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Change Can Be Easy

Change Is Good. And, It Can Be Easy.

by Ellen Fruchtman, President

Almost 20 years ago, a book was published (September 1998), which had a profound impact on how I looked at business. The book, Who Moved My Cheese, became a topic in an article I wrote about the industry and its need to change a few years ago. At that time, there was no large threat of the Internet; there was no Facebook; no Amazon; and the marketing (and retail) world resembled nothing as we know it to be today. For anyone who has never read this book, it is simply a business and life fable characterizing the need to deal with change. It was on the New York Times Business Best-Seller list for 5 years and sold over 28 million copies worldwide. As I recall, it took about an hour to read and it is filled with metaphors galore. But, the premise (whether the book itself may appear somewhat corny or predictable by today’s standards) remains the same and noted in the book: IF YOU DO NOT CHANGE, YOU CAN BECOME EXTINCT.

Change is not easy.

I know this first-hand. Our business is but a mere shadow of what it was when it began in 1981. In 1981, we used press-type (anyone under 40 reading this will have no idea what this is) to create ads. We shot commercials with enormous cameras and archaic editing equipment. There was no such thing as “digital” so we depended on traditional media to send the message. Traditional media was represented by a handful of media outlets so your message could be easily heard. People bought into and were easily persuaded by advertising. Now, a single negative post by an influencer with over a million followers can bring down an entire brand. All businesses are facing change. Yes, even ours. But, we too are evolving from the way we operate internally; to new ways we work with clients; to new offerings for prospective clients; to how we work internally; and strategic partnerships.

In our industry, reluctance to change has caused many companies to close their doors. Some may look at it positively as a thinning of the herd leaving the stronger to survive. Change is growing exponentially.

So, what do you need to change? The list could be long, or maybe surprisingly short. In any case, you won’t know what needs to change until you seek the answers. There’s no better time than now.

Whose opinion should you trust? In order of importance:

Start with your customers. Think about 10 great customers and 10 mediocre customers. You can speak to them about your operation; your inventory; your sales technique. You can do this in one of two ways: Take them individually to lunch, breakfast or dinner. Be candid. Be honest. Let them know you want to make your business better and you value their opinion. Or, you can consider putting this group together and inviting them to your store over 2 evenings. Anyone invited will feel honored. The caveat: They have to be honest.

Ask your employees. Ask them all, but definitely ask anyone young and newer to the company. Why? They don’t have predisposed notions about how you operate the company and they aren’t set in their ways. Don’t have several young millennials in your store? Hire them. They have a pulse on a demographic you need to come through your door. The caveat: They have to be honest.

Industry consultants. Truthfully, the first two are the only two groups that sincerely matter. Yes, you can certainly ask industry consultants. But, it’s your customers and employees who have the most to lose or you have the most to lose. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth. When we do a store visit, we make interviewing the staff mandatory. They provide us far more insight into what’s really needed; what’s really going on far more than the owner.

The amount of information and ideas you will glean from this simple task is immeasurable.

Change is not easy. But, we have been faced with far too much extinction in our industry over the last few years. And, it’s time to move the cheese. Who knows? You might actually have fun doing it!

We’d love to help you move the cheese. Contact suits@fruchtman.com to see what we can do for you. Want to read Who Moved My Cheese? Support a local bookstore in your area if it exists or find it on Amazon here.

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