Men and Women are Still Different

Male_female_2 This post originally ran on October 3, 2007.

ccording to a new report by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy the answer is "yes"; at least when it comes to running a business. 

Here are some of the reports major findings, courtesy of  Like most of these surveys, you probably knew these things without spending tax dollars on a survey. 

The original data is from the Panel Study of Entrepreneural Dynamics.  685 entrepreneurs who started their business in 1998 or 1999 were surveyed. 

  • In terms of performance, it doesn’t make any difference if the business owner is male or female.
  • The main difference is the type of business.  Females are more likely to start personal service or retail businesses.  Men are more likely to get involved in technology or manufacturing.
  • Women-owned businesses tend to be smaller than mail owned.
  • Because of demands at home, women tend to work fewer hours in their business than men.  (Not the ones I know!)
  • Women tend to start lower-risk businesses than men.
  • This last one’s interesting.  Women tend to look for information through their social networks and so have a greater number of sources than men, while men find opportunities through interaction with banks and investors.

These are very general conclusions.  As they say, "your mileage may vary."  The first point seems to tie up the whole discussion.  Men and women are equally successful as business owners.  They just get there in different ways.  No surprise there.

A Tale of Two Sales again

Hi_shirt_dog This post originally ran on October 17, 2007.  It’s still a great story.

Here’s a great story of two salespeople from the Retail Contrarian blog by Doug Fleener.  It seems he went looking for a Hawaiian shirt at a Tommy Bahama store.  (Somebody please tell Mrs. B that I’m not the only person who still wears them.)  Anyway, the salesperson at TB did a good job and Doug bought the shirt.

Passing through the men’s department at a nearby Nordstrom’s after using the restroom, he was approached by a sales associate who noticed the Tommy Bahama bag he was carrying.  To make a long story short, he ended up buying another TB Hawaiian shirt at Nordstrom’s.  This associate didn’t make a sale, she created a sale.  Big difference!

It’s not a surprise when Nordstrom’s sales people give excellent service.  They’ve been a role model for outstanding service for years.  But they don’t have an exclusive.  Any retailer can follow their example.  In fact, they’re not bashful about sharing what they do and how they do it.  The book "The Nordstrom Way" was first published in 1995.  A Google search of nordstrom and service returns over 2,000,000 hits.

Good service nearly always results in a sale when the customer has the intention of buying.  Excellent service will often create a sale where there was no intention to buy.  Click here to read the entire post.  I suggest you print it out and post it on your store’s bulletin board, or better yet, use it as the basis for your next sales meeting. 

You might also want to subscribe to the Retail Contrarian blog. I’ve also added a link on our blogroll.  It’s one of the very few blogs aimed specifically aimed at retailers.  You’re reading the only other one that I know of.  If you know of others, please let us know so we can pass them along.

How Do Sewing Machines Work?

, I can’t explain it, but this post is one of the most popular ones we’ve ever done.  More than one year after it originally appeared it still gets almost daily page views.  In case you missed it, or if you just enjoy something silly that actually teaches something, here it is again.  Enjoy!

I know, MYOB is a blog about business for ALL independent retailers, but you have to see this video, no matter what you sell. 

Here’s how YouTube describes it:

"Junkyard Wars audition tape (successful!). Ever wonder how a sewing machine works? See a larger than life model constructed, and the operation played thru."

Three self-proclaimed "nerds" (New England Rubbish Deconstruction Society) build a larger-than-life sewing machine using themselves as the vital parts (needle, looper, bobbin case, tension, and feed dog).  It’s a hoot and does a pretty good job of explaining how the magic happens.

These guys will actually appear at your school, or trade show, or special event.  The details are on their web site.  (Check our post later today on special events.)

They Can Still Afford It

It’s amazing how some things never change.  This post originally appeared on October 5, 2007.  The link to Seth’s blog still works and the advice is still good.

