Monday, September 30, 2013

Four (Cheap) Ways to Make Your Store Look Fresh

When was the last time you changed things up? Is everything where it was last year? Even if the products have changed, if you haven't moved the categories around since last year, your store looks soooo 2012.

Yet, in a store like mine, where we have huge sections and categories, just changing the merchandising around can seem a daunting task.

Here are four simple and inexpensive things you can do that will make your store look fresh, new and exciting.

  1. Paint a Wall. Not the whole store, just one wall. Paint it a wild and fun color. Something that ties into the merchandising of that area. A gallon or two of paint and a Sunday afternoon is all it takes to brighten up the place.
  2. Put a Planter with fresh flowers out front. Fresh flowers equals fresh store. You can even talk to a local florist or nursery about having them supply the planter and flowers in exchange for putting "Flowers by _______" on the planter.
  3. Put a Table Cloth on your main display. Not only does it change the look and feel, while also covering up the cracks and scratches, it highlights the product on that display and raises their Perceived Worth.
  4. Refresh the Signage. Take down every paper sign in your store and reprint them from your computer. (The investment in a good color printer pays for itself on this one). 

People want to shop where the buzz is. People want to shop where it feels like things are happening. If your store looks like last year, you won't get that buzz. You're already buying new products. Might as well send a few more signals out that your store is fresh and exciting. You'll probably get some Word-of-Mouth, too, so consider anything you spend as an advertising expense.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I have some other ideas I will share later, but they cost just a bit more.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

When to Speed Up, When to Slow Down

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

And even within a single shopping trip there are multiple speeds. Getting to know your customer and build rapport takes time and shouldn't ever be rushed. Getting the customer checked out and back in her car, however, requires a sense of purpose if not urgency.

Here are some reminders...

The getting-to-know-you phase. Don't pepper them with so many questions that they feel under attack. Let the relationship grow as naturally as possible so that they'll feel more comfortable with you.

The product selection phase. Give them time to study during the decision-making process. Some people can make quick decisions, but many others need that extra moment to filter all the information. Go too fast here and you'll seem pushy.

The close. This seems counter-intuitive, but the reality is that there is so much training on closing the sale that most sales people are in a hurry to get that sale closed. In the process, however, you miss ample opportunities to continue serving the customer and growing the sale. Use the phrase Is there anything else I can do for you? liberally. Make sure the customer has everything she needs before you close the sale.

The checkout. Once the customer is here, her only thought is to get out the door and on to the next event. Accuracy trumps speed at the checkout. But speed shows competency. To truly build trust, you need to be both accurate and efficient. Look at your procedures and see what you can do to quicken the process without hurting the accuracy.

The follow-up. If you do follow-up calls on purchases, call sooner, not later. If they have a problem, they will usually know right away and your promptness makes you look eager to solve the problem. If the customer asks a question or has a problem that requires follow-up, respond quickly - even if the response is "We've contacted so-and-so and are waiting for a response."

Ask your frontline staff about the speed of the customer. Where is browsing and strolling encouraged? Where is it limited? What part of the checkout makes customers seem impatient? Where are we too fast? Where are we too slow? You'll get valuable feedback and you'll get your staff to become more aware of their own speeds in the process.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS When you meet with the staff, share the idea of the different speeds of the customer with them, but really listen when they start giving you feedback on what is too fast or too slow. Let them help devise the plan to slow down and speed up as necessary. If they create the plan, you'll have their instant buy-in.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Leading from the Conductor's Podium

The conductor of a symphony orchestra has the best seat in the house. All the music is focused right at him. From the podium he hears and sees everything that is going on. He sees things in the back row of brass that the violinists in the front row can't. He hears things from the clarinetists that the timpani players can't. He gets all the information from the podium.

That information is what he uses to guide his orchestra to create a beautiful sound.

The leader of a team has the best seat on the team. He gets all the feedback from all the different members of the team. He gets all the different perspectives and is able to plot them against the big picture. From his position of leadership he sees and hears things that the individual members of the team cannot always see and hear.

That information is what he uses to guide his team to achieve more.

But what about the view from the other side?

The podium, while offering a clear view, also puts the conductor in a position of power. Everything he says or does is amplified. Every word, movement, gesture is larger than life. Conductors who use grandiose gestures and sweeping movements are fun to watch. But they take the focus off the music and put it on themselves. They use their power to control. The musicians soon learn that it it is not about them, but about the conductor.

