It’s All Three


When we buy or sell products or services….price is important. Yet, so is quality and service. Consumer Reports doesn’t provide the complete story. On-line reviews are OK….yet often are not objective.

We were not the high-end store in our family business. Our market was a mid-price range with a well-made product. The variable was the service we provided after the sale. Our reputation was the measure of that. When selling….we had to sell price and quality.

I want to know about and be assured of  service….

The bottom line:  It’s price and quality that are the main factors in the buy/sell process.

Sales Story

It’s not price alone.

We are undertaking some major home projects. Most of the work involves some type of home visit/free estimate. The interesting aspect is that we have encountered all different styles of selling.

We all sell in one way or another. Our family retail business was based on selling. The key element in selling is the person-to-person relationship….reading people. We always sold ourself and then the product.

The best folks that we have seen are:

  • Personable
  • Knowledgeable
  • Ask for the sale-but don’t push
  • Confident in their companies
  • Develop a rapport
  • Offer a fair price/value
  • Understand what we are looking for



Missing the Mark

The local Ace hardware moved to a new location about a year ago. The size doubled….so more products. It also is in a desireable shopping center with good visibility.

While the local stores prices may be a little higher than Lowes or Home Depot….it is very convenient and a local business. Yet in the move the store lost its character and doesn’t know the basics of retail….merchandising.

+ Character: the store replaced all its sales folks….who always encountered the customer and always asked what they could do….they were proactive in their sales techniques. The present group of associates are present….but seldom engage the customers. They are there and that’s about it.

+ Merchandising: a fundamental basic for a retail business. Show your products and show them well. It means floors shined. Shelves in order. No empty product categories. Prices clear and aligned with the products. Neat, orderly, ready to sell….just like the photo.

The local Ace misses the mark on both counts.

Do the owners of the local Ace franchise MBWA (Manage By Walking Around)?


FBO (Fixed Base Operation)

People that travel on the airlines see only one side of avaition. There is a completely different and other side that people rarely see. That’s the FBO operations that serve general aviation.

General aviation and corporate aviation are similar and also decidedly different. The corporate aviation that has been in the news has been the large corporate jets.

Most FBO’s are rather modest as depicted in the photo. While other FBO’s that cater to the corporate jet business are multimillion dollar operations.

Aviation International News in the April 2010 issue published it’s latest FBO survey.  When businesses are directed to a high-profile customer….it is all about service.

The sub heading for the AIN article was:

Top 10 FBOs credit customer service efforts for their success.

These FBO’s are large businesses with the corresponding investment so they have to do well.

The Real Lesson:

It doesn’t matter what profile a businesses/organizations customers are….success depends on superior customer service.


Little things make the difference.

I have had this pair of shoes for many years. There are from LLBean. They have been a great pair….resoled and reheeled many times. Last week they needed new heels. I took them to Oliver’s Shoe Repair.

I picked them up in a few days. Here’s how they were returned:

  • Shined
  • Edges reblacked
  • Laces laced
  • Enclosed in a clear plastic bag

Not only were my LLBean shoes nicely repaired….the added touches….the details….conveyed to me that the cobbler cared.

It’s all in the details!

Always Learning


I’m a reader. Often several books at the same time.

Three latest books:

  • The Little Big Things-Tom Peters
  • Lynchpin-Seth Godin
  • A book on organization startups by Ben Arment

I use to read a book and take copious notes….there is a file drawer with over 100 folders of book notes. I seldom discard a book….all are valuable. Some I still remember quite well.

So whats the lesson?

When I visit people who I follow on the Internet….as leaders they all read diligently. If we operate in this world environment….the only way to understand and move forward is to read and discover every new….better….and different idea.

Back to the books. 

21st Century

“The rural Midwest is still using a twentieth century playbook to compete in a twenty-first-century economy. For more than half a century, the rural Midwest has followed one basic strategy to develop its economy: Recruit a factory to the edge of town, and give away the farm to get it.” (Past Silos and Smokestacks)

I recently read the article about the Midwest having to change. What the statement said is absolutely correct. Every small town did have a factory….that for the most part supported automobiles, appliances or farm equipment.

Now every business must compete in the 21st Century.

A perfect example: Video stores.

When we moved to North Carolina….almost every shopping center had a video store to rent VCR movies. Most stores were locally owned….and some created small mini-chains. Than the giants moved in….Blockbuster….and the small stores no longer existed….change!

DVD’s soon replaced the VCR’s….more change. Than suddenly a new model came on the scene….Netflix. A new….different….better way to deliver movies….and Blockbuster stumbles. The movie business is still changing….movies can be directly delivered from Netflix to a home receiver….instant movie.

An acquaintance wrote:

“Some of today is good, some of it is bad, but it’s all new and it’s all real.”

Any business/organization can not ignore today. It’s fairly easy to go from remarkable to irrelevant in a short period of time.

Do The Right Thing


I just received the 2009 Annual Report from USAA. United Services Auto Association (USAA)  was formed in 1922 by 25 Army officers to insure their automobiles. In 1963, when I joined…. membership was about 490,000….2009  membership is  7.4 miillon.

USAA is a top-rated financial services company. In 2009, USAA had the best year in the company’s history. A key statement in the report:

“Simply put, our investment philosophy is that we don’t invest in anything we don’t understand.”

What got my attention was the title of the annual report: “Doing the right thing.”

USAA is led by former military officers and certainly has a selective customer base….yet the reason for USAA’s consistent performance and recognition….I believe, is an inherent philosophy of doing the right thing.

In reviews of companies….brands….products….services….I often wonder if the leadership of the companies at the bottom of the rankings even care about doing the right thing.

The value of a free enterprise….market economy is that we do have the choice of who we do business with.

The true test of any business/organization and the basis for ongoing success will always be:

Do The Right Thing


Undercover Boss 9


Chris McCann, the President and COO of 1-800-Flowers was UB 9. Jim McCann is the CEO and older brother. So in effect Chris works for Jim….although Chris believed it was more of a partnership. The real relationship between the brothers is questionable.

I am not surprised of the chocolate factory segment. In a billion dollar business, the COO might not know the in and outs of the chocolate operation. However, he should be hiring people who do. Perhaps that is what is missing in all of the UB stories….there are other management people who should mange and lead these operations

It is not just the headquarters folks….it’s about all the levels of the organization.

From a brand perspective, the corner store in Waban, MA was interesting. 1-800-Flowers is both an online and retail store enterprise. This particular store was not busy even though it was in a good area. The local marketing effort was non-existent.

The question:

Do you brand a retail location with an on-line brand, 1-800-Flowers? Especially when the business is trying to identify with the local community.

The lesson learned from UB 9 and the UB series:

The success of any business starts with good people.

Postscript: UB has become predictable. Will the companies and UB’s change? Of course this is edited entertainment. While it may give a snapshot of a business….it is not the real story by any means.

A word of caution: read the on-line reviews of the products and services.