A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
12 EASY Ways to Mind Your Own
Simple, straightforward, and
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (October 5,
Business today is tough. It's hard to keep up, and it's easy to
get burned out. It's also easy to get so wrapped up in the
day-to-day workings of your store that you forget or overlook the
small details that can help you grow your business. We asked
successful retailers to share the little tricks they rely on to keep
on track, things that have helped them cut costs and increase sales,
while increasing the bottom line.
1. Hire a Right Hand Person. You can't be the one and only
answer person – you need someone you can rely on to relieve some
of the day-to-day pressures. Your store won't reach its full
potential if you spend all of your time answering everyone's
questions: "Do I have to write that up as a special
order?" "Where are the chenille sticks that came in last
week?" "Remember the photo albums we advertised in last
week's ad? Where are they?" If you spend all of your time
putting out fires and doing everyone else's jobs, then you'll never
have time to focus on the big picture – your real job.
The biggest lie we often tell ourselves is, "No one can do
it as well as I can." If you think you don't need any help,
then take this test: Keep a small notebook in your pocket for two
weeks, and write down all the questions you answer that you
shouldn't have to answer, and all the tasks you completed that could
have been handled by someone else. At the end of the two weeks, take
a look at your notebook, and you'll know exactly why you need
someone you can trust to help ease some of the daily pressures.
2. Get organized. There is real truth in the statement that
you just aren't as effective when your office is a mess. Clutter can
make you less efficient and can be de-motivating. The person who
wrote the slogan, "A cluttered office is the sign of a creative
mind" on the sign that's buried under the three-foot pile of
paper on your desk is a liar. It's time to clean out your office,
purge your files, get organized, and stay that way. Help is out
there – we Googled "organize your office" and in 0.17
seconds found 14,500,000 web sites, articles, and professional
organizers just waiting to help you get started.
3. Take a negotiations course. Are you getting the best price
on all that you buy? If you're not sure, consider taking a course in
the fine art of negotiation. A solid knowledge of negotiation
skills, behaviors, and principles will help you in every part of
your life. Sign up for a class at your local community college or
get a course on CD and learn new skills on your drive to and from
4. Set non-negotiable budgets for every area of the store. Go
through the list of expenditures and review how much you spend on
each category. Now, using your good judgment, choose an arbitrary
figure to use as your new budget. Tell everyone involved in
purchasing that this dollar amount is all the money there is to
spend. Period. We'd be willing to bet that each month you will be
at, or under, budget.
5. Look at every dollar spent as unnecessary. Take a hard
look around your store. Do you have piles of unused supplies in your
office? Are there boxes of overstock stacked in your bathroom? Did
you really need that expensive piece of equipment you had to have
but rarely use? Maybe you have an associate who just isn't working
out. Develop a cost-cutting mindset. When you cut down on all
nonprofit-producing costs, you'll have more money for productive
6. Check all incoming invoices and statements carefully. Hold
yourself and your staff accountable for reimbursables. Insist on
receipts for travel, samples, mileage, entertainment, and other
Here's another tip: Get into the habit of weighing the UPS
packages that are delivered to your store. Check to see how much it
would cost you to return the package to the sender, then review the
invoice to make sure you were charged the correct amount.
7. Little dollars can add up to big savings. We saved a
bundle when we opted not to renew the service contracts on some of
our office equipment. Most came with one to three year warranties
anyway, so even when they were out of warranty and needed servicing,
it usually wasn't enough to pay for the cost of the service
contract. Likewise with subscriptions to magazines and newspapers
you never have time to read, and memberships you renew just because
they send you a bill.
8. Before you buy a big ticket item, ask for a test drive. A
tenacious copier salesperson, figuring we made thousands of copies
of workbooks each month (he was right), tried to entice us to buy an
expensive copy machine. "Think of the convenience!" he
said. He just wouldn't give up, so we asked if we could try one for
a week. They delivered that machine two days before a presentation
that required 400 10-page workbooks. After a frustrating night of
loading, unloading, and fixing paper jams, we decided we'd stick
with our local copy shop. That test drive saved us a bundle in cash
9. Barter. We have a collegue who barters for almost
everything. He found barter to be the perfect solution to getting
the things he needs without having to hand over his hard-earned
cash. You can trade goods or services with any number of companies.
Google the word "barter" and you'll find thousands of
opportunities. Or join the National Association of Trade Exchanges (NATE),
the "premier organization for trade exchange owners from across
the country and around the world." Visit www.nate.org
for more information.
10. Shop your associations. The trade associations you belong
to offer special member discounts on everything from freight
management to overnight shipping, from car rental to color and trend
forecasting, and more. Some even offer discounts on insurance. Log
on to the "members only" sections of the associations you
belong to and see what you've been missing. CHA is a good example.
Visit at www.craftandhobby.org.
11. Don't buy it when you can download it for free. You can
find all kinds of free forms that you can easily download,
customize, and print while sitting at your own desk. Start at http://office.microsoft.com/templates
While you're online, check out www.download.com
to try all kinds of software products. You'll find free trials,
limited versions of the full product, and free software.
12. Adopt the Scarlett O'Hara approach. Scarlett said,
"I'll think about it tomorrow." Sometimes procrastination
is a good thing, especially when you are facing a big purchase or
decision and acting on impulse can get you into trouble. Sleep on
it. If it still makes sense in the morning, go for it.
Take charge, set goals, and be persistent about the day-to-day
details of running your store. Take it one step at a time if that's
what you are comfortable with. Or jump in with both feet. Either
way, you'll begin to see areas of improvement, and other areas in
which you can improve. Start now and planning for 2010 will be a
piece of cake.
Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender are professional speakers, retail
strategists, authors, and consultants whose client list reads like a
"Who's Who" in international business. Retailers depend
upon KIZER & BENDER for timely advice on consumers and the ever
changing retail market place.
Named "Two of Retailing's Most Influential People,"
KIZER & BENDER are experts on consumer and generational
diversity, marketing and promotion, and everything retail. They are
widely referred to as retail anthropologists because they stalk and
study that most elusive of mammals: today's consumer.
Any speaker can talk about customers, but Georganne and Rich
actually become them. In addition to focus groups, one-on-one
interviews, and intensive on-site studies; their research includes
posing as every kind of customer you can imagine – and maybe even
a few that you can't! The result of their research is literally
straight from the customers' mouth: solid, ground-level intelligence
that you can use today to better serve your own customers and build
KIZER & BENDER Speaking!
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