An experienced conductor, however, knows that the true power of an orchestra comes from the musicians, not from him. He uses his movements sparingly, knowing the podium amplifies everything he does. It doesn't take much movement of the wrist to move the baton. His job is to put the focus on the orchestra, to direct their power.

The leader of a team needs to realize that his leadership is like a podium. Every word and action is amplified. He can go yelling and screaming and put all the focus on him, or he can use subtle movements that put the focus on the team and direct their power.

The podium is the best seat in the house. But you better know how to handle it.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Every word is amplified, too. Choose your words carefully, constructively. Your team is looking to you for direction. They will follow what they see and hear you do, including those casual, flippant remarks you thought were harmless. Read this from Bob Phibbs to see more of what I mean.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Storytelling 101

"Tell more stories!" they shouted at you. "Stories sell!" they exclaimed. "It's the best way to market yourself!" they bellowed. After the ringing in your ears faded, you said, "Okay, I have stories to tell." You start telling them. But deep in the back of your mind, where you let few people enter, you're wondering. Are my stories interesting? Are people even listening?

Seth Godin said it best today when he wrote, "Here’s how to know if you’re on the right track: if you stop a story in the middle, the audience will insist you finish it."

Yes, your stories are interesting, but you might not be telling them right. How do you become a storyteller that has people on the edge of their seat waiting for the next line?

Jeff Sexton knows. He writes the best blogs about storytelling in an advertising sense that I've ever found. You could spend a day or two reading his past posts and learn more than you ever would on a college campus.

Roy H. Williams, is the master, well, um, the Wizard. He was nicknamed the Wizard of Ads and it stuck because it is true. His Wizard of Ads trilogy of books is to this day the most fascinating series of books I've ever read.

Here are some basics I've learned from these masters.

Start with something interesting. You need to hook the listener right away. You can fill in the background later (if at all).
Choose what to leave out. Details slow down the delivery and distract from the story. Cut out all the descriptions that aren't absolutely necessary (which is like 95% of them).
Leave in the verbs. Stories need action. Action is excitement. Action makes people want to see what happens next.
Surprise me. If I already know how the story ends before I get to the second line, I'm outta here!
Tie the ending to the beginning. People want resolution to their stories. If you hooked me with an interesting opening, I want to know why that is important at the end.

Your writing is influenced by your reading. Read great books by great storytellers. Look for these clues in their writing. Mimic it in your own. Write. Write some more. Test it on your friends. Stop in mid-story and see what happens. Test again with new openings and new verbs. Write some more. Tell some more.

Soon your audience will be demanding you finish.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Some of my most powerful ads have been stories like these...

She almost fell out of the pew.  Her pastor actually called Toy House the Promised Land for kids.  Right there in front of a packed church.  The lady on her left leaned over and said, “You work there, don’t you?”  She nodded.  The lady leaned in again, “I love that place.” She couldn’t help but smile.  “Me too,” she whispered back.  It’s the promised land for kids and adults.  Just ask the lady sitting on your left.  Toy House and Baby Too is an impact partner of  We love to see you smile.

What is your earliest Christmas memory?  Mine was grandma and grandpa sitting on a bench handing my sister and me our gifts.  I was only three, but I tore open that package with the speed of a six-year-old.  A towel, a white, Raggedy Ann towel.  I smiled a big smile, unfolded my towel and plopped down.  I couldn’t figure out why my sister was crying.  After all, she got Raggedy Andy and he’s way cooler.  Merry Christmas from the Toy House in downtown Jackson.  We’re here to make you smile

Christmas Eve, nineteen sixty-five.  He didn’t know if he would make it.  Nine months of active duty, he missed his family.  And he was an uncle now.  His sister had a baby girl, a precious little child for which a stuffed animal from an airport gift shop just wouldn’t do.  When his dad picked him up in the family sedan, he asked, “We got time to stop by the Toy House?”  “Of course, son.  Welcome home.”  Merry Christmas from the Toy House in downtown Jackson, an impact partner of We love to see you smile.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Motivating Your Employees

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

You're invited.

I am debating whether to put together another Freebie for you. I can certainly write up what I am going to say. My hesitation is that it will end up mostly being a book review. Well, two book reviews.

Much of my leadership style and much of how I motivate my team come from two books.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink
Maestro by Roger Nierenberg

Would you like to learn how to motivate your staff to their highest level of achievement and creativity? Read Drive.

