Sheets and tracked all the inventory in our store by vendor, item number, and price. My dad created these sheets.… Read more

Different Eyes See Products Differently (And That’s Okay)

February 22, 2019

I got a new laptop. While I was preparing to transfer files from the old laptop, I figured now was a good time to purge. I went through all the document files one by one, deleted all the duplicates, consolidated all the pictures, and opened up files I haven’t seen… Read more

Merchandising Rules Never Really Change

February 15, 2019

I was unloading boxes of toys and trying to organize them on the shelves in our booth at Toy Fair. This is a new role for me. I’ve only ever seen these trade shows after everything is set up. I’ve never had to navigate the aisles filled with shipping crates,… Read more

Your Sales Rep is Your Best Friend

February 12, 2019

Twenty-five years ago I invited two sales reps to my wedding. I didn’t know them before I was working at Toy House. I didn’t know them from outside Toy House. Our relationship in life happened purely through our relationship at the store. Yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about sales… Read more

Why Bud Light Had the Best Ad Last Sunday

February 8, 2019

Hi, my name is Phil and I’m a Detroit Lions fan. It was easy being a Lions fan when I was working retail. Every season we would buy into the hype, get all excited, and then somewhere down the line get our hopes dashed by catch that wasn’t a catch,… Read more

A New Beginning for Me, An Old Lesson for You

February 4, 2019

Today is an exciting day for me! Today I start a new job as the National Sales Manager for HABA USA, a wonderful toy and game company I used to sell at Toy House. I will be responsible for helping the sales reps get more HABA toys into more retailers.… Read more

Making the Most of Trade Shows

February 1, 2019

In two weeks the world of toys will be on display in New York City for the International Toy Fair. All the vendors will be there showing off their new products. Retailers from around the globe will be there to take a peak. New York City is a fun place… Read more

Make Your Lists Now (You Can Thank Me Later)

January 31, 2019

Our store had 16,000 square feet of carpeting. The original carpeting was laid in 1967. It lasted twenty years. Fortunately for me I was on a canoe trip in northern Ontario in 1987 when my parents decided to replace it. Replacing carpeting in a store that size while remaining open… Read more

When to Close for the Weather

January 30, 2019

Right now the Weather app says it is minus ten degrees outside. The “real feel” is minus thirty-five. Thank goodness I don’t have any presentations or travel scheduled for today. My office is only a wall away from my bedroom. I’m going to work today. But if Toy House was… Read more

Don’t Just Go With the Tide

January 29, 2019

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… Read more

Your First Point of Contact

January 28, 2019

I remember the email clearly. Hit me like a ton of bricks. “Why aren’t you open later for the holidays?” We were open later for the holidays. It just didn’t say so on our Google profile. Nor did it say so on Facebook. Nor did it say so on our… Read more

(Repost) What to Do with the First Quarter Blues

January 25, 2019

(Note: this is a repost from March 2, 2018) I went for a walk/jog down the Falling Waters Trail a couple days ago. It was sunny and in the mid-50’s. My dog, Samantha, and I enjoyed getting out of the house. There is something about those early spring days when… Read more

How Much Would You Pay?

January 24, 2019

Have you ever walked through a store, saw a display, and thought, “Wow! Someone would actually pay that much for that?” Of course you have. We all have. It is the internal pricing game we all play called … “How Much Would You Pay?” Unless you’re the only option in… Read more

A Tale of Two Cashiers

January 23, 2019

It was the best of cashiers, it was the worst of cashiers … I did something foolish. I went out shopping on Saturday, December 15th last year. Yep, that Saturday. One of the two or three busiest days of the year. My staff and I used to love those Saturdays… Read more

Another Phrase You Need to Quit Using

January 22, 2019

One downside to being a speaker for the retail industry is that there aren’t a lot of speaking opportunities in December. (It is also an upside in that I had a lot more time around the holidays, but I digress.) With all that free time, I took on the project… Read more

The Heart of Customer Service is the Heart

January 21, 2019

I did a presentation for the City of Mason this morning. Not their businesses, their employees—DPW, Police, Fire & Safety, Bill Payment Desk, Clerk’s Office. Debi Stuart, the City Manager, hired me to talk about Customer Service. Debi recognizes that even a city office and government employees need to be… Read more

Stay in Season or Drive Them to Amazon

January 18, 2019

I was in Target two days ago. They have a huge selection of swimsuits front and center. Tonight and tomorrow we’re going to get 3-5 inches of snow. Sunday is going to be 12 degrees Fahrenheit with a minus 5 windchill. Unless you’re going to Florida, no one in Michigan… Read more

Don’t Make the Simple Things Difficult

January 17, 2019

I borrowed my buddy’s Ford Transit Van. You’ve seen these vehicles. Big, tall, lots of seats, or in my case, lots of room for hauling stuff when the seats are removed. When I got to my first destination a warning light came on telling me the tire pressure was low.… Read more

Self-Diagnosis Tool #5 – Marketing & Advertising

January 16, 2019

My favorite class segment in the Jackson Retail Success Academy was always the Marketing and Advertising Segment. One portion of that segment was dedicated to Media, Myths, and Money. We would discuss all the various forms of media and how/when to use them properly. We also discussed several myths about… Read more

Self-Diagnosis Tool #4 – Inventory Management

January 15, 2019

I used to like math. It lost me when it added the timber industry into the equation (logs and natural logs and all that calculus stuff). I got jaded because I could never figure out how to derive those trees into the answer the professor wanted. I found, however, all… Read more

Self-Diagnosis Tool #3 – Customer Service

January 14, 2019

My favorite Smile Story was actually told to me by a customer, not my staff. Dawn had three grandchildren coming to visit her for five days. She wanted to have a different gift to give each child each day they were there. Fifteen gifts in all. Lakisha said, “I’m on… Read more

Self-Diagnosis Tool #2 – Market Potential

January 11, 2019

When my son was in Cub Scouts, his Den Master was the manager of one of our local Kmarts. He gave me some amazing insights into the world of big-box retail including numbers of what the big-box stores in Jackson were doing in sales both overall and for toys. It… Read more

Self-Diagnosis Tool #1 – Core Values

January 10, 2019

I told you yesterday what I would do if you hired me to look at your business. Thirty questions inside of five topics to figure out what bullets you need to fire to get your business to the next level. Since one of my Core Values is Helping Others, I’m… Read more

The Thirty Questions to Find Your “Silver Bullet”

January 9, 2019

I got suckered in once. Long before the phrase “fake news” came into existence, back in the days when Norton and MacAfee were the only names in anti-virus protection, my computer started slowing down. Then up popped an ad for a free diagnostic test of my computer, guaranteed to clean… Read more

How Your Core Values Influence Your Work

January 8, 2019

For a short period of time I was between bookkeepers. The job fell on my shoulders for a few months. While this was a godsend in one way because it helped me better understand the job and the skills necessary to do the job well, it also frustrated me because… Read more

When Do You Become an Expert?

January 7, 2019

Back in December I published my thousandth blog post. Each post takes about an hour and a half to compose on average, so I’ve dedicated about 1,500 hours to blogging. According to Malcom Gladwell’s “10,000-Hour Rule” in his book OUTLIERS I’m 15% of the way there to being an Expert… Read more

The Right Measuring Cups

January 3, 2019

When the recipe calls for 1 cup Vegetable Oil do you reach for a teaspoon? When it says 16 ounces Sour Cream do you grab a scale? Of course not. Sure, you can get close with those tools, but it won’t be as accurate nor as handy. Yet we do… Read more

Looking Back at the “Top” Ten Blog Posts From 2018

January 2, 2019

Somewhere around the first of the year a lot of writers like to publish their “Top Ten” list of most viewed posts from the previous year. Wouldn’t it be smarter to post the least-viewed posts, the ones most people missed? Give people a second-chance to read your wisdom. As it is,… Read more

The Downside Builds Trust

December 28, 2018

I’ve been using a new auto shop for repairs for my vehicle. I met the owner a few months ago, liked him, and gave him some work. I was happy with the work and the price, so naturally, I called to get a quote on some new work. My buddy… Read more

Invest in Your Education

December 27, 2018

Yesterday I gave you seven things you could do with your money when you have a windfall because of a better-than-expected season. Here is one more thing to do with that extra cash … Invest in Your Education. Invest in making yourself and your team smarter and better. Invest in… Read more

Save It for a Rainy Day

December 26, 2018

In the summer of 1989 my parents did something quite unique for an independent, single-store retailer. They bought a fully-integrated IBM computer system including POS and inventory control. It was a state-of-the-art IBM AS/400 with three hard drives and almost a complete Megabyte of storage. The unit was larger than… Read more

Merry Christmas – The Santa in You

December 24, 2018

On this glorious Christmas Eve I share with you a poem I wrote four years ago this day for a group of fellow toy store owners (we call ourselves Toy Store Owners Officially Gone Wild – that will make sense near the end of the poem). Every night during the… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #19 – Pull it Forward

December 21, 2018

This is it. Your final quick tip of what I sincerely hope was/is a wonderful holiday selling season. I will not be posting again until after Christmas, so Merry, Merry to you. Thank you for reading these posts and sharing your success stories with me. Here is tip #19 …… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #18 – Cut Them Some Slack

December 20, 2018

We’re almost to the end of your very busy season. These posts have been short and sweet to keep you moving. Hope you have found them helpful. Here is tip #18 … CUT THEM SOME SLACK I’m talking about your customers. You’re going to get some really rude customers over the… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #17 – Give Your Staff a Break

December 19, 2018

In an effort to keep you moving this busy season, these blog posts will be quick and simple. Here is tip #17 … GIVE YOUR STAFF A BREAK I know the tendency this time of year is to shorten lunch breaks and maximize your staff to handle the extra crush… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #16 – Plan for the Weather

December 18, 2018

In an effort to keep you moving this busy season, these blog posts will be quick and simple. Here is tip #16 … PLAN FOR THE WEATHER You’re going to get some bad weather. I don’t know what day, but it always seems to happen at least once in the… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #15 – Play With It

December 17, 2018

You’re in the home stretch. The jolly old elf hits the skies one week from tonight. Here’s your quick tip #15 … PLAY WITH IT We’ve known this in the toy industry for decades. If you get a toy out to play, you’ll sell more of it. The clothing industry… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #14 – Get Away

December 14, 2018

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… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #13 – Reload the Paper

December 13, 2018

In the interest of time, I’m keeping these posts short and sweet to quickly give you tips to make your season just a little bit better. Here is tip #13 … RELOAD THE PAPER The next two Saturdays will likely be the two busiest days of your year. One thing… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #12 – Prep for the Men

December 12, 2018

Keeping this blog short and sweet through the holiday season, here is another quick tip to make this season your best ever. Here is tip #12 (You can find the first tip here.) PREP FOR THE MEN (Yes, this is a generalization. No, not all men shop this way, but… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #11 – Catch Your Employees

December 11, 2018

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… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #10 – Move Stuff Around

December 10, 2018

For the holiday season I am keeping these posts short and simple. You’re busy. I’m busy. Here is tip #10 … MOVE STUFF AROUND By now you’ve had a pretty good taste of what people want. You already know the slow movers, the stuff you had high hopes for but… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #9 – Empty Her Hands

December 7, 2018

This month’s blog posts are short and simple because you’re busy. They are also reminders of tips, techniques, and tools you can use to increase sales, increase profits, and increase customer delight. This tip does all three. Here is tip #9 EMPTY HER HANDS If you don’t have shopping carts… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #8 – Change Your Shoes and Socks

December 6, 2018

Keeping it short and simple for the busy holiday season, this next tip may seem minor, but at the end of the day you’ll thank me. Here is tip #8 CHANGE YOUR SHOES AND SOCKS This time of year retailers spend for more time on their feet and far more… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #7 – Lead with the Best

December 5, 2018

Of all the Christmas Quick Tips I will give you, this one will be the hardest to master and quite possibly the most rewarding when you and your team do master it … Here is tip #7 LEAD WITH THE BEST Your customer is looking for solutions. Yes, at this… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #6 – Coins First!

December 4, 2018

Keeping it short and sweet, here is another simple, easy tip you and your team can do to make the holiday experience a better one for your customers. Tip #6 GIVE THE COINS BACK FIRST If you’re a regular, you know this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. It… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #5 – Start Closing at Closing Time

December 3, 2018

Since your time is tight, now through December 21st I’m keeping these blog posts short and simple with tips, tools, and techniques that make a difference. Here is tip #5 START CLOSING AT CLOSING TIME  Not before. Yes, you’re tired. Yes, these are long days and you want to go… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #4 – Never Say No

November 30, 2018

For the rest of the Christmas season I am keeping these blogs short and simple with one tip, tool, or technique you and your team can use to make this season rock! Here is tip #4 … NEVER SAY NO You are going to be asked quite often for products… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #3 – Sign ‘Em Up Before Checkout

November 29, 2018

You’re busy. I’m busy. Our customers are busy. So in the interest of time, I’m keeping all the posts from now through Christmas short and sweet. Here is tip #3 SIGN THEM UP BEFORE CHECKOUT If you have a loyalty program, birthday club, or email list that you normally ask… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #2 – Sell Them Today

November 28, 2018

Knowing you are busy and don’t have time for long blog posts, I’m keeping it short and sweet this holiday season. Simply follow these tips and watch your customers’ levels of delight skyrocket. (Note: if you want a further explanation on any tip, shoot me an email.) Here is today’s… Read more

Christmas Quick Tip #1 – Thank You

November 27, 2018

It’s the busy season. You don’t have time for a lengthy blog with stories and explanations. So to make your life easier, now through December 21st I’m going to post simple, quick tips you can use and share with your staff to raise the bar for your customers. (Don’t ask… Read more

Small Business Academy Homework – The Interviews

November 26, 2018

I’ve been taking an online class for startup businesses. Frances Schagen, my instructor, is allowing me to do my homework live on this blog. You can read the first two installments here and here. In the last assignment I had to identify twenty potential customers. I identified customer profiles, but… Read more

The Ad Everyone is Talking About

November 19, 2018

By now you’ve probably already seen this ad. You may love it. You may hate it. You may wonder what all the hype is about. You may wonder who the heck is John Lewis and why should you care? Since it is getting all the hype (and it made me… Read more

When You Need to Change Things Around

November 16, 2018

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… Read more

Change or Stay the Course?

November 12, 2018

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… Read more

Two Books Every Manager of People Should Read

November 9, 2018

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… Read more

Make Change with a Purpose

November 8, 2018

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… Read more

Giving Your Staff a Purpose

November 7, 2018

I’ve told you the story about the Simon Game that happened on Christmas Eve in 1980. I was only fourteen years old and it was a life-changer. I haven’t told you what happened exactly two years later. There was a guy, probably late 20’s, in his Carhart overalls staring at… Read more

Small Business Academy Homework Part 2

November 6, 2018

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… Read more

Change Prices, Make Money

November 5, 2018

I have an unhealthy habit. I drink Diet Mountain Dew all day. I call it my “green tea” to make it sound healthier, but logically I know it isn’t the best drink for me. Especially not two or three—okay, who am I kidding—five or six times a day. Because of… Read more

This “Free” is Really Free!

November 2, 2018

I was looking at the Free Resources page on my website yesterday. There are nine eBooks on Marketing & Advertising, twelve on Customer Service, and five on Money. You can download any and all of them for free. No strings attached. No limits to how many or how often you… Read more

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

November 1, 2018

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… Read more

What Value are You Selling?

October 31, 2018

Sell “Play Value” That’s the first line of the business plan my grandfather wrote back in 1949 when he founded Toy House. I found his spiral notebook with the plan while looking for something else in the archives of the store. Page two outlined the possible names for the store… Read more

Everything Everywhere, Nothing is Special (Except You)

October 30, 2018

If there is one universal truth in retail it may well be this … The hottest product on your shelf last year will be on everyone else’s shelf this year. Every year in my two-and-a-half decades as a buyer I would watch another vendor cross over to the dark side… Read more

The Benefits of Teaching Benefits

October 25, 2018

He drove from Windsor, Ontario to Jackson, MI on a Friday night. “We have a Graco car seat and were told you are the closest store to have the matching stroller. Do you happen to have it in stock?” “Yes, we have two different versions in that fabric. Which did… Read more

What’s In Your Training Packet?

October 24, 2018

There used to be a locally-owned office supply store in downtown Jackson. I bought a lot of stuff from them over the years. They had a storefront but most of their business was done by phone from their catalog. I’d call in an order today and it would be delivered… Read more

Ten Mistakes, One FREE eBook

October 23, 2018

I actually did job interviews in a Halloween costume once. Okay, more than once. Several times, in fact, because the end of October was when I needed to start the hiring process. I’ve often wondered what an interviewee was thinking, sitting across the desk from a bird watcher, a king,… Read more

Who Challenges and Inspires You?

October 22, 2018

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… Read more

Reviews: Good, Bad, Necessary Evil?

October 19, 2018

I remember the first presentation I saw about the power of online reviews. The speaker instructed us how to use our smartphones to take quick testimonials right on the sales floor whenever we had a happy customers. I looked at my notes from the presentation and read … “Get them… Read more

Payroll is Not Just a Line on Your Profit & Loss

October 18, 2018

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… Read more

Two Forks in the Road for Sears

October 17, 2018

In 1988 Walmart opened their first Supercenter in Washington, Missouri. The Supercenter concept heralded Walmart’s entry into the highly-competitive, low-profit, huge cash flow, repeat-traffic driver grocery business. Two years later Walmart surpassed Sears in total sales to become the largest retailer in America. By 2004 Walmart was capturing one out… Read more

Lessons From Sears – Retail is Always Changing

October 16, 2018

“Phil, you know this store is going to put you out of business, right?” My grandfather heard that first in 1962 when Shoppers Fair, a discount department store chain, opened in Jackson. We heard it when Westwood Mall opened in the 1970’s with a Circus World store (eventually becoming a… Read more

RIP Sears

October 15, 2018

There is a group on Facebook for people who grew up in Jackson, MI. The posts are mostly, “Who remembers …?” so that former Jacksonians can reminisce about days long past. A recent post was about Toy House. A couple hundred people waxed nostalgic about visiting the original store in… Read more

Are Background Checks Necessary?

October 11, 2018

(Note: the last three posts talked about making a character trait list, posting better job descriptions and help wanted ads, and crafting insightful interview questions. You’ve done your interviews. Now what?) I got a phone call. “I’m doing a background check and one of our applicants listed you as a… Read more

Using Character Traits to Write a Better Job Description and Help Wanted Ad

October 10, 2018

I jumped the gun yesterday. I started talking to you about interview questions before we even discussed how to get the right applicants through your door in the first place. My bad. Did you know you can “pre-qualify” your applicants? No, I don’t mean by writing, “Only people with [… Read more

How Your Traits List Affects Your Hiring

October 9, 2018

It takes a lot of guts to tell Harvard you think they are wrong. But that’s exactly what I was doing through the aughts as I was developing my own hiring philosophy. In the late 90’s I read the Harvard Business Essentials book Hiring and Keeping the Best People. Like all… Read more

The Pitfall of Using Personality Tests for Hiring Purposes

October 8, 2018

I’ve taken several versions of the Myers-Briggs test and so far they all have resulted in ENFP (The Campaigner). But my N score is fairly close to the S and my F is barely across the line from T. There are definitely moments in my life when I am more… Read more

Why Signs Increase Sales

October 5, 2018

Whether you agree with them or not, I have found a lot of value in personality tests such as Myers-Briggs. They have helped me understand my own choices in life and also helped me understand why we don’t all see eye-to-eye on everything. It also helps that I had an… Read more

Building a Browsing Store

October 4, 2018

Amazon wasn’t built for browsing. Oh sure, they have a fully-functional search engine, one of the most heavily used, but most people go there only when they know or have a darn good idea what they want. According to a study done late last year, Amazon was the top place… Read more

Solving the Merchandising Equation

October 3, 2018

My dad had a super power. It was merchandising. He could take 400 square feet of product and fit it into 280 square feet of space with room left over. And it would look amazingly good! I think he would be a master at Tetris if he ever gets a… Read more

By Brand or By Category?

October 2, 2018

In the early stages of my running the baby department at Toy House one of our staple companies for car seats and strollers was Graco. They had several nice car seat and stroller combos in great fabrics. I even had a customer drive from Canada one night because we were… Read more

Where Are the Employees?

October 1, 2018

Last year I did something I had never done before. I went shopping on Black Friday. No, not in the early morning hours with all the mobs. I’m not that kind of shopper. I went out in the afternoon to see what the stores looked like after the mobs had… Read more

A Tool You Can (and Should) Use From Time to Time

September 28, 2018

We offered a layaway program at Toy House. It was one of those services my grandfather thought would be helpful for customers buying toys. It was simple, too. Just pick out the toys you want, take them to the register, put down a 10% deposit, make a payment once a… Read more

Three Stats to Tell You All You Need to Know

September 27, 2018

I went to a presentation last night. As you know, I am all about continual learning. Education is one of my Core Values. This presentation was at TechTown Detroit, a small business incubator that helps launch tech and retail businesses. Mary Aviles of Connect 4 Insight put on the presentation.… Read more

How Fast Do You Solve Her Problem?

