Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is 90% Good Enough?

Last night I went to a Band Parent Meeting for my freshman trumpet player.  The band instructor set up the cafeteria so that he could teach a class and let the parents see how he teaches.  It was a fascinating glimpse into the world of musical instruction.

At one point the instructor talked about his grading policy.  He said everyone will get an A in his class, but not to worry, they will earn that A.  We sat with puzzled looks.  So he explained further.  He has a terminology test coming up next week.  Everyone has to get at least 90% on that test.  If they don't, they take the test again.  If they don't on the second try, they continue taking the test until they score at least 90%.  As he told us, if the students don't know the terminology, they can't play the music correctly.  Ninety-percent is the minimum and every student has to get there or they can't become a band.

Then, for further emphasis, he had the band play a piece of music they had just begun rehearsing.  The goal was mastery.  It is not enough to practice it until you can do it right; you have to practice it until you cannot do it wrong.  After playing a few bars, the instructor told the members of the band to purposefully make one mistake and only one mistake while they played the same melody again.  The difference was horrifyingly obvious.  Fifty kids all making only one mistake was painful to our ears.  Fifty kids all getting an A- was difficult to hear.

All students will get an A.

All students will get an A because that is what is expected and they will practice until they cannot do it wrong.  I believe the instructor. I believe him when he says all students will get an A.  I believe it because he has set up his classroom to make it happen.

Have you set up your store so that all your employees will get an A?  Are they expected to master their jobs?  Are they practicing until they cannot do it wrong?  Have you ever heard a band where every musician made one and only one mistake?

Thank you, Mr. Shaner.  I'm thrilled you will be my son's instructor for the next four years.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Homework in his class is simple.  Have you mastered it? No? You have homework.  Let me ask you... What are you trying to master?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

When it Rains...

Yesterday afternoon I watched my son run a cross country race in the rain.  Some of the hundreds of spectators had umbrellas, some had raincoats, some had no protection at all.  I read the weather reports.  I had an umbrella and a raincoat.

After the race that same son had to rush to the football stadium to march with the band.  The band wore full length rain jackets with hoods.  It rained so much the woodwinds didn't even play.  I added rain pants, a warmer shirt and a hat to my umbrella and rain coat.  Some people in the stands had nothing more than a jacket without a hood.

This morning my other son had a soccer game.  He was the only kid on the soccer field wearing a rain coat.

Sometimes it rains.  Life still goes on.  The cross country team runs. The football players play.  The band marches.  The soccer game happens.

Some people are prepared for the rain.  They read the weather report and dress appropriately.

Some people don't.  They hope the game or meet is canceled.  They pray the weather will change.  They make do the best they can and pretend it doesn't bother them.

Are you reading the weather report for your business?  Are you prepared for the storms?  Or are you just praying and pretending?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Storms can be economic crises in your hometown, vendor issues, competition coming to town, over-buying, or even under-buying, cash-flow problems, profit problems.  Every business has storms.  The best businesses have umbrellas and rain coats ready to handle those storms.  One way to stay prepared is to make a list of storms you might have to face and find the appropriate "umbrella" for each one.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Article You Should Read

I just finished reading a fascinating study done by Forbes on Middle Market Companies (click here to get the study - yes, you need to give your email to them, their rules, not mine.)

In spite of the economy, middle market companies are growing and they are creating jobs.

One telling statistic was when they were asked...

What do you think have been the most critical factors contributing to your organization's successful growth?

The runaway number one answer was... "Focus on Customer Experience".  Pricing was way down at tenth on that same list.

And when asked where they were focusing their resources, once again Customer Service was the number one answer.

What do these companies know that you don't?

Oh yeah... nothing.

Want to grow your business?  Focus your resources on Customer Service.  Find ways to make a better Customer Experience.  Works great in a down economy.  Works just as great when the economy is rocking, too.  Just sayin'.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  For a start on how to make your Customer Experience better, download my FREE eBook Customer Service: From Weak to WOW!  You will learn changes you can make today that won't cost you a dime (but will start earning you many more dimes!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Two Ways to Use Facebook Better

Social media is not a new form of advertising.  But it is a new method for branding your business.

