Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"Good" is the ENEMY of "Great."

Ace Luciano has dealt with THOUSANDS of businesses in and out of the outdoor and firearms world - including Fortune 10, Fortune 50, and Fortune 500 companies, Attorneys, Physicians, Dentists, Restaurants, Landscape Contractors, Remodeling Contractors and more. Many business owners fell that "their business is different." It's not. All businesses have the same needs, issues, and success- the MOST important of which is EFFECTIVE MARKETING
Photo Courtesy of N2 Growth Blog

Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” 

One of my favorite books on business and success is "Good to Great," by business researcher and author Jim Collins.

It is a must read for anyone in business today.

One of the major lessons from it is how "hubris" in a company or by the officers of the company are often one of the main reasons for lack of performance, a not-as-good-performance, and/or failure.

An article by Jim Shepard, of "The Outdoor Wire," recently reminded me of how prevalent this "disease" is in the outdoor world.

Name three "Great" retailers...

Many average, many good- but darn few "great."

The irrefutable rule of business is "adapt or Die." However, too many businesses in the retail and, more specifically, the outdoor world, have failed to "adapt."
Many have taken their customers and retail clients for granted.

I can't tell you how many companies I've spoken with in (and, to be fair, out of) the outdoor world that  have tales of woe and, quite frankly, not the nicest of business dealings with large scale retailers.
 Forced to jump through hoops, demeaning attitudes towards their products and business, and, basically, making new and even rather innovative brands grovel and beg (or even pay) to be placed on their shelves.

 Can you blame them for jumping to the online bandwagon?

Even I, with numerous connections on both sides of the issue, sometimes need clarification as to just what the difference can be to a business.

One source who shall not be named said it to me very plainly.
"Ace, I can sell  1/3 to 1/2 less and make as much or as much as 25% more by not dealing with them at all and going directly to the consumer."
Now, what happens most often is that the "brick and mortar" companies or stores tell a "tale of woe" like the one below- blaming technology and the internet rather than looking into the mirror.
What if we had "regulated" the automobile because farriers and stables were going under?
How about preventing cellular companies from selling their wares because "old time" telephone companies were losing money?

It sounds rather silly, doesn't it?

 I can't say that I should be surprised, as what that boils down to is just more proof of a gross lack of "marketing savvy."

As a matter fact, there are very, very few business problems that cannot be solved by "effective" marketing.

 What do I mean by "effective?"
Marketing that does more than just "put your name out" or is something that is done "because you've always done it this way" needs to be put aside.

I deal and interact a great deal with companies that say things like "Our budget is full" or "come back to us in six months."
That then turns into ANOTHER 6 months. Then ANOTHER. Then, well... then, if they aren't in great shape they expect a "miracle in a box" or "magic wand."

The economy and business- REGARDLESS of your business-  is like a river.

You can swim, paddle, row, or motor, but the SECOND you stop, you will be swept downstream.

When you have Hubris (and there are several LARGE, clear examples of this in recent years) you are "staring into the boat" - unaware and blind to the movement of the water.

Want to see a great example of a company that is on the "front edge" of TODAY'S Economy?
Check out this video from a company I met called OUTDOOR VITALS- a company that has more than doubled every year they've been in business.

P.S.- Your CUSTOMERS are dictating what they want- rather than fight it, don't you think it would be better to give them what they want?

The following is the article from Jim Shepherd of "The Outdoor Wire."
You can reach them at www.theoutdoorwire.com.

"Last week, I heard some scary advice from a bankruptcy attorney for retailers: "find another line of work." 

Hugh Ray of McCool Smith wasn't joking. 

The lineup of failed companies in bricks-and-mortar retailing looks like a lineup of former blue-chippers who have "lost a step" in sports parlance. 

Even discounters aren't being spared. Payless Shoes, I'm told, will file for Chapter 11 protection "any day". That's after closing 1,000 stores.

