I’m not a big fan of Starbucks. Their business practices of squeezing out small, locally-owned businesses is counter to my philosophy but their products are consistent and their stores are clean. Recently I ran across a Starbucks on a road trip to an RV show where one employee made such a difference, I went there every morning of my visit.
On the first day my wife and I were in town we chose, as we usually do, to patronize a locally-owned coffee shop. I had to get this Monday Morning marketing blog out and my own Wifi hot spot device had let me down with zero connectivity. Oh well, that just means finding a locally-owned coffee shop and we did.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I worked at what was then the world’s largest retailer. While most of my compatriots saw this as a summer gig in a terrible job, I learned a lot from that experience including some lessons that are relevant to this day. Today I hearkened back to lessons learned while dinosaurs roamed the earth as I visited today’s largest retailer.
I’m sure that some of the people reading this are going to laugh but winter’s coming here in Northern California and I was looking for a heater. Never mind the fact that there are those who are shoveling snow we Northern Californians are whining about our nights in the 20s. Heck, at least it’s not Southern California where temperatures below 50 mean ski jackets and Ugg boots.
I try to “shop small” whenever I can - preferring smaller, locally-owned businesses to the large chain stores. But large chain stores seem to have the advantage of longer hours, and sometimes seem to have the additional advantage of actually sticking to those hours.
In recent social media chatter there were a number of local businesses that were being berated for being closed during the hours they purported to be open - at least according to the signs in their windows. Being a small town, the owners of those businesses chimed in after complaints were lodged with reasons they had been closed which ranged from being tired to having a medical emergency.
Looking back now, it’s incredible how many lessons I learned from working at Sears when I was in high school. While the beleaguered retailer seems not to be able to do anything correctly today, in those days they were the big daddy rabbit of the bunch and seemed untouchable. One of the lessons they shared with us is that the customer gets the best parking spots, period.
Months ago I was listening to a prospective client of mine who owns a restaurant complain bitterly. You see, someone else was opening another restaurant that had the same type of food just a few blocks away. And this, in a small town where there aren’t a lot of customers already. “Why would they do this? They’ll never succeed.”
Well, they are succeeding admirably.
How badly do you want to hang up? You’re talking to “that customer” and they want to tell you their life story and talk and talk but meanwhile you just want to get stuff done. How is it that they can’t tell how much you just want to hang up on them?
Now the other side. You want to share all the details of your situation with the people who sold you that whatchamacallit and you paid good money for it so they should just listen. But it’s really clear that they want to hang up on you. You’ll never shop there again. And you won’t tell your friends to go there.
I left a message with a business the other day. I planned to spend about $2,000 or so there and I know they’re busy. So I left a message. You know, after dialing my way through their phone tree while on my cell phone. I hate phone trees.
That evening, it occurred to me that they hadn’t called back. I called and left a message the following morning. You know, after dialing my way through their phone tree while on my cell phone. I still hate phone trees, especially with a small business.
If you have any doubt that people are doing a good percentage of their shopping on the interwebs, all you have to do is visit the local ghost town that was a shopping mall to reinforce this thought. Unless there’s some compelling reason to go to a physical location, web-based shopping is the wave of today. But I just had the most remarkable web-based shopping experience of my life. So far.
I love what I call strange musical instruments. From Stumpf fiddles to washboards to Cajons, the stranger the better. In fact my favorite music video is of a guy who has a truly strange instrument and plays it with great skill. Enjoy.
There I was wandering the aisles of a local store looking around aimlessly and getting more frustrated by the moment. I was new to the area and also new to this store and, despite wandering the aisles lost for some time I just couldn’t find what I was looking for. Nor could I find someone to point me in the right direction. So I left.
And wrote a nasty review on Yelp.
For those who don’t know I live in such a small community that, if you sneeze on one side of the giant lake that is in the heart of this community, you’ll likely hear “bless you” from the other side of the lake. Not that the community is physically small - it’s just that there aren’t a whole lot of people here. And everybody knows everybody else.
Every toddler in the world is very good at pushing the limits. They try their darnedest to see how far they can go before punishment comes down on them. Like a fat guy with at the bungee jump, they’re testing the limits. It’s a game of push and shove. And you always wanted a Crayon painting on your armoire, right?
Believe it or not those lessons apply in business too. Well, you probably should’t be coloring the armoire with crayons or anything but it’s good to know how far you can push the limits. But, even more importantly, it’s good for your team to know how far they can push the limits.