The always insightful Seth Godin suggests that when the customer says "I can’t afford it", they really mean is "It’s not worth it."  He writes, "As in, it’s not worth reprioritizing my life, not worth the risk, not
worth what I’ll have to give up to get this, not worth being in debt

A lot of us try to overcome the "can’t afford it" objection by lowering the price when, in fact, the fault isn’t with the price at all.  The fault is our inability to sell the value of our product to the customer.  A sales trainer once told me that there are two reasons why a person does something.  One is the reason that "sounds good".  The other is the real reason.  Sometimes the two reasons are the same.  Most of the time they’re not.

We can drive ourselves crazy trying to close a sale by overcoming the wrong objection.  Our job as salespeople is to dig deeply enough to find the real reason why the customer won’t buy and then dealing with that objection, not just at the close, but throughout the presentation.  In a retail situation, the price of an item should be right there on the sign or tag, visible to the customer from the outset of the conversation.  Confirming the fact that the item is something the customer can afford should be done as early as possible, eliminating the "can’t afford" objection long before the close.

Ask For The Sale!! Again

This post originally appeared November 8, 2007.  Obviously it’s not really two weeks until Thanksgiving, but the principal still applies.  Most of the time, you won’t get the sale until you ask for it.  Enjoy.

Two weeks from today is Thanksgiving, the traditional beginning of the Christmas selling season.  Of course, every customer who walks through your door any time is like gold, but for the next few weeks, each one is even more golden.  If you’re ever going to "Mine Your Own Business", now it the time!

Let’s start today with a basic truth.  Unless you’re either (a) giving away free food, or (b) you have the only public restroom within a few miles, no one comes into your store "just looking."  This is especially true during the holidays.  Nowadays, people do their "looking" on the Internet.  They study specs, features, and yes, even prices before they ever leave home.  People are too busy to wander from store to store "just looking".

Another basic truth is that selling is a skill.  It’s something you can learn.  It’s not hard, but is work.  It’s very unusual to find a "natural-born" sales person.  If you find one (or if you are one) consider yourself extremely lucky. 

Here’s a little secret.  There are hundreds of experts in the field of sales training and every one of them has books and tapes and CDs (or maybe a blog).  From Tom Hopkins, Brian Tracy, and Zig Ziglar, all the way back to Earl Nightingale and Napoleon Hill, they all have something to say.  But if you line them up side-by-side, they’re all saying the same thing, each in their own way.  Selling is an art and a science.  The science part is simple.  You do A, then B, then C and a sale happens.  It’s like mixing the right amounts of hydrogen and oxygen and getting water.  How you do A, B, & C is the art.

So, if you were to take one thing away from all these selling stars, one thing that would guarantee that you get the most from every customer contact, what would it be?

It’s simple, really.  ASK FOR THE ORDER!!  It’s amazing how often people walk away from a purchase because no one asked them to buy.  Each one of us has a certain number of "no’s" we just have to get out of our system before we can say "yes".  It may be just one.  It may be two, or three, or more.  But most sales people stop after just one or two at the most. Some don’t ask for the order at all. And the customer walks away empty-handed.  How many more sales would be made if the sales person closed just one more time?

Remember, not all the time, but most of the time, the customer who says "I’ll be back" won’t.  If you don’t get the sale while they’re in your store, chances are good that they won’t be back.  Not to be repetitive but ASK THEM TO BUY!!  You’re not going to pick up tomorrow’s paper and see a headline "Retailer Shot and Killed for Asking Closing Question".  It won’t happen.  ASK FOR THE MONEY!!  No, let’s rephrase that, ASK FOR YOUR MONEY!!  It is your money, they just haven’t given it to you yet.

From now until the end of the year people will be in a buying mood.  They don’t have time for recreational shopping.  They’re in your store for a reason.  Find out why they’re there, give them your best demo, then ASK THEM "WILL THAT BE CASH OR CHARGE?"

