January 25, 2016
In 1970, the King of the counterculture, Abbie Hoffman, wrote, Steal This Book. It was a guide to survival in time of change. It’s now 2016 and times are a changing. It’s time to steal some ideas.
Every industry has unique ways of doing business. Many of these ideas translate well to the retail business. So here are a few ideas that you can steal to help your store survive in the ever-changing world of noprofit retail.
- Restaurants – Every successful restaurateur understands the value of keeping the managers accessible. In the industry, this term is often referred to as, “touching tables.” While it’s tempting to keep your managers slaving away in the office catching up on paperwork, it’s critical that your customers recognize that managers are never far away. During busy times be sure that your managers are out on the sales floor “touching tables.”
- Realtors – In a heavily regulated industry, Realtors learned the power of CYA (covering your you know what). An easy way to CYA is with email. Email allows you to document every important conversation or important transaction. Be sure all interested parties have a copy of the email. That way if there’s a question about an order, an unusual transaction, disciplinary action or large event, details can be agreed on and recorded… just in case.
- Architects – Architects are taught early on that the only way to build a stable building is with a firm foundation. Your business needs a solid foundation and that requires building a competent and ultra-professional staff. They are your foundation for building a successful operation.
- Grocers – Every grocery store from a local mom-and-pop operation to a mega grocery store knows how important it is to keep it fresh. Don’t let your operation grow stale. That means rearranging displays, creating powerful window displays, and rotating your stock. Every time a customer returns to your store it should be a new adventure.
- Manufacturing – Over the years, large manufacturers have learned the value of cross training. They know that training their employees to do multiple jobs and then letting them rotate through the various positions help keeps them engaged. Be sure every employee is quickly trained to do every job. That way when someone calls in sick you’re not stuck working the cash register.
- Accountants – While accountants have the reputation of not being life of the party (although I know several that have set the party bar quite high), they know to keep an eye on the numbers. They watch the money coming in, the products going out, and the cost of labor it takes to deliver the goods. If you want an accurate reflection of your business, from top to bottom, get in touch with your inner accountant and keep an eye on the numbers.
- Teachers – Teachers know the power of a good education. If you want your store to operate at full throttle you need to make sure your staff well-trained. Training should include more than just handling perfunctory daily operations. Your staff should be experts in everything in the store, as well as what’s going on in your institution. It makes for more motivated employees, not to mention, how much you’ll impress your customers… “That vase isn’t baroque, it’s rococo. Now put it down before you bar-reak it!”
- Artists – Artists know to be creative. It’s their business and also a good idea for your business. Do your best to not rely on the status quo. If creativity is not your bag, then hire someone whose bag is full of good ideas and lots of creativity.
- Lawyers – If you want to stay out of trouble, think like a lawyer. Most lawyers understand the value of good risk management. That runs the gamut from issues like slip and fall to sexual harassment. Know the law and how it potentially affects your operation. Getting sideways to labor laws is a quick way to find yourself in court.
- Starship Captains – Everyone knows the Capt. Kirk never shied away from going boldly where no man has gone before. He devised a whole new solution to complete the Kobayashi Maru. The meek may inherit the earth, but only after the bold are finished with it. Maybe it’s time to boldly take your operation where it’s never gone before.
Steve White is a writer and entrepreneur based in Denver.