Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wild Caught Shrimp

I'm writing to you from Amelia Island, Florida near Jacksonville.  Took the wife and kids on vacation.  This morning we went on an Eco Tour and learned about the shrimping industry.  We took a ferry boat through the inter-coastal waterways and with the help of Andrea, our marine biologist, and Captain Sean, did some trawling.  We caught a sting ray, a butterfly ray, a couple blue crabs, some flounder, a tongue fish, two squid, and a whole bunch of shrimp.

At one point Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island was the shrimp capital of North America with over 3 million pounds of shrimp caught annually. There used to be 150 shrimp boats parked off the pier.  Today only five working shrimp boats remain. (Gee, sound like any other industries you know?)

The vast majority of shrimp sold in supermarkets is grown in gigantic shrimp farms - many located in China.  It isn't that there aren't shrimp available in these waters.  No one seems willing to pay the extra dollar or two per pound to eat wild caught shrimp.  Captain Sean says these waters could still support 3 million pounds of shrimp annually.

He should know.  He grew up in the area and still fishes these waters.  He promises that if you ever ate the wild caught shrimp and farm-grown shimp side by side, you would throw out the farm-grown shrimp immediately.  He is that sure of it.  And he believes with all his heart that the shrimping industry would come back if people did a taste test.

Would you pay a dollar or two more per pound for wild caught shrimp?  What if it did taste better?

What reason are you giving your customers to pay a dollar or two more in your store?  Does it "taste" better?

If not, you have some work to do.  If so, you just need to convince the public.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Look for wild caught shrimp next time you're buying shrimp in the market.  Try it, you'll like it.  I trust Captain Sean.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Teachable Moment

Two employees.  One a veteran of 24 years.  The other a relative newcomer starting her third year of employment.  Both thinkers.  Passionate to a fault.  Loyal beyond expectation.  Hard workers who more than earn their pay.

A manager's dream, right?

Except when they butt heads.

The newcomer came to me because she was having run-ins with the veteran.  They didn't see eye-to-eye on how to merchandise certain product lines.  The vet was strong in her opinions and not necessarily pleasant in the exchange.  One would assume that the newcomer should just do what the veteran says and accept that seniority rules.  Except the newcomer was the person I put in charge of merchandising those lines.

How should I respond?

For me, moments like these are precious.  They are the teachable moments where I have a chance to accomplish two things at once - turn a negative into a positive and help an employee grow.

My ultimate goal for this new employee is that I am grooming her to be a key person.  I need her to be able to make critical decisions and trust her own judgment.  I need her to make rational decisions and not allow emotions to dictate.

First we talked about her passion and her smarts and her training and her desire to do what I have taught her to do.  Then we talked about the similarities between her and the veteran.  This caught her a little off guard.  Then we talked about how to find the kernel of truth in what the veteran was saying.  No matter how confrontational the delivery, the veteran brings some amazing skills and wisdom to the table.  Finally, we came to the conclusion that once she found the nugget inside what the veteran was saying, she was then free to use her own judgment to make the final decision.

All at once she realized the veteran was her ally, not her adversary, and they really were far more alike than different.

Will they butt heads again?  Probably.  But now she is better equipped to handle those situations.  And she is better prepared for those head-butting moments from other parts of retail - a skill my key people need to have.

-Phil Wrzesinski

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Breaking Down an Ad

I've ripped apart a couple ads previously here and here.  Time to do it again.

Today I will be recording the following ad...

She is a writer.  Journals.  Poetry.  Stories.
She is a writer.  Loves to put the pencil to paper.
She is a writer.  Birthday coming up.
She is a writer.  She lives in Belgium.
She is a writer.  Her book is now published.
She is a writer.  Happy 10th birthday!
She is a writer.  Got started with a gift from Toy House
Toy House in downtown Jackson.  We're here to make you smile.

My five points for writing an ad are:

  1. Make only one point
  2. Speak to the heart
  3. Speak more of customer than you do yourself
  4. Back up all your claims
  5. Tell a story

Make Only One Point
She is a young writer who got a gift from Toy House to launch her writing career.  Did you get that point?  Good.

Speak to the Heart/Tell a Story
The whole ad is a complete story.  A writer.  A birthday coming up.  Lives out of country.  Published.  Wait, she's only 10?

