Monday, March 28, 2011

Word of Mouth, Hidden Talents, and Smiles

I plan every staff meeting the same way, by finishing this statement:

This will be a successful meeting if...

For this morning's meeting it was:

  1. If the staff has a better understanding of how to truly create Word of Mouth in our customers, and how close we are to offering over-the-top experiences that customers will talk about.

  2. If the staff finds one new way to use a hidden talent of theirs to offer a unique customer experience.

  3. If the staff bonds.
Simple enough.

We started with a quick presentation on Word-of-Mouth (1), the same info I give in my Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget presentation.

After that, we broke into small groups and had everyone share one talent (2, 3) they had that the rest of the group probably didn't know. Then, with the help of the group they had to brainstorm a way to use that talent in the store (2).

For example, if your talent is cooking, we have children's cookbooks. Why not take one home, try out a few recipes and bring in something you cooked from the cookbook? Wouldn't that be pretty cool to have actual dishes from the cookbook to sample before you bought the cookbook?

Not only did we come up with some pretty good ideas, the staff got to know each other a little better. And those ideas will lead to a better customer experience and more Word-of-Mouth.

It all started with the goal. Do you have a goal for your next meeting or are you just passing along information? If it is the latter, send them a memo. The best meetings all start with a goal and are built around fun ways to reach that goal.


PS The Smiles reference in the title was because at every meeting we share Smile Stories. It is at the core of everything we do, so we reinforce it at every meeting by sharing how we have met our ultimate goal in the past month.

PSS Having trouble coming up with a way to reach your goal? Start with this simple Meeting Planner Worksheet. Still having problems? Send me an email with your goal and I'll tell you what I would do.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hiring & The Potter's Wheel Principles in Action

I was going to post another excerpt from my book, Hiring and the Potter's Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art.

Instead I'd like to give you a glimpse into how one business put the principles of the book into action.

The first principle of the book is to identify the right raw ingredients, the inherent traits that someone must already bring to the table to be successful in the role for which he or she is hired. I call these the non-teachable traits.

This business wanted to hire a Sales Position. The number one non-teachable trait for the perfect candidate must be his or her ability to communicate simple ideas effectively.

So in the interview process they put together an exercise to see how well a candidate can communicate a simple idea. They gave the candidate a picture that had three shapes in it, a rectangle, a triangle, and a circle. Then they asked the candidate to describe the shapes to another person who had to then draw those shapes.

Seems like a simple task, right?

The results were more than telling. The candidate struggled mightily with this activity. The communication skills simply weren't there. The interviewer commented to me that he was pretty sold on the candidate up until this activity. The candidate had experience and education and passed the eyeball test. But when it came down to doing the one thing he would have to do consistently day in and day out, he didn't have the skill.

By knowing exactly what traits and skills the perfect candidate needs and focusing their interview on determining if the candidate has those traits, they were able to avoid one of the most costly mistakes any small business can make, hiring the wrong person.

If you would like to avoid making this costly mistake in your hiring and training, buy the book and follow the process. It's simple, intuitive, and pays off immediately.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Measuring Success

Last night was graduation for the fourth class of the Jackson Retail Success Academy. Eight weeks of Monday nights building the foundations for their success, culminating in a presentation by each student of what they learned and how they were going to apply it in their business.

How Would You Measure Success?
At the opening night I asked each student how they would measure success. How would they know if they had learned what they needed or expected to learn?

As they gave their presentations I went back to their comments the first night about measuring success. With each student I asked the question, "Based on how you said you would measure success, was this class successful for you?"

Some enthusiastically said Yes! Others said the content of the class made them completely rethink how they would measure success.

Most importantly, they all had a stick against which they could measure success.

Going Stickless
Too often we go forward with our business without having a stick, without having a way to measure our success. We plan our advertising based on the pitch from the latest ad salesperson. We base our product selection on the neatest thing our sales rep brings to our attention. We train our staff only after they make a major mistake.

Then we wonder why we aren't getting the results we think we should. We wonder why our business seems to be sitting out this economic recovery.

Define It
Don't leave it all to chance. Set a bar or a goal or simply a stick by which you will measure your progress and your success. Finish these sentences for your business:

I will have a great product selection if...

My advertising plan is designed to...

My staff will consistently...

Then set about figuring out how to make those sentences come true. Once you know how to measure, then you know what to manage. That is the true key to success.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Who's Pulling You Up?

There is a wall between you and your goals. You need to get over that wall.

Your peers can help you by pushing you and propping you up. But they can only get you to the point where you can reach the top of the wall. (And if your wall is really tall, they might not even get you that close.)

From there you are on your own. To reach your goal you have to do the rest by yourself.

Unless you have someone on top of the wall ready to pull you up. Someone who has been there and done that. Someone who has already conquered the wall. Someone who already knows what you need to learn.

Have you identified that person (or persons) yet?

Anyone can set goals. Anyone can get their peers to cheer them on and support them in their quest, to push from the bottom. But without a hand from above, most of those people get stuck.

Who's pulling you up?

Here are some of the people pulling me up...

Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads - I have read his books, attended his classes and followed his teachings. Much of my best work is because of what he has taught me about advertising and business in general. The starting point is the Monday Morning Memo and his books The Wizard of Ads Trilogy. (these are not affiliated links - just the best darn business books I have ever read)

George Whalin - George taught me so much about managing a business, about hiring & training employees, and about dreaming big. He has been a wonderful resource for all things retail.

