What’s New?

The Internet

I can recall back in our family business when sales representatives visited us….inevitably the first question to them was What’s New?. We wanted the latest news, the most current idea, the freshest design, anything to make us more competitive. I think we asked what’s new because we were looking for any new inspiration to keeps us energized.

When I began consulting….I always was searching for the latest idea or concept. In those days, all the resources were in print and often dated.

Now it seems, I’m in a continuous, real time search mode. All because of the Internet.

The Internet has made the business world….instantaneous. No longer do I have to ask what’s new. What’s new is at my fingertips every morning. It puzzles me that enterprises are reluctant to seek out any resource that can help them be better. It also puzzles me that folks on the Internet do not keep their sites and information current. The Internet provides a business changing tool that can expand a business into completely different markets and customers. Yet many organizations have wasted their resources by not keeping content current and upgrading their web site.

I look for fresh, new, innovative ideas daily. The best resources are those that provide that information. Likewise the best businesses are those that are fresh, and new to their customers. To keep your customers for the long term….give them a reason for always returning to your business.

Lessons Learned:

  • Use the Internet as a competitive resource
  • Update your content and web site continuously
  • Keep customers/clients retuning to you for the long-term

Destination + Reinvention

And Paradise Pup

Jon Schallert is a proponent of businesses being a destination business. In the retail business this is an absolute must. In his August newsletter he writes:

“The reason I go into such detail here is that the need to reinvent one’s business is a natural, recurring event that must occur if you are going to stay ahead of your competition, and keep amazing customers. Reinvention is not an optional activity. Especially in today’s economy.”

Schallert writes that many large retail chains are closing locations because they failed to reinvent themselves….essentially doing the same things that create the problems they are having now. Read his take on Starbucks.

So where does Paradise Pup fit in. Paradise Pup is a simple hamburger joint in the Chicago area. From the Internet reviews….it makes great hamburgers and Chicago style hot dogs. I was reluctant to write anything more since the reviews were mixed….some thought it great….others overrated. The name itself however rates a mention. Paradise Pup….very cool!.

I think there are businesses like Paradise Pup that never change. For the most part they are not growing. They meet a need. They provide a nice living. They seldom change. What they have to do is to provide a good product and acceptable service. However, growing business have to be in continuing change. The market changes. Customers Change. Think of Kodak and Polaroid….their original businesses no longer exists. Both were in  photographic film, now it’s digital photography.

Reluctance to change (ie why rock the boat) and taking the steps (execution,risk) are two main reasons why enterprises don’t change and find themselves in trouble. An organization can continue along like Paradise Pup, however reinvention can create new growth, new customers, greater opportunities and greater rewards.

http://www.jonschallert.com/newsletter/august_2008_article.asp

Its Always About People – 2

Tom

Tom is my good friend in Michigan. We met over 40 years ago. Both beginning our business careers. Tom’s being in the financial services industry. Tom, Ray (08.18.08 post) and I share the the same values. That is why our friendship has lasted through the years and even though I live in North Carolina.

Tom’s approach to his industry has been to develop a relationship first with his clients. And even more than a relationship….a friendship. In financial services….the products are intangible to a degree….so trust and confidence are the key elements in the customer relationship.

Tom inspires this client trust and confidence and that is why he is so very good at what he does. Tom’s business is built on long-term, life-time relationships. Of course one’s personality has to fit this industry. What better way to have customers/clients for a life-time than developing that trust to provide solutions to their financial needs.

Point of Story:

Use your products to provide solutions. It’s the real personal relationship that is the rewarding and tangible result.

Note: See also the 05.19.08 post on Tom and “the weenie.”

It’s Always About People -1

Ray

Ray and I have been friends for over 50 years. When I return to Michigan….we of course share old memories. We worked in the same industry. We were competitors for a period of time (always friendly!). What really has made our friendship strong was that we always had the same values concerning business and people and for each other.

While focused on selling the products….Ray has a great story on the art of selling. At one of the businesses Ray worked in….the younger staff always wanted to make the quick sale and get on to to the next potential customer. Ray being a little older and wiser never rushed the selling process. He often got the older customers who took their time making decisions. Yet Ray took his time and listened to these customers. It may have taken longer….however by listening and developing a relationship ….most times Ray did not have to ask for the sale. By listening to folks he gained their confidence and solved the decision marking problem for them.

Point of Story:

The final part of the sales process….

“Not would you like to purchase this item….But when would you like it delivered!”

Open Door

Search The World

My thinking about business has been to discover anything/anyplace/any idea to make an enterprise better. In business lexicon, the opposite is to exist in a silo world. Silo meaning no outside influences on what happens within the silo.

What I have recently read….leads to an open door strategy. That is: invite customers, suppliers, competitors into your business to help your business and theirs grow together. By doing so a business gets the creative talents of many folks. Of course there are guidelines….but managed properly what better way to seek out new ideas that can make an organization/business be better.

Looking back….this certainly would not have been a major theme in business school or the “real world”. In our family business….we were in a very competitive environment. One of my best friends was a competitor, yet because we were friends we shared what was going on in our market. We didn’t lose business because of this. And at times we sent customers to each other. Just think everyone working on the big picture could have expanded the market rather than each trying to retain their own little slice.

Lesson Learned: Open the door to any new idea that can help your business.

Note: Here’s an Inc. article that is a nice start to discover new ideas.

http://www.inc.com/magazine/20080401/the-success-gene.html

Remember the Details

Bagging Groceries

My very first paying job was bagging groceries at Plumb’s Supermarkets. Not only did we bag the groceries, we also loaded the bags on a two wheeled cart. Pushing-Pulling two bag carts in a slushy snow-covered parking lot was a tough job. However, before I “moved up” to cart pulling I had to learn how to pack a square bag. The head packer had to train me. Yes, there is an art to bag packing. Heavier items on the bottom….boxes preferably in the middle….and fragile items on top. The purpose being to retain the rectangular shape of the bag. And by keeping the correct bag shape….we got more bags on the bag cart! And more tips!

Today at our local Kroger’s, it was obvious the bagger neither was trained nor understood the concept of the square bag. This bag was a disaster:

This is not a correctly packed bag!

This bag packer obviously had no training!

This certainly doesn’t leave a great impression after the sale!

So what’s the point:

  • Details are important-Do the job right
  • The sale is incomplete if the products are not delivered properly
  • Training is ongoing

Of course we will continue to shop at Kroger’s. Next time I’ll do the packing…. the bags will be square bags! And Plumb’s Super Markets have been in business over 50 years.

Note: Tossing grocery items into plastic bags is not real “bagging”!

Note: The Wall Street Journal on bagging.

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB105182720211039500.html

Excellence 1

Bruce

Tom Peters wrote recently about his experience at a Bruce Springsteen concert in Boston and this is a quote from a comment to his post:

 “What Bruce does par excellence is build a relationship with his audience. You don’t go to watch Bruce, you go to participate. The concerts are co-created by performer, band and audience in union. I first went 23 years ago and have been going ever since. He built a relationship with me and as a result I have a fierce brand loyalty.”

I have never been to a Springsteen concert. I have attended a few other performers concerts. After thinking about it, at the concerts I attended, I also had a similar experience. That is what I believe enterprises are called to do. It is the positive experience that we want to create for every customer. And the long-term relationship that helps companies develop a strategy for growth and profitability.

Unfortunately many businesses and organizations don’t model this. Sometimes we get immune to the mass approach….poor services, poor products. We have a choice don’t buy from these folks. Conversely if our businesses don’t provide great service, good products and a positive experience….customers won’t buy from us.

www.brucespringsteen.net