The fact she has a birthday coming up gets your attention and makes you want to listen more.  Birthdays are powerfully nostalgic.  The part about Belgium (true story) adds to the interest and intrigue.  Then the clincher - she is only 10 years old.  Melts your heart, doesn't it?  It did mine the first time I heard this story from the grandmother.

Speak More of Customer Than Yourself
Spoke of her or you ten times, me only three.  (See if you can spot what I am counting.)

Back up Your Claims
The closest to a claim I make is that she got a gift from Toy House that launched her writing career.  This really is not a claim. I am not promising anything, just sharing what happened.  If I were to say, "If you buy this product, you will become a writer," then I need to back that up with evidence.  In this case I am just giving you the details of the story.  Notice that I do not mention the product either.  Mentioning the product shifts this ad from a story to a sales pitch.  Leaving it out makes people feel more emotionally connected, which is the real goal of the ad.  They will come in and ask about the product if writing is their dream.

The best thing about this ad?  It doesn't sound like any other ad on the radio.  People will listen to this ad, even as they tune out everything else they hear on the radio.  Isn't that the first most important part of advertising?  To get them to pay attention?

Of course it is.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Nostalgia is one of the points of my Character Diamond.  Do you have a Character Diamond that drives all of your business decisions?  Would you like one?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trying Something New

I tried something new and I learned two things.

First, you should try something new more often.  It becomes less scary the more you do it and is rarely as hard as it seems.
Second, you can cut a sixty-minute presentation down to twenty minutes and still get the crowd fired up.

Let me explain...

The phone rang at 11:10am .  "Hi Phil, I got your name from Mindy at the Chamber.  I need a speaker for our luncheon at noon and she thought you might be flexible enough to make it.  Can you help me out?"

Sure.  What would you like me to talk about and how long do you want me to talk?

"Anything you would like.  You get twenty minutes. Lunch starts at noon."

Give me twenty-four hours and that is a speaker's dream.  Give me twenty four minutes and my obvious option was to drag out an old tried-but-true performance, dust it off and call it good.

Or I could try something new.

This group has heard me speak about the Toy House and about the importance of shopping local.  They didn't need to be sold on me.  They needed to be sold on themselves.  Service organizations like this one have much more competition for membership than ever before.

What if I could give them a tool that would not only help them individually and with their own businesses, but could also help them as an organization?  What if I could do that in twenty minutes or less?

Why not?

All I was getting was a free lunch.  All they were expecting was a last-second speaker to fill 20 minutes of time, hopefully well.

I had just read Tim Miles' post about the 6 Basic Questions to Build a Speech and knew I could only make one point.  I have always dreamed about being a TED presenter - they only get 20 minutes - so I figured this would be good training.

I printed a few handouts from my one to two hour Understanding Your Brand Workshop and headed out.

Surprisingly, when you take out all the extra stuff, you can get a single point across quite well in a short period of time.  Was it as effective as the full length workshop?  No.  In the full length workshop we all get to the finish line together.  Yesterday many of the participants did not finish.  But they all got a map that leads them to the finish.  For some people that is all they need.  And for this group, that was enough.

In some ways it was far more than they expected - short notice or not.

Yeah, trying new things can be fun.  Even in retail.  Do me a favor.  Try something new this coming week.  Even if it is something simple.  You'll see two things immediately.

First, it won't be as hard as you originally thought.
Second, your staff will be fired up with a new enthusiasm.

Gee, those two outcomes alone are worth it, don't ya think?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  That something new could be a new service, a new product category, a new way to merchandise, a new social media, a new way of designing your ads, a new blog for your store, a new method of organizing your expense accounts, a new way to track gift cards, a new event for the store, a new sign, a new splash of paint on the wall, a new place for employees to take a break, a new blog to follow, a new form for charitable donations, a new uniform, a new phone message...  What else can you think of?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New eBook - Reading Your Financial Statements

I promised I would let you know when I updated my eBook on how to read and understand your financial statements.

It is updated.

Just click the link to download your FREE copy of Reading your Financial Statements.

You've most likely just finished wrapping up your year-end.  This will help you decipher those reports the accountant prepares and help you figure out how to use them to make your business more profitable.

