Miracle on 34th Street

I was just watching the classic movie, Miracle on 34th Street.  You know, the real one with Maureen O’Hara and Edmund Gwenn.  You may remember Santa’s innovative approach of sending Macy’s customers to other stores, putting the children first.  In 1947, the year the movie was made, that was quite a new concept.  Who could believe that a greedy business like Macy’s would send someone to a competitor?

Of course, as Mr. Macy pointed out, the positive publicity from this strategy would drive more customers their way, increasing their profits.

Today we would call a similar philosophy TQM or Total Quality Management.  Put the customer first, regardless of short-term profit, and your business will come out ahead in the long run.  Santa was ahead of his time.  But that’s not so surprising, is it?

Today, as all of my retail friends take a last breather before the sprint from “Black Friday” to Christmas Eve, I hope that you all enjoy your Thanksgiving Day meal with family and friends, then sit back and relax.  Enjoy this last peaceful day before the big rush begins.  Whatever time you’ve chosen to begin your “Black Friday” promotions, whether it’s 3:00 AM (ridiculous) or your normal opening hour, keep in mind the reason for the season.  Amidst the madness of the next four weeks, please take time out for the three R’s.  Rest, Recreation, and Reflection.

Rest. You can’t be at your best unless you’re physically strong.  No matter how hectic the next few weeks may be, nourishment, exercise, and sleep are the fuel that will keep you going.

Recreation. Break the word down.  Re-creation.  Again, you have to feed the inner man or woman.  Take the time to read a good book, even if it’s only 10 minutes a day.  When you work, work hard.  But then allow yourself to play, even if it’s just for a little while.  Nobody can be “on” twenty-four hours a day.

Reflection. At the end of this hectic selling season comes a day we call Christmas.  Don’t forget what that day is really all about.  We all sell something and for most of us this is the time of year we sell the most, but if not for that Child born in that manger more than 2,000 years ago, would it all be worth it?  I don’t think so.

So, enjoy your Thanksgiving and I hope that the next month of so are all that you hope they will be, both personally, spiritually and profitably.

PS.  They call the holiday “Christmas“.  I hope your signage and advertising reflect that.  If I come into your store and someone wishes me “Happy Holidays” or any similar politically correct nonsense, I will shake the dust off my sandals and move on.  I’m just sayin’……..


Show Me Quality

Monday (December 7), the winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award were announced. And the winners are:

Notice anything about the winners?  Let me help you out.  Three of the five winners were from the state of Missouri.  I don’t like to brag, but it is my blog so I’ll brag if I want to.  Quality improvement is running rampant here in the Heartland of America.

It’s the first time in the history of the award that three organizations from the same state have won in the same year.  The three awards tie Missouri with Texas (a slightly larger state) for the most award recipients.

All three Missouri Baldrige winners are past recipients of the Missouri Quality Award.  Did I mention that I’m an examiner for MQA?

Congratulations to all five winners!

The Baldrige is no beauty contest.  It takes a lot of hard work by a dedicated team and committed management to win the nation’s top quality award.  But the trophy is secondary to the impact that the Baldrige process has on an orgaznization.  There’s a lot of good information on improving your processes and results on the Baldrige web site, the MQA site, or on the site of your local award program.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment here or you can email me.

Small Business Imperatives

Charles Brad Reynolds, a Warwick Business School MBA candidate asked the following question on LinkedIn.

What do you see as the top 5 innovations that businesses can access, cost-effectively, today that will be imperative for survival and profit maximization in the future.

My vote goes to
1.) Internet facilities for communication, marketing and purchase ordering
2.) Online and electronic banking facilities
3.) Lean Thinking concepts and practices
4.) Business use technologies (laptops, mobile phones, blackberries)
5.) Expanding network (customers, competitors, labour, suppliers, civil, etc)

What do you see as being the top innovations that businesses should be more actively trying to leverage or develop for the future.

There were a number of good answers, many of them focused on the internet and new technology.  Here’s my answer:

“I’m going to take a slightly different approach. You may or may not consider these “innovations” since they’re hardly new. But since they may be overlooked in favor of the latest electronic “toy”, their use can be considered innovative and they’re definitely going to be imperative tomorrow.

1. Relationships. If you’re going to stand out, then you must have strong relationships with your customers and other business partners.

2. Communications. Here’s where the “toys” come in. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. Use them IF they help your business.

3. Empowerment. Unless you want to work yourself to death, you have to have people working for you that you trust and you must give them everything they need to excel, including the ability to make mistakes.

