Last week I asked the question: ‘What’s your problem?’

In a nutshell, I postulated that there are ‘everyday’ problems and then there are problems associated with the specific inflection points as the business goes though its lifecycle.

The good news is that there is a solution, and even better news is that you already know the answer.

This week I want to post the answer, specifically for businesses trading in a maturity stage of the lifecycle. That is, businesses that must ‘jump the curve’.

Right now, almost every traditional, bricks-and-mortar retail business has to also jump the curve due to the environmental forces shaping the industry, so the answer is quite pertinent to many readers.

If you want to be around in 10 years, you must be relevant.

If you want to be relevant, you have to offer something of value.

The things that customers value have not changed in centuries. How they seek and find that value has changed and is changing. And, their ability and propensity to source alternate solutions (to yours) has vastly changed too.

What is the solution?

I shall turn to the management guru of gurus to give you the answer.

Tom Peters wrote this on last Friday – and I couldn’t have hoped for a better endorsement of this solution:

  • You take care of the people.
  • The people take care of the service.
  • The service takes care of the customer.
  • The customer takes care of the profit.
  • The profit takes care of the re-investment.
  • The re-investment takes care of the re-invention.
  • The re-invention takes care of the future.

(And at every step the only measure is EXCELLENCE.)

I will briefly discuss only the first few steps in this process since most are pretty self-evident, and space does not permit elaboration.

To reiterate:

The success of any venture always starts with a passionate, committed and motivated person who empowers their team to deliver great customer experiences.

Stop – if you think ‘I have heard that before’ or ‘what’s new’ or even ‘oh no , not that topic again.’

You may have heard it.

You may even get it.

But have you actually done it?

If you read this post of mine (June 2010) titled: Neither customers nor employees should be your priority; you will see where the process really starts. HINT: Look at the first word in Tom’s post above.

If the good news is that we ‘know’ the answer, the bad news is that most retail entrepreneurs will not appreciate the solution and the worst news is they will not implement the solution.

You have to seriously examine yourself:

  • Are you doing what you are doing with a long-term perspective – and are therefore willing to face reality and do something about it, or are you hoping to sell and get out soon?
  • Do you think the future is just SSDD (same s&%t, different day) – which means you buy stock, get it on the shelves, juggle the roster of part-timers and wait for customers to arrive, or are you excited about the challenges you are facing?

There are many (more) questions, but I shall leave the self-examination up to you. The reason I ask these questions, is because your attitude is contagious. If you don’t believe; if you don’t change; if you don’t deliver – then no one will.

My favourite quote of all time is this:


The way you do anything is the way you do everything.

Think about that.

Secondly, the one element of the retail mix that you have to absolutely nail is the delivery of a great customer experience; one that customers would not trade for the world.

Readers of my newsletter received a 15p guide on how to build customer service into the organisation. (Email me if you would like a copy.)

The difference between online and offline retail is just that: the experience.

Shopping in the real world is changing:

  • People are more social.
  • People have more options and less money.
  • People value their time more than ever.

This translates to a simple solution:

When they are in your store, you have to really engage them with a personal, relevant and satisfying and entertaining and authentic experience.

When they are not in your store, you still have to maintain relevance and still give them the option to buy from you by having an online presence. And guess what? Your online presence has to be personal, relevant, satisfying, entertaining and authentic.

It is easier than ever to set up an online store. There is a Facebook app that simply slots in as one of the tabs of your Facebook site.

  • Have a look at SHOPTAB – starting from $10 per month. Have a look at for instance the shop COLEMAN has set up using that system.
  • Or the latest company to launch in this space is STORENVY – which is free.

There is no excuse for not competing in the online space. You will have to change some things, sure, but those are just ordinary, everyday problems. (It does require a different mindset from your current one, but not different from the one you should have anyway.)

The more difficult problem is still to effect the change of attitude that will allow you to jump the curve.

And this is much harder to fix. But unless you do that, nothing will change. And if nothing changes, your business will slide down the maturity curve to its natural conclusion.

As Tom said:

  • You take care of the people.
  • The people take care of the service.
  • The service takes care of the customer.

The rest takes care of itself…

But it is only after you have made that commitment to change, that you should think about designing a new customer experience that your people will embrace –and deliver to your customers – profitably.

Make some decisions. Get stuff happening.

Have fun. (You can, and you really should.)


PS: Read the second last sentence again…

Training aint what it ought to be

Things we do

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