The one thing we can be sure of, the one constant is: Things are going to always change.
I think the first big change I saw in customers’ attitudes were back in the early ‘70s. One of the businesses I owned and operated was our tire business. It seemed every day the labor pool to hire tire changers got smaller and smaller and the applicants dress and personal appearance became, well we described it back then as shabby. One day a young fellow, Jerry, applied for a tire changing position. He was eager, certainly strong enough, and caught my attention because he was neat and clean even though he had long shoulder length hair.
I knew he could handle the job physically and mentally, but he had that long shaggy hair. Up until then we had not seen much of that style. Well I needed tire changers so I hired him. He was great. Got along with his fellow workers, worked hard and was very respectful to all our customers.
Then one day it happened. A customer in his late 60s came busting through the door from the garage into our showroom. He was having new tires put on his car. He strutted right up to me and with his finger wagging in my face said, “I fought in the war for this country. I will be dammed if I will have a long haired hippy change my tires!!”
I thought for a second and replied back at him, “That is the exact reason you fought in the war, so that young man, who is doing a great job for you, has the privilege of wearing his hair the way he wants to.”
The customer looked at me, bit his lip and said, “Ya, I guess you’re right.” He then retreated back to the garage area and gave Jerry a $2 tip.
Things in your business are changing every day. The profitable business will take advantage of the changes they can control and make the changes that are needed to offset the ones they cannot control.
Always look for a way to maximize your opportunities from the changes you cannot control and minimize your losses.
One summer the state decided to replace a bridge 1500 yards from our business. We were going to have no traffic in front of our business for three months. The only way customers could get to us and 15 other businesses was to go 12 miles out of their way (each way). We could not control what the state was going to do, although we did try and failed, but we could control what we did to market to our customers and persuade them to go the 24 miles out of their way to buy from us. It was the most successful June, July and August we ever had.
From the book “You’re Not Lost Until You Are Out Of Gas - 110 pieces of advice from my father”:
Piece of advice # 104
Meyer Janet said: “The successful businesspeople turn negatives into positives”
In the winter of 1984 our electronics store was robbed. Upon arriving at the showroom at 2am and viewing the destruction, televisions and displays turned over and smashed and windows broken, I immediately remembered my father always saying “The successful businesspeople turn negatives into positives.” I telephoned the local newspaper and radio stations. They are always hungry for a sensational story. They dispatched reporters and photographers. There we were the next day on the front page of the newspaper and the leadoff story all day long on the local news. I turned the negative burglary into a positive by gaining free advertising and I followed up the next day with a very successful storewide burglar sale.
Piece of advice # 94
Meyer Janet said: “Successful businesspeople make their own opportunities”
When I joined my father in business he owned and operated a small retail store selling televisions and tires and a small retread tire shop. Since the business now had two families to support in addition to the employees, we had to grow the business quickly. The first thing we did was look for opportunities for growth in our tire business. We knew we could grow our truck tire business, as our competitors, Firestone and Goodyear monopolized the business.
To create the opportunity to gain the truck tire buyer I drove to the Firestone store and then Goodyear, and sat outside and wrote down the names and phone numbers of their customers. They were on the doors of the trucks. I contacted each and every one of them asking them two questions. One: What do you like best about purchasing tires and tire services from Firestone/Goodyear? And two, the most important question: What do you like least?
Unanimously their dislike was the time they wasted waiting for their tires to be fixed or replaced. Our competitors, like us, opened at 9am and closed at 5pm. The exact hours the truckers needed to have their truck on the road making money for themselves. Armed with this information we figured our best opportunity to gain the truckers, business was to open at 7am and close at 9pm, offering them early and late times to get their tire work done. It worked. Within a few months we had so much new profitable business we were hiring new employees.
Of course, the competition saw what was going on and extended their hours also. So we again looked to make a new opportunity to keep their business and gain more truck business. For the larger companies, those with more trucks, we went directly to their workplace and serviced their tires and for everyone else we offered to warehouse their tires so that when they needed one changed it took us only a few minutes to service them and they were back on the road making money.
Things they are a changing. Prosper by taking advantage of the changes.