4. Knowledge. Never before have your customers had access to knowledge as they do today. You MUST stay ahead of them or be left behind.

5. Customer Service. This is really a combination of the other four. Find out what your customers want and let them know that you have it. Empower your people to give the customer what she wants and then get out of their way.

I personally have nothing against MBA’s (well, maybe I do.  But that’s a topic for another day.) but, there’s a lot more to running a small business than the things they teach you in B-School.

Treat people the way you’d like to be treated and you’ll have a sound foundation, regardless of the tools you use to get there.

Thoughts for the Day

One thing I really admire is the gift of brevity, something I obviously don’t have.  The ability to make a pithy statement in a very few words is truly admirable.  While bicycling and listening to podcasts today, I came across two wonderful examples:

Never chase the money.  Chase excellence and the money will chase you.

Pat Fraley

Blogging is a game for idiots.

Anna Farmery

It’s “Quality Season”

With Spring come baseball, the Final Four, longer days, and lots of the color green.  The long winter is over (at least here in the Heartland of America) and it’s time to get back outside.

Another sign of spring is the beginning of the process for choosing winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the various state and local awards based on the Baldridge criteria.

This post isn’t about trying to win an award  (though it’s certainly a good goal for any business).  It’s about using the criteria to improve your business.  Two frequent objections to adopting the criteria as a business model are:

  1. My business is too small.
  2. I can’t afford it.

First, no business is too small.  A one man operation use the seven categories of Baldrige as a guide for improvement just as well as a larger firm.  In fact, one of the beauties of the award process is that everyone competes on an equal footing.  No one expects a smaller company to have the resources of a large one.  Applicants are scored on how well they do for a company of that size.

The categories are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Strategic Planning
  3. Customer Focus
  4. Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management
  5. Workforce Focus
  6. Process Management
  7. Results

All seven apply to every business and measuring and improving the way you approach them can’t help but improve your bottom line.

As far as the “can’t afford it” objection, I suggest that you can’t afford not to improve the way you do things, especially in the current environment.  It’s a cliche, but it costs a lot more to do something over than it costs to do it right in the first place.

Details of any individual award application are highly confidential, but as I go through the examination process beginning tomorrow and running through fall, I’ll post on it from time-to-time.

For now, I’d highly recommend that you get a copy of the Baldrige criteria, either from the Baldrige web site or from your local award organization.  You can order the book by mail, or you can download the pdf.

Read through it and ask yourself how improve you can use the process to improve the way you do things.  Creating processes for performing critical tasks will make your life much easier and make your business a self-sustaining asset that you can some day turn over to your kids or sell to someone else.


“One definition of insanity is to continue to do the same things over and over expecting different results.”

They say that you should never mix business and religion, but frankly I don’t see how you can separate the two.  If you were to ask me the one thing that might make a business successful I would say, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, the “Golden Rule” as stated by Jesus of Nazareth.

But the thing that brought the association between faith and business to mind was the above quote on insanity.  I don’t know who first said it, but I stumbled onto it last night in a reflection for Lent.  The author’s point was that if you want to improve yourself, you can’t just keep doing what you’re doing.  You have to change.  It’s a good thought for Lent, but it’s also a good thought for running your business.

If you’re completely happy with your results, then you shouldn’t make major changes, except to keep up with changes outside your control.  You have to adapt to the economy.  You have to adapt to new technology.  You have to adapt to changes in the market place.

On the other hand, if you’re not happy with your results, it is insanity to think that things will improve if you just keep doin’ what you’re doin’.  Because if you do keep doin’ what you’re doin’, you’re going to keep gettin’ what you’re gettin’.

While many of us will be using the next six weeks to reflect on our personal habits and to try to improve, maybe a “Business Lent” might not be such a bad idea either.  After all, our businesses are a vehicle for you and I and our families, for our employees and their families, and our customers to have better lives.  Striving to make those lives better by improving our businesses is something that I think the Lord Himself would endorse.

Stay tuned to Mining the Store  and we’ll do our best to help.

Have a great weekend!

Quality, not Quantity

Here it is, almost 5:00 in the afternoon in the Midwest.  Nothing special about that.  It happens every day at just about the same time.  But, today's different.  I've been watching the usual sources all day.  Twitter tweets.  Blog posts.  Emails.  FaceBook.  LinkedIn…..NOTHING!

I haven't come across a single thing today that I think is worth sharing with you.  And I never want to waste your time by posting something just for the sake of posting.

 So have a great Thursday evening!  I'll keep looking and I promise I'll have some good content for you tomorrow.