Would you like to learn how to lead a team of high-achieving creatives? Read Maestro.

Would you like me to summarize my thoughts on the two books including how I use their approaches in real life in a new Freebie later this fall? Leave me a comment below (or on Facebook or Google+ or by email).

Hope to see you Friday.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Would you like me to give this presentation to your group? Send me an email. This presentation will knock the argyles right out of those wingtips.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Emotional Responses

"The mind uses logic to justify what the heart has already decided." -Roy H. Williams

The best way to get into the customer's mind is through her heart. Tell stories. Share values. Speak to the emotions.

On the flip side, however, the best way to hold yourself back is to make business decisions based purely on emotions.

As independent retailers, we've all faced this dilemma. The product that a new manufacturer promised us would never be in the mass market was just spotted on the shelf at your local Target store. You're mad. You just placed a $1000 order and now the product line is no longer "special". Or you happened to get an email from a flash sale site showing one of your favorite products on sale for what you paid for it.

Your first instinct is to flame the manufacturer on the discussion boards, cancel orders, deep-discount your on-hand inventory and vow to never carry that line again.

Stop. Wait. Take a deep breath. You're making an emotional response.

Before you make any decisions, do a little fact-checking. Are you still selling the product at the retail and turn-ratio that works for your store? Are your customers coming into your store expecting you to have this product? Do you believe in this product? Does this product fit into your image as a store?

If the answers to those questions are no, figure out a game plan to get rid of your excess inventory in a smart way. Find a replacement product that says yes. And move on.

Surprisingly, sometimes the answers will still be yes and you've just dumped a viable line and burned bridges on the way out.

There will always be manufacturers who do things you won't like. There will always be situations that frustrate you. The smart businesses, however, skip the emotional responses and make business decisions.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Remember that at the end of the day, you are beholden to two things - your customers and your bottom line. Make sure all of your decisions on both accounts are smart business decisions, not emotional reactions.  Don't think that other manufacturers aren't watching how you react to these situations. They know who the hotheads are.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Are You Planning or Learning?

Five years ago, how many of you predicted that Amazon would be the retail power that it is today? How many of you accurately predicted the housing market collapse? How about the Great Recession? Did you nail that one, too?

None of us did.

Any Five-Year Plans that were made in the beginning of 2008 would not be producing fruit in today's market. The market changed in ways no one was expecting.

Do you think the plans you've made this year have any chance of accurately predicting what will be happening in 2018?

"We cannot plan our way into the future. We must learn our way into the future." -Jeff De Cagna

The one thing you can plan on with certainty is unforeseen events, seismic market shifts, new threats, new challenges, and a marketplace no one in today's world would recognize.

The one thing you can do to prepare for that is to learn more. Read more blogs that challenge your views of the world. Take more classes that stimulate your mind. Attend more events that change your perspective.

The more you learn, the more likely you will be on the leading edge of those changes. The more you learn, the more likely you'll be able to implement the strategies that will succeed in the new market. The more you learn, the more likely your current plans will be able to adjust to the new challenges.

I'm not saying that planning is bad. But strict five-year plans that do not take into account the fast-moving changes in today's business climate have little chance of succeeding. Learning organizations will always have the leg up on planning organizations, because they will be nimble and smart enough to make the necessary changes to succeed.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Plans change. Values do not. Know the difference. Regardless of the products and services, we'll always be here to make you smile.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What Do You Sell?

I don't sell toys. I sell Play Value.

I don't sell baby products. I sell Peace of Mind, Safety, and Love.

I don't sell books. I sell Imagination, Travel, and Dreams.

I don't sell hobby products. I sell Creation.

So why would I be advertising toys, baby products, books and hobbies when I should be selling Play Value, Peace of Mind, Imagination, Creation and Dreams?

Not everyone who sells toys sells Play Value. Not everyone who sells baby products sells Peace of Mind, Safety, and Love. Not everyone who sells books sells Imagination and Dreams. Not everyone who sells hobby products sells Creation.

But almost everyone who buys toys, baby products, books or hobby products wants Play Value, Peace of Mind, Imagination, Creation or Dreams.

