Friday, September 30, 2011

You Get What You Ask For

Many of you are putting out classified ads looking for help that read like this...

Help Wanted: Seasonal employees needed. Apply in person at The Store.

Short, sweet, and cheap.

How do you think your application pool would change if your classified looked like this?

Help Wanted: Are you a friendly person who loves to help others? Would you like to work in a challenging environment where your greatest reward is solving problems for other people and making them feel good? Are you a person who will work flexible hours including nights and weekends? Do you have high energy no matter what time of day? We want to see your smiling face in our store. Stop in The Store and fill out our application by next Friday. We need friendly, helpful, caring, flexible people who can make our customers happy.

Sure, it costs a whole lot more. But you get what you pay for. The first ad will get everyone looking for a job (which is quite a bunch of people). The second ad will only get those people who read that description and see themselves in that role. The ad becomes an automatic filter for you, weeding out many of the undesirables.

Plus, that second ad might get the interest of someone who never knew she was perfectly suited to work for you. She would have ignored the first ad.

When it comes to classifieds, you get what you pay for. More importantly, you get what you ask for. So ask for exactly what you want. It is worth paying a little more.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The second ad also gets attention for your business. Someone might read that ad and even though the job is not for them, the description of the position gets them thinking, "Yeah, I'd like to shop somewhere that hires people like that."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fifty Cent Words are a Dime a Dozen

I got this email the other day. Here it is verbatim...

Hi Phil,
May I send you information regarding an upcoming thought leadership summit focused on data driven decision making, integrated business planning and leveraging business analytics?


I don't know about you, but that looks like a bunch of business book vomit to me. A "thought leadership summit"? (who is thinking about what?) "Integrated business planning"? (integrated with whom?) "Leveraging business analytics"? (what analytics from where?)

Even if it was from a company I recognized and trusted, I still might not attend because I would feel left out from the beginning because I don't even know what those phrases mean. I don't want to go where I will feel like a fool.

Your customers are the same way. They will not go where they feel foolish, either. Do not use words or phrases in your marketing, on the phone or in person that might make them feel that way.

Every industry has big words specific to that industry. But do not assume that your customers understand all those words. Whenever possible, use simple words that make the same point without making the customer feel foolish. Your customers will be more trusting, more comfortable, and more likely to act.

Hi Phil,

Can I send you an invitation to a meeting of business owners who want to learn new ways to look at data to make their businesses more profitable?


Alex, I would have allowed you to send me an invitation if you had written your request that way.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS One of my favorite Ernest Hemingway quotes... “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Make One Point

As you prepare your advertising for the holiday season, here is one thing you can do to make your campaign work better.

Make only one point in your ad.

That's it. One point. No more.

The truth is, most people will neither hear nor see your ad. They are so bombarded with advertising that they have tuned you out. Those that do hear or see it will be distracted by life so they will not be paying much attention because, frankly, your ad just isn't that important to them either. The remaining few who actually do hear or see your ad and give it the minimal amount of attention will be lucky to remember one point. Which point do you really want them to remember?

Say too much and there is a good chance they will remember nothing or at the most, the wrong thing.

Pick the one most important point you want people to remember and say that. Nothing else. Your ads will be more memorable, and you will get your point across more clearly.

Did I make that clear enough?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Don't know what point to make? Check out my free eBook on branding Understanding Your Brand. Then download the worksheets. You'll know what point to make soon enough.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Customer is in Front of You

I just got back from the All Baby & Child Expo in Louisville, KY. This is the big show for the baby products industry. Thousands of vendors, thousands of buyers, millions of square feet of showroom space.

This was the first time the show had been anywhere other than Las Vegas. Louisville was a big risk. A little harder to get there for those flying. Not the same level of entertainment options. Not the same international cache. Add in the not-quite-stellar economy and the buzz was...

Would there be good attendance?

Apparently not. I lost count how many times I had to listen to vendors complain how the lack of attendees was hurting their business and it was all the fault of the board of directors choosing this location.

Fortunately, I also heard from a fair number of vendors who were having an awesome show, meeting new people, opening new accounts, writing serious orders. It wasn't Vegas, but it was business, and they were doing it.

The difference? Attitude.

