There’s nothing like a ‘good’ scare

DIY storeBy Lisbeth Calandrino—In 1997, former Lowe’s CEO Bob Tillman told a group at the American Hardware Association Convention, “A good scare is better than a great idea; the biggest fear that befell Lowe’s was Home Depot. About that time I got a call from Lowe’s asking if I would like to meet them about the company. I knew they were not in their element. They knew that Home Depot advertised a lot and had all the customers. They tried to compete with a little twist. Why not be more ‘female friendly’ instead of ‘contractor friendly’? They started with cleaner stores and lower shelves so that women can access products. I thought, why not take advantage of Home Depot’s track record and open next door and get the overflow?

Why am I telling you this? I believe we are going through a fear of a different kind, and it is time to notice. How will you entice customers to buy floors amid the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, record high inflation and rising interest rates?

If you haven’t already, read Home Depot’s story, “Built from Scratch.” I’ve had the book for over 20 years and when I think about change, I read it again. Every time you can follow the success of outliers like Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus, there is something to learn. Few people believed in their concept; many felt they were crazy. But they didn’t care – they were sure it was time for a ‘big box’ store where people could get everything they wanted for their home.

The founders of Home Depot took advantage of a new idea – one that filled a void in the market. What’s that “good idea” you’ve been thinking about but not necessarily acting on? In my latest book, ‘Red Hot Customer Experience’, I write about the challenges businesses face in the ‘new normal’. Here’s what I think companies need to do to thrive in constant change: You need to wake up every morning and ask yourself, “Who wants to destroy me today?” Competition, the good scare, is an important part of being aggressive. Who steals things from you there?

You also need to take a long, hard look at your business and implement processes for continuous improvement. For example, if you don’t have the right management team that can run without you, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Also take this opportunity to explore other successful business models. Look at companies that do something different: companies that are leaders in their industry. What tempts you to buy from other companies? Identify those drivers and see if there are ways to incorporate them into your business.

Finally, don’t make excuses for your inability to make changes. More importantly, don’t be afraid to fail; failures are great learning tools. I’d rather make an effort to try something new and innovative than do the same thing or worse – nothing at all – and expect different results. Remember: to succeed you must take calculated risks. As the old saying goes, “Without risk, there is no reward.” And as I said in my book, “creativity equals profit.”


Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for 20 years. Contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com to have her speak at your company or to schedule a consultation.

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