It isn't products that they want. It is feelings. Sell the feelings. Sell your customers what they truly want.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS This is called flipping the conversation. Flip the conversation you have about your store from the tools you sell to the projects those tools create. Don't talk about the hammer, talk about their dream tree house that hammer will build. Don't talk about the shoes, talk about how they will feel when they finally run that race. Don't talk about gift ideas, talk about the smile on the recipient's face and the hugs shared. That is how you speak to the heart of your customers.

PPS The smarter of you already figured this out. I'm not just talking about your marketing. I'm talking about your customer service, too. Align your services and approach to customers around their feelings and you will feel it, too. At the cash register.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pick One

My wife was on the phone calling to get some info about a project we wanted done.

The guy on the phone said, "Hold on a second."

She could hear some rustling around, heard him call another person's name. He finally came back with an answer that she wasn't sure was directed at her or somebody else. She asked for clarification and he said, "Sorry about that, I'm doing three things at once."

Ummm... Pick one.

Pick one, do it well, do it completely. Don't answer the phone if you cannot give that person your full attention.

My guess is that he didn't upset one customer. He probably upset all three.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If you have to answer the phone because you don't have an answering service, first ask permission from the current customer. "Excuse me, may I answer this call?" If the customer gives you permission, then answer it, get the info and promise to call them back when you're done with the current customer. A little courtesy goes a long way.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I've Been Slimed

We all remember that scene in Ghostbusters where Bill Murray's character comes in contact with a ghost in a hotel. A nasty little creature that leaves his character covered in icky goo.

I had that feeling last week. 

It started out harmless. A photo shoot for our church for the new directory. The photographer was good. Put the family into great poses and took some amazing shots. Then the sales pitch began.

Don't get me wrong. I knew there would be a sales pitch. I just didn't know it would be this greasy. It even started with a grease board. Rather than give us a sheet of options, packages and prices, the photographer started right in on the hard sell - the large framed photo with the retouching, UV-protected paper, matted design. He had a grease board where he wrote down what we thought we might like.

When we asked for a price, he kept stating he would figure that at the end. We couldn't get to the end fast enough as he kept pushing product after product on us. 

We finally got to the end and he started to do his magic. He took another grease board and started making check marks and writing things we couldn't see. Finally, he presented us a price starting with what we "might have paid" had we done a photo shoot somewhere else. There was a total price with little explanation. We had to keep digging to find out what each item was actually going to cost us. (Remember my Value Equation? Perceived Worth versus Actual Price)

Only after much digging did he show us the calculations on his grease board. The problem was that it was designed to make sense to him and not to us. All we were really left to do was divide the total price by the number of pictures we were getting and decide if we wanted to pay that much.

All in all, it left me feeling slimier than his grease board and not too thrilled with the company. I wouldn't ever want to hire them or recommend them to anyone else. The pictures were great! The experience was horribly uncomfortable.

Here are three things they could have done differently that would have changed the experience for me completely.

First, be upfront about the sales pitch. Before I even scheduled my photo shoot, there should have been something telling me that this was an opportunity to get more than just a church directory photo. Even though I had gone through this before and knew there was that opportunity, it still needed to be spelled out in advance.

Second, be upfront and transparent about the pricing. Tell me the price of everything, especially when I ask. Heck, tell me the pricing before I even show up. Then I can plan for it, budget for it, and not be sitting there getting anxious about how much this might cost. Yeah, I know he is supposed to sell me. But remember that part of the transaction is earning the trust for another transaction.

Third, be honest. Don't start your talk about costs with some mythical figure about how much it might have costed elsewhere. I don't care about that. All I care about is if the price you are charging me is worth the value you are giving me. Most customers are savvy enough to know that the dining room set that is marked Original Price $16,500, Your Price $2499 was never worth $16,500. The only signal you are sending me is that you think I'm gullible. Not the best way to earn my trust.

Be upfront and transparent and honest. You'll get the sale and the recommendation.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The obvious question is, would I have bought more or less had I known the pricing up front? I'm not sure. The only thing I know is that I probably will buy less the next time - if there even is a next time. And therein lies the problem.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

1063 Sailors

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

Somewhere in between, this land lubber who had never set foot on a ship prior to boarding the Arkansas was made Officer of the Deck Under Way (OOD) of a battleship at war. He was responsible for the 1,063 lives of the sailors.

"Once you've been officer of the deck on a battleship at war, everything else you ever do in your life is easy." -Phil Conley

Everything else you ever do.


