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A view of the industry through the eyes of independent and chain retailers.

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12 EASY Ways to Mind Your Own Business

Simple, straightforward, and effective.

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (October 5, 2009)

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 work.

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 expenditures.

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 miscellaneous expenses.

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 and stress.

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 and www.freebusinessforms.com. 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 your business.

KIZER & BENDER Speaking!
Keynotes | Seminars | Consulting | Store Design
103 North 11th Ave., Ste. 206, St. Charles, Illinois 60174
Phone 630-513-8020 | 24/7
Mobile 708-347-2682
Fax: 630-513-8098
Web: www.kizerandbender.com
Blog: www.kizerandbender.blogspot.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/kizerandbender




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