Power Tools

Use the RightTool

My next seminar is focused on knowing and using the right tools to manage and lead a business. I have always liked the term RightTools. The key is to find and apply them. If you examine a Lowes Home Center ad, it seems there is always a new and better tool to do a job easier and faster. I have an old Craftsman power drill that has the key chuck and always needs 50 feet of extension cord to do any job. I need a new power drill with a battery pack and key-less chuck to do those drilling jobs easier and faster.


The same in business today. Find a better tool to do the job. That’s why I’m continuously searching for a new idea….a new concept….a better/different business model.

There are really two key aspects of doing business in the next 18 months:

  • Do the basics!
  • Find new tools!

It’s the Brand

Bar B Q

In North Carolina, Bar B Q is right at the top of the food chain. There are even two distinctive styles. The eastern pork style with a vinegar based sauce and the western (Lexington) style with a catsup base. Of course just about every state has its own unique Bar B Q style.

 Where I grew up in Michigan, the only really good place for Bar B Q was US 31 Bar B Q. It must be good because it has been around since 1939.  What makes US 31 Bar B Q different and unique is the “secret sauce” which has never been duplicated. It is somewhat sweet and thin….it adds flavor yet does not over power the beef, pork or ham.

I always thought US 31 Bar B Q could be popular elsewhere. However, they have not changed much in the last 70 years. Recently a young man opened a 31 Bar B Q in small town north of Muskegon. The local business writer called it a franchise. I’m not so sure this is a franchise yet. It is a restaurant that sells a distinctive Bar-B Q. US 31 Bar B Q needs to develop itself into a “brand”. Starbucks has branded coffee. Biggby has branded coffee ( BIggby Coffee 09.24.08). McDonald’s has branded the hamburger.

I think the new 31 Bar B Q will do fine, as it is a local favorite. I believe that right now it is neither a franchise or a distinctive brand.

When I visit Muskegon again….there will always be a lunch at US 31 Bar B Q….the best Bar B Q there is!

New Markets


Fresh & Easy

The Market

Wal*Mart takes a lot of criticism for some of its activities. Yet there are things that we can learn from Wal*Mart. Sam Walton’s idea was to have products that were affordable, stores that were open….and associates that provided good customer service. Today Wal*Mart provides value to the customer. It also provides jobs to a lot of folks and it continues to develop new forms of retailing.

 The newest Wal*Mart concept is called Marketside. Marketside is a small-format concept similar in size to a Trader Joes.

In addition to convenience items, Marketside offers prepared meals and hot foods. Wal*Mart’s focus is on providing consumers with quick, convenient shopping similar to  the company’s earlier smaller size idea when it first launched its Neighborhood Market stores in 1998. The goal then was to offer a convenient alternative for consumers looking to stock up on a few items between their regular trips to a super center.

 The Arizona Republic reported that the store, while similar in size to a Trader Joe’s, is much more upscale in appearance. The paper also noted that the deli and kitchen features of the store would distinguish it from Fresh & Easy and other competitors that do not sell hot food.

While Marketside is far from alone in looking to be the choice for the convenience consumer. With Fresh & Easy (a subsidiary of UK retailer, Tesco) spreading throughout the Western United States and Safeway’s establishing a presence with its small-format The Market units in California, Marketside will have strong competitors.

Retailing is always a changing business. Strong retailers will always be testing and developing new concepts. They have to to keep up ahead of the competition.

Lesson Learned: Keep creating….keep evolving your business.




Keep Paddling

 Mark Beeson

If you had not already guessed, I seek out ideas whereever I can find them. Mark Beeson comes from the nonprofit side of enterprises/organizations. I like what he says not only because it relates to the current business challenges we face, but also from the fact that he says exactly what a leader should say in times like this:

I think we’re heading into some turbulent economic waters. The market has been dropping and my Platt River Kayak experiences taught me this axiom: “The lower the water, the more you scrape the bottom.”

But you don’t have to stop just because you’re scraping along. In fact, that may be the very time you should paddle harder.

If your trip is worth taking (and I’m assuming you think it is, since you are on the water with me) my advice is: keep paddling. When the waters are rough, keep paddling. When the ride is bumpy, keep paddling. We’re not there yet.

Don’t bail out.
Don’t give up.
Don’t quit.
Persevere in hardship.”

And this from the Raleigh News-Observer (10.8.08):

“These leaders have not demonstrated that they are collectively up to the challenge of managing organizational change.”

Lessons Learned:

  • Understand the power of leadership
  • Manage/lead wisely
  • Keep paddling to calmer water



The past few weeks have been consumed by dire news reports. How the economy is going to adjust. Banks that are buying one another, bickering. Does one stop reading the news? Turn off the TV?  We can’t change what happened.  Hopefully the mess won’t be forgotten and there will be significant Lessons Learned.

What we can change is tomorrow and the next day. While there will continue to be news….some bad….some good, my experience has been to do everything better the next day.

One very wintry January in Michigan prevented many customers from venturing out to buy home furnishings. Snow fell almost every day….sometimes 7-8 inches. It took the good part of the morning to clear the parking lot….get the store ready and to make sure the trucks were cleaned off and started up. That January our sales were only 25% of what they should have been. And the payables/overhead did not stop. The heat and lights had to be on.

Every day we had to be open for business.

We can listen to the news. Yet leave the door open for good news. Our efforts need to be focused on doing everything we can do for our enterprises to be better and open for tomorrow.

Back to Basics

Business Basics

I started out doing consulting by forming BASIC Management Group.  The focus being that a solid business needed to be grounded in basic business fundamentals. Recalling what has happened in the past few weeks, BASIC developed during a significant economic cycle in the late 70’s, early 80’s. The cause of what has just occurred in the financial world has been:

  • A deviation from sound business practices
  • Lack of ethics/morals
  • Flawed leadership

I am sure there will be countless theories about this whole mess. I have confidence that the pendulum of reason will swing back to a sensible level of balance.

Enterprises/organizations of all kinds will encounter plenty of challenges.

The foundation for success will always be business basics.

What’s Next?

Peter Drucker:

 “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing right things”

Oren Harari wrote:

“My point is that as leaders, we need to take those small, in-the-distance trends seriously. They represent much more than simply “challenges”. They represent market inevitability’s. They represent high-growth opportunities. If we fail to act with a healthy sense of purposeful urgency, our companies are in peril, no matter how big they are today.”

What does this say to those of us in how we run our businesses?

  • Customers- Develop deep customer loyalty
  • Products/Services- Extensive profound value/prolific service
  • People-  A committed team effort. Get the right people on the bus.
  • Strategy- Action, doing: visualize the future
  • Resources- Create/find the most, unique, different: anywhere