Facebook is not a new avenue to talk at your customers.  But it is a new method for talking with your customers.

The biggest mistake most businesses make with social media (heck, with all forms of advertising) is using them the wrong way.  With social media, the specific mistake is thinking it is a platform for you to talk about your business.

If you think that way, you have it backwards.  Social media is for your customers to tell you about their lives and how you fit in them.  Therefore, the best way to use social media is to help your fans and followers start the conversation and then let them do all the talking.  Ask questions.  Ask for feedback.  Tell them what you're thinking and ask if they agree.

Groovy Girls versus Barbie Dolls

One way I like to start the conversation on Facebook for Toy House is to post pictures of two competing toys to see which one my customers prefer.  Quick Polls.  People love to give you their opinions, so let them.  One time I posted this pic of Groovy Girls vs Barbie Dolls.

You can see from the comments how my fans were doing the "selling" of Groovy Girls.  Far more powerful than me trying to "sell" my customers.

The other advantage of these quick polls was how easily it was to get a read on what my fans liked and didn't like and why.  They told me!

Not only did I get my customers to do the selling, I got valuable information about what my customers liked and disliked.  I also got a lot of interest.  The more people commented, the more people saw the post.  We found that the number of people who "liked" us grew faster when we did stuff like this rather than just shout out "We have Groovy Girls!"

Furthering Your Brand

Another way to use Facebook successfully is to use it to further your brand.  Make sure all of your posts are consistent with your Core Values.  For instance, one of the Toy House Core Values is Nostalgia.  So I posted this...

In 1949 my grandparents, Phil & Esther Conley transformed a house on First Street into a toy store. Everyone said they were crazy. You can't sell toys year-round in Jackson. 18 years and three expansions later they had outgrown that house. On Monday, September 18, 1967 they re-opened Toy House at 400 North Mechanic Street. Forty five years later, the store is still going strong in our current building, still making people smile. If you like what we've done, share this with your friends. In a world where everything is becoming more disposable, some things are still built to last.

It was one of the most popular posts ever in terms of views and shares and likes.  Nostalgia is a powerful value that resonates with a lot of people.

I didn't tell people what to do.  I didn't tell them where to go.  I told them what I believed in.  I tapped into their own feelings of nostalgia.  I tapped into their own belief systems.  I deepened the connection they might already have and used them, by their comments and likes and shares, for reaching out to others who might share those same values.

I love Facebook.  Not as a means of selling, but as a means of conversing, of learning, of sharing, and of building a deeper relationship.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Want to know more about the right and wrong ways to use all other forms of advertising? Read my FREE eBook How Ads Work Part 1.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fake It Til You Make It

When you smile, the simple act of your muscles pulling the lips upward sends a signal to your brain.  Your brain begins releasing Endorphins that lower your stress.  It also sends a signal to your brain to release Serotonin, which boosts your immune system, gives you energy, and makes you feel good.

Even when the smile isn't genuine.

Isn't that cool?  You really can fake it til you make it.  Fake a smile and in short time you will feel better.

You can do the same thing with other body language poses.

Power posing is another way to fake it til you make it.  According to a Harvard study, when you strike a power pose, a pose where your body is open, not crossed, and in a larger than life position (think Wonder Woman with her hands on her hips), you increase your levels of testosterone while also decreasing your levels of cortisol.

What are the applications of this for independent retailers?

First, remind your staff to smile no matter how they feel.  Just that act alone will make them feel better soon.  Plus, that smile is infectious.  If they smile, the customers will smile and soon everyone will be feeling better.

Second, teach your staff how to Power Pose every morning before the day begins.  Have them hold that pose for a couple minutes before they hit the sales floor.  Their energy will be better, they will have more confidence, and they will seem more likable and approachable.