Sears Holding Corporation has (finally) admitted that it is "essentially no longer a going concern" despite belt tightening and the closure of 150 locations. Radio Shack owner General Wireless Operations is already in bankruptcy, as is HHGregg. Others, from J.Crew to Ascena (the company that owns Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Lofts) have suffered two mortal wounds: dropping sales and/or plummeting share price. 

Add in the problems for Macy's, Staples, Office Depot, Kohls, and CVS, and it seems there will be plenty of storefronts available in 2017 -especially across rural America. Small-town stores are normally the first casualties.

Outdoor retailer Gander Mountain has already sought bankruptcy protection. It's not the only outdoor group teetering on the edge today.

Online retailers like Amazon are draining traditional storefront operations dry. 

Only those destination-type retailers are hanging tough - and their operations aren't thriving, despite what you might hear.

Last week, I was writing an undated obituary for the Bass Pro Shop/Cabela's deal- until a last minute decision by Georgia-based Synovus Financial Corporation to buy the Cabela's credit-card business seems to have pulled the deal out of the proverbial fire.

Most people forget the mega-merger of outdoor retailers Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's was really an intertwined two-part sale: BPS would take the retail business, and Capital One would buy the credit card business. 

The second part of the deal ran into trouble because of money-laundering allegations (and an ongoing investigation) at Capital One. Their timetable had slipped to the point the deal seemed in serious trouble. 

Now Georgia-based Synovus Financial Corporation has stepped in to buy the credit card portion. It's one of those deals I'd like to make: Synovus buys the Cabela's credit card business, then turns around and re-sells it to Capital One. That avoids a more in-depth review of the deal by regulators. 

In exchange, Synovus keeps around $1 billion (yes, billion) in deposits held by the Cabela's bank - and grows from a $30 billion dollar bank to a $31 billon dollar depository- three plus percent growth on a single business turn is nothing to sneeze at.

At that point, Johnny Morris and BPS takes over Cabela's -and the $3.6 billion in business Cabela's generated last year. If/when that happens, count on a brief period of stability, followed by the inevitable "combination of operational areas" - and another glut of available retail space.  

Unfortunately, there are no white knights riding to the rescue of independent retailers. 

They're under nearly unbearable price pressures, and facing the realization consumers are coming to them for their expertise- then using their newfound knowledge to search for the best price- usually online.

Last weekend, I watched a shopper question a knowledgeable salesperson about compound bows. The salesperson was both courteous and knowledgeable, answering the shopper's questions while showing the different bow sight options on demo mounts. 

After several minutes of questions, the shopper and the salesperson decided a particular three-pin sight would be the best choice for this customer.

Instead of asking the price, the customer whipped out his smartphone, took a picture of a packaged sight, thanked the salesman, and left. I was flabbergasted.

The salesman shrugged and explained: "happens pretty often. We have the knowledge, but not the online price." 

Curious about the price difference, I went online -at the counter- to see how cheaply I could find that particular bow sight online.

The difference? Seven bucks- not including shipping ($3.95). 

For less than three bucks, the "smart" shopper essentially helping put their go-to source for help and expert advice out of business.

This exchange summarizes where outdoor retailers, regardless of their size, find themselves. I've seen it happen before. 

As a beginning photographer, most of my early knowledge came from local camera stores. Local shooters freely shared their experiences and expertise. Today are very few of camera stores. Instead, innumerable online videos from online sellers quickly help me through any technical issue I have with my digital gear.

The same's true for a lot of the technical aspects of the outdoors. But there's still no substitute for "local knowledge" in the outdoors. What works in Bozeman usually doesn't apply in Birmingham.  

As a business observer, it's tough to watch people who love their business and readily share that "local knowledge" increasingly forced to "find another line of work". 

But I've seen it happen frequently enough to recognize the symptoms. 

Unfortunately, recognizing symptoms does nothing to slow the inevitable march of progress. Consumers decide what businesses succeed."

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