At one point, after listening to a lengthy rant about the show location and poor turnout, I looked at the person across the table and said rather indignantly, "I'm here and I'm writing an order. I don't care about all that other crap."

The point is that you can complain about the lack of customers for your business or you can embrace the customers that do show up. Complaining will not drive a single extra person through the doors. In fact, it will drive the few customers you have away. But if you focus on the positives of having a customer in front of you, she will bring you more business.

That is true at both trade shows and retail stores. We like to do business with happy, friendly people. Period. Keep your complaints to yourself.

When the attendance/traffic is not there, you have to maximize the business you do with the customers you have. You do that by being positive and upbeat. You do that by being friendly and helpful. You do that by making sure you focus on the customer in front of you. Make her feel special and welcome. Transfer confidence to her that your since your attitude is good, your business must be good, too.

Yeah, Retail 101. Amazing this past weekend how many people did not get it.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Is it any wonder that the people with the best attitude were having the best show? Your attitude is everything. You set the tone for your employees and your business. Make sure you put your best foot forward every day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's My Motivation?

Why do I write these blogs? Why do I create presentations? Why do I write and publish eBooks that I give away for free?

To help you succeed.

Sure, that's what I say. But even then, you are thinking in the back of your mind that there must be something in it for me. Altruistic goals always have some hidden agenda.

Here is my hidden agenda...

I love to speak to groups. I love to help other people be successful. I love to write. I love to create. So I do those last two things to accomplish the first two. I write my blogs and eBooks and presentations to get more opportunities to speak (for which I often get paid), to sell more of my book, and to find a larger audience to help (which gets me more speaking gigs and more books sold). Now you know.

The most important lesson here is that no matter how good your intentions, customers always believe you have some hidden agenda. They have been taught that "if it's too good to be true then it probably isn't true."

They are trained to look for the hidden agenda, the ulterior motive they are convinced is there.

So put your agenda out there for the whole world to see. They are going to look for it anyway. You gain their trust when you show it to them before they begin looking.

Tell them, yes, you are in the business to make a profit. It puts food on your table and on the table of all your employees. Tell them, yes, you are being over-the-top helpful because you want them to bring you new customers. Tell them, yes, they can find items cheaper somewhere else, but you are not willing to sacrifice your way of doing business just to squeeze out every nickel in the price. Tell them, yes, you want to win their hearts, you want to build trust, you want to solve their needs, and you want to get them to like you just so you can make that profit. And you will continue to do all those things to continue to make more money.

There is nothing wrong with being profitable (regardless of what the government thinks). But hiding that fact does not change it from being true.

Here is the upside from this transparency. If you openly embrace your agenda and share it with your customers, they will trust you more. And with trust comes loyalty. With loyalty comes repeat business. And with repeat business comes profit. And if you have the guts to tell your customers all that, you will be pleasantly surprised with their response. They knew it all along. They just love you more now that you are willing to share it openly.

On top of that, when you do something purely altruistic, without a hidden agenda, people won't be trying to look behind the curtain to see what scam you are trying to pull. They will believe you because they have already learned to trust you.

I wrote a line in a contest for a book that said... "the heart of our company lies not in the numbers in our books, but in the hearts of our customers."

Get into the hearts of your customers and you will have all the numbers you need.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yeah, on paper it looks simple. Guess what? It looks the same in real life. Be transparent about making a profit - build trust - get more sales - make more profit - repeat. Simple.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Do You Match Prices?

If you are an independent retailer you have been asked this question a thousand times.

I was recently asked by a regular customer on Facebook. Knowing that a thousand plus people were going to read my response, here is what I said:

Dear ____,
This is a tough question to answer. I could just say no and leave it at that. I used to say, "No, because they don't match our services." But some might look at that as a bit of arrogance.

For the sake of everyone who might read this, I want to give an explanation of why we don't match prices because I think it might be an eye opener for shoppers to understand what goes into a decision like this for a store like us. It is a tough decision that we do not take lightly.

We used to match prices but over the years a few factors have come into play that made it difficult.

First it was the ads for products that the store never had. Target was notorious for running ads with prices below cost of stuff that was never in their store. Yet we had plenty of stock and lost money on everything we sold matching their "price".