Yeah, body language actually does make a difference, both inside and out.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  That picture is from the Monroe Chamber of Commerce Business Summit.  I had everyone Power Pose at the beginning of the talk.  Got the energy of the crowd up before I launched a new motivational talk - Better Your Business by Being Your Business Better which includes elements of Understanding Your Brand with more examples of how it works in real life. If you would like your organization fired up and working towards a common goal, contact me.  The presentation takes an hour (there is a 30-minute Reader's Digest version if you're strapped for time) and will do far more than just raise your testosterone or lower your cortisol.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What Did You Do Last Week?

What did you do this past week?  Write it all down.  Short-hand, as a bullet list, paragraph form, whatever it takes.  Write it ALL down.  Go ahead.  I'll wait...

I played golf (twice), won a golf scramble tournament.  I led a group of Emerging Leaders through a Team Building training and then taught them how to be Team Builders on their own teams.  I did a Keynote Address for the Monroe Chamber of Commerce Business Summit on being true to your Core Values.  I helped my two sons with homework.  I taught a class on baby products for expectant parents.  I taught a class for expectant daddies.  I got a quote back for printing my next book.  I placed orders for the store.  I dealt with defects and problems for customers.  I calculated cash flow projections.  I wrote up a new schedule for staff for next month.  I planned a staff meeting.  I met with three sales reps.  I went biking. I went running.  I took my dog to agility class.  I played my guitar.  I set up a sound system for church.  I installed a bunch of car seats.  I ran errands.   I went on TV.  I wrote a bunch of emails.  I read a bunch of blogs. I wrote a blog. I cooked for my wife and kids. I ate. I slept.

Three things come from a list like this.

First, unless you wrote a chronological list, the first few things you listed were likely the items that meant the most to you.  Sometimes this is the easiest way to figure out where your priorities lie, and if they are aligned with your needs.

Second, sometimes it is easy to forget all the incredible things you do in a week.  Pat yourself on the back for all you accomplished.  It is often more than you thought and quite often more than you expected.  Writing it all down helps bring into focus all you do and the impact you make.

Third, it helps you remember all that you didn't do.  Compare one week's list to the next and you will see what you failed to accomplish.  Don't be so hard on yourself.  There is always more to do.  Put those things on this week's To Do list and get busy.

It is good to stop and take your pulse from time to time and make sure you have your priorities straight.  Take a good look at your list and figure out the story it has to tell you.  Then decide what you want to put on next week's list.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Yes, it was a particularly busy week for me with some really fun big events.  But, surprisingly enough, the list is no longer than any other week.  Just different.  Isn't variety the spice of life? And I can quickly see where I need to spend more time next week.

PPS Don't compare your list to mine or anyone else's.  You aren't living those lives.  Live your own.  Just do it consciously and with purpose.  This list exercise helps you do that.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Don't Know What to Do

My son is a freshman on the cross country team.  He needs to do running on his own over the weekend (which, of course, means running with dad).  Time got away from us and the sun was setting on our weekend.  We decided to go to the middle school where they have coin-operated lights on the tennis courts.

The courts were full and the lights on when we got there, but half way through our run the courts emptied and the lights went out.

No problem.  I had plenty of quarters.  I started feeding the machine and pushing the button.  Nothing happened.  I fed more quarters, still nothing.  I used the light from my phone to find a sign.  No sign.  A couple of walkers came by and asked if we needed help.  They had a flashlight.  No sign. No info.  They thought it was one hour for 50 cents, but there was nothing to tell us that.

Three dollars and fifty cents later we left the dark courts for the partially lit parking lot to continue our run.

Five minutes later the lights at the tennis courts came on.  Time delay? I don't know.  They were on and probably going to stay on for quite some time - three dollars and fifty cents worth of time!

I owe an apology to all the residents nearby for the next seven hours of bright lights.  I'm only as good as the info I am given.

So are your customers.  Make sure they know exactly how to do anything and everything you want them to do.  Give them signs.  Give them info.  Give them clear instructions.  They'll be happy because they accomplished what they wanted to do.  You'll be happy because they are happy. (And the neighbors will be happy because the lights will go off at a decent hour - sorry 'bout that.)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Our puppy didn't mind running in the dark.  Then again, unlike your customer, she doesn't read signs.  Your customer will get the info she needs somewhere.  Might as well be from you.