Like always, if you have any questions, please ask.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  This is a much, much simpler version of the book I wrote for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association.  That book - Financials Made Understandable - includes more detail, discussion, and advanced dialogue on the Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss including how to determine why your numbers might not look like other toy stores.  The book will be out this June and even if you are not a toy retailer, you will find answers to your questions that your accountant might not fully understand because it is written by a retailer like you.  Contact the ASTRA office to pre-order.

We're Here to Make You Smile

Every month at our staff meetings we have time carved out for "Smile Stories" - moments when you made the customer smile in a memorable way.  The staff keep notes throughout the month of their favorite stories just so they have something to share.  Some even take notes of the smile stories someone else on the staff created to make sure those do not get missed.

Most say it is one of their favorite parts of working here.

Can you guess how often Creating a Smile is on the top of my staff's mind?


-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Want some tips for how you can get your customers to smile more?  Download the free eBook Customer Service: From Weak to Wow.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

David Beats Goliath (Again)

March Madness is a great reminder that even when the deck is stacked against you, you can win.

In the first full round of competition in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, ten of the thirty two games were won by the underdog.  31.3% for you statisticians.

The more telling stat is this...

100% did it by out-hustling their competition.  They did it by doing what they do best, to the best of their ability, and by wanting it more than their competitor.

Some could not match up size-wise.  Others did not have the depth.  Some lacked the overall talent.  A few even needed a lucky break or two.  Gee, sounds a lot like independent retailers.  Size of store, depth of product, lack of educational business training.

Yet independent retailers are slaying Goliaths all over the place, even without a lucky break or two.  They do it by playing up their strengths.  You don't need a deep product mix, just a few great options.  You don't need a huge store, just a talent for merchandising it well.  You don't need an MBA, just an understanding of how to relate to others and build relationships.

More importantly, you don't need to beat Goliath to win. You only need to accomplish three things:

  • Keep the cash flowing
  • Show a profit
  • Make a living

Do those and you get to raise all the championship banners you want.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Not doing all of those three things, yet?  Do not despair. Sometimes all you need is some coaching to push you in the right direction.  For those of you who are self-coached, check out Freebies section of my website.  There are plenty of Goliath-beating tools you can download for free.  For those wanting a little more, contact me.  Sometimes the fix is easier than you imagined.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Someone Always Does it Better

No matter how good you think you are, someone is better.  No matter how strong you think your customer service is, someone is offering more.  No matter how good you think your staff is trained, someone is trained better.  No matter how well you think you merchandise your store, someone merchandises theirs better.  No matter how many awards you win, someone is doing what you do better (but just hasn't been discovered by the judges).

So let me ask you.  Are you seeking out those retailers who do what you do better than you?  Are you learning from their ideas?  Are you copying their best practices?
Are you using their lessons to find better ways to do what you do?

You should.

Phil Tripp of Tripp's Auto Shop & Collision Center was a panelist for the Jackson Retail Success Academy.  He runs one of the biggest body shops in the area doing far more business than the industry average.  Yet he had just returned from a trip to the Pacific Northwest to meet another body shop owner who had found a way to do even more business.

Phil figured if someone was highly successful doing something different from him, it was worth the investment to go visit and learn.

How much of your training budget is spent on your staff?  More importantly, how much is spent on you?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  The opening paragraph is something I remind myself all the time.  I love learning new "best practices" and trying to see how we can implement them in the store.  Some fit, some do not, but that doesn't stop me from looking for ways to improve.  I hope you are doing the same.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What I Learned in an Exit Interview

You know what an Exit Interview is.

I hire a large group of seasonal employees each year. At the end of the season I sit down with each one to discuss their experience. What did they like? What was a challenge? How well did they feel prepared? Did the veterans on the staff help them? What did they learn about us? What did they learn about themselves? What will they take away from the experience?

At the end of this past Christmas season I sat down with eight seasonal employees near the end of their experience and received some incredible insight into the store, the training program, and the current staff. (It is amazing how much more they are willing to share when they are leaving than when they are still employed.)

The common thread through all the interviews was the same.
The regular staff was extremely helpful in wanting the new people to succeed.
They wanted to help. They wanted to teach. They wanted the newbies to succeed, to feel like they were part of the team.