No sense losing sleep over which line to order, which media to use for your ads, which employee to hire, which policy to change, which bag size to stock. You're not OOD of a battleship at war. You're not climbing up a hundred-story building on fire with a pick axe in your hands. Make your choices and move on.

Days like 9/11 and 12/7 and 4/19 and 6/6 are good for reminding us to put things in perspective.

God bless all who have sacrificed their lives for us.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I'm not saying to blow off those decisions. Do the research. Weigh the pros and cons. Give them the thought necessary. Just don't spend any time agonizing or worrying. They are just business decisions. Sometimes they make you money, sometimes they cost you. The best thing to do is to be decisive. Make your decision and move on to the next.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Marketing is Sharing

My wife likes sharing. Put her in a room full of other women and it isn't a gabfest. It's a sharefest. Right now, with two teenage boys, it is all about college and college prep. Every uncovered secret gets spread. At last Friday's football game, while she and the ladies around us shared, I would nudge her when it was time to cheer the kids on the field.

She's the word-of-mouth marketing machine businesses dream of.

Last Saturday I attended a workshop on The Business of Creativity hosted by Jane Robinson. Jane is an artist. Not the starving kind. Jane is that class of people now called "artepreneurs" or "createpreneurs". She is taking what she has learned and helping create a new breed of entrepreneurs in Jackson.

She said to a room full of artists, "Marketing isn't scary, folks. Marketing is simply sharing."

Marketing is sharing.

Marketing is telling people the secrets you know.
Marketing is getting together with your network and sharing what you've learned.
Marketing is taking news from others and spreading it as far as you can.
Marketing is giving people around you ideas and thoughts and information.
Marketing is giving people something to talk about.
Marketing is telling your friends and fans and asking them to tell their friends and fans.

The cool thing about thinking this way is that people want to share. Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram are not big because of how easy it is to post something, but because of how easy it is to share what has been posted with others. Most of my Twitter feed is re-tweets.

Your marketing job is simply to give people something Shareworthy.

Your hours and location just aren't that shareworthy. Your stories and secrets are. Your length of time in business isn't shareworthy. Your philosophies and reasons for being in business are. The way you change people's lives is big time shareworthy.

You tell my wife something that will help get the boys into (and out of) college, I promise you, she will share it. You tell your customers how something you know/do will impact their lives, they will share it.

Marketing isn't scary. Marketing is sharing.  Thanks, Jane!

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS For more on what is Shareworthy, download my FREE eBook Generating Word-of-Mouth. There is stuff in there that you can use to start getting WOM tomorrow.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Don't Be the Little Piggy

We all know about the little piggy. He went wee, wee, wee all the way home.

As you craft your message for your potential customers this fall, don't be the little piggy. Take all the "we" statements out of your marketing and change them to "you" statements.

We've been in business since 1949.
You want a company that will be there with you for the long run.

We have great customer service.
You will never wait more than 30 seconds on hold to talk to an agent.

We are licensed.
You want a provider who not only stays current with licensing, but takes extra classes to stay ahead of the changes in your system to make sure you are never down.

We offer the best products.
You will find award-winning products like the...

We have time-saving services.
You can get your products giftwrapped for free in less time than it takes to walk in from the parking lot.

We started our business because we...
You want a business that understands your needs, who thinks like you...

The most powerfully seductive word in the English language has only three letters and none of them are an x.

Y - O - U

Make your customer the star of your web copy. Make the customer the star of your print copy. Make the customer the star of your radio copy. Make the customer the the star of your social media, your email marketing, your in-store signage.

You're already making the customer the star of your business. Now make her the star of your marketing.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS When you talk about your customers, remember to do these three things.

  1. Tell them specifics. Specifics are more believable and lend credibility.
  2. Tell them why. People like to know why you do what you do.
  3. Speak to the heart. Emotional connections are strong. The mind will use logic to justify what the heart has already decided.
Go back and read the You statements above to see what I mean.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Peeing Before the Race

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

You laugh because you know there is some truth in that last statement. The dog who does his business is going to be better suited to run a fast race.

Your race is about to start. Have you done your business?

Have you looked around the store to see what is old and out-of-date, broken and need of fixing? Get it fixed now.

Have you identified the must-have items for your store? Order more of them now.

Have you crunched your numbers to see how much you need to buy between now and Thanksgiving? Get out the calculator and a pencil today and do a little math.

Have you sat down with each staff member to show them what it will take for them to get to the next level? Set aside some time in your calendar starting Monday.