September 26, 2018

You call a number. You get a recording, a menu of options. You listen to all the options before pressing two. Another menu. This time you press one. Now a recording offers you yet a third menu. You select three and a recorded voice comes on to say, “Please hold… Read more

Vacations – Do You Take Them? (Why You Should)

September 25, 2018

Before I started working full time at Toy House, the staff used to dread when my parents would go on vacation. It seemed that every time they returned they fired a key employee. They only took a couple weeks off each year, one in the spring and one in the… Read more

Give Them a Title

September 24, 2018

There are two series of books that have influenced my business life directly. One is a series of five books I first read as a child and have re-read several times since, until the books are barely holding together. I have read them twice to my own sons and am… Read more

How to Learn From the Best

September 21, 2018

Yesterday, I buried this little gem in the post. Let’s take it out and polish it a bit. “If your store isn’t the store everyone points to in town for having the best customer service, your service isn’t good enough. Yet.” There is always that one business everyone believes is… Read more

Change Your Viewpoint to See Your Business Better

September 20, 2018

I was sitting in a conference center in Louisville, Kentucky for a presentation by Rick Segel in May 2009. Rick asked the crowd, “Raise your hand if your product selection sucks, if you just don’t have the goods people want.” No hands went up. Rick then said, “Raise your hand if your… Read more

The Fallacy of Foot Traffic

September 19, 2018

I was at Great Lakes Crossing Outlet Mall in Auburn Hills, MI the other day. It is one of the few malls I truly enjoy, partly because it has an aquarium (I have an oceanography degree), a LEGOLand (I used to sell toys for a living), and a Bass Pro… Read more

A Few Truths on Advertising

September 18, 2018

I received the following question via email … “… based on your blog today, when is there ever a good enough ROI to justify advertising?” I understand the confusion. I did a math equation yesterday that showed how a $400 ad buy might not get the desired results for a… Read more

Is it the Best Place to Spend Your Money?

September 17, 2018

“It’s only $400. What have you got to lose?” If you’ve ever run a small business you’ve heard that question before, usually spoken by an advertising sales rep trying to sell you on some new marketing fad, or maybe an add-on to a package you’ve already bought. You fall for… Read more

Price is the Default – Change Your Settings

September 14, 2018

Do you feel beat up over price? Does the business news turn your stomach into knots as you read about department stores like Younker’s going out of business and Sears and Macy’s doing another round of closures? Does it make you cringe every time you hear that Dollar General has… Read more

Connecting Through Stories (Part 2)

September 13, 2018

For twenty years my mom and I would meet every Saturday morning for breakfast. My dad joined us for several of those years. Occasionally my boys would get up early, too, especially since they loved the French Toast and pancakes at the restaurant where we ate. For my mom it… Read more

Connecting Through Stories (Part 1)

September 12, 2018

When people ask me what was my favorite Christmas gift, I often answer my first guitar. I still have it—an Eterna EF-15 six-string acoustic guitar by Yamaha—hanging on the wall with my other guitars. I get a lot of joy from playing guitar. When I first got the guitar I… Read more

A Retail Lesson From 9/11

September 11, 2018

I was in the office this day seventeen years ago. My dad was there talking on the phone with my sister. It was in the morning just after 9am. She had called to wish him a happy 58th birthday. She had CNN on in the background and asked my dad… Read more

Two Completely Different Ways to Build Your Team

September 10, 2018

I love thought-provoking questions. Here is one I was asked recently … How do we bridge the gap between employees and corporate America? The question makes two assumptions; first that there is a gap, and second that the gap must be bridged. The first assumption, that there is a gap,… Read more

New Technology Versus Old School: Where is Your Money Going?

September 7, 2018

She lived in Jackson, MI, but her folks, family, and friends were all still back on Long Island. After visiting our store, she knew exactly what she wanted for her new baby. With a clipboard in hand, we helped her choose her furniture, bedding, car seat, stroller, and all of… Read more

Do You Want Great or Life-Changing?

September 6, 2018

What is the difference between Free and $4,500? Give a business those options for training and most often they’ll choose Free, figuring, “at that price I ought to be able to make something work, and if it doesn’t, no biggie.” You aren’t going to spend $4,500 without knowing for sure… Read more

Did Nike Make the Right Call?

September 5, 2018

Legendary UCLA basketball coach and hall of famer John Wooden had several rules for his teams. One of them was no long hair and no facial hair. “One day, All-America center Bill Walton showed up with a full beard. ‘It’s my right,’ he insisted. Wooden asked if he believed that… Read more

“Attracting Millennials” and “Ten Mistakes:” Two New Free eBooks for You

September 4, 2018

I have a file on my computer named SCHEDULE. It has every schedule I ever created for the Toy House staff dating back to the fall of 1996. That was the year my dad turned the hiring, training, and scheduling of the staff over to me. In 1997 I hired… Read more

How to Push for “Yes” (Without Being Pushy)

August 30, 2018

I remember being in a presentation where the speaker told us that the average retail store only closes two out of every seven customers, and that five out of seven walk away without buying. As I was researching for a new presentation I did a couple weeks ago at the… Read more

Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling

August 29, 2018

Our realtor turned to us and said, “Now, where would you put your couch in this room?” Immediately we started mentally arranging the furniture in the house she was showing. By the time we had visualized the family room, kitchen, and office we were ready to write the offer. Visualization… Read more

The Meet and Greet: Starting the Relationship Off Properly

August 28, 2018

“Always Be Closing.” Alec Baldwin said it back in 1992 in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross and we’ve all been following lock-step behind him ever since. If your business is one-and-done like Halloween USA, or you’re running a huge clearance, or you’re going out of business, that might be a… Read more

Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem

August 27, 2018

I was a little harsh last week on a radio station for playing eighteen commercials in a row. I said they were purely paying lip service to their advertisers (their customers) by putting them into a block that long where it would be hard to stand out and be memorable.… Read more

Are Your Ads Standing Out or Getting Lost?

August 23, 2018

Last Monday I had to rent a van to move some furniture for my son’s new apartment at college. While the rental went smooth, as did the delivery of the furniture, I did something I hadn’t done in a while. I listened to FM radio. In my vehicle my phone… Read more

Another Example of Winning – Chicago Style

August 17, 2018

Have you ever had a meal ruined by a kid at the next table? Half of the time you’re wondering why the parent doesn’t do something to fix the situation. The other half you’re wondering why the parent brought the child to this particular restaurant in the first place. Some… Read more

Winning the Millennial Vote

August 7, 2018

While doing research for a presentation I am making next week on selling to Millennials I came across an interesting statistic … Only 51% of eligible Millennial voters voted in the 2016 presidential election compared to 63% for Generation X, 69% for Boomers, and 70% of everyone older. Of course,… Read more

I Thought She Was the Owner

July 31, 2018

Often someone from my staff would enter my office and say, “I have an idea.” Often I would answer, “Great! Run with it!” “But don’t you want to hear it first?” “Is it consistent with our Core Values?” “Yes.” “Will it cost the company a lot of money?” “No.” “Run… Read more

How to Not Frustrate Your Customer

July 30, 2018

I don’t fit in this world very well. My body wasn’t made for standard sizing. I can’t fly certain airlines without being completely miserable, cramped, and in pain. There are some cars I just don’t like to drive because not only does the seat not adjust to my size, the… Read more

Having Fun, Helping Others, Eating Lunch

July 27, 2018

For the past three weeks I have been making several drives from my home in Jackson to the Oakland County area for lunch. For those of you not in Michigan, Oakland County is one of the three counties (including Wayne and Macomb) that makes up the Greater Detroit Metropolitan area.… Read more

Delegate to Make Two People Happy

July 24, 2018

I started working full time at Toy House on April 30, 1993. It wasn’t my first job at Toy House. That started when I was the cute kid on the float in the Rose Parade through downtown Jackson at the age of three. At seven I was getting 10 cents… Read more

Getting the Help You Want

July 23, 2018

Ever have one of those moments where things just clicked for you and everything that was a little hazy before now came into focus? I feel blessed that I have had several of those moments in my life and business career. One of them happened in October 2006. I wrote… Read more

You’re Killing the Sale Before it Even Starts

July 20, 2018

Next month I am unveiling some new presentations at the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago. One of those presentations is called “10 Mistakes that Sideline the Sale – Don’t Let Them Kill Your Mojo!” The blurb for the presentation starts with … “You know not to say, ‘Can I… Read more

Reaching the Unreachable

July 19, 2018

I was asked an interesting question yesterday morning at a Breakfast Business Boot Camp I’m doing in Oxford, MI. “How do you get past the moniker of this being a ‘business’ program to reach people who could use what you’re teaching but don’t see themselves as a ‘business’?” The question… Read more

Are You Managing or Leading?

July 17, 2018

It dawned on me yesterday as I was writing the post on when to bend the rules, that you first need to be able to teach the rules and why the rules exist. It is that “why” that makes all the difference. It is that “why” that allows your staff… Read more

When to Bend the Rules, When to Break Them

July 16, 2018

When I was writing my new book Most Ads Suck I had a long internal debate about the word “Rules” versus the word “Principles.” There are six elements that the great ads incorporate to make them more effective. You don’t have to incorporate all six, but the more you use,… Read more

Pay Yourself a Salary

July 12, 2018

Twice a month I teach a class for expectant fathers at Henry Ford Allegiance Health W.A. Foote Hospital. Fifteen years ago there was a guy at the hospital who pitched the idea of a class for new dads to show them how to change a diaper among other parenting skills.… Read more

Self-Employed or Working for the Landlord?

July 11, 2018

When Toys R Us closed their Times Square store at the end of 2015—the one with the giant T-Rex and the three-story Ferris wheel—the biggest reason given was the landlords raising the rent from $12 million a year to over $52 million a year. Yeah, that would be a hard… Read more

Self-Checkout – The Best, Worst Thing About Retail

July 9, 2018

I hate the self-checkout. When Kroger first introduced it in Jackson I had a couple of the most frustrating checkout experiences of my life. I swore I would never go back to Kroger again. (I already hated the narrow aisles and the not-so-intuitive location of everything in our Kroger store.… Read more

Ask Your Customers What They Want

July 6, 2018

The one “service” my biggest competitor had that I didn’t was a Birthday Club. I wanted one for my customers. I already knew one thing I would do differently. That was the big Birthday Bell you got to ring when you came in to celebrate your birthday. What you probably… Read more

Good Idea, Poor Execution (Revisited)

July 5, 2018

I got my tires! My car is happy. I am, too. From the previous post, here is what I learned … I wasn’t the only one screwed over that day. One gal dropped her car off at 8am when the shop opened—right after finishing her overnight shift—only to find her… Read more

Good Idea, Poor Execution

July 5, 2018

I need new tires for my vehicle. I’ve been through this process before. It used to be easy. I had a downtown Goodyear Tire place. I went there. Supported my fellow downtown business. They always took care of me. Knew me on a first-name basis. It was only two blocks… Read more

The Internet Isn’t Winning

July 3, 2018

You’re losing. Case Study #1 My son wanted to buy a scooter for getting around campus. Not an electric scooter, mind you, but a simple two-wheeled scooter similar to the one he had as a child but with higher handlebars and a larger weight limit. He is a college student… Read more

It Never Feels Like Work

July 2, 2018

Last weekend YMCA Storer Camps celebrated 100 years of camping. I was there celebrating with over 834 of my closest friends. I’m not exaggerating when I say 834 of my closest friends. Many of them are people I haven’t yet met. But I know if and when I do meet… Read more

Roll With the Punches

June 29, 2018

I picked up my son from summer camp today. He was in the Counselor-in-Training (CIT) program out at YMCA Storer Camps. As I have always done with my boys after a session at camp, Ian and I sat down to talk about the experience right away while it was still… Read more

How to Find Out Your Business Reputation

June 27, 2018

Some of you read them. Some of you don’t. I often get asked why each blog post has a Postscript (PS) or two. Postscripts are also called “afterthoughts.” In the case of my blog, I use them to reinforce different points made in the post, without clunking up the writing.… Read more

If You Want to Be Known for Something …

June 26, 2018

Back in high school I had a friend who lived in a house that was hard to find. We always went to his house to play games because we could always get free pizza from Domino’s. They had their “thirty minutes or it’s free” campaign going, yet the drivers could… Read more

What Not to Change

June 25, 2018

By now you’ve heard the buzz about the International House of Pancakes and their big announcement. They are changing their name from IHOP to IHOb. They made the announcement and asked us to guess what the “b” meant. The first answer by virtually everyone was “breakfast.” I could wrap my… Read more

Surprise and Delight for Sales Reps

June 21, 2018

Today is a Hinkley Donut day. Those of you who have lived in Jackson know what I mean. There are only four of these days each week. Hinkley’s Bakery is the exception to the rule of needing to be open seven days a week to be successful (although they would… Read more

“Customer Service” is Dead

June 20, 2018

I make a living teaching businesses how to raise the bar on their Customer Service. It is one of my favorite presentations that always gets rave reviews. In fact, I have several presentations built around the concept of how and why to offer better Customer Service. Yesterday I got an… Read more

Getting People to Talk – Part 3 (Domino’s for the Win!)

June 18, 2018

A new restaurant opens in town. Fine dining. The early reviews are good. Everyone is talking about it. Expensive, but worth it. The desserts are extraordinary. You call up some friends and the six of you make a reservation. While you’re waiting for your meal you see desserts going past.… Read more

Reaching the People Who “Think” They Know You

June 15, 2018

I’ve been out at YMCA Storer Camps the last couple days teaching sailing again. This time, instead of teaching the kids, I’m just working with the staff to make sure everyone is on the same page for teaching the kids. While walking to the waterfront, one of the new instructors… Read more

Origin Stories – Getting People to Talk Part 2

June 14, 2018

We were sharing our origin stories at the hotel lobby bar last weekend. I was attending the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy as a speaker instead of a retailer. As a speaker I get to meet a whole bunch of new retailers. One of them asked… Read more

Give Them Something to Talk About (Part 1)

June 13, 2018

My eyes always glazed over. Didn’t matter if it was Toy Fair, ASTRA, the All Baby & Child Expo (ABC), the Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association (JPMA) Trade Show, or SuperZoo. By the end of the day my eyes were glassy, my pupils were dilated, and my senses were overloaded. One… Read more

Five, Ten, Fifteen Years Ago

June 12, 2018

Do you remember the start of the Great Recession back in 2008? Did you see it coming? Were you prepared in advance, ready for it? Okay, you can stop laughing. No one saw it coming. Very few were prepared. Yet if you remember it and are reading this blog, it… Read more

What Time Do You Close?

June 8, 2018

Twenty-six years ago this week I was living in California working for the Orange County Public Schools teaching Outdoor Education at Camp Edwards in the mountains above San Bernardino. It was the last week of the school year, our last group of fifth and sixth graders up at camp. You… Read more

Some Inventory Management is a Customer Service Issue, Too

June 7, 2018

My mom shops like a man. Get in, get what you need, and get out. Her lifetime of being raised in retail, her always efficient use of time, and her preference to spend her free time playing golf, playing bridge, reading books, or doing cross-stitch needlepoint all have led her… Read more

Five Proven Recipes

June 6, 2018

I saw the recipe online. It was from the legendary Paul Harvey so it had to be true, right? A simple concoction for eliminating mosquitoes in your backyard. Heck, I could even hear Paul’s distinctive voice in my head reading off the formula … “You take blue mouthwash, the minty… Read more

If You Have to Ask …

June 5, 2018

I stood up on stage in front of a crowd of retailers and said, “If you have to ask how much it costs, …” The crowd answered in unison, “You can’t afford it!” That quote is attributed to J.P. Morgan and is so common and pervasive that if you say… Read more

Teaching Your Staff Product Knowledge

June 4, 2018

One of my favorite activities when I was a camp counselor was something we called a Dutch Auction. For the Dutch Auction, each kid in our cabin would take his pillow case and put ten items in that pillow case. With our collection of items we would head to the… Read more

Convenience Versus Experience (One More Time)

June 1, 2018

Yesterday I posted a blog titled “Convenience Versus Experience.” Today in my inbox I get an email from one of the retail news outlets I subscribe. The subject line? “Convenience vs Experience: What matters most to shoppers?” It was a white paper on shopping habits. Yes, I had to download it. Oracle… Read more

Convenience Versus Experience (Revisited)

May 31, 2018

It was seven years ago today that I returned to work after recovering from major throat surgery. I was looking at some posts I wrote during that time and came across one I wrote while lying in bed titled Convenience Versus Experience. The new buzzword in retail today is “experience.” Just… Read more

Move Your Dogs Before the Dog Days

May 30, 2018

Every year right after Memorial Day my staff and I would go on a dog hunt. No, not the little stuffed animal dogs we sold by the packs (although that would be a fun staff training exercise), the slow-moving merchandise that was holding back our cash flow. Every retailer has… Read more

You’re Going to Offend Someone

May 29, 2018

I heard someone argue that Memorial Day Weekend shouldn’t be about shopping and big sales at the mall. We need to be properly honoring our fallen soldiers. I also heard someone make the same argument about backyard BBQs and trips to the lake/ocean/river/woods. It isn’t about partying, it is about… Read more

Making the Most of a Street Event

May 25, 2018

Tonight the classic cars cruise into downtown Jackson. The fourth Friday of every month May through September is a Cruise-In. Most every downtown in America has some type of event that closes the streets and draws a lot of traffic. Many malls have special events also designed to draw new… Read more

Are You Joining In or Shutting Down?

May 24, 2018

You’re a retailer in the middle block of a three-block-long shopping neighborhood. The shops on the two outer blocks think it would be great to hold a street festival to draw traffic into the area. They want to close off your block and have food tents and other activities in… Read more

My Second Favorite Retail Conversation

May 22, 2018

“He left Detroit 9am Christmas Eve. Someone, somewhere had to have the one toy his sweet little six-year-old wanted. Six cities, seven stores later he stood, travel-weary, across the counter from me. ‘I suppose you don’t have any Simon games, either.’ As I handed over the last of my Simon… Read more

Frigidaire Made Me Say a Bad Word

May 21, 2018

I installed a dishwasher today. It only took me four trips to the hardware store. The first one I cussed all the way there. I had to crank up the music to make the people in cars next to me think I was singing. The next three were my own… Read more

Reading Better, First Impressions, and Setting the Mood

May 18, 2018

One of the fun things about moving is finding your “memory boxes”. One of mine was falling apart so I had to dig through everything and transfer it all to a new box. Yeah, that took a lot longer than it should. (Remember, one of my Core Values is Nostalgia.) One… Read more

Be the First to Raise the Bar

May 17, 2018

It had to be my most favorite conversation with a customer ever. It was sometime in the fall of 1994, one year after Toys R Us had opened in our city. “Phil, I have to tell you this. I went to Toys R Us last Christmas.” Yeah, they were the… Read more

Protecting Yourself From Your Biggest Threat

May 16, 2018

I’m in a precarious position. My job is to help you succeed by teaching you the stuff you need to learn. My job is to know what you don’t know, be the expert you can trust, and help you see things from a perspective you haven’t seen before. My other… Read more

So You Got a Bad Review?

May 14, 2018

“You are not a one hundred dollar bill. Not everyone is going to like you.” -Meg Cabot If you don’t already have a negative review online about your business, either you’re still too new to have any reviews or you just haven’t found where they posted it. No matter how… Read more

Cutting Expenses The Wrong Way

May 10, 2018

I was in Walmart yesterday. I had to pick up a few things. At the checkout, the cashier kept doubling bagging all of my items. I asked her why. “These bags tear so easily that almost everyone has a ripped bag at the end. They used to be better but… Read more

Asking Questions, Playing Games, Laughing, and Learning

May 9, 2018

Occasionally I go back to my old blog posts to see how things have changed in retail. Sometimes I see how things have stayed the same. Here is something I wrote almost ten years ago on December 3, 2008 … The best stores have a staff that listens, that repeats… Read more

“Everything Cheaper Somewhere Else”

May 8, 2018

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.… Read more

Here is What Winning Looks Like – Sweetlees Boutique

May 3, 2018

Sometimes it is easy to talk about the mistakes retailers make and simply caution you to not make those same mistakes. I’d like to share with you a story of an experience that went right. A long-time Toy House customer, my boys’ piano teacher, and dear friend Jen sent this to… Read more

Policies for the Minority Hurt the Majority

May 1, 2018

The date for your annual family picnic has been set. You’re bringing your famous corn casserole. Your mom knows you’re bringing your famous corn casserole. She looks through the coupons from the local and Detroit Sunday papers and finds they both have the same coupon for your number one ingredient.… Read more

Product Selection – Curation or Saturation?

April 26, 2018

I went to visit a fellow toy store owner in Cleveland. At that time Michael had three stores in the area. The store I visited was on the opposite spectrum of mine in terms of size. He had about 1,100 square feet of selling space. I had 16,000 square feet… Read more

KB-Toys Making a Comeback(?)

April 25, 2018

KB-Toys is coming back from the dead. The toy retailer that went bankrupt in 2009 is going to stage a comeback to try to pick up some of the business dropped by the closing of Toys R Us (TRU). According to one article, they will likely have a bunch of… Read more

Hire Me to Be Your Coach

April 24, 2018

I played the role of Father in The Nutcracker Suite on stage at the Michigan Theatre. I was in eighth grade. It was part of our LEAP class (Learning Experience for Academic Progress). It was a play more than a ballet, although we did have a dance troupe come in… Read more

You’re Looking at Credit Cards Wrong

April 23, 2018

I was having a recent discussion with a friend about credit card usage. She uses her credit and debit cards almost exclusively. I still prefer cash. Many people think exclusive credit card usage is a young person, Millennial thing. My friend was born on the cusp between Baby Boomers and… Read more

Your Advertising Media Reference Guide

April 20, 2018

Here are links to the recent posts on how to best use the different advertising media. Like I said before, all advertising works and all advertising doesn’t work. It depends on two factors, how you use the media and what you say (work on that last one first, then pick the… Read more

Movie Ads, Placemats, Yellow Pages, and More

April 19, 2018

One thing I actually do miss about being in my retail store was all the ad sales reps with their crazy pitches. Sure, they were a distraction, but as a student of advertising I also saw them as a mental exercise to try to figure out if they were effective… Read more

Mobile Marketing – Winning the Transactional Customer Today

April 18, 2018

I remember the first time someone pitched me the idea of mobile marketing—sending texts out to customers to convince them to come into the store. Two things stood out from that meeting. First, they gave me a stat that said there were 4.5 billion smartphones in use on the planet.… Read more

Google AdWords – Wasted Money or Well Worth It?