That was the watershed moment when I knew we were doing something right.

Just as I teach in my book, Hiring and the Potter's Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art,
I hire purely for character traits and then teach those people how to work in my store.

The traits I hire? Helpful, Friendly, Team Player, Problem Solver, Success Oriented.

Looks like I found them.

Would you like to find the right people for your team, too? Buy the book. It works.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Hiring is seventy-five percent of the battle. If you do not get the right people to start, it won't matter how well you train them. But if you have the right people, you still need to get them to the next level. Before you plan your next staff meeting, download this free eBook - Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend. It will take your staff trainings to a whole new level.

Monday, March 12, 2012

You Don't Need to Buy it All at Once

Christmas season is the time for most retailers to offer the widest selection possible. We broaden our selection. We increase the choices. We try extra stuff that we think we can sell that time of year.

The problem, however, is when we get into the off-season and start re-stocking the store. We have a tendency to want to restock every single thing that sold in December. And therefore, we tend to overbuy in February and March only to find ourselves cash-poor in May and June.

One simple tip to stop you from overbuying, to increase your cash flow, without losing sales in the slower seasons is this...

Limit your customer's choices to only two or three per category.

Cut back on your offerings by simply giving them a good, better, best (or even just good/best) option for now. They will appreciate the simplicity of the choice. You will appreciate the simplicity of the buying. Your bank account will appreciate the simplicity of fullness.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS To learn more about ways to manage your inventory and cash flow, download my free eBook Inventory Management. In it you will learn two formulas that can help you manage your cash better than ever before.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Heart and Mind

The mind uses logic to justify what the heart desires.
Roy H. Williams taught me that back in 2005 and I have shared it with countless other retailers since.
Win the heart and you win the mind. But what does it mean to win the heart?
It means to win the right hemisphere of the brain where emotions and colors and sounds and images exist.
It means to win the right brain of connections and patterns and relationships.
It means to win the right brain that does not care about logic or labels.
It means to win the right brain, the part that never sleeps.
You do that with emotions.
You do that with relationships.
You do that with patterns.
You do that with music and sound.
You do that with surprise and delight.
You do that with stories.
Can you tell a story about your store that will connect emotionally with your potential customers? It will be far more powerful than any facts or data.
I ran this ad in December 2005, again in 2007, and again in 2009.
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 in front of me. "I suppose you don't have any Simon games either." As I handed over the last of the Simon games he smiled and said, "God bless you." Believe me, he already has. Merry Christmas from Toy House in downtown Jackson. We're here to make you smile.
No facts. No data. Just a true story about my first Christmas Eve on the sales floor back in 1980. Would you believe the three years I ran it are three of the best holiday seasons in the last 20 years?
Win the heart (the right side of the brain). You know how.
-Phil Wrzesinski

Friday, March 9, 2012

Universal Laws are Universal - Use Them

Newton's second law states simply that Force = Mass x Acceleration.

That law is accepted as fact. It is a Universal law. That means it applies to everything.

Including your business.

Force = Mass x Acceleration
Impact = Size of idea (mass) x Speed at which it is delivered (acceleration)

If you have a great business idea and you deliver that idea quickly and succinctly, you will make a big impact. If you have a lousy idea and take forever to deliver it... Yeah, you get the picture.

You can even break that down to your advertising. Do you know why sound bites work so well? Big idea delivered in few words. Build your ads the same way. Make it about one and only one really big point. Deliver that point as simply as possible. Watch the needle move.

Tap into the laws of the universe and you can make them work to your advantage.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I learned this from Roy H. Williams at Wizard Academy. You should go there some day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Do it Until it is Easy

I have always been pretty good at understanding Advertising. The stuff I have learned from Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, just makes total sense to me.

I have always had a knack for teaching and training the staff. Once I created my own system for hiring, I've been sought out as a guru for Hiring and Training seminars.

I have always been pretty good at understanding how to better manage your Inventory. My seminars on this topic have been some of the highest rated talks I have given.

My Achilles heel has been the Financials. Oh, I know 'em. Have to when you run a business like mine. But knowing them and understanding them has been two different things.

Until last night...