Have you updated your website? Have you planned out your events? Have you ordered giftwrap and bows and bags? Have you crafted your message? Have you plotted out your staffing needs?

The race will start whether you are ready or not.

Your chance of winning goes up when you do your business before the race.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS September is a great time for doing your business. The kids are back in school. There is a collective sigh in September between the Back-to-School season and the Holiday Rush. Make a list of everything you do this September. Write it all down. When you can look at what you did this month, you'll quickly see whether what you are doing is leading you to a better November/December or not. Plus, you'll have a good reminder for what to do next year.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

We Need More Rock Stars

Not just any Rock Stars - we need Retail Rock Stars. You know the stores I'm talking about. The ones you would be most disappointed if they closed. The ones who always seem to have traffic and buzz and excitement. The ones you think should probably be in a book or something because of how they merchandise the store, how they treat the customer, how they participate in the community.

Retail Rock Stars change the landscape of a community. They become the focal point of the shopping center, whether downtown, in a strip or in a mall. Retail Rock Stars attract customers, but they also attract other retailers. People want to be around winners.

The best way to grow your business is to decide right now that you are going to be a Retail Rock Star in your community. You are going to be the retailer everyone wants to be like, to locate next to, to build a community around.

How? Decide what a Retail Rock Star store looks like and do it.

Merchandising? Yes! Displays that are fresh and ever changing and new and eye-catching.
Staffing? Yes! A friendly, helpful staff that will bend over backwards to delight your customers. And I mean BEND OVER BACKWARDS.
Products? Yes! The latest products, the newest innovations, the fresh-hot-off-the-presses stuff.

The Retail Rock Star does not have peeling paint on the side of the building, an old sign, a tired window display. The RRS does not have old lighting, faded carpets, and a tired, boring staff. The RRS does not have merchandise older than the store's pet dog.

The RRS is a learning store, learning new techniques for marketing and merchandising and training. The RRS is a trying store, trying new things, measuring and tweaking.

These are the kinds of retailers I want to help build. These are the kinds of retailers this economy needs to get out of the current funk. These are the kinds of retailers your community needs to grow and attract people and business. Yes, your community needs you to become an RRS!

That is the goal of the new and improved Jackson Retail Success Academy.


Six years ago Scott Fleming, then director of The Enterprise Group in Jackson County challenged a full alphabet of organizations with the task of supporting and keeping indie retailers in town. From that meeting the Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce (GJCC), South Central Michigan Works (SCMW), Jackson DDA, Jackson Local First (JLF), Midtown Association of Jackson, Small Business Technology & Development Center (SBTDC), City of Jackson Economic Development, and The Enterprise Group developed the Jackson Retail Success Academy (JRSA).

JRSA was designed to help start-ups and new retailers with less than five years under their belt get the tools they needed for retail success. For the last five years we have been doing exactly that. Well, kinda...
A number of retailers that took the class closed. They found out while doing the math that their business model was flawed from the get-go and there wasn't enough market in Jackson to make it. Others were just too deep in trouble to dig out of it. A handful of class members took it to the next level, but for some, the next level was to merely go from struggling to surviving.

Most importantly, we weren't accomplishing the real goal - to turn Jackson into an indie retail haven, a place where indie retailers would not just survive but thrive. We kept looking for struggling retailers to take the class, super small retailers, the minnows in our pond. We were hoping to grow them into fish.

We were focused on the wrong crowd. Winners attract winners. We needed to spend more time trying to grow whales, not fish. We needed to create more Rock Stars.

Time to refocus.

The new and improved JRSA is starting over with a new focus. We are looking for the whales, the established indie retailers who want to go from surviving to thriving. The curriculum is pared down to the essentials of Rock Stardom. The instruction is updated to include thriving in this most challenging new era of retail where all the rules you knew before have changed.

This is not to say that start-ups and newbies are not welcome. They are. Gladly. The information is only as good as the effort you put toward using it.Anyone willing to put forth the effort will get the results they want. But my focus for JRSA will be to go whale-hunting.

The bait is pretty good.


PS The beauty of the new and improved JRSA is that it is easier to take on the road.  If you have a handful of retailers in your town that are on the verge of Rock Staardom, but just need that push to get over the edge, get in touch. I can cram all 20 hours of instruction into two days that, if your head doesn't explode, will rock your world.