April 17, 2018

On four different occasions I received coupons in the mail from Google. Each one was worth $10 to $25 to be used on Google AdWords. I started researching how to use AdWords. I learned about different search terms and how some terms will be more expensive than others. For instance,… Read more

Yes You Can Buy Word-of-Mouth Advertising

April 16, 2018

Celebrity endorsements don’t work like they used to. Sure, some fanboys will buy a particular brand because their favorite star told them, but the general public knows these actors, athletes, and entertainers only promote the stuff they get paid to promote. We see right through the pay-to-say ploy and aren’t… Read more

Direct Mail – Do the Math

April 12, 2018

I like numbers. I like math. I even like algebra when numbers start fraternizing with letters. (I draw the line at calculus, though. I don’t understand why numbers have to go all lumberjack on me.) It is a good thing because there is a lot of math in Retail. Some… Read more

I Didn’t Steal a Bunch of Candy

April 11, 2018

I didn’t steal a bunch of candy. Oh, I could have. I bought some over-priced M&Ms at a candy shop on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. The checkout was at the back of the store in the most awkward place. I had to walk up a ramp, stand in a… Read more

Websites – The Silent Salesperson

April 10, 2018

Over the last few weeks I’ve given you my thoughts on how to use the different media types for advertising. So far we’ve covered Television, Radio, Billboards, Newsprint, Magazines, Email, and Social Media. All of these are choices. You don’t have to do all of them, or any of them,… Read more

Things You Should Know Better

April 9, 2018

I just got back from Chicago. Fabulous trip! I was hired to do a couple presentations for the Diamond Retailer Summit hosted by Diamond Comics Distributors. I did two talks—Selling in a Showrooming World and Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget. I also got to do something new for… Read more

Shares, Comments, and Likes (How to Get Facebook to Work For You)

April 4, 2018

I remember when I first joined Facebook. I was connecting to friends I hadn’t seen in over twenty years. It was amazing! Reconnecting with old friends, conversing with current friends, and staying on top of who is celebrating a birthday today have made Facebook one of my pleasures. (I don’t… Read more

Don’t Ask these Illegal Questions in an Interview

April 3, 2018

I remember the first year I was in charge of hiring seasonal employees for Toy House. I was ill-prepared. I had done no research into how to interview a candidate. Heck, I had only sat through three job interviews in my life on the other side of the desk. I… Read more

Why Email Works (And When it Doesn’t)

April 2, 2018

“Advertising is salesmanship mass produced. No one would bother to use advertising if he could talk to all his prospects face-to-face. But he can’t.” -Morris Hite Morris Hite is in the Advertising Hall of Fame. He coined the word “slacks” and helped bring Elsie the Cow to life for Borden… Read more

Magazines – Speaking to the Tribe

March 30, 2018

I used to sell advertising for a local magazine. Every Thursday, on my day off from Toy House, I would hit the streets talking local businesses into buying ads for a monthly magazine my ex-wife and I published called Kids in Common. We launched Kids in Common in 2000 as… Read more

Does Newsprint Even Exist Anymore?

March 29, 2018

I used to read the Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper cover-to-cover every night of the week. It was a daily paper that was delivered in the afternoon and made perfect bedtime reading. It was also delivered right to my door. It was a sad day when they switched to a morning… Read more

When to Take a Political Stand

March 28, 2018

I did something a little out of character for me last night. I made a political post on Facebook. I’ve made comments and joined political debates over the years, but I have never made a political post of my own. It was scary to hit that Post button. I had… Read more

Billboards – The Drive-By Advertising

March 27, 2018

When you’re too young to drive and born before portable DVD players existed, a trip from Michigan to Florida was a lot longer than it is today (not even counting the fact that the speed limit was 55 back then). I wasn’t the book reader in my youth that I… Read more

Is the Retail Apocalypse Upon Us?

March 26, 2018

You have to be older than me to remember Shopper’s Fair. That was the first store that, back in the early 1960’s, was going to put my grandfather out of business. They were gone before I was old enough to spend my first dime. I do, however, have memories of… Read more

Radio – The Marathoner

March 21, 2018

I love my radio sales reps. Seriously. I have Linda to thank for turning me on to Roy H. Williams. I’ll never repay that debt. Scott and I still play golf. When I see Mike or Stacy or Fanny any of my other reps, we stop and chat like old… Read more

Television – The Super Bowl of Advertising

March 20, 2018

You watched the Super Bowl for the ads, didn’t you? That’s the trendy thing today. Whether you root for (or against) one of the teams in the game, you tune in mostly to see the ads. I have actually seen Super Bowl Parties where everyone gets a scorecard to rate… Read more

Quit Making it So Hard for People to Buy From You

March 19, 2018

I’ve been settling into my new home. I don’t like moving. One thing I don’t like is the reorganizing of everything, such as my new office where I sit and write this blog. I’ve told you many times about my distaste for filing. One other thing I don’t like is the… Read more

A Case Study From Yesterday

March 16, 2018

A couple nights ago as I was climbing into bed I got an email from my friend, Phil. He owns the brewpub where I frequently play guitar. He was sent a script proposal for a television ad and wanted my opinion. I read it and told him not to run… Read more

How Long Do You Want to Be in Business?

March 14, 2018

I don’t think my grandfather ever envisioned Toy House being open for 67 year, 7 months, and 1 day. I’ve looked through all his notes and never found anything that stated how long he planned the store to be open. I know from an interview I did with him about… Read more

Yes I Have Heard About Toys R Us

March 13, 2018

I was tagged seventeen times on Facebook last week about Toys R Us pending liquidation, wondering if I had seen the news. Friends, I write a blog about retail. I do workshops for retailers. I am a presenter at the upcoming American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). I subscribe to… Read more

The Myth of the Call to Action

March 9, 2018

I took a little walk down memory lane. Started reading some of the old radio ad copy I wrote back in the 90’s. My goal today was to talk to you about the pros and cons of the different media options you have for advertising. Sometimes, however, you pull on… Read more

All Advertising Works (And All Advertising Doesn’t)

March 8, 2018

“Who are you trying to reach?” That’s pretty much the opening salvo in every advertising salesperson’s repertoire. Give them your answer and voila! “That’s exactly our listeners/viewers/readers!” Then they show you some study that “proves” their advertising works. Westwood One, a major radio company with stations across the US, commissioned a… Read more

Three Examples of Doing a Little More

March 7, 2018

I was in Houston a few weeks ago doing a staff training for a fellow toy store owner’s team. After the training three of us (two former toy store owners and one current toy store owner) took a nice long walk. I got to see some of the places where… Read more

Indie Retailers Best Poised for New Retail Model

March 6, 2018

A few years ago I went to lunch with a fellow toy store owner. I had wanted to see his store, so we made plans for me to visit and then go get lunch. Since we were in his town, I left it up to him to pick a place… Read more

How to Use Humor in Your Advertising the Right Way

March 5, 2018

I can count on one hand the times I have tried something new because of a television ad and I would still have several fingers leftover. I tried Sam Adams Light Beer after they ran a commercial talking about how they took their Sam Adams Light to a beer festival… Read more

What to Do With the First Quarter Blues

March 2, 2018

I went for a walk/jog down the Falling Waters Trail a couple days ago. It was sunny and in the mid-50’s. My dog, Samantha, and I enjoyed getting out of the house. There is something about those early spring days when you get that sense of renewal, that rebirth of… Read more

The Final Word on Meetings

March 1, 2018

I’ve had the pleasure to serve on a few different boards of directors for both non-profit and for-profit organizations. All the meetings start the same. Someone will call the meeting to order, take a roll call, and then ask for approval of last month’s minutes. At this point everyone reaches… Read more

Collecting Information the Right Way – Brainstorming

February 28, 2018

(Note: this is a continuation from the blog post “Why Have a Meeting in the First Place?”) Back in 2011, after seeing me do the presentation Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget at the 2010 Michigan Downtown Conference, I had a corporate sponsor sending me to do the same… Read more

Sharing Information the Right Way

February 27, 2018

I learned this exercise twenty-seven years ago while doing team-building events at YMCA Storer Camps. I have used it several times for several purposes. The exercise goes like this … You get two volunteers, one at the whiteboard, one person sitting in a chair giving instructions. The person at the… Read more

Why Have a Meeting in the First Place?

February 26, 2018

I had just finished doing a presentation on Customer Service for a team of volunteers and staff at a non-profit organization. We had discussed the different types of “customers” and how to recognize them. We talked about their different expectations and how to meet and exceed those expectations. We laughed… Read more

Better Tasks Lead Your Team to Better Goals

February 22, 2018

My staff at Toy House probably thought I was crazy. They never knew what to expect at a staff meeting. As I told you before, I planned each meeting the same way, by finishing this sentence: This will be a successful meeting if … Then I worked backward from there,… Read more

How to Look at the Big Picture

February 21, 2018

I always planned my staff meetings by finishing the following sentence: This will be a successful meeting if … This will be a successful meeting if we learn how to become better listeners. This will be a successful meeting if we learn about new products. This will be a successful… Read more

Something the Best All Have in Common

February 20, 2018

In every industry you have a handful of heavy hitters. These businesses and their owners have both longevity and a solid track record of sales and growth. They’ve seen it all. They’ve done it all. They’ve been involved in the industry, in their trade organizations, and quite often in their… Read more

Now What? Applying the Lessons You’ve Learned

February 16, 2018

Many conference organizers have detailed instructions for their speakers. It makes sense since often those conferences will have a mix of professional speakers and members of their organization who have never done presentations like this. On more than one occasion I have seen instructions to, “ask the attendees to write… Read more

Tide For the Win

February 4, 2018

While the Philadelphia Eagles may have won the Super Bowl, the other winner was Tide. Their ads consistently hit the mark and take home the top prize for me. In my workshops and upcoming book I teach six principles for Making Ads More Effective. Tide nailed it on almost every point.… Read more

Reconciling Yes and No

February 2, 2018

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” On the other hand, Steve Jobs said, “It’s only by saying ‘No’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really… Read more

Impact, Emotion, and Frequency (or How to Get Remembered)

January 31, 2018

Do you remember where you were on January 28, 1986 when the Challenger Space Shuttle blew up? How about September 11, 2001 when you first heard about the World Trade Center buildings? Can you recall what was happening when you got the news about Princess Diana’s death? The most recent… Read more

Two Advertising Lessons From the Bar

January 30, 2018

Once a month I pick up my six-string and head to The Poison Frog Brewery to entertain the folks. I’m not all that great of a guitar player. No one is wowed by my prowess on the strings. I’m more like George from Sultans of Swing. I know (almost) all… Read more

Two Lessons From Selling a House

January 12, 2018

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… Read more

Are You a Top Down or Bottom Up Company?

January 8, 2018

I once won five pounds of bacon. It was a naming contest. First prize was an Apple iPad. Second prize was five pounds of bacon. Since I primarily use my iPad as an expensive alarm clock and to play FreeCell, this was one contest I was happy to take second… Read more

Manager Do’s and Don’t’s

January 5, 2018

I’ve been blessed to have several employees tell me I was their favorite manager/employer. As much as I would like to take credit for being awesome, I can’t say how much of that was because of me or because of the extremely low bar set by their other employers. The… Read more

Giving Back Good People

January 4, 2018

Whether you agree with yesterday’s post about giving good people back to society or not, you will likely agree with this statement … You want the best staff your payroll and training budget will allow. (Surprisingly, many chain retailers at the mall don’t act like they agree with that statement.… Read more

What are You Prepping Your Staff For?

January 3, 2018

The biggest thing I miss not running Toy House is my staff. I miss the daily interactions. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the laughter and jokes. I miss the smile stories we shared at the beginning of each staff meeting. I miss the “Aha” moments during those staff meetings… Read more

Few Things Go As Planned

January 2, 2018

Back in the early 1990’s I ran a wilderness trip program out at YMCA Storer Camps. I had a team of trip leaders who would plot out backpacking, biking, rock climbing, and canoeing trips around the Midwest and Ontario. One of the planning stages for the trip leaders was to… Read more

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner Part 2

December 21, 2017

I was on the train that ran from the Rental Car Center near the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to the main terminal. It was about a two-mile trip on the rail over the highways to the airport. One hundred feet from the terminal our train stopped. A voice came on apologizing… Read more

A Little Forethought Keeps Little Things Little

December 15, 2017

When I was a kid, I loved riddles. I especially loved the gotcha riddles where if you didn’t pay attention to everything you were sure to get it wrong. One of my early favorites was, “What weighs more? A pound of feathers or a pound of gold?” Once I learned… Read more

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

December 14, 2017

I had my first Chick Fil A sandwich a few years ago. We don’t have a Chick Fil A in Jackson, and until recently didn’t have any in the entire state of Michigan. I knew people that drove to Toledo, OH just to get Chick Fil A. That’s pretty high… Read more

Being World Famous

December 12, 2017

I hope someday to be world famous. I could almost say that I already am world famous. I do have a follower in Russia. I have another in Serbia and one in Austria. I have a couple followers from the southern hemisphere. I have shipped my Hiring and the Potter’s… Read more

A Tale of Two Icons

December 11, 2017

In the sleepy Little Bavaria known as Frankenmuth, Michigan are two world-famous businesses. One of them is Bronner’s CHRISTmas WONDERLAND! The other is Zehnder’s Restaurant and their “World-Famous Chicken Dinners.”  Bronner’s is a mecca for anyone who loves Christmas. It is over 90,000 square feet of all Christmas all the… Read more

Attitude Before Aptitude

December 6, 2017

Long distance runners and long distance swimmers know that somewhere in the middle of the race is where you separate the pros from the amateurs. The amateurs have either gone out too fast and really start to feel it in those middle miles, or their minds start to wander and… Read more

The Store of Today

December 5, 2017

I read a fascinating article that I think every retailer should read. It is one writer’s opinion of what the Store of the Future will look like, and it’s a good opinion. We know the store of the future will have amazing tech. This article talks about what some of… Read more

Pay it Down

December 4, 2017

You’ve heard the phrase Pay it Forward. Someone does something nice for you, and instead of doing something nice back, you do something nice for someone else. I have several things I need to pay forward in my life, including one act of generosity that happened this fall. I love… Read more

You Get Twenty Four Days (Every Year)

December 1, 2017

Show me a family business that has passed down through generations and I can show you some fatherly wisdom that was shared and remembered. In fact, check out this article from Forbes on some of the biggest, oldest family businesses and the fatherly advice the current owners received that they… Read more

It is an All-the-Time Kinda Thing

November 30, 2017

One of the phone calls I dreaded most while running Toy House would happen occasionally on my lunch hour. I’d look down at my cellphone and see “Toy House” was calling. It rarely was a “problem.” My staff knew exactly how I liked problems to be handled. The phone call I… Read more

Two Pictures to Make You Feel Better (Or Worse?)

November 29, 2017

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.… Read more

Now is Not the Time to Panic

November 27, 2017

Long before there was ever Cyber Monday, there was Letdown Monday. You worked incredibly hard gearing up for Black Friday (and now Small Business Saturday). You planned events, did marketing, trained the staff, decorated the store, and had a nice busy weekend. Then Monday hits and you wonder where all… Read more

I Give Thanks

November 23, 2017

Today is a day of firsts for me. This is the first Thanksgiving of my life without Toy House. Thanksgiving always brought that sense of excitement. The season is finally here. Let’s rock and roll! It also brought that sense of apprehension. Did I do enough? Am I prepared? Is… Read more

Earning Trust One Holiday at a Time

November 22, 2017

I walked into a large chain furniture store. There was a line of salespeople waiting to pounce on anyone walking through the door. It reminded me of the scene in L.A. Story where Steve Martin’s character was waiting in line to use an ATM while another line of muggers waited… Read more

Not Everyone Is Expecting the Same Thing

November 21, 2017

A couple weeks ago I did a Customer Service workshop with the staff of Kingman Museum. In a workshop for a single entity I get to do some different things than I do in a presentation to a large and varied group, including focusing in on different elements of customer… Read more

Almost Right is Still Wrong

November 20, 2017

I was going to title this It Isn’t the Thought That Counts or maybe The Road to Retail Ruin is Paved With Good Intentions. You’ll see why momentarily. Back in 1993 I had to do something incredibly hard. I had to put a dog down. It was our first dog,… Read more

Phone Calls That Lose Customers

November 17, 2017

Earlier this year I joined the many throngs of people who gave up their land line. No “home phone” for me. The one true regret I have is that I hate filling out all those forms where they ask for home, business, and cell numbers. Since I use my cellphone… Read more

Team Building Essentials Proven by Google

November 15, 2017

In 1990 I wrote a description of Team Building practices to help my facilitators understand the process when working with our groups. My program at YMCA Storer Camps utilized low and high ropes course initiatives and rock climbing to foster team building. The goal of every group was to get… Read more

Three Pictures, Three Smiles

November 14, 2017

It is soooo easy to bash stores and their poor customer service. I am almost afraid to go out any more because every encounter ends up becoming a post about what not to do. For instance, I could tell you about tonight’s dinner when the waitress brought the check and… Read more

All Shopping Should Be Fun!

November 13, 2017

This past Saturday was Neighborhood Toy Store Day (NTSD). Locally-owned, independent toy stores all around the country celebrated being local and special by having toy demonstrations and special events in their stores. Many of their top vendors supplied them with freebies and demos and raffle items. We always tied the… Read more

What is Worse Than That? The Lower Bar of Customer Service

November 10, 2017

This morning my bladder woke me up about twenty minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off. (TMI?) I am not a morning person so I was not pleased. When something like this happens, you only have a few options. Tell your bladder you’ll get up when the alarm… Read more

How a Simple Coat Check Will Win the Holiday Shoppers

November 9, 2017

Whoever had the idea of hosting the International Toy Fair in New York City every February ought to be shot! Oh, sure, NYC is a FABULOUS city to visit. I love going there! But February??? Last year the temps were in the 60’s. Unfortunately I missed last year. I was… Read more

More Advertising vs Better Customer Service

November 8, 2017

Today I spoke to the Marshall Area Economic Development Authority (MAEDA) about Raising the Bar on Customer Service. This is one of my favorite talks because it is filled with ideas you can use right away to start making a difference for your customers and raising the level of their… Read more

What the Kids Are Learning

November 7, 2017

Last night my son wanted to read to me a paper he had written for Eleventh Grade Honors English. The paper was a review of an essay they had read. In Ian’s paper he had to show examples of the different styles of persuasion the author had used in his… Read more

Online Advertising: What They Say, What You Get

November 6, 2017

I have a bad habit. I like to play games in my iPad right before going to bed. I know I’m not supposed to have screen time before bed, but it settles me down and helps me clear my mind. My favorite game to play is Free Cell. It is… Read more

What Your Worst Employee Should Be Able to Do

November 3, 2017

Seth Godin talked about this in his blog today. I wrote about it back in 2009. You know this adage … A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Your chain is your staff. Your chain is the level of customer service your team can bring to the… Read more

My Conundrum and How to Get Past It

November 2, 2017

I had a sales rep who got mad at me because I refused to display his car seats, swings, high chairs, strollers, and play pens in groupings by their fashions. He had proof that I would sell more if I sorted them by fabric pattern instead of by product type.… Read more

One Easy Thing Even Your Seasonal Staff Can Do

November 1, 2017

Back in 2005 I started working on a plan. Our store had two major bottlenecks for traffic that made it hard for customers to navigate the store during peak times. Those bottlenecks also made it hard for the staff to navigate, especially with a cart full of merchandise to replenish… Read more

Be Her Super Hero

October 31, 2017

According to USA Today, this will be the year of the Super Hero. More children will be dressed as super heroes tonight than any other costume. In fact, while the generic Action/Super Hero is #1, Batman comes in by himself at #2, Spiderman is #5, and Marvel Heroes come in… Read more

The Second Worst Question to Ask

October 30, 2017

Every time I’m at the cash register I get asked the same question and it is driving me nuts! I cringe when I hear it. It is driving me to the point of almost wanting to use the self-serve registers (which I hate with an equal passion to hearing this… Read more

Robots Replacing Workers

October 27, 2017

I’ve been following the minimum wage hike debate for years. As a store owner, minimum wage had a direct impact on our bottom line. I never wanted to pay minimum wage to my team because I never expected minimum work. Yet, in retail, there are only so many dollars to… Read more

Sleds, Stories, and Certain Death

October 26, 2017

My favorite sled is heading into its nineteenth year of service. I got it the year Parker was born. It is an ugly orange plastic sled with no fancy features. It isn’t eye-catching or sleek in design. It isn’t decked out with racing stripes or shiny vinyl that makes you… Read more

What is Your $800 Dress?