Then there were stores that didn't offer any of the services we offer like layaway, giftwrap or a knowledgeable sales staff. All of which cost money. With a lower overhead they (sometimes) offered a lower price.

Now, with the Internet there are warehouses in low tax locales, paying minimum wage to a small handful of employees to stuff boxes. They don't have the overhead of a brightly lit sales floor, or trained and compensated sales staff. They don't have to pay the same city/county property taxes, state business taxes, city & state income taxes, etc. (which means they do not contribute to your local fire and police) They don't have to collect MI sales tax so they advertise it as "tax-free" even when it is not (and by not collecting that tax they don't help the state get the money it needs for education and roads, etc).

So our choice is to either offer to match prices, but in the process drop all the services that cost money, hire fewer staff and pay them less, or to stop matching every price and keep doing business the way we believe it should be done, by offering incredible services and experiences for our customers, by getting them the right products at a fair price, one that is reasonable for the product, covers our overhead, keeps my staff employed and puts food on everyone's tables.

That's the route we have chosen.

Whether it works for us in the long run, whether customers see any value in such services and such a stance is the gamble we have to take. But I believe it is worth it for my customers, my staff, and my community.

Thanks for the opportunity to explain. I apologize if that was way more information than you needed:-)

What are you saying?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Oscar Wilde said it a long time ago and it is still true today. "Many men know the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Friday, September 16, 2011

How Much Would You Pay for This?

I'm working on a project that would be a comprehensive guide for all those funky financial terms with which our accountants bombard us at the end of each fiscal year.

I wrote a simple explanation that I published here (free download). This new guide will be in far more detail.

The question today is...
Would you be interested in a guide like this and how much would you pay?

To give you an idea of what you would find in the guide, here is a sample:

Cost of Goods Sold: Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) is a measurement of what you paid out to buy the products you sold in your store. Most people think COGS is calculated by subtracting Profit Margin from 100, but the formula looks like this:

COGS = Beginning Inventory (at cost) + Net Purchases – Ending Inventory (at cost)

The formula is done this way to take into account any merchandise that has disappeared (been stolen, marked out-of-stock for store use, etc.) or any extra discounts you may have received that were not registered in your POS. If you have major inventory adjustments because of theft or loss, your COGS will go up.

Another factor that sometimes goes into this calculation is Freight-in. Some accounting systems include Freight-in as part of the Net Purchase. Some consider Freight-in as a separate Selling Expense. If you include your Freight-in with your Net Purchases then your COGS will be higher. If you do not, then your COGS will be lower.

Although most POS systems will calculate your profit margin based on the cost you paid per item sold, COGS is a more accurate reflection of what you spent on the merchandise you sold because it accounts for those inventory and cost adjustments. Typically accountants will first calculate COGS and then subtract that from 100 to get your true Gross Profit Margin.

A typical COGS for a (insert industry here) should be around (insert industry standard here) (with Freight-in as a separate expense). The higher your COGS, the less money you are making for the products you sell.

If your COGS is much higher than the average store in your industry these are the five most likely reasons:

1. You are including Freight-in in your Net Purchases.
2. You are not marking up your retail prices as high as the typical store in your industry.
3. You carry a heavier load of product lines that traditionally have much lower profit margins than the typical store in your industry.
4. You lost more inventory to theft or store use than the typical store in your industry.
5. You are offering more discounts off your regular prices than the typical store in your industry.

If your store is making a comfortable profit and has ample cash flow, then you do not need to worry about getting your COGS in alignment with other stores. But if your profit or cash flow is not where you want it, you should evaluate those five reasons to see where you can improve or look at ways to increase your Inventory Turn Ratio.

Now imagine an explanation like that for every line of your Balance sheet, your Profit & Loss plus a few other calculations like GMROI, Inventory Turn Ratio, Current Ratio, and a whole bunch of other terms that you only vaguely understand.


How much would you pay?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS You can simply leave a comment or send me an email. I would love to hear your responses.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A History Lesson About Change

I give talks to mother's groups and other organizations about how to shop smart for toys. The talk is always well-received and praised for the smart and practical information. Most of the participants are surprised at how much thought should actually go into each toy purchase, and how easy it is, once you know what to observe, to get the right kinds of toys for your kids.