Keep asking until they buy.  Once they say "yes" don’t stop there.  You know those dogs that sit in the back window of the car, the ones who nod their heads when the car starts and stops?  Once they start nodding, they keep doing it for a while.  People are like those dogs.  Once they nod "yes" their tendency is to keep nodding.

Once the customer says "yes", show them something else.  Show them accessories.  Show them add-ons.  Show them related products.  Ask them if they’d like a second widget to give someone else for a gift.  CLOSE THE SALE!!  Keep asking until they run out of money or you run out of merchandise.

You may have noticed that in this post we used the phrase "ASK FOR THE SALE!!" or something similar a very redundant eight times.  You may have also noticed that each time it was phrased a little differently, just as your closing attempts should each be phrased a little differently.  It may be bad writing, but it’s good selling.

The point is this, your time and your customers’ time is valuable, especially at this time of year.  Do your customer a favor by letting them cross at least one item off their shopping list before they leave your store.  You’ll both be glad that you did.

Repost “Be Prepared”

Sba_disaster_brochure In the wake of the recent hurricanes that hit the gulf coast and caused widespread damage well into the heartland, it may be a good time to repeat this post from December 5, 2007.  The links still work including the FEMA link which opens a link to another emergency planning booklet. 

Disasters come in all sizes and shapes.  While a structure fire can be considered a major disaster, help is usually available.  Other disasters like floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires and hurricanes stretch police, fire departments, and other rescuers to the limit and help may be slow in coming, if it comes at all.

The U. S. Small Business Administration and Nationwide Insurance have recently published a pamphlet called "Expect the Unexpected-Prepare Your Business for Disaster."  The ten-page guide emphasizes planning as the key to successful disaster recovery.

Some of the things suggested are common sense, some are more innovative.  But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of even the simplest steps once in a while.  One tip that I thought was particularly relevant for retailers was the issue of customers.  You may have a plan for taking care of your staff in an emergency, but what if the store is full of customers?  Where would you put them? 

The guide is broken down by the type of disaster, so if you’re on top of a mountain, you can probably skip the part about floods.  But, most of the ideas can be adapted for use in your particular case. 

There’s also a list of items to put in your disaster kit which should be easily accessible in an emergency.  Even if you don’t experience a major event, a flashlight, radio, and batteries and a blanket could come in handy if you have a simple power failure.  A separate set of basic tools and a first aid kit that are strictly for emergencies is also a good idea.   Even if you have all the items somewhere in the store, a centrally-located supply kit will make things a lot easier if you’re stumbling around in the dark.

The guide includes a number of links to good resources for your disaster and recovery planning.  Links include the American Red Cross, FEMA, The Department of Homeland Security, and others. A few minutes spent today could save money and even lives in the event that a disaster strikes.

This is one of those things that we may not think about because disasters only happen to other people.  But in this case, procrastination could turn out to be very expensive and potentially dangerous. 

You Can’t Keep a Good Factory Down Redux

It was exactly two years ago today that a tornado ripped through Tacony Corporation’s St. James manufacturing plant. I thought it would be appropriate to repeat a MYOB post on the plant’s rapid recovery on this anniversary date.  Here it is:

Missouri weather can be very unpredictable.  If you don’t believe it, ask Major League Baseball.  On Friday afternoon, September 22, at about 3:20 in the afternoon, a tornado touched down in St. James, MO.  Tacony Manufacturing was right in its path.  It was one month, to the day, since the one millionth vacuum cleaner had rolled of the production line.  (See "That’s a Lot of Vacuum Cleaners" for more on the St. James plant.)

Thankfully, the plant works on a schedule of four ten hour days, Monday through Thursday so theSt_james_6
number of people working that afternoon was small and no one was injured.  The building wasn’t so fortunate.  When the storm had passed, those who were working that day found a 30′ X 70′ hole in the roof.  Several doors had been blown out.  Water was pouring in from the still-falling rain and from the plumbing for the sprinkler system, which ruptured when the roof blew off.  There was a 35′ X 16′ hole in one wall.