October 25, 2017

Sandy was a friend of my parents. He ran a dress store in Jackson for several years. I was an impressionable teenager when he spoke these words, but they have stuck with me for over three decades. “If you want to sell a $500 dress, you have to show an… Read more

That One Memorable Thing

October 24, 2017

I was in Orlando for a trade show a few years back. I met up with some friends and the five of us headed to a steakhouse for dinner. It was one of those meals you talk about forever. I could start with the off-menu ordering of a 20oz Filet… Read more

This is How You Get Word of Mouth Pro-Level

October 23, 2017

If you’ve ever been to my Suggested Topics page, you will notice that my Breakout Session about Word-of-Mouth says I will teach you “four simple, yet effective ways to generate word-of-mouth and get people to brag about your business to others.” If you have ever been to one of these presentations, you… Read more

Services That Set You Apart

October 20, 2017

I was thumbing through some boxes of Toy House memorabilia in my basement and came across samples of some of the flyers and brochures we handed out in the store. They were all tri-fold flyers and they all had one panel that was exactly the same on each of them.… Read more

Other Uses for Market Share Knowledge

October 19, 2017

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… Read more

Taking a Deep Breath of Perspective

October 18, 2017

We all meet interesting people from time to time. For one year I had a person enter my life that gave me a world’s worth of perspective. At the time he was the store manager of one of the big-box discounters in town. While our sons shared activities together, he… Read more

Connecting the Dots to Make Your Hiring Better

October 16, 2017

We sold a ton of dot-to-dot books over the years. I bought them by the number count – 10, 20, 50, 75, even 100-count dot-to-dots. I loved dot-to-dots as a child. My favorite was to try to guess the picture before putting pencil to paper, seeing the image in my… Read more

What Media Do You Own?

October 13, 2017

The one thing I hate about having my house for sale is all the stuff I have boxed up to make the house less cluttered. There are 9 boxes filled with my books sitting on shelves in the basement. Many of those books I have read more than once. A… Read more

Who Killed Black Friday?

October 12, 2017

I was never big on shopping on Black Friday. I don’t think it was just because I was a retailer. Many of my staff would be up before dawn hitting all the sales before coming in for their shifts. I knew other retailers who would also hit the streets looking… Read more

Sizeable Chunks, Trust, and Playing Guitar

October 11, 2017

In a couple nights I take the stage again at The Poison Frog Brewery with my guitar and harps to have a little fun. I’m playing at least once a month and having the time of my life. (I think the audience is enjoying it, too. Of course, the more… Read more

If I Were Interviewing a College Student

October 10, 2017

Every year I would hire around ten people to work the Christmas season at Toy House. A few of those hires were easy. Former staff members would often come back to pick up some extra money around the holidays. I also picked up some seasonal employees from YMCA Storer Camps.… Read more

When “Experience” Counts

October 9, 2017

We didn’t have a hierarchical structure at Toy House. While my dad was still there I did have the mantle of Vice President, but that was mostly to satisfy corporate rules. We didn’t have a manager or assistant managers or department heads. The closest thing we had to any kind… Read more

The Aha Moment (Or the Simplest Business Success Formula Ever!)

October 6, 2017

I’ve been looking at different job titles and job descriptions lately. The two that seem to grab my attention the most are the Marketing & Advertising jobs and the Managing People jobs. At first glance I figured I was drawn to those because those were two of my favorite things… Read more

How Social Media Advertising Might Be Hurting Your Business

October 5, 2017

As a speaker I am constantly submitting my talks to conferences in an attempt to get hired. I am also looking at their websites to see what kinds of talks they hosted at their last conference. Time and time again they have speakers talking about how to advertise on social… Read more

When You’re Good to Momma

October 4, 2017

On a trip to NYC for Toy Fair a few years ago I met a family that came to the city just to go to Broadway shows. That sounded like a dream trip to me. I love musical theater. I wish Netflix had more “live Broadway” shows than they currently… Read more

Taking My Own Advice

October 3, 2017

If you ever stopped by my office at Toy House, you saw the frying pans on the wall behind my head. Each one had a hole right through the bottom of the pan. Target practice? Nope. Just one big solitary spike sticking straight up out of a board, upon which… Read more

When Being Clever Backfires

October 2, 2017

We were standing on the back patio looking up at the stars. The big dipper was only slightly obscured behind a tall cedar tree. You could see enough of it to recognize the constellation. “Where’s the North Star?” I pointed directly at it, proud of my astronomical knowledge. “That’s it?… Read more

The Best Way to Learn the Lesson

September 29, 2017

David M. Bailey, one of my favorite inspirational artists, wrote a song called The Hard Way with powerful lyrics … They say the hard way is the only way we ever learn a thing After everything I’ve learned I’d say they’re right Sometimes it takes a thief to steal inside… Read more

Learning From the Mistakes of Others

September 28, 2017

As I was putting my resume together, I was thinking back on some of the Team Building activities I have created over the years. My favorite one was the Drainage Ditch Determination. That was 26 years ago. I wish I still had the original notes. I know we didn’t call… Read more

Where I Can Help You

September 27, 2017

I gave you my resume. Now let’s talk about you and what you might need. If you are a Small Business Owner … You wear many hats, some better than others. Your choices are simple. A) Learn all the skills you need on your own. B) Hire someone else to… Read more

I’m Looking For Work

September 27, 2017

Since closing up Toy House last December I have been writing, speaking, coaching, sailing, selling, and singing for my supper. It has been an interesting adjustment from the steady paycheck of selling toys. It has been filled with highs and lows and stimulating conversations when people ask me how I’m… Read more

What Are You Winning?

September 26, 2017

I admit it. I fall for click-bait headlines all the time. I saw one recently about the Columbus, OH based discount closeout chain Big Lots! that said, “Discounter Opens ‘Store of the Future’ “. Yeah, I had to see this. The article went on to say how they had changed… Read more

When to Take a Political Stand

September 25, 2017

I watched my Detroit Lions lose yesterday after another controversial last-second call by the refs. I expected Facebook this morning to be filled with Lions fans questioning the call and talking about how we got robbed once again by the refs (by the way, I think the ruling was correct,… Read more

Could This Happen in Your Store?

September 23, 2017

You have some time to kill before your next appointment. You pull into the parking lot of one of your favorite stores at 9:17am. You know they don’t open until 9:30am. It says so right on the door. That’s okay. You’ll sit and wait. You look up from your phone… Read more

Where to Spend the First Million

September 22, 2017

Reports are that Toys R Us has secured $3.1 billion in financing to get them through the holiday season. Thanksgiving is only nine weeks away. I have a plan for the first million dollars they should spend that will change the culture in their stores immediately and just in time… Read more

Lessons From Toys R Us

September 21, 2017

By now you have all heard about Toys R Us (TRU) filing bankruptcy. I have been personally tagged several times on Facebook linking to articles about the bankruptcy (a couple former staff members have even hinted I should reopen Toy House now.) Here are some things you need to know.… Read more

Working “On” Part 5 – Evaluating Progress

September 20, 2017

We all dreaded the blue sheets. As camp counselors at Storer Camps, we had to write up an “evaluation” of every camper in our cabin. The blue sheet was the worksheet we used. It had spaces for us to mark their daily activities and a few questions where we wrote… Read more

Working “On” Part 4 – The Game Plan

September 19, 2017

When my dad retired in 2005 his biggest concern for me was what was my plan. He’s a football fan just like I am. We’ve heard coaches time and time again talk about their Game Plan for beating their opponent. We had a new opponent that had just opened in… Read more

Working “On” Part 3 – Hiring a Manager

September 18, 2017

I’ve only been flown in for an interview once in my life. I went to the Catskills in New York to interview for a position running an experiential education and wilderness trip program. I was a perfect candidate for the job. Not only did I have the experience running a… Read more

Working “On” Part 2 – Study Your Competition

September 15, 2017

Back in the early 80’s my dad encountered a customer in our LEGO aisle. She had a notebook and was writing down prices on some of the LEGO sets we carried. “I’m taking notes because my son’s birthday is coming up.” Apparently that birthday never happened because every week she… Read more

Working “On” Part 1 – Scouting New Talent

September 14, 2017

In 1989 my parents bought a new computer for Toy House. It was an IBM AS400, It had three hard drives and a whopping 999kb of storage (yes, almost an entire megabyte!) The whole unit was about the size of two large microwaves stacked on top of each other. Don’t… Read more

Get the State of Michigan to Pay

September 13, 2017

Hey Michigan peeps! What if I told you that the State of Michigan would pay for you and your store manager to enroll in a Jackson Retail Success Academy™ style program in your area? Rather than you driving all the way here to take the class on your dime, I would do… Read more

Proof That Customer Service is Not Dead?

September 13, 2017

I read two stories yesterday that caught my interest for two different, yet related reasons. The first story is about the results of a survey of 600 mall shoppers across the country. The results showed that a larger percentage of Millennials believe that sales associates are “extremely important to their… Read more

Measuring the Right Result

September 12, 2017

This is the year of confessions. I’ve told you I don’t like cleaning up and filing things away. I’ve admitted I only went to the University of Michigan to get football tickets. As much as it pains me to be one, I’ve even admitted I’m a Detroit Lions fan. I… Read more

Retail is More Like Football

September 11, 2017

I am a Detroit Lions fan. There, I said it. That’s the first step to healing, right? I got to watch my Lions play yesterday. Owning a toy store was probably the best thing for this Detroit Lions fan. I never got too invested in their season because I knew… Read more

The Table Ad That Will Make You Cry

September 8, 2017

The salesman said something that has stuck in my head for over two decades. “Most people only buy one dining room set in their lifetime. If you buy it right, you have something that is passed down through the generations.” He was right. My aunt is still using the table… Read more

We All Get a Little Rusty

September 7, 2017

Last Saturday at The Poison Frog Brewery I got to accompany Steve Tucker with my harmonica . It was the first time in a while I got to really blow some blues as we did an entire set together. I have jammed with Steve a few times before. He’s an… Read more

Breaking Down the Typical Car Ad

September 6, 2017

My son wrote an amazing car ad right off the top of his head. He did it in response to the boring-to-downright-excruciatingly-bad car ads we were seeing while watching football over the weekend. You know the kind of car ad I’m talking about. It starts with a close up of… Read more

This is the Ad We Wish They Would Write

September 5, 2017

I spent the weekend watching college football. I went to my first game at age seven to watch the University of Michigan whomp on the Navy. I was hooked. I became the third generation of my family to graduate from Jackson High and get a degree from UM. (My oldest… Read more

A Trip That Pays For Itself

September 4, 2017

Ever have one of those amazing meals you just have to tell everyone about? I’ve been blessed to have had several. One took place in New York City. I was there for Toy Fair several years ago when a sales rep invited me to dinner. It was a Danny Meyer… Read more

A Fresh Set of Eyes Sees What You’re Missing

September 1, 2017

Get in a circle of store owners and say the words “Mystery Shopper” and watch the eyes begin to roll. We all hate them or, if that’s too strong a word, think quite low of them. The problem? Mystery shoppers tend to only take a snapshot of a single moment… Read more

Visualization Makes the Sale

August 31, 2017

Today I signed the papers to list my house for sale. I did this a little over a year ago, had the house listed for a year without a single offer. I took it off the market at the end of July, put in a lot of work on little… Read more

The One “After” That Makes the Most Difference

August 29, 2017

I’m in the process of preparing my house to sell. I spent Sunday cleaning out the basement and garage. One big thing I did was pull thirty two cans of paint out of the basement. Thirty two cans of paint colors no longer in use in this house. Some cans… Read more

It’s the Before and After That Counts

August 24, 2017

I just finished painting the master bedroom and upstairs hallway. They look fabulous if I do say so myself. There is a definite feeling of satisfaction when you’ve finished painting a room and can see it looking fresh and new. Painting, however, is not my favorite thing to do. I… Read more

The Sales Rep I Fired and the Sales Rep I Wanted

August 22, 2017

I used to be on the receiving end of sales calls and pitches. Now, as a business consultant (and also in my new role as a salesman selling logo merchandise and apparel*), I’m on the giving end. As you know, I like to look at every interaction from the other… Read more

What to Do the First Time It Happens

August 21, 2017

Every July for our Summer Fun Sale we would mark down thousands of old, slow-selling, discontinued merchandise to ridiculously low prices to move out that merchandise, generate some cash, and get ready for the upcoming holiday season. With close to a million dollars in inventory, the process was quite tedious… Read more

Handling the Unruly and Rude

August 17, 2017

I was talking with some fellow retailers at a trade show recently and the discussion came around to the perceived higher level of rudeness and unruliness among customers. I say “perceived” because everyone felt it, but no one had actually measured to know if it truly was more than before.… Read more

Two Ears and One Mouth

August 16, 2017

George Whalin was the last guy you wanted sitting next to you on an airplane. George was a retail consultant and public speaker (and one of my inspirations). George loved retail. A vacation to him meant a trip to The Grand Bazaar in Turkey followed by a trip to their… Read more

Breaking Down Our Phone Greeting

August 15, 2017

“Thank you for calling the Toy House. How can I help you?” That was the greeting I trained my staff to use every time they answered the phone. Twelve words in a specific order for specific reasons. Let’s break it down … “Thank you for calling …” We were a… Read more

What if You Don’t Train Them and They Stay?

August 11, 2017

There is an old story of two managers discussing staff training. The first manager objects to training saying, “What if we train them and they leave?” The second manager replies, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?” My friends, knowing I write this blog, send me examples of… Read more

A Place for Everything

August 10, 2017

This week marks my last week on the water as the sailing instructor for YMCA Storer Camps. Next Monday I have to do my least favorite job—putting stuff away. I hate it. I hate cleaning up. I hate filing papers. I hate organizing and sorting. Oh, don’t get me wrong.… Read more

The Biggest Thing That Needs to Change

August 9, 2017

I kept my email address from Toy House. I kept it partly because I have so much history with that address I didn’t want to lose, partly because so many people have it and still use it to get a hold of me, and partly because I don’t really like… Read more

When the Boss Plays Favorites

August 3, 2017

I spent the summer of 1992 working for the Los Angeles Unified School District teaching team building and leadership skills to inner-city kids. It was one of the most meaningful and wonderful jobs I’ve ever held. Part of it was the difference we were able to make in the lives… Read more

Busting a Scheduling Myth

August 2, 2017

There is a scheduling myth I have heard for many years, and although on the surface it seems to make sense, I don’t think it is in the best long-term interest of your store. The myth is that you should schedule your best sales people for your peak hours and… Read more

A New Twist to Back-to-School Shopping

July 31, 2017

Back-to-School shopping has become a huge event with big deals and sales to lure in all those parents and children to buy new clothes, school supplies, and anything else they might want (I once saw a “Back-to-School Sale” sign on an end-cap filled with wine!) No matter what kind of retail… Read more

The Scary Truth of Averages

July 27, 2017

“Have you ever noticed that everyone wants to be normal but no one wants to be average?” -Roy H. Williams Did you hear the one about the statistician that drowned in a river with an average depth of three feet? In business, everyone wants to know the averages, the average… Read more

Does Your Advertising Match the Experience?

July 24, 2017

How many times have you heard a radio ad that sounded something like this? Phil’s Toys is the leader in selling hard-to-find toys. We have thousands of toys in stock. We won’t be undersold! Our customer service is unbeatable and we always offer the best deals. Phil’s Toys has the… Read more

Case Study: Taking Care of the Customer Science Safari Style

July 22, 2017

My buddy, Sean, owns a toy store in Cary, North Carolina called Science Safari. I am sharing his story as he posted it on FB … “Weird occurrence… It’s happened twice in the last week. I certainly don’t mind, but I’ve never seen it in 30 years of retail nor… Read more

Don’t Get Stuck in Irons

July 20, 2017

As I tell my sailors every morning, we cannot control the wind, but we can control the direction of our boat and the trim of our sails. Time and time again we talk about how sailboats cannot sail directly into the wind, only at angles to the wind. When your… Read more

The Fine Line Between Chaos and Just Plain Messy

July 19, 2017

Chaos: noun /’kā-äs/ : behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions (thank you, Google) Chaos is a system too complex for the average observer to see any order. I hated to file things away. Just not my thing. I would let stacks of… Read more

They Thought They Had Helped

July 17, 2017

I went into a sporting goods store looking for a walking stick. Unlike most guys, I’m not afraid to ask for help in a retail store. I approached the first clerk I saw and asked, “Do you have any walking sticks?” “I don’t know. Let me ask someone … She… Read more

How to Find a Master

July 16, 2017

(Note: this is a longer post than usual. Set yourself some time to give it a good read and bookmark it so that you can come back to it as necessary.) You’re the Jack-of-all-Trades. You’re at least mildly competent at all aspects of your job. Like you, your store is… Read more

Jack of All, Master of None

July 12, 2017

I bought a multi-tool the other day. Since I no longer have my own bike shop to fix up my bikes I bought a multi-tool designed specifically for fixing bikes. It even included spoke wrenches. Eighteen tools in one little package. I got my first chance to use it a… Read more

The Sweetest Sound is Your Name

July 7, 2017

Have you ever had that “Cheers!” moment where you walked into a place and everyone shouted your name? I’ve been blessed to have it happen to me several times. It never gets old. Never. In fact, it is one of the better feelings on this planet. I know when I… Read more

Some Things Change, Some Things Shouldn’t

July 6, 2017

I saved one item from the Toy House when we closed. One item that had endured the entire 67 years of our existence. One item that had served one single purpose, unchanging, for the store’s entire life. It was the metal box we used to hold our layaway cards. If… Read more

Happy 4th of July (Whether You’re Open or Not)

July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July! If you worked for me at Toy House, today would be a paid holiday. Same with New Year’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We only had two unpaid days we were closed—the Sundays before Memorial and Labor Day. Nine closed days, seven… Read more

Give Them What They Want

June 30, 2017

Tonight I’m doing a repeat performance of last week’s Campfire Sing-Along at The Poison Frog Brewery. Last week I brought songbooks with the lyrics to forty-three songs from the likes of John Denver, The Eagles, Dobie Gray, Indigo Girls, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Beatles, Garth Brooks, and more. The… Read more

Death by Typo

June 29, 2017

My buddy was at a conference recently and the presenter for his breakout session had a major typo in big bold letters at the top of one of his opening slides. My buddy couldn’t resist. He took a photo of this typo—and I’m talking not just a single letter but… Read more

Put Your Audience First

June 28, 2017

Which sentence do you prefer? 1. A good speaker should tell you all the things the speaker wants you to know. 2. A good speaker should tell you all the things you need to hear. Those two sentences are not the same. In the margin lies the difference between a… Read more

“I Had to Argue to Get It”

June 26, 2017

My buddy Lenny and I were having a conversation last night at the industry party for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) event in Philadelphia. Lenny sells toys, specifically one of my favorite companies — Marky Sparky. Lenny and Mark(y) were regaling the story of being at a different toy… Read more

Adjusting the Sails

June 21, 2017

I learned how to sail at YMCA Storer Camps. I knew how to canoe and kayak (I even did an eskimo roll in a kayak on the New River – bucket list!) I knew how to use a paddle to get just about anywhere, but I had never learned to harness the… Read more

Advertising Cannot Change Your Reputation

June 18, 2017

In a recent post I talked about how my hometown of Jackson, Michigan was once called “Central City” because of the railroad industry back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The name most people my age knew was the unofficial title of “Prison City”. One reader reminded me that… Read more

Revisit the Important Stuff

June 12, 2017

Staff training has begun for my summer gig at YMCA Storer Camps. There is a lot of ground to cover to get the camp counselors up to speed with all the policies and procedures. Like any other camp, Storer has its quirks and special ways of doing things. Also like… Read more

Use Your Flaws to Your Advantage

June 9, 2017

I was born and raised in Jackson, Michigan. I have spent 44 of my 50 years living in Jackson. Back in the late 1800’s Jackson was known as “Central City” because it was the hub to all the rail lines that ran through Michigan. As the railroad died out, Jackson… Read more

Painting the Picture on the Web

June 8, 2017

I had a lunch meeting earlier this week at one of my favorite restaurants—Mat’s Cafe. Mat makes the best pulled pork I have ever had. I have eaten there so much that there is even an off-menu item called “The Toy Man” (a plate of his award-winning pulled pork and… Read more

How Many Ways are You Marketing & Advertising Your Business?

June 7, 2017

One of the segments of the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING workshop coming up Tuesday, June 20th focuses on the many different media you can use to market & advertise your business and their respective strengths and weaknesses. It dawned on me that I have used many different forms of media… Read more

This is What Winning Looks Like

June 6, 2017

I was in Macy’s flagship store in New York City back in 1995. Seven floors of department store Nirvana. Everything you could ever imagine under one roof. I thumbed through sport coats of all sizes. Found several even bigger than the 50-Long I was wearing. They had everything … except… Read more

Your Ears Are Never Closed

June 5, 2017

I play guitar and sing in a local brew pub called The Poison Frog. At a recent gig I played an old camp song. Afterward, Phil Wilcox, the owner and master brewer, asked if I would do an entire “campfire” theme one night. Following the advice of Teddy Roosevelt who… Read more

The Value Equation

May 30, 2017

As customers, we are often quick to ask the question, “How much does it cost?” That’s what we want to know. Get to the bottom line. Why? Why do we go so quick to the price? The answer – The Value Equation. The Value Equation is this … Does the… Read more

MOST ADS SUCK Book Excerpt – Chapter 3

May 25, 2017

Here is the the third chapter from my new book MOST ADS SUCK (But Yours Won’t). (Please follow the previous link to my Indiegogo Campaign to pre-order the book.) The first two chapters deal with the big revelations that Most Ads Suck and The Message Is More Important Than the… Read more

Hidden Networking (And Why it is Important)

May 24, 2017

Call me Admiral Graybeard. This summer I will be heading up a fleet of Interlake Sailboats on the waters of Stony Lake for YMCA Storer Camps. I’ll be spending my mornings on the water (and my afternoons typing away at my computer.) You could call this a return to my… Read more

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

May 23, 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,… Read more

Most Ads Suck Book Excerpt – Chapter 1

May 18, 2017

Here is Chapter One of my new book MOST ADS SUCK (But Yours Won’t). You can pre-order the book here. (If you didn’t read the Foreword already, you can find it here.) Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck “Every customer is the right customer. What you’re looking for is the… Read more

Most Ads Suck Book Excerpt – Foreword

May 16, 2017

I promised you some excerpts from my new book MOST ADS SUCK (But Yours Won’t). Like all good books, the best place to start is the beginning. Here is the Foreword … Foreword Who will use this book? Anyone who writes content to persuade including web content, ad copy, magazine… Read more

“Are You Happy?”