The lessons in that presentation are the same lessons my grandfather was teaching sixty years ago.

The lessons have not changed, but the toys have.
The principles have not changed, but the products have.
The core values have not changed, but the way we present them has.

The point worth making here is that while you need to hold onto the the same principles, the same core values, the same ideals about the products that got you to this moment, you need to update the packaging.

Make sure your product mix continually includes new items, fresh displays, and updated categories. Rotate your merchandising around to give your store a new look. Add a fresh coat of paint to give the feeling of new in your appearance. Dust every single week! Try new products and new categories that make sense for your store. Try one that doesn't make sense. It adds a little excitement and surprise. Sure, keep the basics and staples, but give your customers reasons to come back to see what's new.

You'll never hear a customer ask, "So what's old and dusty?"

The principles do not change, but the way we implement them always needs a fresh face. Make sure you are constantly updating and improving your product selection and displays. Keep the "history", but ditch the "old and dusty".

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Sometimes it is hard to read the label from inside the bottle. Have a spouse or friend give your store a critical look, preferably someone who hasn't been in your store in a while. Ask her to label things as either "old" or "fresh". If she calls it "old", get rid of it, move it, or update it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Phones Done Wrong

I've been beating the Customer Service drum for a few weeks now. It is the one biggest advantages we specialty store owners have over our competition.

Every now and then I see stores who get it right.

Every now and then I see reminders of how far we still need to go.

Just yesterday my wife had a moment that made her cringe. She wanted to find the hours of a local store. We needed to make a purchase.

They have a website, but their hours were not listed on it (mistake #1).

She called the store. The person who answered rattled off the hours so quickly that my wife could barely understand her (mistake #2).

Then the person never asked my wife if she had any other questions (mistake #3), if she needed directions (mistake #4), or even thanked her for calling (mistake #5).

Two minutes of interaction and five easily correctable mistakes.

If you do not have phone etiquette in your training program, you need to add it. You can turn a customer off before she even reaches your door with a poorly handled phone call.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Along with eliminating the four mistakes above, remind your staff to smile while on the phone. People can hear that smile in your voice. And always end the call with, "Thanks for calling."

PPS A fun way to approach phone training with the entire staff is to play the telephone game where one person whispers something into the next person's ear and so on around the circle until the last person relays the now-garbled message back to the beginning. Makes the staff laugh and gets them in the mood to accept the premise of clarity on the phone.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Kid in a Candy Store

Actually two kids. My boys, ages 13 and 10.

After a day at the Michigan Renaissance Festival that thrilled my 10 year old because of the sword play, we stopped in the quaint little berg of Linden, MI to visit Linden Sweet Shoppe, owned by my toy store buddies Chris & Laura Mathews.

Chris & Laura weren't in - good for them for getting a Saturday night off - but the two staff working that night were more than adequate replacements.

My boys were simultaneously in heaven and in paralysis.

My best estimate is that there were over 150 jars of candies from which the boys could choose lining the wall behind the counter. Every sweet imaginable from candy necklaces to pixie sticks to chocolate covered cake batter to LEGO-shaped, sweet-tart-tasting, building bricks.

The boys struggled to choose which candies would fill their bags.

Patience and Helpfulness
While they wandered up and down the aisle behind the counter (yes, the staff let them back there to get a better look) I was getting impatient. Make a decision, I cajoled them. Meanwhile, the staff showed amazing patience, carefully explaining each candy, giving them samples if appropriate, sharing their favorites, and overall treating these boys as if they were princes in their palace.

Other customers entered the store and the staff greeted them by name, asked about previous purchases, and made everyone feel equally important. Still, my boys dragged on the decision-making process. I had time to order and eat my ice cream cone (Deep Dish Apple - delicious and just the perfect temperature!) while the boys agonized over every jar.

And still, again, the staff treated them like royalty. All for a $17 sale!