I gave my first ever presentation on Understanding the Financials of a Retail Business to a group of business owners. Like me, they all considered their grasp of the accounting side of business to be their weakest. But in less than 90 minutes they all understood how to read a Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss Statement . More importantly, they figured out how to use both of those reports to budget, manage cash flow and inventory, and make mid-year corrections.

How did I do it? How did I take something difficult and make it understandable? The same way a professional golfer masters a new shot. I worked at it. For me that meant writing a book about it.

Last fall the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association asked if I would write a book to help other toy retailers understand their financials. I said, "Yes!" and got busy figuring out how to do it. The book will be ready by June and can be purchased from ASTRA.

More importantly, however, the process taught me that I can take something hard and make it easy. I just have to work at it. Better yet, last night the business owners in the room unanimously agreed that I had accomplished my goal - to help them understand their financials, too. That made the work all the more worthwhile.

You can do it, too. Just keep doing the hard stuff until it becomes easy. Surprisingly, for most of us that learning curve is pretty quick. Getting started is the only real challenge.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I am currently reworking my eBook on this topic and hope to publish the new one soon. It is an overly simplified version of the ASTRA book. I'll let you know here when I get it done. If you want more details, advanced ideas, and a comparison to toy industry averages, you will want to purchase the book. Check with the ASTRA office. I think they are taking pre-orders now.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

How Many Points Should You Make?

(Full disclosure: I have no idea where this story originated. I think it came from Roy H. Williams or one of his Wizard Partners because it sounds like something they would say. If anyone knows where this story started, please let me know.)

The ad committee met to discuss the new copy for their next missive. After much heated debate, they finally came to an agreement on the twelve points that needed to be made.

They called in the copy writer and asked him to sit down at the end of the conference room table.

As they began explaining in detail and nuance each of the twelve points, the copy writer pulled a board out of his bag with a dozen nails sticking straight up. He laid the board on the end of the table. With puzzled looks and just a slight pause the ad committee chairman continued his description of the points.

The copy writer then took a frying pan out of his bag and slammed it down on the bed of nails. This shocked the room into silence. The copy writer then showed the small indentations on the bottom of the frying pan to the stunned committee.

Without saying a word, the copy writer pulled another board out of his bag. This board contained a large solitary spike. The copy writer took the same frying pan and slammed it down on the spike. The pan was impaled by the spike, sliding all the way down until it was stuck firmly to the board.

The copy writer looked up and said, "Now... how many points did you want me to make?"

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yes, that's my pan and my boards. I tried it out on the Jackson Retail Success Academy students back in January and I'm pretty sure that point stuck. If you would like to make the point in your ads stick better. Check out my free ebooks, How Ads Work Part 1 and Part 2.

Friday, March 2, 2012

JC Penney Revisited

I wrote recently about JC Penney's new pricing policy and my wife's experience there.
I hoped they won't muck it up, knowing if they do, no one else will follow their lead away from hyped up sale, sale, sale to a more realistic method of pricing.
My wife went in looking for a new pair of pants. Found some she liked. They were marked $20.00. There were a couple other colors of the exact same pant there, but one was marked $25.00. No sale signs, no discounts, no markings on the tags to let you believe they were anything other than the price marked.
She took one up to the register. It rang up at some incredibly low price, like $10.00. She immediately ran back and grabbed two more colors. One of them also rang up at $10.00, the other at $15.
She had no idea what to expect, whether to complain, whether to walk away happy or just confuzzled. She wondered later how many people had walked away from those pants because they thought the pants were $20.00.
We just got the JC Penney catalog explaining their new pricing policy. Now I am confuzzled. Nothing in the catalog made sense and nothing matched the experience in the store.
A simple lesson here. If you want to go after the Relational Customer, the one looking for an expert she can trust, you have to price your store in way that instills confidence and trust. You do that by clearly marking your actual prices on everything. Do not leave anything to guesswork or wonder.
If you want to maximize your sales, do not let your customer walk away because she thought something was too expensive. Put the actual price on the product. Period.
Unless you want to be like JC Penney...
-Phil Wrzesinski
PS Would you like to learn how to price for maximum sales and profits? Download my free eBook Pricing for Profit. Pricing is all about perception, something I hope JC Penney learns soon.