May 15, 2017

“Are you happy now?” she asked. “Yes, most definitely,” I replied. “Are we good?” “Absolutely!” In the wake of all the stories about passengers being hassled by the airlines including the latest about a family getting booted from a JetBlue flight over a birthday cake, I wanted to share with… Read more

Using My Super Powers

May 11, 2017

My boys and I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earlier this evening. We are Marvel Studios junkies. Even the bad ones were good enough for us. I’ve always been fascinated by super heroes, especially their powers and how they use them. I am firm believer that we all… Read more

The Heart Opens the Wallet

May 9, 2017

You bought your first car because you fell in love with it. You bought your first house because you fell in love with it. You married your spouse because you loved that person. Every major purchase in your life was ultimately decided by your heart. Facts and data play a… Read more

This Book Will Change Lives

May 8, 2017

Click-bait, right? Not at all. My new book, Most Ads Suck, will change lives for the better. Here’s how … Before we go further, if you accept the premise that most ads do in fact suck, then you will accept the premise that most independent business owners will have sucky ads.… Read more

The Power of Storytelling

May 5, 2017

“Phil, the Marshall Community still talks about your presentation on advertising.” That’s the message I received late last night from Scott Fleming, the head of Marshall Area Economic Development Authority. Scott hired me to do the presentation based on my new book Most Ads Suck. I did the presentation a… Read more

Help Get This Book Launched!

May 3, 2017

Back on April 3, 2015 I wrote a blog about an idea that had been swimming around my brain for my next book. It was going to be about how to write more creative and interesting advertising copy. I was already presenting on the topic. My Making Your Ads More… Read more

An Article Every Retailer Must Read

April 25, 2017

If you are a retailer, you need to read this article about Amazon’s new brick & mortar store in Chicago. It will be one of the scariest and most eye-opening articles you read this year. Go ahead. I will wait. Amazon, who is already cleaning our clocks online, is doing… Read more

Not Just for Retailers

April 24, 2017

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.”… Read more

Making Your Ads More Effective

April 21, 2017

Next Thursday I will be doing a seminar for the Marshall Area Economic Development Authority called “Making Your Ads More Effective”. This is one of my favorite presentations because it includes a few lucky (brave?) souls who submit advertisement they have used previously and I give those ads a makeover.… Read more

Sign Up for the Spotlight on Managerial Success Workshop

April 20, 2017

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. Do you manage a team of three or more people? Do you feel that your team is not working up to their best potential?… Read more

Is Collaboration Really the Problem?

April 19, 2017

I read an article that caught my eye in Inc. Magazine with the title “Collaboration Creates Mediocrity, Not Excellence, According to Science”. You read that title and you will believe that grand studies have now been done to prove that collaboration is a bad thing. Then you read the article and… Read more

Who Would You Blame?

April 18, 2017

Overheard in a shoe store the other day… Customer: “Ma’am, do you have this style shoe in a brown?” Clerk: “I don’t know what we have or don’t have. I just work here.” My first thought when I heard this was, “You won’t be working here for long with that… Read more

The Power of the Smile Story

April 13, 2017

Every staff meeting started with “Smile Stories”, moments since the last meeting when we did what we set out to do and made the customer smile. Some of my staff wrote notes to themselves to remember all the stories. Others wrote notes to each other to remind them of their… Read more

Retail Sales Training (or the Lack Thereof)

April 12, 2017

I took over the hiring of employees at Toy House in the fall of 1995. My dad never really liked the job. I quickly found out why. We would hire 10 or more seasonal employees every fall and try to train them up to our customers’ expectations in just a… Read more

Flying the Friendly(?) Skies

April 11, 2017

By now you’ve seen the video of Chicago Aviation Police physically yanking an unwilling passenger off a United Airlines flight, knocking him unconscious, and dragging him down the aisle like they were taking out the trash. Likely you have also read United’s lame apologies. If we want to become experts. we need… Read more

What is Your Food Name?

April 10, 2017

My father is 100% Polish. My mother is mostly English. For about three straight years, however, I was Italian. Everyone called me Phil Pepperoni. No it wasn’t because of my fondness for a certain doughy, saucy, meaty culinary delight. No it wasn’t because I was extra cheesy (okay maybe a little).… Read more

Talent, Practice, and Luck

April 6, 2017

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.… Read more

The Team, The Team, The Team

April 5, 2017

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… Read more

Spotlight on Managerial Success – The Class!

March 29, 2017

You’ve hired a manager. Someone to help you run the day-to-day operations of your business. Someone to be in charge when you aren’t there. Someone to handle personnel issues and make sure all the tasks like stocking, straightening, cleaning, and serving the customers gets done. Someone to schedule (and train)… Read more

Training for Store Managers

March 28, 2017

My trip through the malls recently has me wondering… Where is the true breakdown in the staff training? You can start with the store managers since ultimately they are responsible for training the frontline staff, but that begs the question. Are those managers properly trained to be a store manager? In a… Read more

Only One Out of Fourteen Said Hello

March 27, 2017

Over the last few weeks I’ve visited some big malls. Call it field research. These malls have been busy, packed with customers. These malls are also packed with stores you’ve read about that are struggling and closing locations around the country. I saw a fair amount of Going Out of… Read more

How to Teach a Class in Your Store

March 23, 2017

You know why you need to teach classes in your store. Here are the six steps you take to create a class that draws traffic, builds excitement, gains you followers, sets you up as the expert, and makes people want to buy from you. Determine which product(s) you sell that takes… Read more

Why You Should Teach What You Know

March 15, 2017

Here’s a myth worth busting… “Thanks to the Internet, the customers know more about the products than the sales people.” If you believe that, you’ve given up. Might as well close up now and avoid further losses. First, not all customers do the research. There is a big group of people who… Read more

One Little Problem, One Big Mess

March 14, 2017

I went down to the basement this Sunday to turn on some lights and make sure it was presentable for a house showing in three hours. It wasn’t. At the bottom of the stairs I encountered a huge puddle of water and a steady drip, drip, drip from the floorboards… Read more

My Team Lost (And What We Learned)

March 11, 2017

Today my team lost at the CEO Challenge Junior Achievement event. Each team had six weeks to come up with a viable business idea and then present it to judges in a competition against twelve other teams. I worked with one of the teams from my alma mater, Jackson High… Read more

Hinkley Donuts, Or How to Go Above and Beyond

March 10, 2017

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… Read more

Hiring People Who Believe

March 8, 2017

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. Their issues are interesting. They hire hygienists… Read more

What Your Website Needs

March 6, 2017

You’re not going to do it yourself. You’re too busy. You have ordering and managing your inventory, hiring and training your staff, processing all the paperwork, creating and executing an advertising campaign, and all the other stuff like merchandising, selling, and even cleaning the bathroom on your to-do list. The last… Read more

Before You Start Advertising

March 2, 2017

I am working on my next book (new working title “Most Ads Suck: But Not Yours”). It will help you write copy that gets noticed, remembered, and acted upon, whether for digital, print or broadcast consumption. It is an in-depth take on one of my more popular speaking topics –… Read more

Words of Wisdom From 1969

February 28, 2017

Here is another gem I found buried in a file, long forgotten. My grandfather and founder of Toy House, Mayor Philip H. Conley, penned these words in June 1969, two months before hiring my dad as his new manager. I don’t know if this was penned to put his thoughts… Read more

Fascinating Interview with Half of Neiman-Marcus

February 27, 2017

Digging through old files I found a magazine article my dad had buried a few decades ago. It was a gem of an interview with Stanley Marcus of Neiman-Marcus fame. I had to keep checking the date on the article because I swear it could have been written today (other… Read more

The Power of the Network

February 24, 2017

I went to a networking event a couple nights ago. I knew walking in that the likelihood of picking up a high-paying speaking gig from this event was incredibly low. In fact, the idea that I would be able to pick up any speaking gigs from this event never really… Read more

Anticipating Your Customers’ Needs

February 19, 2017

I had the slot right after lunch. A lot of speakers hate that slot. People are tired after lunch, or they got an email that morning that required them to spend their lunch hour putting out a fire, or they have so much swirling around their brains from the morning… Read more

Not My Job

February 16, 2017

The downside to writing a job description for each position on your staff is that you can never remember to list everything that position needs to do. Something will eventually get left off the list. Or if you do remember everything, the list is so long no one reads it,… Read more

Stories From Toy Fair

February 15, 2017

The big show for the toy industry starts this weekend. It feels weird not gearing up for the trip to NYC. So instead of a trip to New York, I’m going to take a trip down memory lane. Here are some of my favorite stories… This first story goes back… Read more

Happy Valentines Day (or Harnessing the Power of the Heart)

February 14, 2017

People don’t buy products. They buy feelings. You aren’t selling toys or pet supplies or carpeting. You’re selling joy, contentment, pride, satisfaction. You’re selling the way someone feels after she makes the purchase. You’re selling the heart. For you, every day is Valentine’s Day. How would your business change if instead… Read more

How Do I Make My Emails More Interesting?

February 12, 2017

I said earlier that you should send out an email newsletter only when you have something new and interesting to say. Coming up with something new is easy. As a retailer you have more new products and new events and stories than you could ever find time to write them… Read more

How Often Should You Send Your Email Newsletter?

February 10, 2017

Google the question, “How often should you send your email newsletter?” and you’ll get a plethora of answers. According to my inbox, Lands End seems to think the answer is several times a day. For others it is daily. One report that actually surveyed US adults is suggesting weekly or monthly.… Read more

Get the Simple Things Right

February 7, 2017

I made three trips to a local service provider today. First, I checked their website for their hours. They had a beautiful, informative website. But no hours anywhere I could find. I know of other service providers in their category who open early, so after dropping my son off at… Read more

Don’t Build Your Own Obstacles (Part II)

February 5, 2017

If you’re a BBQ lover in the Detroit area, you recognize this door. Behind it is the tantalizing flavors of smoked meats, refreshing liquids from the Great Beer State, and an aroma that pleasantly stays in your nostrils for hours. You know it as Slow’s BBQ. In fact, you take… Read more

What Are You Doing to Grow?

February 2, 2017

I stood on the stage. It was small, in an awkward room with pillars that blocked sight lines. The room was supposed to hold 150 people, but I could see them setting up extra chairs in the back of the room. Even still, there were people sitting on the floor… Read more

Be Confident in Your Prices

January 30, 2017

Have you ever asked, “How much?” and you could tell the person selling you believed the price was too high? They usually start with something like, “Before I tell you the price, let me tell you all you get.” They might as well say, “I’m afraid to tell you how much… Read more

Not All Retail Experience is the Same

January 27, 2017

It dawned on me what a hypocrite I was last week. I was doing some talks to retailers at a conference and in my introduction I bragged about getting my start in retail at the age of seven when my grandfather paid my sister and me ten cents an hour… Read more

Don’t Build Your Own Obstacles

January 24, 2017

We’ve all heard the phrase KISS – keep it simple, stupid. We’ve also been exposed to Occam’s Razor – the simpler explanation is most likely the better one. But still, as business owners, we forget that and build our own man-made obstacles to make our lives harder. For example, I went… Read more

You’re Not Perfect

January 24, 2017

You’re not perfect. Far from it. Me, too. You will make mistakes. You will ruin someone’s Christmas. You will cause someone gray hairs. You will make someone miss an appointment because they had to deal with your carelessness. You will have some problems that aren’t even your fault. Maybe your… Read more

Always Be Practicing

January 20, 2017

Besides writing this blog and doing workshops and seminars and presentations, I have a few hobbies. One is singing and playing guitar. Tonight I get to perform in front of tens of people at the Poison Frog Brewery. I’ll be performing songs I’ve played hundreds of times in the last… Read more

How Will You Measure 2017?

January 19, 2017

The New Year is here. Your New Year’s Resolutions are gone. The inventory has been counted. The mail carrier is complaining about all the catalogs weighing down his bag. You’re trying to make sense of what just happened in 2016. (Or just trying to forget what happened in 2016.) 2017 is… Read more

Issues in the Mid-90’s

January 13, 2017

Here is another treasure I found while cleaning out old folders and files. I can tell since this is in cursive that I wrote this in the mid-90’s. I went back and forth between cursive and Small Caps in my notes for many years until switching to Small Caps almost… Read more

My Staff Training Philosophies

January 11, 2017

One of the fun things about closing up the shop is finding hidden treasures as I empty filing cabinets. This is one of those treasures. I don’t know when I wrote it, but I do remember writing it. I was on a flight home from a conference or workshop and… Read more

Our Version of the 1%

January 10, 2017

Lately everyone has been talking about the 1%. In politics that might be the ultra-rich. You either are them, hate them, or on your way to becoming them. In retail the 1% I want to talk about is your unsaleable merchandise. We ended our closing with only 1% of our inventory… Read more

When It Is Time to Move

January 8, 2017

Maybe it is declining sales in your current location, or maybe you’ve peaked out your sales and don’t have the room to expand. Maybe the demographics of your location have shifted or maybe your store’s product mix doesn’t fit in with the surrounding stores. Maybe a new development has made… Read more

In Retail it is All About Location

January 3, 2017

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… Read more

What I Learned in 2016

January 1, 2017

2016 was a learning experience for me. I went through two life-changing events that taught me a lot about myself and about business. I got a divorce and I closed my toy store. Although they weren’t the kind of things one typically wishes for, they were incredible experiences filled with… Read more

Friends With Benefits

November 7, 2015

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. This is a picture of the Cascades Humane Society… Read more

My Big Fat Email Subject Line Mistake

October 29, 2015

Your subject line is the most important part of your email. Period. Get it right and your email is a success. Get it wrong and nothing else matters. I learned that the hard way yesterday. We’re doing a big promotion on Election Day. Something new. The subject line in my… Read more

You Don’t Make it Up in Volume

October 28, 2015

(Warning: this post contains math. Proceed with caution.) “We lose a dollar on each one we sell, but we make it up in volume.” Yeah, we all know that isn’t right, but there is a mistaken belief that if you lower your prices, you can easily make up the lower… Read more

REI Stands Up for Their Beliefs – You Should Too

October 27, 2015

Your actions speak louder than your words. Put your money where your mouth is. Be true to your values. We’ve had plenty of examples of these platitudes by businesses, such as Chick Fil A and Hobby Lobby being closed on Sundays. But never has there been an example as extreme… Read more

Is Customer Service Dead?

October 26, 2015

I just spent several days in Las Vegas for the ABC Expo, the largest trade show for the juvenile product industry. Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (btw, they mean the money you gamble stays in Vegas). NO BEER FOR PHIL One thing that didn’t happen in… Read more

Dumb Logic – Don’t Fall for It

October 14, 2015

At a recent presentation I was told that more money is being spent on mobile advertising than on PC advertising. No source was given so I cannot verify the truth of that statement. Then again, it doesn’t matter. The presenter was using that info to tell an audience of small… Read more

How to Make Networking Events Actually Pay Off

October 13, 2015

I was speaking about the power of networking to a group of baby product sellers. One of them pointed out that he had never seen a pregnant person at a networking event. That pretty much sums up what most people get wrong about networking. Raise your hand if you know… Read more

You Aren’t as Well Known as You Think

October 12, 2015

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… “Name all the places you can think of… Read more

Buying Too Much or Buying Too Little for the Holidays

October 9, 2015

Let’s face the truth. Forecasting for your busy season is the single hardest decision you make if you are an independent retailer. As much as we all would like our purchasing to be just right, every year we seem to buy either too much or too little. Since you’re likely to… Read more

Changing Your Thinking on Coupons

October 7, 2015

I’m not a fan of coupons. There. I said it. If you’ve downloaded my free eBook Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget, you know I prefer giving away gift certificates with no strings attached – instead of coupons – to attract new customers. I also fear that using coupons… Read more

Coupons Aren’t Bad (When They are Rare and Special)

October 6, 2015

Back in the 90’s we started a direct mail newsletter for Toy House. We sent out a mailing every other month. Conventional Wisdom at the time said we needed to include a coupon with each mailing to help us “track the effectiveness” of the mailing. So we included a $20… Read more

The Need to Keep Raising the Bar

October 5, 2015

Bed Bath and Beyond just announced that their coupon strategy is backfiring and that their profits are hurting because everyone is waiting for the coupon to do their shopping. Umm… yeah. When you send the coupon out every week and never enforce the exclusions or expiration date, you pretty much… Read more

From Your Customer’s Point of View

October 2, 2015

Legend has it the day before Disney Land opened, Walt and crew arrived to do a walk-through. Upon entering the gates, Walt immediately kneeled down at the front of the park. His entourage was curious as he begged them to kneel with him. Once everyone was kneeling, he explained that… Read more

Newly Redesigned PhilsForum.com Website

September 23, 2015

I told you I was working on a new version of my PhilsForum.com website.It just went live a few minutes ago.Everything is up and running except this blog (which should be migrated over by late Thursday).In an effort to make it more search engine friendly, some of the pages you’re… Read more

Two New Social Media Platforms and How You Could Use Them

September 22, 2015

(Note: this post has been edited)Video is HUGE. Go look at your news feed in Facebook and count what percentage of posts are videos.Pretty high, isn’t it?If you aren’t using videos – Vine, YouTube, iPhone videos loaded to Facebook, etc. – then you might not be reaching all the people… Read more

Preparing Your Staff for Life

September 11, 2015

One of my talented regulars on my staff just put in her two-week notice. She is leaving me for a new full-time job teaching art.JUST A JOB (?)As much as I love my job and my business and the difference we make in other peoples’ lives, I know where Retail… Read more

Free or Gift With Purchase?

September 2, 2015

You just got some free merchandise from one of your favorite vendors. It was a low cost item that you didn’t sell anyway. You want to give them away to your customers.Do you give them away free, no strings attached, or do you only give them away free with a… Read more

Mrs. Hinkley Brought Me Doughnuts

August 29, 2015

I was unloading our delivery van when a car pulled up to side of the store. A window rolled down and a familiar face said, “Hey Phil, I brought you a little something.”It wasn’t a “little something”. It was Hinkley Doughnuts!! The number one rated doughnut in Michigan!!! Mrs. Hinkley… Read more

Media Versus Network?

August 25, 2015

Social media is where it is at!Social media is DEAD!Social media is FREE!Social media has NO ROI!Businesses are expanding because of social media!Businesses are wasting their money on social media!SOCIAL MEDIA, social media, social media, BLAH blah blah.Everyone has an opinion on whether Social Media is helping businesses grow or… Read more

The Ideal Employee

August 18, 2015

I was digging through some old staff newsletters and came across this article. At one of our staff trainings I asked the staff to create what they called The Ideal Employee…THE IDEAL EMPLOYEE(reprinted from the August 2002 Team News)Here is the composite of what you identified as the “Ideal Employee”…Attitude—The… Read more

Three Questions That Have All the Answers

August 17, 2015

(Note: I submitted this to Wizard Academy for a project where they asked business leaders what our two to three secrets are that have helped us succeed. My three secrets are these three questions…)I have been told that I have an uncanny knack for taking difficult ideas & concepts and… Read more

What I’ve Been Working On

August 12, 2015

Here’s what I’ve been working on (and why I haven’t posted in a while)…NEW WEBSITE FOR TOY HOUSEhttps://toyhouseonline.comOur old website wasn’t mobile-friendly and needed a few upgrades to make it responsive to different platforms (computers, phones and tablets). Google is telling people that non-responsive sites are going to get knocked… Read more

Always Have a Second Pair of Eyes

May 30, 2015

I came across this sign while delivering some baby furniture the other day.Three lessons…Never let your high school drop out make your signs. Always have an educated person proof read your signs before you put them up. Don’t trust spell-check.Enjoy your weekend smile.-Phil Wrzesinskiwww.PhilsForum.comPS Had the flavor been Spinach Souffle, I might… Read more

Teaching Your Staff to Listen

May 21, 2015

“I’ll have a poppy seed salad, half-size, with a baguette and drink for here, please.”“Okay. What salad would you like?”“Poppy seed. Half-sized.”“Okay, what side? You can have chips, baguette or an apple.”“Baguette.”“Would you like a drink?”“Yes.”“Will this be to go?”You can imagine this exchange. Maybe you have had this exchange.… Read more

The Chasm Between Early Adopters and Early Majority

May 20, 2015

Back in 1962, Everett Rogers introduced us to the Diffusion of Innovations that shows how people enter the market for any given idea, product or service. There are five groups of people who look at new ideas and products distinctively different. The percentages shown are consistent across the board in… Read more

A Simple Tip to Change Your Customer’s Lasting Impression

May 16, 2015

I figured this time it would be different. This time I was handing the cashier $33 for a $32.53 bill. This time I was only going to get change back. This time they wouldn’t place those bills in my hand first, then dump the change on top of those bills… Read more

I Want Your Business in My New Book

May 13, 2015

Have you downloaded the free eBook Making Your Ads Memorable? Getting people to listen/read/see and remember you is the first step in advertising. Getting them to take action is the second step. Most people fail on the first step and then wonder why the second step never happened.The guide is fairly straightforward… Read more

How to Get Customers to Fall in Love With Your Products

May 11, 2015

Dr. Ross Honeywill says there are two types of customers – NEO’s and Traditionals. Traditionals are all about the Price. NEO’s, however, care more about Design, Authenticity, and Provenance than Price. Get the NEO to fall in love with the product and you’ll make the sale.Roy H. Williams says there… Read more

Avoiding the Discount Mentality

May 8, 2015

Everyone wants a discount. Everyone wants a deal. Everyone wants a coupon. Or so you might be led to believe.One of my employees went to a fast food restaurant and said, “I’d like a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink.”The employee answered, “The drink isn’t included with that.”She… Read more

Super Heroes aren’t Born, They are Made

May 7, 2015

I saw the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie last night. Loved it!! I love the super hero movies in general. But some people are complaining that it is becoming over-the-top.Avengers: Age of Ultron copyright Marvel Comics, source IMDB.comIt seems like every few years they reboot the franchise for our… Read more

The One Loyalty Program You Need to Grow Your Business

April 27, 2015

Your brain has a gatekeeper. His name is Broca. He protects your brain from all the boring, mundane and predictable in the world.Roy H. Williams, aka, The Wizard of Ads, was the first person to introduce me to Broca. Most advertisements fail because Broca saw them coming a mile away.… Read more

Is It Just a Block?