The sprinklers were quickly turned off and most of the raw materials and material handling equipment was saved.  Employees living nearby soon arrived to help, dodging tree limbs, power lines and other assorted debris.  By early evening, a recovery plan was in place and materials had been ordered.

To make a long story short, in spite of the severe damage, the factory was up and running Tuesday morning, the 26th.  We missed one day of production. 

Tacony Manufacturing works on a lean production system, meaning that we don’t keep a lot of finished product on hand.  Merchandise is produced as it’s needed to supply our customers.  Had we been shut down for any length of time, it would have been a big problem for a lot of dealers.  The quick work of Jim Fleming, our plant manager, and all of our associates in St. James not only ensured that our business would continue with little interruption, it also ensured that our dealers’ business would not be disrupted.

We were very fortunate, especially that no one was hurt.  It just shows that you can be celebrating a milestone one day and repairing major damage the next.  If you haven’t reviewed your own disaster plan recently, now would be a good time to do it.

Jim has prepared a more complete report of the events of that weekend and you can read it here.  Click on any of the small pictures below to see them in larger size.


Episode 12–We’re Headed for Ireland

Welcome to Mining the Store, the podcast for small business owners who want to mine more gold from their businesses. This is Episode 12.
This time on Mining the Store

00:30 We’re headed to Ireland.
00:50  Podcamp Ireland
01:30  Web 2.0 as a source for travel information.
03:55  Contacting Mining the Store
04:35  Using Skype to keep in touch.
05:11  It was quite a week in the US financial markets.
07:23  If you screw up the business should you walk away with millions of dollars???
09:55  The volatility of the exchange rate.
11:15  Thanks for listening.

Podcamp Ireland

The more observant among you may have noticed this strange green badge that showed up in the right hand column of MYOB a while back.  Podcamp Ireland?  What the heck is Podcamp Ireland?

What it is is a group of bloggers and podcasters getting together to talk about, guess what, blogging and podcasting.  This particular podcamp is taking place in Kilkenny, Ireland next Saturday, September 27.  I’ve put their badge and the accompanying link here because your humble blog meister is going to be leading a session there.  We’ll be discussing social media as it relates to different generations, especially baby boomers.

Just to be clear, this is a vacation trip.  The fact that PI falls during the time that we’ll be in Ireland is just a coincidence.  There are podcamps held in the United States.  If you blog or podcast, or if you’re considering it, you might want to see if there’s one coming up that’s less than 4,000 miles away. (Podcamp Hawaii is coming up in October.)

Why do you care about this?  Well, you should know when you’re being talked about, and the results of the recent MYOB reader poll is going to be an important part of the discussion.  A big thank you to everyone who participated. 

Second, since I’ll be away for the next two weeks, MYOB will be running a "best of" series for the next two weeks.  We’ve selected ten posts that you may have missed, or that were especially popular.  [Hint:  Next Tuesday (the 23rd) look for a post from August, 2007 that still gets viewed almost every day.  It’s one of our most popular posts ever.]

I don’t know when or if I’ll be able to connect to the Internet in the next two weeks, so if you post a comment don’t be offended if I don’t get back to you right away.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy strolling down memory land for the next two weeks.  I’ll see you on October 6.

Tacony Corporation to Acquire Sewing Center Supply Co., Inc. of Portland, Oregon

Tacony Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri and SCS, Sewing Center Supply Co., Inc. of Portland, Oregon have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for Tacony to acquire the assets of SCS on September 30, 2008. 

Under the agreement, Tacony will become the exclusive importer in North America and direct all the distribution of the varied SCS brands and products, including Madeira Thread, Klasse needles, Hemline luggage and notions, and Suzy’s bags and baskets. Tacony will also control and direct the design, manufacturing and worldwide distribution of the premier line of Koala Sewing and Craft furniture and studios.

Read the complete press release here.