Sam Walton


The 7.18.15 post on competition addressed one manner of doing business in a competitive environment.

In most instances in business it is not either/or….it’s both. Sam Walton was a master retailer….here was his strategy:

According to Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton’s book, “Made in America,” the company was built almost entirely off of other retailers’ good ideas.

“Most everything I’ve done I’ve copied from someone else,” Walton writes in the book.

The Wal-Mart, Sam Walton founded, and the current Wal-Mart are completely different in culture. What I read from the article is that Sam wanted to do business better and differently. If a competitor was doing something different and it worked and was better than what Sam was doing….he copied it.

After all in refocusing our business….we took some ideas from other retailers and tweaked them to fit ours.

While, most businesses do their own thing….as well they should….they also don’t overlook a good idea.

Dark Store Strategy

Is It Just Business?

Dark Store

A business/tax strategy associated with big box retailers has surfaced:

“Property owners sometimes prefer, instead, to use the sale prices of comparable properties. This was the approach that Lowe’s took—with a catch. Lowe’s looked at the definition of the word “comparable,” and decided to stretch it. It said that, because big-box stores are designed to be functionally obsolescent, comparable stores are those that have been closed and are sitting empty—the “dark stores” behind this method’s name.”

Some data:

  • An average Lowe’s store has sales of ~$30M and net profit of ~$2.6M
  • An average Meijer’s has sales of ~$70M, net profit estimate $3-5M

The key question: Why would a business take advantage of the very people and communities that support that business? Perhaps the folks in Marquette, MI have asked that same question.

Lowe’s and Meijer’s have responded:  “This is just business”.

At some point businesses/organization have to decide if they are doing what is right for the community that supports their business….or is it maximizing profits at any cost.


On the Moon

Apollo 15 IMG_0122

Tom Barton had a varied career from WW ll P-47 pilot, through the early days of fighter jets, ballistic missiles and space exploration.

One of his artifacts is the above photo from the Apollo 15 moon landing.

“Apollo 15 was the ninth manned mission in the United StatesApollo program, the fourth to land on the Moon, and the eighth successful manned mission. It was the first of what were termed “J missions,” long stays on the Moon, with a greater focus on science than had been possible on previous missions. It was also the first mission on which the Lunar Roving Vehicle was used.”

Tom worked for TRW/STL, a major NASA contractor on the Apollo programs. His primary responsibility was to manage the operations/flight manual for the lunar module.

David Scott….Al Wordon….Jim Irwin were the crew members and their signatures are to the left of the Lunar Roving Vehicle.

The 20 x 16 photo has deteriorated….though our intent is to preserve it as best as possible. The lunar missions were  adventuress times and its nice to have a significant part of those endeavors.




Seth Godin wrote: And in the meantime, your brand, your campaign, your project, will benefit from what’s happening now, which is marketing, not advertising, which is connection, not interruption. We’ve moved past the long-lost Mad Men era. Don’t do marketing the way they do.

The key to any business is connecting to the customer and that is what Seth Godin is saying. While a business/organization can have an extensive marketing strategy and fine-tuned advertising program….the bottom line is the final connection to the customer.

A good friend always spent inordinate amount of time speaking and listening to his customers….first. After that the sales process was dramatically easier and ultimately successful. It wasn’t the product or price so much….it was the time to sincerely connect to the customer.

If that customer connection isn’t made….great marketing and advertising won’t matter.


Be the Only One


A recent column in The N&O business section:

“Know everything about your competition.”

The opening statement: “How well you stack up against the competition is one of the most important aspects of whether you fail or success in business.”

Knowing your competition is an important aspect of being in business….perhaps not the most important.

Several times, I have used the quote from Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead): ” You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.”

In our family business….we were in a highly competitive market with 10+ competitors….a few larger….some smaller….with most of the others mid-size. We were selling primarily to a medium quality market. Most everyone was selling in the same price range with similar products.

We had to stand out from the bunch by doing different and unique promotions….having good prices with brand names and most importantly good people providing good service.

Did we know the other competitors….certainly….and some were friends who we often borrowed or bought from to fill an order.

While we knew the competition….we had to do our own thing….being the only ones doing that.


Lakey Foundry

Lakey Foundry

Muskegon was and still is a manufacturing/industrial town….though many of its former industries are long-gone….Lakey Foundry being one of them.

Lakey Foundry closed in 1972 and its buildings were demolished. Lakey (also Continental Motors) was located just a few blocks from downtown close to Muskegon Lake. 

The Foundry era was important to the Muskegon economy….yet the old industries could not keep pace with newer manufacturing methods….and modern facilities.

Environmentally the foundries were completely out of date and harmful to air quality. The above photo was very typical of a day in Muskegon for several decades.

Industries such as Lakey Foundry really did have to change to survive. Unfortunately, Lakey did not.

Bus Advice

Be on the right bus


Coach Mike K is an icon in North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill being the center of ACC basketball). In a recent interview he stated this:

“My mom never went to high school,” Krzyzewski said. “And she said to me, “Mike, get on the right bus.’”

The statement was not meant to be literal. Krzyzewski knew which bus to take.

“You are going to start driving your own bus now and it’s going to take you through different neighborhoods,” Krzyzewski recalled, noting the prophetic nature of Emily’s advice. “Only let good people on it and only get on other good people’s busses. Your bus will go to places that you will never go alone.

In my experience, this is some of the best “Bus Advice”, I have heard. Jim Collins in “Good to Great” offered similar advice….getting the right people on the right bus….going in the same direction.

While it may sound simple….it’s excellent advice. Experience is the best test and getting on the right bus works.

Note: The bus-1947 Fitzjohn