April 14, 2015

Last night I showed my staff the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium featuring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Jason Bateman.I own a toy store, so the movie hits close to the heart.For those not familiar with the movie, there are three other characters of note in the movie… a young… Read more

I Need Your Help for my Next Book

April 3, 2015

(Update 5/3/17: The book is almost finished. But I need your help to get it off the ground. Please go to my indiegogo campaign and make a donation and I’ll send you a signed copy the day I pick up the books from the printer.)   It is time to… Read more

You Can Only Make One Point

March 27, 2015

I attended the TEDx UofM event last Friday and listened to fourteen different speakers. I was given a small booklet to write notes in. With fourteen speakers, each talking for thirteen minutes and a tiny book to record their thoughts, I figured the best thing to do was to distill… Read more

Your Customers Already Have the Power

March 17, 2015

Your customers have incredible power. They can take your business down overnight. One unchecked and unanswered complaint, one un-refuted accusation, one video of something you did wrong going viral, and you’re gone.Just ask Paula Dean.It didn’t use to be this way. You used to have all the power. You controlled… Read more

Sometimes No Actually Does Mean Yes

March 15, 2015

No means No.  Most of the time I agree.Here is where it doesn’t. When your No leads to their Yes.There is a toy company that just put it out to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) that they said No to Amazon. That’s a pretty big deal. That’s a… Read more

We All Get Distracted

March 2, 2015

I haven’t written in almost a month. I got distracted. It happens.This blog isn’t my first job. Technically it ranks around four or five or maybe six. I have my family and Toy House up there at the top. I have my Daddy Class at the local hospital. I have… Read more

Would You Ever Admit You Weren’t the Best?

February 6, 2015

Avis did.Avis ran a whole ad campaign for several years based on the fact that they were NOT the number one company in their industry.We’re number two. We try harder.They stood naked to the world. We are not number one. That admission was enough to garner a whole lot of… Read more

We Trust the Non-Sellers More

February 3, 2015

Late night infomercials have done more to harm the trust relationship between retailers and customers than almost anything else out there.You’ve seen the shows where the person claims to be the expert on something, but you have a hard time believing them because they are also trying to sell you… Read more

How Far Behind Your Products do you Stand?

February 1, 2015

Everyone claims they stand behind their products. The question is, how far back do you stand? Far enough to distance yourself when something goes wrong? Or right there to take care of even the most minor of problems?One of the most powerful currencies you can spend to buy credibility and… Read more

Oops, I Violated My Own Facebook Rules (and got “boosted”)

January 27, 2015

This Thursday, 1/29/15 is National Puzzle Day. Being a toy store that sells thousands of puzzles, that is a big deal to us. Naturally, we are going to celebrate it and I’m going to promote it via Facebook.But I violated one of my golden rules for getting around the Facebook… Read more

You Have to Pay for Trust

January 23, 2015

She doesn’t trust you. She has been burned by many retailers before you. If you want her to trust you, you better be ready to pay for that trust. You better be ready to show her what you are willing to sacrifice to earn her trust.Are you willing to give… Read more

Do Your Customers Trust You?

January 16, 2015

I’ve plowed my parking lot clean. I’ve held open the front door for my customer. I’ve greeted her with a genuine hello and thanks for coming in. I’ve avoided the dreaded Can I help you? phrase.Those are the easy obstacles to remove.The biggest obstacle is a lack of trust. A… Read more

The Four Worst Words in Retail

January 13, 2015

You know them. You’ve probably even said them. More than likely you started cringing even as the words were floating across the ether.Can I help you?You say those words and the response is automatic.No thanks, I’m just looking.Here is why those words are so bad.First, the knee-jerk reaction, even from… Read more

I Want a New Front Door

January 9, 2015

Our front doors suck.Okay, they could be worse. They could be something other than glass, heavier than hell, and hard to hold open. At least you can see through them into and out of the store, and most of the kids can push them to get in.There used to be… Read more

I Hate Slush

January 7, 2015

Winter weather has finally arrived in Jackson, Michigan. Snow, ice, wind chills below zero, the whole nine yards. Every trip to the bank means sloshing through the slush that accumulates at the curb. My shoes and boots are a mess.I hate slush.I can deal with the snow and the cold.… Read more

Here is a Year-End Evaluation Most Retailers Won’t Do

January 6, 2015

Try to describe in as complete detail as possible the typical experience your customer has in your store. Be as specific as you can from her parking spot through the front door all the way through checkout.Take your time. This is an important exercise. You can even do this with… Read more

A Journey of a Thousand Miles…

January 5, 2015

We all know the proverb… A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.We all know January is the month of making resolutions and getting started on that first single step.I’ll throw another favorite saying out at you… Success is a journey, not a destination.Maybe your journey really… Read more

Getting Around the Facebook Algorithms

December 6, 2014

Everyone is lamenting the death of free posts for your company on Facebook. For the third time in the last year or so, even Facebook has said that if you want to play, you better be prepared to pay.Maybe you have already seen your organic reach plummet and are already… Read more

Launching a New Website – The Jackson Retail Success Academy

November 6, 2014

Back in February 2008, the newly hired director of The Enterprise Group, Scott Fleming, invited all the alphabet groups in town to a meeting to discuss how we were supporting existing retailers in Jackson.The DDA, SCMW, SBTDC, JLF, EDC, JCCC and MA were all there. I was there. Everyone but… Read more

What Kind of Candy are You Giving Out?

October 31, 2014

There was a house on the next block that gave out full size candy – Milky Ways, Snickers, Butterfingers and M&M’s. My friend Peter and I spent one Halloween changing into multiple costumes and running up the street to that house at least five times.There was another house on the… Read more

Do You Have Enough Staff or Just Enough Staff?

October 28, 2014

There are two ways to determine the right amount of staff to have on your floor.You can have enough people to handle the average traffic expected that day.Or you can have enough people to handle the peak traffic moment that day.Yes, the second one costs you more in labor expenses… Read more

Anatomy of a Promotion That Pays

October 24, 2014

What if I told you that you could market your business to 6,000 customers and instead of costing you a penny, you would actually get paid $328 to do it?What if I told you that you would also get valuable market data from that promotion?What if I told you that… Read more

Tell Your Customers What You Stand Against

October 21, 2014

It is easier to rally a crowd against something than for something. Just ask any political campaign manager what really moves the needle.The same works in business advertising, too. Tell the people what you are against and watch a flock of like-minded people come see you. Tell the world why… Read more

9 Ways to Draw Traffic With Only $400 a Month

October 18, 2014

A fellow store owner was contemplating an advertising deal offered to her from Yelp that was going to cost about $400 per month. That got me thinking about what different things you could do to draw traffic with $400/month.You could rent a bouncy house and run it in your parking… Read more

Lose the Battle to Win the War

October 13, 2014

We all have those unreasonable customers. Ones that want to bring an item back months after they bought it, not in resell-able condition. Ones that demand money back without a receipt or they will flame you on Yelp. Ones that want you to do something that your stated policies say… Read more

Putting Amazon and eCommerce Into Perspective

October 10, 2014

It is about that time of year when you start hearing all the news about Amazon and Wal-Mart and low prices and discounts and the death of mom & pop shop retailers.Yeah, Amazon is huge. In 2013, they did $75.4 billion in sales. That was 28.6% of all US eCommerce!But… Read more

Think Big to Draw Traffic

October 8, 2014

I was visiting a jewelry store in a sleepy northern Michigan town. The store used to be known for having a $32,000 diamond ring. Now those of you in a big city might think no big deal, but to this community, it would take the entire population pitching in $6… Read more

Your Frontline Staff are Your Ambassadors

October 4, 2014

Seth Godin nailed it today.“Would you send the clerk on aisle 7 to speak to a head of state or vital partner on behalf of your company? Because that’s what he’s doing right now.”If you cannot answer a resounding Yes! to Seth’s question, you need to re-think your hiring and… Read more

Beating Amazon?? Win Your Customers’ Hearts

September 29, 2014

I just read an article from Entrepreneur.com called 5 Ways Your Small Business Can Topple Amazon This Holiday Season.Usually I like what Entrepreneur has to say, but they got me this time. Shame on them. (Next time shame on me).First, let’s start with the obvious… No small business is going to… Read more

It’s Not What You Say

September 26, 2014

Rick Segel stood in front of us and said, “Sixty-second manager training…”“Everyone take your finger and thumb and make the ‘okay’ sign. Now place that circle right against your chin. Put it right there on your chin.”At the same time Rick placed his own okay sign firmly against his cheek.We… Read more

Two Specialty Retail Truths

September 23, 2014

If you’ve been a specialty retailer for several years you know these two things will happen every year. Every. Single. Year.A vendor who used to be exclusively sold only in specialty stores will start selling to a big box category killer (like Home Depot, Office Depot, Barnes & Noble, Toys… Read more

Sometimes Second Place is the Winning Position

September 20, 2014

If you’re an indie retailer, quite often you get customers in your store that have already shopped (and even bought from) the competition. They know the big chains thanks to multi-million dollar ad campaigns. They know the big chains from the huge signs over the giant buildings on the busiest… Read more

Using Quotes to Train Your Staff

September 17, 2014

I love quotes. One of my favorites is this beauty from Eleanor Roosevelt…“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”I use quotes during staff meetings. I use them in all my presentations. I use them in our team newsletters. I use them here in this blog.… Read more

Two Strategies for Independent Retailers

September 16, 2014

I’m reading a fascinating book called The Man Who Wore Mismatched Socks about an indie brewing company in England fighting against the big corporate brewery who is trying to buy out and destroy all the competition.Sound familiar?In the book, the current head of the indie brewery says something profound…“As you… Read more

Reinvention as a Strategy

September 13, 2014

I was out in Las Vegas last week for a trade show. I hadn’t really been on the strip in a few years. Things had changed.The casinos were still there, still filled with blinking lights and maze-like aisles of machines. The fancy restaurants still stood guard on the edges of… Read more

It’s All About the Story

September 3, 2014

One final thought from my trip to Walt Disney World…I took two teenage boys to the land of pink princesses, Frozen queens, and fairy tales come true. I took two roller coaster freaks who think Cedar Point (a mere 2.2 hour drive from us) is the Mecca of amusement parks… Read more

The Waiting Game – Disney Style

September 2, 2014

We waited in line for Space Mountain and played video games while we waited.We waited in line for Toy Story Midway Mania and were transported to a room with larger-than-life toys and a story-telling Mr Potato Head while we waited.We waited in line for Mount Everest Expedition and explored a… Read more

Making Memories One Guest at a Time

August 29, 2014

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom averages around 47,000 visitors a day. Everything about the park, however, is designed to make one person feel special, not 47,000. Let me explain.There were four young children on my left. My family sat to my right. We were all parked on the curb halfway… Read more

What You Have in Common with Disney

August 27, 2014

I spent last week at Walt Disney World. As with any theme park, there are always upgrades being done. But instead of just “pardon the dust” signs, Disney plastered their walls with Walt-isms. I snapped this picture of one while chasing my boys to the next ride…“We keep moving forward,… Read more

Better Than When They Came In

August 26, 2014

The New York Times did an interview piece with fashion icon Michael Kors and famous restaurateur Danny Meyer. (You can read the whole interview here.)Danny summed up great customer service in one line…“Great hospitality is taking however we three felt before we came here and making us feel a little… Read more

Have You Tried This?

August 13, 2014

Another restaurant closed in town. They posted a wonderfully grateful goodbye on Facebook, thanking everyone from the staff to the suppliers to the customers to the city leaders (well, okay maybe not that last one). They even apologized for the inconvenience of closing. They said they gave it their best… Read more

Moms, Mobile Phones, and the Transactional Customer

August 10, 2014

I have been bombarded with companies selling me on the merits and benefits of Mobile Marketing. The main focus is sending out texts with coupons and deals to people in the vicinity. Some of these companies are offering me packages less than $20/week. Others want me to commit to thousands… Read more

What are You Doing to Reach the Influencers

August 9, 2014

McDonald’s spent millions advertising the Happy Meal to children. Yet, who ultimately controls what a child eats? The parent, of course. Yet, McDonald’s made billions from the Happy Meal by advertising to the strongest influencer.There is a bra store near me that specializes in custom-fitted and hard-to-find sizes of bras.… Read more

When Lions Lead Lions

August 6, 2014

Someone tagged the railroad bridge at the end of our block.It says, “An army of sheep lead [sic] by lions will always defeat an army of lions lead [sic] by sheep.”All four cars at the light praised me when I took this picture, thinking that I was going to report it… Read more

Can You Call in Favors?

July 30, 2014

Could you call a media person right now and cash in a favor?Maybe ask a reporter or photographer to cover an event you’re hosting?Maybe get a little live air-time with the local morning-drive DJ?Maybe get a quote in the paper?Maybe get an article on the op-ed page?Maybe get some air-time… Read more

A Clean Business is a Happy Business – Three Reasons to Get Out the Paint Brush

July 26, 2014

I hadn’t washed my car in weeks. When it was sunny, I didn’t have the time. When I had the time, it was raining. I finally got it done two days ago.As I was toweling off a few last sprinkles, I felt a little extra bounce in my step. There… Read more

The Best Sweepstakes/Email for Small Businesses

July 23, 2014

You all know I’m a fan of Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads. (Look down the right-hand column to see how many posts I’ve tagged him.)You also know I have studied a number of Wizard of Ads Partners like Tim Miles and Jeff Sexton and follow a lot… Read more

Go BIG or Go Home – A Lesson in PR

July 18, 2014

Your store just isn’t that important. You aren’t creating hundreds/thousands of jobs at one time. You aren’t attracting tens of thousands of people into town all at once. You aren’t creating multi-millions of dollars of economic impact. You aren’t raising tens of thousands of dollars for charity.The news media isn’t… Read more

The Signals You Unwittingly Send to Your Customers

July 16, 2014

While we’re on the topic of Signals you send your customers, here are few more to think about…The weeds growing in the bushes next to your store. Gee, they must not be into taking care of their environment. I wonder what else they don’t take care of.The old, faded, peeling… Read more

You Wouldn’t do THAT to Your Customer, Would You?

July 14, 2014

Would you treat your customer with kindness right up until the end and then kick them in the face after they gave you their money?No, of course you wouldn’t. Yet you do.Would you tell your customers – Don’t come around here… We don’t want you… We’re all about ourselves, not… Read more

Three is Better Than One

July 11, 2014

Last fall we installed a chalkboard on the side of our building with the words MY BEST MEMORY IS… at the top and lines for people to fill in the blanks.We did it for three reasons.1. Because we knew it would generate talk. It did, too. Lots of it. We… Read more

Team Building and Business Building – The Principles are the Same

July 9, 2014

There is an article floating around about Team Building Gone Bad.As a business owner, you’ve heard about Team Building – doing activities to help bring the team closer together and increase communication, cooperation, and trust. You’ve probably thought about doing something with your own staff.Before you do, do me (and… Read more

Seven Reasons Why You Should Accept American Express Cards

July 8, 2014

I’ve heard the arguments against accepting American Express in your store. They charge too much. They don’t deposit as fast as other cc’s. Everyone has another form of payment. I’ve never lost a sale…All valid (kinda).Here are seven reasons why you should still accept it.The average Amex transaction is three… Read more

The Perfect Sale

July 5, 2014

I was just at Bob & Sue Negen’s Whizbang Training Retail Success Summit and Bob talked about trying to achieve the Perfect Sale.There are two Perfect Sales out there. From your point of view and from the customer’s point of view.From your point of view…You sold them everything you possibly could,… Read more

Write Your Ad to One Specific Person

June 27, 2014

Christmas Eve, Nineteen Sixty-Five. He didn’t know if he would make it. Nine months of active duty, he missed his family. And he was an uncle now. His sister had a baby girl, a precious little child for which a stuffed animal from an airport gift shop just wouldn’t do.  As his dad picked him… Read more

Do Sex and Humor Sell?

June 25, 2014

Some like to rip theirs off quickly in the heat of the moment.  Others run their fingers down the seam, taking it off slowly savoring every second.  Pulses quicken, breathing deepens, the anticipation is almost agonizing.  Usually it’s the teddies, occasionally polka dots.  Always there is a smile.  There’s nothing… Read more

What Will it Take to Move the Needle?

June 23, 2014

Most people trying to persuade others to their point of view will bring out mounds and mounds of data. Stacks that reach as high as the ceiling fan. Piles that will collapse all but the most stout table. And if that isn’t enough, we’ll pile on even more.But does the… Read more

Dollars Left on the Table

June 19, 2014

You have a front line staff. You pay them to work with the customers and sell your products. Sometimes they get it right and make more money for the business. Sometimes they leave dollars on the table.All this year I have worked with my staff on how to raise the… Read more

How to Write Like a Poet

June 18, 2014

Poets force you to see things differently.Poets get you to feel things you weren’t already feeling.Poets influence you with words.Advertisers rarely make you crack open an eye.Advertisers rarely make you feel anything but indifference.Advertisers rarely use the right words.Unless the advertiser writes like a poet.A groan echoed through the terminal.… Read more

No One Likes to Listen to Your Ads

June 17, 2014

Could you stand up to the microphone at a poetry slam and read your radio ads?How fast would you be booed off the stage?I read fourteen of my radio ads the other night. One after the other. Didn’t get booed. Lots of snapping of the fingers (the way you applaud… Read more

Take More Risks with Your Advertising

May 20, 2014

(Warning: this blog post contains math – lots of math. Proceed at your own risk)Your traffic comes from three sources…Repeat CustomersReferral CustomersAd-Driven CustomersI was asked once to write down the percentage of customers I believe are Repeat Customers. I wrote down 60%. I guessed 25% for Referral Customers. That left… Read more

Give Them Something to Talk About

May 16, 2014

Roy H. Williams told you that to get Word-of-Mouth you have to do one of three things…Over-the-top DesignOver-the-top Customer ServiceOver-the-top GenerosityThis 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… Read more

Self Service is NOT Customer Service

May 12, 2014

The email read…Hi Phil,I noticed you missed our free webinar on Wednesday, How to Make Your Customers Fall in Love With Self-Service. No worries — I know how busy this time of year can be!Gee, sorry I missed that. NOT.Why would I want to make my customers fall in love… Read more

The Kind of Reviews You Want Your Customers to Write

May 10, 2014

Yesterday’s blog was an example of what not to do. Today is the kind of review you get when the front line staff knows how to make an experience wonderful…“We’re always impressed with customer service at the Toy House, but yesterday was over the top. Our family was there because… Read more

Your Front Line Staff is Selling You Short

May 9, 2014

I got this story from a fellow toy store owner who took her son to a different toy store and gave me permission to share her experience…“My son had a doctor appointment yesterday that was really hard for him. I told him that we passed a toy store along the… Read more

Creating a Shareworthy Customer Service Culture

May 6, 2014

We all know Customer Service is our calling card. It is our path to success. It is the one thing where we can excel far greater than our competitors and kick their asses to the curb.But how do you change the culture of your store to make Shareworthy Customer Service… Read more

Features and Benefits Don’t Close the Sale

May 5, 2014

If you’re in sales, you’ve been taught Features and Benefits over and over. Show them the Feature and explain the Benefit they get from that feature.It does this (feature)… so that you get this (benefit)…Show them the F&B and you’ll close the sale… Or not.Probably not.As Bob Phibbs, aka The… Read more

I Have a Money Tree

April 26, 2014

I have a Money Tree sitting on my desk. It promises me that if I give it sunlight, water it, and praise it, I will get money as if it grew on trees.I don’t know.I have twelve other “Money Trees” in the store. They are named Ruth, Erica, Lakisha, Kristina,… Read more

Don’t Disturb the Bus Driver! (A Lesson from a High School Field Trip)

April 25, 2014

I went on a field trip with my son put on by his band teacher.We saw the Detroit Symphony Orchestra do a Bugs Bunny show – they played the music while the cartoons played on the screen. (Kill the wabbit!!). Took me back to the Saturday mornings of my childhood.We… Read more

You are in the Job of Persuasion

April 22, 2014

Your job is simple – to persuade.Persuade the best people to work for you.Persuade those people to do more for you than they thought possible.Persuade your vendors to give you good terms for the best products.Persuade your customers to visit you in droves.Persuade them to part with their hard-earned dollars.Persuade… Read more

For the Win – Best Customer Service Stories!