WOW Customer Service still lives. I saw it with my own two eyes. (And that was before I introduced myself as a friend of the owners.) Here are some of the things the staff did right:

  • Greeted customers by name (when they knew them)

  • Talked about the product openly and honestly

  • Had helpful product knowledge

  • Showed amazing patience

  • Smiled constantly

  • Treated every customer like he or she was special

  • Treated every request like it was their delight to honor it

  • Acted happy to be there
Does your staff act that way at 8:30pm on a Saturday night? They should. Chris & Laura figured out how to get their staff to do it. You can, too.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS It starts with hiring and continues with training. The staff Chris & Laura hired have the character traits necessary to be helpful and patient. The next time you hire, choose the traits over the experience. You can teach them the rest.

PPS The Renaissance Festival featured some wonderful lessons, too. The attention to detail of the costumes, accents, and language added to the fun of the day. And there is nothing better than topping off any event with a turkey drumstick smoked to perfection.

PPPS My younger son went with the building brick candies, candy pumpkins, cake batter balls, and candied orange slices. My older son did a jaw breaker on a stick, a gigantic pixie stick, and building brick candies. Absolute heaven!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Safe Place to Dry

As you hire and train your seasonal staff this fall, there is one thing I want you to contemplate...

When do you throw your new staff to the wolves?

I was in Office Depot yesterday and the name tag of the guy at checkout said "trainee". I looked around and he was all alone. No support, no one to lean on if he had a question. And he had a question.

One of the items did not have a barcode on it. He looked around with a sense of panic in his eyes. No other staff was within range. What should he do? He decided to take measures into his own hands and go find the number himself. Left his register all alone and ran - no not a fast walk, an actual sprint - over to the area to find the number for that product. He was huffing and puffing when he returned and a little unnerved that he left his register unattended for a short bit (hence the sprint).

He solved the problem and he is definitely a go-getter, but it wasn't training that helped him, it was instinct. He probably wasn't ready to be alone yet. But how many times do we do that? How often do we give our new staff just enough skills to do the job and then leave them alone and hope they learn the rest on the job?

You cannot leave that kind of training to chance.

Here is how this lesson gets learned in my book Hiring and the Potter's Wheel. (2 chapters - enjoy!)

Chapter 12 Lessons 4, 5 and 6 Centering, Gentleness & Protection
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.” – Mother Teresa

“So, how did the conference go?” Mary began.

“Quite ordinary, a bunch of theories using fifty cent words, but nothing that hasn’t already been explored or learned,” Dr. Scott explained. “I’d have rather been in your pottery class. How about you? How was class? Having fun? Learn anything new?”

Mary almost didn’t know where to begin. “The pottery is great. I love it. I think I may have found a new hobby. I can’t thank you enough. And as for business, since we last met, I have learned three distinct lessons.” Mary pulled out some notes she had been taking.

“First, before I can start throwing, I mean training, I have to make sure everyone is centered, that they are starting from the same point. Everyone has to be on the same page. That pretty much goes hand in hand with the earlier lesson of getting out the impurities, the air bubbles. I’ve already developed a clear set of guidelines and expectations, and also a list of bad habits to watch for and weed out, if necessary. But no matter what their previous experience, everyone will start from the same point in their training. That way I’ll be sure not leave anything out.

“Second, once the throwing, oops, I mean training, begins, I have to remember to use a gentle hand, lots of positive encouragement. There’s the old saying, “you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The same is true in teaching. The more positive gentle words, the more likely the student will listen and learn.

“That was tough for me, I mean in the pottery. I kept pushing too hard and watching my bowl flop over like it was sick. It reminded me of how I feel when someone yells at me or pushes too hard. Patience and gentleness are definitely the keys. I wrote myself a sticky note on top of my computer to remind me to praise every thing done right during the training to help encourage that behavior.

“But wait, as I think about it, you were never gentle with me, Dr. Scott. You always pushed me hard. You and your, ‘you can do better,’ mantra,” Mary added with a slight sarcastic twinge.

“But did I ever push you too hard?”

“No, I guess not,” Mary replied wistfully.

“You’re absolutely right on this, Mary,” Dr. Scott continued. “Pushing too hard never works. But you have to find the right pressure to get the most out of your clay, and your trainee. If you don’t push at all, nothing gets formed.

“I think you’re getting it. Now what about that third lesson?”

