contact HGO      +1 613.475.4704


 Home / Article: A game of inches

A game of inches

 31 August 2021     Donald Cooper 

In most sports, winning is about being a just little bit better than your opponent at the basics of the game. It’s about blocking, tackling, back checking or hitting just a little bit better. It’s about winning a few more free throws or getting the ball deep into the corner of your opponent’s court. It’s about being a millisecond faster, being just a little bit stronger and a little bit more committed to an extraordinary outcome. Winning is a game of inches!

And so, it is in business. Generating a healthy bottom line is about being just a little bit better than your competitors at a few key things. It’s about serving customers just a little bit better and selling just a little bit more. Increasing sales by just 5% could grow your bottom line by 20% to 40%, depending on your gross margin. Turning your inventory just one more time each year could increase your profit by 25%.

In some industries, reducing energy or fuel costs is a key profitability factor. Papa John’s, the world’s third largest pizza chain, worked with an oven manufacturer to develop a more efficient oven that bakes a pizza just two minutes faster but will save 25% on energy costs.

Cathay Pacific, one of the world’s best airlines, stripped the paint off all their freight-only aircraft, except for the tails. The 200-kilogram weight reduction saved them $190,000 per plane, per year in fuel costs. Then they cleverly renamed their fleet of freight aircraft The Silver Bullets to put a positive marketing spin on their penny-pinching innovation.

In other businesses, reducing waste just a little bit can have a major impact on profitability. An independent pizza restaurant owner got tired of seeing carelessly spilled grated cheese on the floor near the ‘make line’ (the area of the kitchen where the pizzas are assembled for baking) where the crew scoops big handfuls of loose cheese out of a bin and spread it on the pizzas and, apparently, on the floor.

Cheese is the biggest expense in the pizza business and even a little waste will impact the bottom line severely. So, my restaurant owner friend simply bought a few three-foot square plastic tubs and three sizes of zip-lock bags (the ones with the actual slider for efficiency) from the dollar store and created a little portion control program where just the right amount of cheese for each size of pizza fits into the appropriate sized bag. The bags are filled while being held over the large tub of grated cheese and any that falls, falls back into the tub. Filled and zipped bags of cheese are placed in plastic tubs on the ‘make line’ where they’re quickly unzipped and the cheese neatly dispensed. Simple? Yes, but it immediately increased her bottom line by 25%!

So, are you winning the ‘game of inches’ in every part of your business or are a lot of little things, not done well, eroding your profitability? The solution is simple. Start a list of all the things you can do just a little bit better to amaze your customers, grow the business and increase your bottom line.

Get your staff involved. They know stuff. Schedule a two-hour ‘Winning is a game of inches’ rally (call it anything but a meeting). Use part or all of this article to create an invitation to the rally and to explain its purpose. Make it fun. Go to the dollar store and get a bunch of little ‘prizes’ for each idea that’s generated. Then, do something, improve something, fix what needs fixing. Get the group’s commitment and assign specific responsibility to specific people.

Ultimately, it’s about ‘what will be done, by whom, by when, at what cost, with what outcome, measured how and rewarded how. Then, follow up. Remember, businesses do not die from a single shot to the head. They die, slowly but surely, from a thousand uncompleted tasks. Finally, celebrate and reward success and deal firmly with non-performance.

Here’s something else to think about: 

My business quote of the week: “Many businesses make the mistake of promoting their brand promise and brand values to their target customers before they’ve successfully ‘sold’ them to their own staff. If your staff haven’t bought into your brand promise and values, they won’t deliver it to your customers.” 

The post-COVID workplace. In a survey by my friend at Cheryl Cran (, when employees were asked how they would prefer to work in a post-COVID world: 9% of respondents stated they want to work in the office full time; 36% stated they’d prefer to work mostly from home; and, 55% said they’d choose to work remotely at least two days a week. 

The world’s largest city. Tokyo, where the Olympics have just ended, is the world’s largest city with a population over 34 million (just slightly fewer than our entire country’s 38 million).

That’s it for this week. Stay safe and live brilliantly!

MIFF Furniverse July 2022
Sealy Canada
This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.

The HGO Merchandiser
Spring 2022
Spring 2022
Autumn 2021
Autumn 2021
Summer 2021
Summer 2021
Spring 2021
Spring 2021

 View all editions of The HGO Merchandiser.

  About HGO

Home Goods and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

  Contact Us
  Home Goods Online

Published by:
Windsor Bay Communications Inc.
P.O. Box 3023; 120 Ontario Street,
Brighton ON Canada K0K 1H0

Tel : 613.475.4704

Fax : 613.475.0829
Mail : contact us