April 19, 2014

You’ve heard me talk about Over-the-Top Customer Service. See it in action in this article from Mental Floss.http://mentalfloss.com/article/30198/11-best-customer-service-stories-ever-Phil Wrzesinskiwww.PhilsForum.comPS Bring a tissue. A couple are real heart-string tuggers.PPS If you aren’t willing to bend over backwards like these companies did, don’t go complaining that no one ever brags about your… Read more

Getting Customers to Walk Those Last 20 Feet

April 18, 2014

“At the end of the day you’ll get nothing for nothing.” -Les MiserablesI’m on the planning committee for a new street festival that will happen this summer in downtown Jackson. It’s a big one. Artists, Musicians, Restaurateurs, Local Brewers and Wineries, a Color Run and more.Some of the merchants on… Read more

Teach What You Can Teach Part 2

April 16, 2014

In a follow-up to yesterday’s post, today I taught two high school classes. They were Child Development classes and I taught about the importance of Play for child development and how to find the right toys (tools) for Play. I’ve now taught this class to high schoolers, new parents, mom’s… Read more

Teach What You Can Teach

April 15, 2014

Question number one: What can you teach?Make a list right now. Jot it down on a napkin. Tell it to Siri. What topic(s) do you know enough about that you feel you could teach it to someone who knows nothing?Write. Down. Everything.I can teach…How to tie a shoeHow to squash… Read more

Brick and Mortar Retail is Alive and Kicking!

April 14, 2014

According to a report from EMarketer, retail sales last year were a whopping $4.53 Trillion. Yes, with a T!E-commerce was $264 Billion of that. That’s 5.8%. Oh, and M-commerce – you know, those mobile apps that are the new hot thing you need to have that are going to eat… Read more

The Sales Process Broken Down

April 13, 2014

This year I am leading my sales staff to water. Fortunately, they are not horses. They are drinking it up.At our monthly team meeting I am breaking down the sales process into small, drinkable chunks.In February we talked about Being Accessible. Customers don’t like to approach a crowd of employees,… Read more

Grow Your Business by Excluding, Not Including

April 12, 2014

“Without a doubt, networks yearn to be bigger and more inclusive. The challenge is to do that without losing what made them work.”   -Seth Godin (read the whole post here) As I was reading that statement from Seth, all I could think about was how this is probably the… Read more

Doing Business When Your Street is Closed

March 22, 2014

Winter is finally giving way to that other season – Construction. Orange cones are popping up everywhere.And shortly after that, if you’re a downtown business, you’ll probably be facing Festival Season – that time of year when the city shuts down the street for a car cruise or an art… Read more

Be the Best at One Thing

March 18, 2014

Quick, name the second place person in the MVP balloting. Any sport. Bet you can’t unless it was your favorite player who got snubbed.When they give out the awards at the end of a sports season, the big winners are always the leader in at least one category. In fact,… Read more

Listening Your Way to Better Sales

March 17, 2014

“The fool speaks, the wise [business]man listens.” -African ProverbHere is one tip to increase your business this year. Are you listening?Be a better listener.What your customer is saying is extremely important. Over-the-top important. It is the center of her universe and the whole reason she is in your store trying… Read more

Setting Yourself Apart From the Pack

March 11, 2014

I read a fascinating book called Built to Sell by John Warrillow. The book is a business parable about a guy who owns an advertising agency and wants to sell it. His mentor shows him how to transform his business to make it salable.Most retailers would dismiss the book because… Read more

My Three Biggest Facebook Posts This Year

March 5, 2014

This year I have had three totally different Facebook Posts that stood out among the rest.The first was this…Can you all help me out? I need to hype up our JUST FOR FUN SALE that starts this Thursday 9:30am to 6pm.Hundreds of great toys, hobby and baby products at deep discounts… Read more

Is it a Business or Just a Job?

March 3, 2014

I work with a lot of smaller retailers – start-ups and indies who are just getting going in this crazy industry we’ve all chosen. Many of them get this one question wrong.Did you start a business or just create a job?Most people think they are starting a business, but in… Read more

People Do Business With People

February 25, 2014

A friend of mine is going through a change with her business. She opted out of a franchise agreement and is now going independent.She had a momentary bout of panic when the franchise webpage listed her store as “closed”. She wasn’t closed. She was open. Just doing business under a… Read more

The Best Ways to Grow Your Facebook Reach

February 21, 2014

Everyone is buzzing about the Facebook Fraud.Real or not, paying for FB to “promote” your page is not a smart way to grow your business.You need FANS not “Likes”. You want people who will engage and share. You want people who want to hear from you. You want people who… Read more

Negotiating About Price

February 18, 2014

This article from RetailCustomerExperience.com should be required reading of anyone working indie retail.We all get told at one point or another, “Your price is too high!“This article gives you clear responses that that anyone can use to handle such a situation.(Reader’s Digest version for those lazy people who don’t want… Read more

Tired of Saying No?

February 17, 2014

Everyone wants a discount. Everyone wants a deal. They bombard you daily. Can you match this price? Can you give us this break?You’re tired of saying no. Me, too.What if instead you started saying Yes?Yes, I can do that. Yes, I can offer that. Yes, I can do something.What would… Read more

It’s the Super Bowl! Don’t be Boring!!

February 2, 2014

Tonight is the Super Bowl. Half of the talk will be about the game. Half of the talk will be about the advertising.Everyone who spent the $4 million for a commercial to air tonight is hoping for one thing – Talk.Good or bad.Just talk about the ad. Please.We will be… Read more

Don’t Marry Your Inventory

January 30, 2014

Yes, you bought it. But not for the long term. Your inventory is more like a one-night stand. Love it and leave it. Love it and sell it. Love it and let it go.Today I am kicking a lot of my inventory to the curb. The Just for Fun Sale… Read more

How Much Cash is Enough?

January 3, 2014

(Warning: This post includes math. If you wish to stick your head in the sand and stay away from all things math, do so now.)This is a big question at the end of the year for pretty much all retailers, especially us seasonal retailers. We’re flush with cash from the… Read more

Top Ten Blogs from 2013

January 2, 2014

A lot of people thought these blogs were interesting enough to tell others about it. Just in case no one shared these with you, here are the top ten most shared blogs from 2013.Are You Open-to-Buy? Inventory Management is one of the most difficult and costly things to do in… Read more

Give Your Business a Physical – Track These Numbers, Too

December 31, 2013

There are many different metrics you need to measure to determine the health of your business. Two of the biggest are Profits and Cash Flow. If both of those are good, your business is probably doing well.But that doesn’t mean you don’t look at other numbers, too. That would be… Read more

Many Happy Returns

December 27, 2013

Returns are one simple way to set your store above the rest in terms of customer delight. The more you can do to make a customer happy while making a return, the better.Here is what I reminded my staff regarding returns…MANY HAPPY RETURNSActually, we hope we have very few returns,… Read more

“No, We Don’t Have That”

December 20, 2013

In these final days, the most common phrase spoken by retail employees everywhere is…“No, we don’t have that.” Or its cousin, “No, we’re out of stock.”Make sure in tomorrow morning’s huddle that you remind you staff that there is a better response…“Let me show you what I do have.”Learn to… Read more

Maximizing the Final Week

December 19, 2013

Five Shopping Days left! Internet no longer a viable option. They have to come see you. Here are some things to remember to make this weekend HUGE!Prep the StoreGet everything out of the warehouse and on the floor, even if you’re making creative piles in the middle of an aisle… Read more

You’ve Ruined My Christmas!

December 16, 2013

“You’ve ruined my Christmas!”We’ve all heard it. You can’t be a retailer with 4th quarter traffic without hearing that a few times. The problem is that we often let that statement ruin our own Christmas.Why do we give it so much weight?Why do we let one customer ruin our day,… Read more

Mandatory Breaks – This Means You, Too!

December 14, 2013

It is easy this time of year to work long hours without break. Easy. But not good.Your staff needs to have scheduled breaks to keep them fresh. They don’t have the driving passion you do to refuel them when they hit the wall. They need breaks they can see coming.… Read more

Make the Guys Happy This Week

December 13, 2013

Starting today, the guys are hitting the stores. We are last-second shoppers by nature. Ladies shop fifty two weeks a year. The men? Ten days tops. Although I won’t speak for all guys, here are three things you should do to maximize their transactions.Limit their choices. Guys don’t want to… Read more

Corporate-Speak and Fifty-Cent Words

December 12, 2013

This was in a blog I follow…“In the next three years, retail will reinvent itself as omni-channel leaders reach for customer relationship, relevancy, and reciprocity. A new replacement cycle of enterprise, planning, and commerce systems will anchor complex companywide business transformation for immersive experience and commerce. Quick-to-market leaders will improve… Read more

The Two Distinctly Different Customers

December 11, 2013

This video is a great summation of many of the ideas and thoughts I have shared with you. I want you to watch it and think about the Transactional vs Relational Customer. I want you to watch it and think about the importance of knowing and showing your Values. I… Read more

When to Stop Buying

December 9, 2013

Christmas is just over two weeks away. Your inventory is running down. You know about the holes on the shelves that you have secretly covered up by spreading things out. You know what you’re out of stock and won’t be able to get back in before Christmas. You’re worried you… Read more

The Mortar Between Your Bricks

December 6, 2013

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… Read more

Call Me Farmer Phil

December 4, 2013

A toy store in December. Time to harvest the crops. Time to gather the rewards from a long year of planning and preparing for this moment.Yet here we are still planting seeds.Check out this FB post from a customer…We’re always impressed with customer service at the Toy House, but yesterday… Read more

The Next Transaction

November 12, 2013

Do you know the real goal of each transaction? To earn the Next Transaction.Unless you’re closing the store and selling off your inventory, you’re going to need that next transaction, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on.You always need one eye on the horizon,… Read more

Treat Your Sales Reps as Partners

November 8, 2013

The dreaded sales rep. We all have one. Maybe more than one. The rep that just doesn’t get you or your business. The rep you wish didn’t get all the good lines. The rep who makes you wonder if they even care. The rep that makes you roll your eyes… Read more

Do Something Over-the-Top

November 7, 2013

You still have time to pull this off. Christmas is still 48 days away. Do something Over-the-Top for your customers this season.Is parking a problem for your store? Offer Free Valet Parking. Get some young motivated drivers to move the cars to the distant lot (hire the local cross-country team… Read more

Asking the Right Questions

November 4, 2013

The first few years I interviewed people for positions on the team I asked a bunch of questions. Most of them were the wrong questions.I asked a lot of “What if…” questions. You know, “What would you do if a customer comes up to you with a complaint about…?”Questions that… Read more

Making a List, Checking it Twice

November 2, 2013

No, I’m not Santa (although some people in Jackson might disagree).The list I am making is the list of traits my seasonal staff needs to have. Things like…A willingness to learnKnowledge of toysKnowledge of play and play valueAbility to do mathAbility to work on a computerA strong, confident voiceFriendlinessProblem SolverCan… Read more

Redefining the Terms

November 1, 2013

You don’t sell products. You sell feelings.The jeweler doesn’t sell diamond rings. The jeweler sells the look on her face when he opens the box and asks, “Will you marry me?”The shoe salesman doesn’t sell shoes. The shoe salesman sells the bounce in your step and the self-confidence you have… Read more

Buying Word of Mouth Part 2

October 29, 2013

I bought people talking about my store for only $418.This next project cost about the same – and I didn’t have to pay for it!!Candy Chang started a project down in New Orleans by turning sheets of plywood into interactive works of art by asking people to finish this sentence… Read more

Your Store is an Extension of You

October 28, 2013

I’ve been preaching this point for a number of years. What is important to you is what you will focus on in your store.We have always been a prompt store. We close at 6:00pm, but we turn out half the lights at 5:55pm and start the process of closing down cash… Read more

If You’re Not Happy, Don’t Settle

October 27, 2013

I finished the stage, well at least the main part of it. We still have some decorations to complete, but the stage was up, the curtain was in place, people were using it.Something didn’t look quite right to my eye.This morning my wife made a suggestion. She was absolutely right.… Read more

Buying Word-of-Mouth

October 26, 2013

I bought Word-of-Mouth advertising.Paid just over $400 for it.There are four different ways you can consistently get people to talk about you.Over-the-Top DesignOver-the-Top ServiceOver-the-Top GenerositySharing SecretsRoy H. Williams taught me the first three. The fourth I figured out on my own.Yesterday during our Fourth Friday Game Night we decided to… Read more

The Ripple Effect

October 22, 2013

I attended a reunion for former staff at YMCA Storer Camps last weekend. One of the events was celebrating 75 years of their horse program including 50 years of a dedicated ranch just for would-be wranglers.Tom Brown brought out a horse named Zach. Zach was 29 years old and had… Read more

Head Cheerleader

October 21, 2013

Who is the head cheerleader for your business?Who is the one that puts the smile on everyone’s face and the determination in their hearts? Who picks people up when they are down, finds the silver lining in the cloud, points out the positives?Who raises the energy level up when it… Read more

What’s in a Name (Tag)? Money!

October 18, 2013

Do you and your employees wear name tags? Are they hidden down at the belt level or on a lanyard so that they turn backwards hiding your name?If your employees cannot be easily identified by name, you are missing one more chance to delight your customers.It is one thing to… Read more

One Very Important Person

October 12, 2013

You have an opportunity. A true VIP is coming to your door. Someone with a lot of influence. Friends in high places. Someone who makes the who’s who list every time, everywhere.You know you need to step up your game. You know you need to pull out all the stops… Read more

The Math Behind a Sale

October 11, 2013

I had a vendor recently ask me to offer their items at 25% off for a month. They would split the difference of the sale off the wholesale price (12.5% discount on the cost). They figured this would be a big enough deal to drive a lot of traffic.On the… Read more

Can You Really Buy Loyalty?

October 10, 2013

How many of those loyalty scan cards do you have on your keychain? Your grocery store? Your pharmacy? Your office supply store?Are you going in regularly with those coupons they mail you? Does it make a difference where you shop and how much you buy? For some customers, yes it… Read more

But Why Would I Need That?

October 8, 2013

You can lead a horse to water…My friend, Rick, is a successful dentist with a wonderful practice. He has learned some principles along the way that he shares with other dentists. Good stuff, too, that makes a difference in their practices.My friend, Chris, is an amazing visual artist. He is… Read more

Anatomy of a Staff Meeting – Play Value

October 7, 2013

THE GOALEvery staff meeting needs a goal. Not just any goal, but a big goal. Go big or go home.This morning’s staff meeting goal was: This will be a successful meeting if we understand the importance of Play Value, how our toys offer Play Value and the special needs of… Read more

Broken Communication, Broken Trust

October 6, 2013

One of my employees bought a new house. She got bombarded with the typical mail a new home owner gets. Tons of offers for phone and Internet and cable services. She received close to a dozen offers from one particular company for her cable and Internet.She finally decided to talk… Read more

More Than a Fair Exchange of Value

October 4, 2013

You all know I follow a bunch of blogs. You’ve probably read a blog or two on my blog roll. I read them because they challenge me. They challenge my thoughts on retail. They challenge what I think I know. A few minutes ago, I read this on a blog… Read more

Three More Ways to Freshen Up Your Store

October 2, 2013

I gave you four inexpensive ways to make your store look fresh.Here are three more things you can do that might cost a little more, but will definitely freshen up the place.Do a Wholesale Change of Fixtures. Move them around. Change the directions. Change the locations. Keep in mind things… Read more

Four (Cheap) Ways to Make Your Store Look Fresh

September 30, 2013

When was the last time you changed things up? Is everything where it was last year? Even if the products have changed, if you haven’t moved the categories around since last year, your store looks soooo 2012.Yet, in a store like mine, where we have huge sections and categories, just… Read more

When to Speed Up, When to Slow Down

September 28, 2013

One speed does not fit all in the retail world. Some shopping trips are quick hitters, kinda like guerrilla warfare – get in, get out, move on. Some are slow, easy strolls. A time for browsing, a time for gabbing, a time for pondering (a time for grabbing?).And even within… Read more

Leading from the Conductor’s Podium

September 27, 2013

The conductor of a symphony orchestra has the best seat in the house. All the music is focused right at him. From the podium he hears and sees everything that is going on. He sees things in the back row of brass that the violinists in the front row can’t.… Read more

Storytelling 101

September 26, 2013

“Tell more stories!” they shouted at you. “Stories sell!” they exclaimed. “It’s the best way to market yourself!” they bellowed. After the ringing in your ears faded, you said, “Okay, I have stories to tell.” You start telling them. But deep in the back of your mind, where you let… Read more

Motivating Your Employees

September 25, 2013

This Friday I am doing a talk here in Jackson on motivating your employees. The talk is part of the Small Business Summit put on by OSB Community Bank and takes place at the Grand River Marketplace from 11:30am to 2pm. (Warning: the content of this presentation will make lesser minds… Read more

Emotional Responses

September 24, 2013

“The mind uses logic to justify what the heart has already decided.” -Roy H. WilliamsThe best way to get into the customer’s mind is through her heart. Tell stories. Share values. Speak to the emotions.On the flip side, however, the best way to hold yourself back is to make business… Read more

Are You Planning or Learning?

September 21, 2013

Five years ago, how many of you predicted that Amazon would be the retail power that it is today? How many of you accurately predicted the housing market collapse? How about the Great Recession? Did you nail that one, too?None of us did.Any Five-Year Plans that were made in the… Read more

What Do You Sell?

September 18, 2013

I don’t sell toys. I sell Play Value.I don’t sell baby products. I sell Peace of Mind, Safety, and Love.I don’t sell books. I sell Imagination, Travel, and Dreams.I don’t sell hobby products. I sell Creation.So why would I be advertising toys, baby products, books and hobbies when I should… Read more

Pick One

September 14, 2013

My wife was on the phone calling to get some info about a project we wanted done.The guy on the phone said, “Hold on a second.”She could hear some rustling around, heard him call another person’s name. He finally came back with an answer that she wasn’t sure was directed… Read more

I’ve Been Slimed

September 13, 2013

We all remember that scene in Ghostbusters where Bill Murray’s character comes in contact with a ghost in a hotel. A nasty little creature that leaves his character covered in icky goo.I had that feeling last week. It started out harmless. A photo shoot for our church for the new directory.… Read more

1063 Sailors

September 11, 2013

One thousand and sixty three sailors. That’s the crew size for the USS Arkansas Battleship on which my grandfather sailed during World War II. He was on board June 6, 1944 just off the northern coast of France. He was on board March 25, 1945 when the bombing began at… Read more

Marketing is Sharing

September 9, 2013

My wife likes sharing. Put her in a room full of other women and it isn’t a gabfest. It’s a sharefest. Right now, with two teenage boys, it is all about college and college prep. Every uncovered secret gets spread. At last Friday’s football game, while she and the ladies… Read more

Don’t Be the Little Piggy

September 7, 2013

We all know about the little piggy. He went wee, wee, wee all the way home.As you craft your message for your potential customers this fall, don’t be the little piggy. Take all the “we” statements out of your marketing and change them to “you” statements.We’ve been in business since… Read more

Peeing Before the Race

September 6, 2013

Jeff Foxworthy cracks a wonderful joke about a financial planner who advises that you take half your earnings and shove them under a mattress and the other half down to the track and bet it on the dog “who does his business just before the start of the race.”You laugh… Read more

We Need More Rock Stars

September 3, 2013

Not just any Rock Stars – we need Retail Rock Stars. You know the stores I’m talking about. The ones you would be most disappointed if they closed. The ones who always seem to have traffic and buzz and excitement. The ones you think should probably be in a book… Read more

Inspiration and Creativity

August 16, 2013

“Where do you get your inspiration for the ads you run on the radio?”“Where do you get the creativity for the ads you run on the radio?”I doubt a week goes by where I am not asked at least one of those questions.My stock response is that’s the fun part… Read more

Pump Up the Values

August 10, 2013

We took a look at our Core Values of Having Fun, Helpful, Educational and Nostalgic to see where we might be lacking. If you’ve read Understanding Your Brand then you know the importance of making sure your business shows your core values in everything you do.Having Fun: We have toys out for… Read more

Powerful Networking

August 5, 2013

I’m meeting with my US Congressman Tim Walberg in two weeks. He agreed to hold a round table discussion for retailers to talk about the Marketplace Fairness Act and other topics.(Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 8am at the Chamber office for all my local peeps reading this – please join me)A… Read more

Business Boot Camp This Thursday

August 3, 2013

This Thursday, August 8, 2013, I will be holding a four-hour Business Boot Camp on Marketing and Advertising.Four hours of world-class information on Branding and how to make yours stand out in the crowd.Four hours of deconstructing the myths of Advertising, unlearning all those things uninformed advertising sales weasels people… Read more

Retail Math is Not So Scary

August 2, 2013

No one signed up for my June Business Boot Camp on Retail Math. (Well, okay, a couple people did, but not enough for the Chamber to make it a go.)I think I know why.Retail Math is scary. So many numbers and ratios and calculations. So much confusion over terminology. Is… Read more

Two More Freebies For You

July 31, 2013

Why do I give it away for free? It is part of my Core Values to be helpful.Don’t get me wrong. I love getting paid to sell toys and baby products. I love getting paid to travel across the country and impart some of the lessons I’ve learned to a… Read more

Is Word-of-Mouth Advertising or Customer Service?