“Well, last night it dawned on me as I placed my bowl in the rack to safely dry, how often do we put newly trained employees into safe positions? Usually, once training is done we throw them to the wolves, so to speak. But wouldn’t it be better if we put them in a safe environment to try out their new skills? If they were in limited roles or carefully supervised, they could safely practice their skills and grow stronger. We know, no matter how well they train, they are going to make mistakes. But this way they can make mistakes under a watchful eye and learn from those mistakes before the errors become costly. That way they’ll be even better when they finally take on their new roles.”

“Kind of how your clay is growing stronger as it hardens?” Dr. Scott asked.

“Exactly!” Mary exclaimed. “Once the training is complete, I’m going to come up with a safe way for my new sales reps to use their skills. But Peter said something curious just as we left. He mentioned that our bowls, although hard, would be quite fragile once dried. I think I’ve got a little more to learn about this step and the steps following.

Mary looked at her watch, “Well, I’ve got to run. Oh, and I’ve got interviews scheduled all next week. Can we meet the following Tuesday?”

“Sure. You know I don’t like to miss any meals,” Dr. Scott said with a chuckle. “See you then.”

Chapter 13 Class #7 Smoothing the Rough Spots
“The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.” – Daniel Defoe

After a long day of interviews, Mary was exhausted. Only the excitement of seeing her bowl gave her the strength to make it down to the YMCA. All weekend long, when not thinking about work, Mary was decorating her bowl in her head, how she would paint it, what colors to use, etc. But to Mary’s surprise, as she entered the classroom, there were no paints or paintbrushes, only sponges and sandpaper.

Peter sensed Mary’s disappointment. “What’s wrong, Mary?”

“Where are the paints? I thought we’d be decorating our bowls tonight,” Mary inquired.

“Not yet, not yet. Your bowls aren’t ready. Okay everyone, take a seat.

“Before I bring out the rack where your bowls have safely dried and hardened over the weekend, I want to review a few terms. First, since we are making bowls and the shapes are finished, I’ve allowed your clay bodies to dry completely. We call that bone-dry. But in some cases, such as making a water pitcher or any piece of pottery that might have an attachment, we would only allow them to dry about 75 to 80 percent. Does anyone remember what we called that last week?”

“Leather-hard!” shouted out one of the students.

“Very good!” Peter remarked. “The clay is firm enough that it won’t change shape, but wet enough that attachments can be made and will stick. There are different levels of leather-hard, such as soft leather-hard when we trimmed the foot, medium leather-hard, and stiff leather-hard. But since we aren’t doing any advanced designs, now we want it bone-dry.

“But this gives me a chance to plug my advanced pottery class that starts two weeks after this one ends. In that class we will be making more advanced shapes such as a water pitcher and using more advanced techniques including working with leather-hard clays. If you’re having fun and want to continue creating works of art – and believe me, these bowls are well done – you can sign up tonight right after class.

“Okay, tonight we need to prep these bowls for decorating. Before you go to the rack, understand that your bowls are dry and hard, but also fragile. This is one of the dangerous stages in pottery. You will need to handle your bowl gently as it is easy to chip them or even break them in this stage. Everyone pick up your bowl. Now, feel them. Run your hands all over them. Do you feel how rough they are?”

Mary was surprised. The clay had felt so smooth last Wednesday as she shaped it. But now there were rough spots both inside and outside the bowl.

“Not to worry, folks. This is quite normal. Our task today is to smooth out the rough spots. Up here on the table I have masks, sandpaper and sponges to do this job. The masks are for safety. The dust you kick up as you sand your bowl is silica dust and can be harmful. Please wear the masks. Use the sandpaper to gently scrape away any lumps, seams, or other extra pieces of clay. Especially work on the rim of your bowl. As you scrape away the excess, lightly dampen the sponge and wash away any dust that might accumulate.

“If you have any spots that won’t come smooth with the sandpaper, you can use this scraper. I recommend you start with the sandpaper and sponge first. Only use the scraper as a last resort, and be sure to wipe away any and all dust.”

Before you hire your next employee, buy the book. It will make a difference.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If you already have the book, download the Hiring & Training Worksheets. They're free!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Two Rules to Follow at Every Staff Meeting

Even though I have published a manifesto to help business owners and managers plan Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend (free download), I still hear about two common mistakes being made all the time that make staff meetings ineffective at best, and sometimes downright dangerous for your business.