Philip H. Conley - My grandfather and the founder of Toy House, Inc. His mantra is simple, "Plan for Success." It has worked for him and I am making it work for me. I meet with him regularly for advice and always get exactly what I need. He did it first, he did it well, and what he did still works today. I couldn't ask for a better mentor.

There are others, too. Many more than I can mention in one post. I am always on the hunt for the people above me that might be willing to lend a hand.

You need both; your peers and supporters pushing from the bottom, and those who can help you from above. Find them and you'll scale every wall between you and your goals.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Urgent, Important or Both?

My wife just bought a new Franklin Covey planner loaded with ideas to help you manage your time better. One of the best methods is a system I use regularly.

Draw a horizontal line and call it Urgent.
Then draw a vertical line intersecting your Urgent line at the midpoint and call it Important.
Everything you have on your To-Do List then gets plotted on those two lines based on how Urgent it is and how Important it is.
The truly Urgent and Important items will end up in the upper right quadrant. Do those things first.
The Important but not so Urgent items will end up in the upper left quadrant. Do those next.
The Urgent but not Important items will end up in the lower right quadrant. Delegate them.
The not so Urgent and not so Important stuff ends up in the lower left quadrant. This is where the fun usually ends up. Your choices here are to forget about them, or set aside a little white space in your life to have a little fun, to do the stuff that is neither Urgent nor Important.
Me? I prefer the latter.
Creating White Space
But what if there is more than you can handle in that upper right quadrant? Usually that is because we place too much importance or urgency on the things on our list. Ask yourself two questions...
  1. Can someone else in my business do this?
  2. Will the world stop spinning if I don't get this done today?
The first question helps you sort out how important it is. If someone else can do it, then it isn't as important as you think. Let them do it. They'll love the extra responsibility.
The second question helps you sort out what is truly Urgent. Although it is often good to get tomorrow's tasks done today, don't do that when you have to sacrifice time for yourself.
We can't be all-business-all-the-time and expect to succeed. The burnout is too high. Find some time to do something in that lower left quadrant (as long as it is fun).
PS - Yeah, writing this is in that lower left quadrant for me. Not really Urgent, only kind of Important, but a whole lot of fun.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Surgery on Hold Because of Trust

I was supposed to have surgery last Friday. The appointment was canceled while I got a second opinion from a highly regarded doctor in the same field.

Now I know why the doctor is so highly regarded.

A Second Opinion
Quick background: I scheduled a surgery with a doctor in whom I had trust from our initial meetings, but not a lot of knowledge and history. So I had a friend who works at the hospital do a little asking around. This doctor is new to the practice, but certainly not inexperienced. But few people knew enough about him to have an opinion. They all universally raved about the other doc, however, so I scheduled a second opinion with her.

Then she told me something that blew my mind.

"If you are going to have the surgery, you should have [the other doctor] do it. He gets better results than I do."

This is an expensive operation, one they both have done many times. And she told me to have him do it. Can you imagine what guts it takes for a doctor to tell someone that another doctor is better at a certain procedure?

And can you imagine what trust she just earned from me?

Put Their Needs First
There is a credibility you gain when you are honest. There is a credibility you gain from promoting someone or something other than yourself when you know it is in the best interest of your client.

You may have heard some retail expert tell you to never recommend another store. You may also have watched the movie Miracle on 34th Street and know that is bad advice.

The bottom line is that when you put the needs of the customer ahead of your own needs, you win her trust, which is often more important in the long run than her immediate business.


PS Surgery is scheduled again with doc #1. But we're trying a non-surgical alternative first. Second opinions are always worth the time and effort - especially with a doctor who has earned your trust.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What Should Your Sales Be?

Thinking about opening a new store? Wondering what your sales might be?

Here is the easiest method for estimating expected sales:

Market Potential
First find out how much business can potentially be done in your market. To do this you only need to find the national sales figures for your industry (note: for some industries this is easier said than done).

Take that national sales figure and divide it by the US population. That gives you sales per person.

$22.1 billion divided by 308 million people = $72
Then simply multiply that result times the number of people in your expected trade area.
$72 x 150,000 people = $10.8 million
Now you know what the Market Potential is. Your expected sales will most likely start in the 3-5% range, maybe higher if there is no indie competition, maybe lower if there is indie competition or you are saturated with highly effective big box stores.
What Size Store?
From this figure you can get a good estimate of how big a store to build. You just need two numbers... Lease Rates in your area and/or Sales per Square Foot for your industry.
Lease Rates: To be profitable you have to be working for yourself and not the landlord. If the rent for the year is more than 10% of your expected sales, you're working for them, not you. You basically have three options:
  1. Look for a smaller space
  2. Look for a cheaper space
  3. Look for a different market
But be careful of those three options. The cheaper space is usually in a bad location and retail , like real estate, is all about location, location, location. The smaller space might work, if you have room to show enough product to justify the sales.
That is why knowing the sales per square foot for your industry is helpful. Let's say your Expected Sales are $500,000. If your industry average for sales per square foot is $200, then a 2500 sq ft store should work fine. Only lease a bigger store if it is both affordable and in a great location.
Everyone thinks your store "would be great in our neighborhood." Yes, great for them. Do the math and you'll know if it will be great for you, too.