July 30, 2013

I recently did a workshop in Jacksonville, Florida for PRO on Customer Service. We started with a 45 minute presentation on Generating Word-of-Mouth.Most people think of Word-of-Mouth as a form of Advertising & Marketing, not Customer Service. They would be correct.But…The easiest way to get Word-of-Mouth is to offer over-the-top,… Read more

1949 Retail Wisdom

July 29, 2013

I found this old typed memo from my grandfather who founded Toy House in 1949 while sorting through the archives. It was stapled to the top of some mimeographed sheets (remember the mimeograph and it’s purple ink?) of a business plan outline.I think this alone could be the blueprint of… Read more

Showing Your Values

July 28, 2013

I am digging through old archives of our store. One of the Core Values of our business is Nostalgia. We are putting together a display of old pictures and old advertisements from the 1950’s and 1960’s.Tim Miles wrote a great post on whether or not you should use how long… Read more

Bye-Bye Buying (A Grandfather’s Wisdom)

July 27, 2013

In 1951 my grandfather and founder of Toy House, Phil Conley, wrote his “Twenty-Two Important Retail Fundamentals”. I just uncovered them going through some old files.Wow!It was amazing how many of them are still true today. Take, for example, number 18 which is appropriate as many of us start buying… Read more

No Ads or Better Ads?

July 26, 2013

The most common complaint about television and radio is that there are too many ads. If that was really true, Satellite radio and premium TV would have killed advertising-sponsored broadcast media. They haven’t and it doesn’t look like they will.But the complaint still sits there and begs the question… Is… Read more

Own Your Mistakes

July 24, 2013

You will make mistakes. In business. In relationships. In parenting. In life. Own them. Admit you did them and learn from them. The worst thing we can do is try to find someone else to blame or be in denial about it.This applies to guys like Ryan Braun and Alex… Read more

Beware the Cocaine

July 16, 2013

This Thursday we are having our one and only big sales event of the year. We call it the Summer Fun Sale. My buddy, Randy, calls it the Make It Go Away Sale. Yes, it is a clearance sale where we mark all the slow moving merchandise, the dogs, down… Read more

Toy Store or Summer Camp?

July 15, 2013

Over the past several months my staff has been looking at all the parallels between our store and summer camp.Summer camps are built around a theme (i..e. space and science camp) and a set of core values (i.e. YMCA camps). Our store is built around the theme of toys and… Read more

A Great Use of Stories

July 13, 2013

I ran into Molly on a Saturday morning at the bank.“Phil, we’re having tours of our new building this summer. What are you doing this Tuesday at 5:30?”Molly runs the Center for Family Health, a healthcare facility for Jackson that is especially helpful for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured patients in… Read more

How Much Can You Remember?

July 5, 2013

We played a game at a baby shower for an employee. Someone brought out a tray with random items on it and we were supposed to look at it for about 30 seconds and then write down everything we could remember.While my memory is not quite photographic, I was the… Read more

Less is More (Powerful)

July 3, 2013

Take two bottles of perfume. Pour out half the perfume in each bottle. Now fill one of the bottles the rest of the way with water. Leave the other bottle with only perfume.Which perfume is more potent and powerful?Take a 60-second radio ad. Cut out all the black and unnecessary… Read more

Most Ads Suck

July 2, 2013

What is the big draw about satellite radio? No ads. We all hate that break in the station when we get bombarded with ads. Boring, blah, blah, blah ads.It isn’t that we don’t like ads. We actually do. We tune in to the Super Bowl just to see the ads.… Read more

Gardening, Training, and the Three Bears

June 29, 2013

The rains have been pouring down here at my store. Last night the river crested to the highest I have seen it in over 20 years. It touched the back corner of the building.My wife reported that all of our potted plants at home were swimming in their pots.That’s not… Read more

What Can You Get for $99?

June 25, 2013

What kind of return would you get if you learned one new technique that cost you nothing, but delighted customers even more than you do today? How would that impact your business for the remainder of the year?What kind of return would you get if someone revealed to you the… Read more

Herds, Flocks and Gaggles

June 24, 2013

When a lioness approaches a herd of zebras, she searches for the stragglers, the loners, the ones who have strayed too far away. She isn’t attacking the whole herd. There is safety in numbers and the zebras know it.When a flock of birds flies in formation, they can fly farther… Read more

Insurance Agents Don’t Understand Customer Service

June 21, 2013

I was in a company store to make a few changes to my cellphone plan (got a new phone for my 12 year old son, which is a whole ‘nuther topic). Got there about thirty minutes before they closed. They were busy. At least six sets of customers in the… Read more

I Tore Up My Office Yesterday

June 5, 2013

I freely admit it. I am not an overly organized guy. I hate filing papers away. I would rather just push it aside for later.We all know later never seems to come.Back in 1998 I moved into the office I currently occupy. Before then I had a desk on the… Read more

What Do You Struggle to Train?

June 1, 2013

In a couple weeks I will be doing a workshop at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy.  This is the big gathering of the specialty toy industry where many of the best independent toy stores will be attending.The workshop I am doing is on Staff Meetings… Read more

Is it a Win-Win?

May 25, 2013

Do you ever look for the Win-Win scenario?You win, the customer wins?They got their problems solved and the product they needed at a fair price, you got the sale and the smile and the long-term relationship.You win, the vendor wins?You got the product you needed at a margin you can… Read more

How Much Are You Investing in Your Business?

May 22, 2013

The Jackson County Chamber and I are teaming up to offer the best segments from the Jackson Retail Success Academy for all Jackson area businesses (and anyone willing to make the drive).Three classes. Three four-hour days. $250 investment in your business (or $99 per class if you cannot make all… Read more

What Makes Them Drive to See You?

May 20, 2013

I plopped down in the back seat next to a newborn baby. Cute little thing. Eyes still closed to the world.The new mama sat on the other side of the seat and asked, “Do we have the straps on right?”They had been in last week to get help installing the… Read more

Do You Know Who You Are?

May 17, 2013

Do you know who you are? No, not you. Your business. Well, okay, and you, too.Did you know that as much as you try to keep your business separate, your business is really simply you?You only have so much energy to give to your business. You only have so much… Read more

How to Handle the Crowd

May 13, 2013

I was at a trade show for the baby industry last week. One of those smaller shows with limited vendors and limited hours. My agenda was packed. One of my main vendors went out of business earlier this year and I was searching for a replacement. I had to budget… Read more

Selling in a Showrooming World

May 11, 2013

Information wants to be free.Everyone has a smartphone.Much of what you sell can be purchased online – often for less.It has never been easier for a customer to do all the research herself, scan a barcode, and get the best possible price.How are you going to compete?By doing what you’re… Read more

Information Gotta Be Free, A Good Salesperson is Priceless

May 3, 2013

What did we do twenty years ago when we wanted information on a certain product we were considering?Anyone remember?There was Consumer Reports. There were other magazines that might have done a review or two. There were your friends and family – a much smaller circle before Facebook helped us all… Read more

I Did Some Showrooming

April 27, 2013

Showrooming (verb): The act of going into a store to see a product and collect information, then buying it from a different source cheaper.It is the new bad thing that will be the demise of brick & mortar stores trying to compete with Internet warehouses with low overhead in tax-friendly… Read more

The Four Questions a Buyer Should Ask

April 22, 2013

One of my vendors did a survey of retailers to get ideas how they could service us better. I told them that there were really only four questions my buyers ask about a vendor before placing an order.Do I like the product enough to want to sell it?Would my customer… Read more

Plan For Success – Event Style

April 21, 2013

I’m writing this from a chair in the back of a large banquet hall outside of Chicago.  My son is here for the Regional Qualifier Yu-Gi-Oh Card Game Tournament. Registration opened at 8:30am (and he was first in line – made getting up at 4am worth it). The tournament was… Read more

What Does Your Customer Want to Know?

April 19, 2013

How much product knowledge is enough product knowledge? Simple. Ask yourself…What does the customer what to know?Then make a list for each product.The customer wants to know (in no particular order)…How much does it cost?Where was it made?What materials is it made out of?Why it will solve her problem?What makes… Read more

Tim’s Thing

April 17, 2013

Tim Miles is a smart guy. Funny, too. Oh, and quite tall. He makes up words like Shareworthy.He makes up other things, too, like this thing…It is really cool.Most of you instinctively see it for what it is.You have to first figure out the Goals and Values of your business… Read more

The Last Buy

April 16, 2013

The season is almost over and you’re out of a lot of things. Do you make that Last Buy?This is a question that haunts all retailers.If you don’t make the buy, you run the risk of not having what the customer wants which means you lose the sales and you… Read more

Tell the Story

April 15, 2013

I stayed at a quaint little Inn on the main drag in Manistee, MI last week. It was an old bank and office building that had been converted into the Ramsdell Inn.The lobby was all marble. The huge safe with the big vault door had been turned into a gift… Read more

Great Minds Discuss Ideas

April 13, 2013

Eleanor Roosevelt said,Great minds discuss ideas;Average minds discuss events;Small minds discuss people.I did a workshop on Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend. After the presentation, I had each table plan a training for their staff. At many of the tables the attendees were discussing ideas and getting excited about sharing… Read more

Everything I Possibly Can

April 12, 2013

I went to Manistee, MI and did a full day workshop on Shareworthy Customer Service (thanks, Tim, for that wonderful word). Part of my contract was to visit stores the day before and the day after the event to get a feel for the town and give them some one-on-one… Read more

Managing Expectations

April 7, 2013

Have you ever done something for a customer and been disappointed by her reaction?I mean, something really nice, quite special and unexpected, yet she didn’t respond in kind? She didn’t say thank you or decide to buy more, or promise to bring all her friends back to shop with you?She… Read more

Something for Dads, Something for You

April 6, 2013

(Note: this is a sales pitch. Kinda. There is a lesson at the end if you keep reading.)Twice a month I sit down at the hospital with new expectant daddies. While their pregnant wives watch videos of breast feeding, perineum care, and post-birth issues, I take the guys out in… Read more

The Smartest Kid in the Class

April 3, 2013

When you were in school you either hated the smartest kid in the class or you were the smartest kid in the class. No other options.Now that you’re older, there are three options.You hate that personYou are that personYou seek out that personI hope you’ve moved past number one to… Read more

How Well Do You Know Your Product?

April 2, 2013

My wife sent me into one of the big hardware stores to look at a product for refinishing cabinets. Rust-Oleum has a simple 4-step process that restores, changes, or simply transforms your wooden cabinets without having to strip and sand and labor for weeks.Sounds good to me.Our only concern was… Read more

The Squeegee is Broken

March 29, 2013

I stopped to get gas while on the road today.  The back window of our van gets dirty quickly and the small wiper only creates a partial arc of viewing.I grabbed the squeegee and went to work. First impressions, I knew I was in trouble.  You know that fabric around… Read more

A Full Day of Customer Service Training

March 27, 2013

In a couple of weeks I’m going to Manistee, MI, a beautiful small town on Lake Michigan with an active Main Street DDA program and some lovely shops.They’ve hired me to spend a few days working with them on Customer Service. When I get to town, I’m going to visit… Read more

Why Your Ads Go Viral

March 26, 2013

I just watched an interesting TEDTalk about Why Videos Go Viral from Kevin Allocca, a YouTube Trendwatcher (yes, he watches YouTube videos as a profession).He explains there are three things that make a video go viral.TastemakersParticipationUnexpectednessThe same three things are true of your advertisements.TASTEMAKERSIf someone of importance takes note of… Read more

Praying for Customers

March 25, 2013

I know it was tongue-in-cheek (kinda), but when a fellow store owner asked a group of us on FB what we were doing to attract customers, the first response was “Praying”.This might seem like a religious post. If I offend anyone, so be it. But I found the answer to… Read more

Delight People, and Solve Their Interesting Problems

March 22, 2013

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. His blog is one of the first I read every day. (He posts Every. Single. Day. and it is usually something quite thought-provoking.)I’m stealing this from Seth, via the good Doctor Rick Wilson, who writes it this way.Delight peopleSolve their (interesting) problemsThe more… Read more

What is Your Least Favorite Job?

March 19, 2013

You are an independent business owner. You wear many hats. You do many jobs. It is the nature of the beast. Let me ask you one question…What is your least favorite job?What is the one hat that you dread wearing the most? What is that task or duty that you… Read more

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Delight

March 18, 2013

I posted that JC Penney was struggling because it was losing in all five of the main drivers of traffic… Price, Product, Convenience, Trust and Delight.  Let’s look at each one of them separately.DELIGHTDelight is probably both the easiest and most difficult of all the drivers to own. Easy because so few companies even try to own it.… Read more

Pendulum Made Easier to Understand

March 13, 2013

I’ve talked about this new book by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew called Pendulum. It really has been an eye-opener for me to understanding how advertising, marketing and selling has changed over the last couple decades.The hard part is trying to explain it. The elevator pitch takes too… Read more

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Trust

March 12, 2013

I posted that JC Penney was struggling because it was losing in all five of the main drivers of traffic… Price, Product, Convenience, Trust and Delight.  Let’s look at each one of them separately.TRUSTTrust is earned. You don’t get it automatically. Trust is earned one transaction at a time.  Trust is fragile, too. Trust earned over… Read more

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Convenience

March 9, 2013

I posted that JC Penney was struggling because it was losing in all five of the main drivers of traffic… Price, Product, Convenience, Trust and Delight.  Let’s look at each one of them separately.CONVENIENCEConvenience is a tricky subject because there are many different ways to define convenience. You could be considered… Read more

A Worthy Goal

March 8, 2013

My dear friend Dr. Rick Wilson, DMD posted an incredibly simple thought that many of us forget.To steal his line… Are we in the business to “get new customers” or “meet someone new and make a difference for them?”One helps the short-term and costs a lot, one helps the long-term… Read more

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Product

March 6, 2013

I posted that JC Penney was struggling because it was losing in all five of the main drivers of traffic… Price, Product, Convenience, Trust and Delight.  Let’s look at each one of them separately.PRODUCTProducts are the stars. Without them, you don’t have a business. You have to have products that people want. Products typically fall into… Read more

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Price

March 3, 2013

I posted that JC Penney was struggling because it was losing in all five of the main drivers of traffic… Price, Product, Convenience, Trust and Delight.  Let’s look at each one of them separately.PRICEThere are two pricing schemes that can work to own Price as a driver of traffic –… Read more

Why JC Penney’s is Struggling

March 1, 2013

We all know about JC Penney’s decision last year to change their pricing strategy from one of Coupons, Discounts and Sales to one of Everyday Low Prices.  Ron Johnson, the CEO they hired away from Apple, warned everyone it would take some time for the transformation to take hold.Unfortunately, the… Read more

Two Types of Customers (and Other Generalities)

February 26, 2013

(Warning: there are enough bullets in this post for the Zombie Apocalypse. You may want to save it in your favorites just in case…)I sat through a webinar today on advertising. The hosts (whose names shall be withheld to protect the ignorant innocent) said there are three types of customers:Frequent… Read more

Can You Afford to Be a Snob?

February 21, 2013

This was an actual poster put up in a Borders store that was closing.There were three bullet points in there that bothered me (well, okay, the whole thing bothered me, but that’s another story).We hate when a book becomes popular simply because it was turned into a movie.Nicholas Sparks is… Read more

Reading List (Short Version)

February 18, 2013

For some reason, I have found myself recommending the same three books over and over the past couple weeks. So before anyone else asks, here are those three books.Why We Buy by Paco Underhill – Buy this book if you want to be better at merchandising your store. Buy this… Read more

Believing or Behaving?

February 13, 2013

I could probably fill up a whole page with “I Believe…” statements.I believe… specialty independent retailers need to have better customer service than their competitors.I believe… cash is king and sometimes more important than profits.I believe… the store owner who quits trying to learn quits trying to grow.I believe… what… Read more

Are You Playing Your Best Card?

February 8, 2013

All through the 80’s, 90’s and even the early 00’s specialty independent retailers had the misfortune of competing with the big box stores like Home Depot, Toys R Us, Michael’s, etc. These Category Killers and the discounters like Wal-Mart, Target and K-Mart forced a dramatic shift in the marketplace.No longer… Read more

Bacon and Eggs for Breakfast

February 4, 2013

This morning for my staff meeting I served my staff bacon and eggs. Brought in an electric frying pan, started up the bacon about 30 minutes before they arrived. Had some coffee, orange juice and bagels ready, too.Not a bad way to start the day post-Super Bowl. A couple of… Read more

Measure and Reward

February 2, 2013

I’ve often used some form of the quote, “What gets measured, gets managed.”  If you don’t measure what you’re doing, you don’t know if it is improving or getting worse.Last week, I was reminded of a simple change in that statement that raises it to brand new heights.What gets measured… Read more

Sit in the Hot Seat for a Bit if You Want to Improve

February 1, 2013

I made Ernie sit in the Hot Seat.Ernie knows a lot about sitting in comfortable seats. His company makes the best, custom-built, ergonomically correct office chairs you’ll ever take for a spin. You just haven’t heard of him. Yet.Ernie knows that his product is amazing. He wants his customer service… Read more

Sales Reps are People Too

January 24, 2013

Christmas is over. The dust has settled. The inventory is counted. The phones are ringing. Sales Reps are invading, loaded down with 2013 catalogs, samples, and stories.Some of us dread this. Some of us look upon our sales reps as a whole different breed of creature designed to suck the… Read more

Once Size Does Not Fit All

January 21, 2013

I am doing a training next week for a number of different businesses on Shareworthy Customer Service (with Tim Miles who deserves credit for coining the term Shareworthy). I have been doing a little research on each of these businesses to make sure that what I teach will fit for… Read more

Are You Open To Buy?

January 16, 2013

I’ve written about Open-to-Buy programs for Independent Retailers and how difficult they are to manage.For those of you who have also struggled with the OTB’s and want a simpler, more intuitive way to manage inventory and cash, here is a plan you can follow…First, understand that the ultimate goal is… Read more

Is This the Right Price?

January 14, 2013

I just published my third book.Welcome to the Club, Daddy is a book for expectant fathers based on the class I have been teaching twice a month at our local hospital for the last ten years. It is a funny, yet practical guide for new dads that helps them learn… Read more

Convenience Trumps Price

January 10, 2013

I’ve been telling you all this for years. Price is not the only thing. Convenience trumps price both in the store and more importantly online, too!Here’s the proof.Quoting the article…Continuum’s 2012 Service Design Report looked at data from more than 1,000 consumers across the country and uncovered the top reasons they… Read more

A Reason to Belong

January 7, 2013

For those of you who have read the new book Pendulum about the shifting outlook of society, you will remember that we are ten years into a “We” cycle. We still have another 30 years to go.For those who haven’t read the book (and I believe it may be the… Read more

Most Missed Posts from 2012

January 2, 2013

I posted my top ten most viewed posts in 2012.In all fairness and just for fun, here are the bottom ten – the ten least viewed posts (although I like to think they were just missed.)Read on if you dare…10. From the Mouth of Babes – Two great lessons on… Read more

Top Viewed Blog Posts 2012

December 29, 2012

Everyone loves Top Ten Lists.Here is my list of my Top Ten Most Viewed Blog Posts from 20121. Two Thing You Can Correct Right Now – Two simple things you can do that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, but will make the next year better than the… Read more

Trust is Broken

December 28, 2012

Does it frost you that people shopping online are significantly more willing to trust an anonymous customer “review” than what your well-trained sales staff might say about a particular product?According to Nielsen, although 92% of people surveyed will trust word-of-mouth from friends and relatives, online reviews are close behind at… Read more

Asking the Right Question

December 22, 2012

Seth Godin writes one of my favorite blogs. His post for today was so short and sweet and thought-provoking that I want to share it with you…Question the questionThe best creative solutions don’t come from finding good answers to the questions that are presented.They come from inventing new questions.-Seth GodinHere… Read more

Sometimes You Have to Tear it Down

December 18, 2012

They are tearing down the hotel across the street. We have a front-row seat for the destruction as a crane takes it down piece by piece.This is not the first hotel to be torn down in that general vicinity. I watched the previous one be exploded and dropped to the… Read more

The Preferred Way

December 17, 2012

I hire a lot of new people for the Christmas season. Then I turn much of their training over to the current staff.  Every now and then we run into a problem. One staff person teaches the newbie one way, another teaches them a completely different way to do the… Read more

How Late Are You Open?

December 16, 2012

This is our number one request from phone callers.How late are you open?Most people don’t know our hours in the first place. Plus, they expect that we will have longer hours for the holidays.How late are you open?It is an easy question to answer when you are open and already… Read more

Head Cheerleader (re-posted from Dec, 2010)

December 15, 2012

(This was first posted Monday, December 20, 2010, but worth repeating)(Nine) shopping days until Christmas. In the home stretch. You’re tired, run down and stressed, just counting the days. Your friends and family are encouraging you to “Hang in there, it’s almost over.” Sorry to burst your bubble, but you need… Read more

Handling Multiple Customers at Once

December 13, 2012

This is the time of year when the customers outnumber the staff. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because extra traffic means extra sales. Bad because you cannot give each customer the time they need to maximize those extra sales and you often lose a… Read more

Measuring People

December 12, 2012

“What gets measured gets done.” Frances SchagenThis is not a post about Financials. You can read more about financials here.This is not a post about Inventory or Open-to-Buy. You can read more about those topics here.Numbers are important. Very. Important. But at the end of the day it is people… Read more