Here are two rules you have to follow even if you do not use the method I prescribe.

Rule #1 Do Not Hold a Bitch Session

It does not matter what might be going on or who is to blame. Bitch sessions only accomplish two things:

  • Brings down the morale of the staff

  • Fractures the team
Bitch sessions never solve the problem, never "clear the air", never get to the heart of the matter. Do not buy into those excuses for allowing griping and blaming. Bitch sessions only serve to bring up more negativity and destroy any team unity you might have built.

Instead, if there are issues to resolve, resolve them in private with the involved parties directly, or simply bypass them by stating that no matter how things were handled before, this is how they need to be handled moving forward.

Rule #2 Focus on the Positive

Sure, negative issues need to be addressed. But instead of allowing them to turn into impromptu bitch sessions (see Rule #1), you need to approach them from a positive point of view.

We made a mistake.
Here is what we did.
Here is how we are going to handle it.
Here is how we will avoid this mistake in the future.

Notice how this approach holds everyone including you to blame without singling out that one person? The staff usually knows who that one person is to blame, but you take the focus off that person by making everyone including yourself the culprit. And you take the focus off the negativity by showing how to solve the problem and avoid the problem in the future.

When all is said and done, it really does not matter who made the mistake or who is to blame. All that really matters is that the staff has a positive, we're-all-in-this-together, outlook and a blueprint for avoiding those problems in the future.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Have a tough topic you need to cover for a staff meeting? Send me an email and we can brainstorm some ways to cover it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Right, Right, Right

Just read an interesting article on a discussion board (sorry, don't have the source link) about the new wave in retailing.

Interesting because it talks about how big-box stores are downsizing to meet the needs of the new shoppers.

Interesting because it talks about how today's shoppers (now being called Generation C for their connected, communicative, computer-savvy, community-minded outlook) shops differently than any previous generation.

Interesting because it quotes heavily an inventory management software company that uses a lot of 50-cent words like...

Deploying network inventory strategies that optimize stocking policies and maximize the availability merchandise, reducing stock-outs and eliminating excess inventory, in a forward-looking time-phased methodology combined with guided exceptions, and early warning signals to support root cause analysis.

The bottom line of the article is that today's customer is using her phone, her computer and the Internet to do more research than ever before making purchases. She knows the products, the features, and the general price range.

She will only buy from you if you have the Right product in the Right price range and give her the Right kind of service.

Yeah, not really a new concept to retail. The only difference is that it is easier for customers to know what are the right products and right price range for them. So you have to be as savvy as them.

You have to be following trends in your area closer than before to make sure you have the right products. You have to be paying attention to price far more than you used to (although the Internet makes that easier for you, just as it is easier for her.) You have to be giving far better service than what is found in a typical retailer (and you cannot have an off day.)

The big box stores are in trouble because even with all their computers they cannot accomplish the first thing on that list because they cannot react fast enough when things change. And they never had a chance at Right kind of service. Yet all their focus has been on getting the Right price. They are downsizing because their sales are downsizing. Look at their same-store sales. Down for Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Sears, and Toys R Us.

For the specialty stores, our biggest issue is having the right products, followed by having the right prices. We have to be careful we do not drive ourselves out of the market by dropping a line as soon as it gets discounted somewhere and thereby not having the right goods. Then we have to look at pricing and what we can afford. We don't have to match but we have to be in the range. The one thing we do have Right is the customer service (most of the time:-).

The reason the Internet is having such a huge influence on retail sales lately is because it is accomplishing the first two Rights (product and price) and getting better on the third (service).

Retail hasn't really changed. Customers haven't really changed. If you have the right products to meet their needs at a fair price and you take really good care of them, you'll have plenty of customers coming through your doors. Same as it has always been.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Sure, you have to work hard to do all those things. But retail has always been that way. Ancient Chinese Proverb says, "To open a shop is easy, to keep it open an art." Roy H. Williams said, "If making a profit were easy, everyone would be doing it."

PPS Before you spend a penny on a software program full of 50-cent words, check out what I have to say for FREE.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Speaker for Hire

I was sitting next to my Pastor about to give my first ever sermon in front of the congregation and I had an entire butterfly garden enter my stomach.

It was a weird sensation.

