A Formula For Retail Success

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It's not as hard as it sounds

IF THERE HAS EVER been a time when we needed to go back to basics, it is now. Top professional athletes do it, so why not us? Take Tiger Woods. I've had the pleasure of personally watching Woods hit for two hours before his tee time in a tournament, and for another hour after playing 18 holes. Wonder why he's on top of the golf world? We know why: It's hard work, staying in shape, and sticking with the basics.

The acronym at the top of this page has helped me stay in shape and stick with the basics for the last 15 years. It came from the quality process teachings I learned while I was at Mark III Industries (at the time, the largest van conversion company in the U.S.). It was taught to us by Milliken and Co., a Baldridge Quality Award-winning company that supplied carpets, drapes and other soft goods put inside the vans, pickups and SUVs we upfitted for our 3,000 dealers.

This may sound like it's going to be pretty lofty, theoretical and intellectual stuff — the stuff that has no business in the gutsy, retail, grind-it-out, meat-eater motorcycle business. But it's not. It's just a simple way to remember the issues that are most important to our business. And if you read these letters more like a normal sentence, you will understand the impact of these concepts and never forget them — I haven't. Say it like this: "Q-C-D is me, you and Ed." Try it a couple of times. "Q-C-D is me, you and Ed." Catchy, right?

Let me share the powerful concepts that these simple letters stand for — you may have already guessed a few — that if used in combination will significantly improve your bottom line:

  • Quality: In everything you do, everything you touch, in every department, with every customer, every time. It includes the look of your dealership and your people, the letters you send out without typos or coffee stains on them. The coffee you brew, the cleanliness of your bathrooms, the burgers and brats you barbecue on weekends at the store. You must look like the highest quality business in town, one that sells fun products no one needs and can command a premium price. Every day.
  • Cost: Be relentless in cutting unnecessary costs. If it doesn't help you make a sale or satisfy a customer, it's a candidate for the chopping block. And if you do need it, can you buy it for less?
  • Delivery: Not only the obvious delivery of the bike to the customer, but also the manner in which you deliver your services, your parts, even your T-shirts.
  • Innovation: Think strategically, and think out of the box. If it ain't broke, break it! Try something new, try something that another industry is doing that works for them and see if, with a little adjustment, it will work for you. Take some risks. Have a brainstorming session with your people — ask them what you need to do to improve business. Then ask them what they need to do to improve business.
  • Safety: is No. 1. No debate, safety comes first. Walk around your dealership like an OSHA inspector, or maybe even your mother. Look for any potential safety hazard, big or small, in every department. In fact, maybe have your spouse or an outsider do it — they may come up with more potential safety issues than you will.
  • Morale: The pace of the leader is the pace of the troops. Believe it. If you walk around with a frown, scowl or snarl on your face, your people will think the worst. Maybe you just had a long night and you're a little tired — but your people may think you're going bankrupt, closing the dealership or firing everyone. Remember, they will always think the worst. Do you have daily sales meetings? Weekly department meetings? Monthly all-associate meetings? Those are all morale opportunities that enable you to not only improve processes, but also improve attitudes, pump up the troops, share the good news (look for it — there are always positive things to talk about), brag about a specific associate, celebrate a birthday, or a good sales day, maybe a save-a-customer story. Walk around your dealership and talk with your people as though you like them — not necessarily about a business issue — something personal or something fun.
  • Environment: What is the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual environment in your dealership? Is it positive, fun, safe, business-oriented, customer-centered, service-oriented? Does it smell/feel/touch/look like success? Nobody can change your working and selling environment except you.
  • Universal Principles: Universal principles are those dictums that come from the great books and teachings of everyone from Dale Carnegie to Deming to Covey to the Bible. For example, it's the law of the farm (the concept of planting seeds, watering, sunlight, fresh air, fertilizing and watching things grow in their own time, not to be rushed — then picking them at just the right time). It's this and many other universal principles we learned in first grade, and from our parents and from nature.
  • Education: Nothing can top being a "student of the business." If we don't learn and grow every day, take a class from time to time, attend a seminar, read voraciously about how best to improve our lives, join a 20 group or attend an OEM meeting, we won't maximize our businesses. And if we can't even educate ourselves and help our people to educate themselves, what else can't we do?

Acronyms are a great way to remember strategic principles. I hope this one makes you even more successful.

Clark Vitulli is a Harley-Davidson dealer in St. Augustine, Fla. Contact him via editors@dealernews.com.