I have stood up in front of 150 independent toy store owners - some with far more experience in the industry than me - to give a talk that was totally counter to anything they had ever heard.

I have stood up in a dining hall with 500 kids under the age of ten and got them to not only pay attention but learn a complicated song in under a minute.

I have picked up my guitar in a room full of amazing musicians and led people who had more talent in their left pinkie than I have in my whole body.

Never caused me more than a sickly moth or two.

The truth is, I am one of those people who loves to stand up and talk in front of crowds. Never been an issue or problem. None of those paralyzing fears that so many experience. And I don't even have to picture anyone naked!

So you can imagine my surprise when a kaleidoscope of monarchs went crazy inside me. The hymns had been sung, the readings were done. All eyes were on me.

I stood at the pulpit, took a deep breath, looked around the sanctuary and realized I was back in my element. The garden closed, the monarchs went to sleep and the sermon went off without a hitch.

Some people find speaking to a group to be horribly distressful. For me it is one of my biggest eustresses. I love it. And according to those who have seen me, apparently I'm pretty good at it.

I just received my evaluation from Montcalm County. I gave two talks to a room of about 50 people, some who were coerced into attending. For each talk the Content was rated 4.75 out of 5 and the Delivery got a perfect 5!

At the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association my Pricing for Profit presentation in 2009 received a perfect 5.00 from the 135 people in that room. More importantly, many of those store owners are still thanking me for the info, telling me stories about how it has transformed their business and grown their profits.

Am I bragging? Sure.

But I do it with a point. I have found something at which I excel. It is something that fits my core values (Having Fun, Helping Others). And I want to do more of it.

I just revamped my Speaker for Hire page at with descriptions of all the talks I have previously given and would be happy to do again.

If you help organize speakers for your association or group, check out my list of topics and see if there is something there that fits. I promise you four things in every business talk I give.

  1. You will smile or laugh at least once

  2. You will learn something that you can apply to your business right away

  3. You will get professional handouts that remind you of everything I taught

  4. I will have the highest rated talk per dollar spent of any speaker you hire
Some people think I must not be very good because I do not charge the same rates as other professional speakers. I understand that. They charge what they charge because that is how they make a living. And they are worth every penny. I am worth just as much, too. But I am not doing this for the money. As cliche as it sounds, I do it for the fun. I do it because I know it will help.

Sure, you can simply download all the pdf's from the Freebies section of my website and get all of my knowledge for free. But it is not quite the same as the live presentation.

Get in touch and tell me your time, date, topic and budget constraints. There is a pretty good chance we can work something out.

-Phil Wrzesinski

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Laughter and Delight

Do you remember the last time you laughed while shopping?

Of course you do. Those experiences are memorable. Those moments are what make shopping fun. The store that brings you those memories will easily be your favorite store.

It has to be someone. Might as well be you.

Bob Phibbs just wrote a fantastic post about the importance of laughter in the sales relationship. The more you hire fun, friendly people, the more laughter you will hear on the sales floor. Laughter leads to delight leads to confidence leads to sales.

And it isn't just for retail. Service companies can use laughter and delight to make customers for life. Here is what a dentist friend of mine just did, told in his own words...

My aim is to delight people.

So I did.

I asked a patient how old her older son is and then we got to talking about how long she'd been coming to our practice. I started in 1988; her first appointment was in 1991. So, as of August, it's been 20 years. A wonderful patient, stays healthy, comes in every 6 months, has referred friends to us.

So, I go,"It's our anniversary! Happy Anniversary!"

She and my hygienist laugh, and she says, kinda kidding and without really thinking, "Does that mean I get my teeth whitened for free?"

I said, "You bet!"

And then gave her a hug, and got her scheduled for her whitening, on me.

Do you think she will be talking about him and referring him to ALL of her friends and family? Absolutely! She never dreads going to the dentist because he makes it so wonderful for her.

Engage your customers. Make them smile and laugh. Surprise and delight them. That, my friends, is WOW! Customer Service.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yes, he gave away a free whitening. He did it on a whim and with the only aim being to delight his patient. That is a great example of generosity that will buy him more advertising via word-of-mouth than any advertising he could have bought traditionally. Chalk it up as an advertising expense if you have to, but never be afraid to give it away.