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The two levels of business improvement

 18 October 2021     Donald Cooper 

We must constantly be working to improve every part of our business. From our compelling value to the employee experience and operating efficiency, mediocrity is no longer an option!

To do a check-up on what might need improving or fixing in your business click here to download my hugely insightful one-page Business Key Challenge Audit Sheet.  It takes just five minutes to complete.

For my business coaching clients, I’ve developed two levels of business improvement and they’re both important. They’re described below:

Level One: The easiest way to improve your business is to learn from the best. Do you know who does it better than you, anywhere in the world? Better design, better service, a more amazing customer experience, better packaging, more effective processes and logistics, quicker response time, better policies, marketing or promotion? What are they famous for and how do they do it? Have you physically gone to check them out, wherever they are or, if that’s not practical, have you checked out their web site and read about them on the internet?

Who in your industry, in the entire world, has the lowest price? Are they making money? How do they do it? What can you learn from them about business model, efficiency, logistics and process?

Who in your industry charges the highest price? What do they do to justify that high price? Are they making money? What can you learn from them about creating extraordinary customer experiences, adding value, marketing and brand positioning?

Who are the ‘disruptors’ in your industry, those innovative upstarts who are changing ‘the game’ completely and making your business model obsolete? Don’t dismiss them or write them off. They may be the future.

Who are the legends, the celebrities in your field? What are they famous for and how did they get there? In every industry there are ‘commodity’ suppliers who are undifferentiated and, usually, struggling. Then, there are the ‘experts’ who are known, respected and sought out for their knowledge and ability to deliver. They get more than their fair share of the business and often command a premium price for their products or services. And then there are the celebrities.  Those few brilliant operators and tireless marketers who have mastered the art of becoming famous. Customers rave about them, the media talks about them and make them even more famous.

So, what will you do to learn from the best and then do it even better to become the new best? How could you take it to a whole new level and become a celebrity in your industry?

Level Two: How could you improve and differentiate your business by doing what has never been done before? What is it that no other business has had the creativity and courage to do that would be so powerful, so compelling, that your target customers simply could not resist you? What could you become famous for and are you willing to do the work to make that happen?

So, stop playing it safe. Stand out. Aim higher. Be famous for something! The very successful Yard House restaurant chain in the United States is famous for offering the world’s largest selection of draft beers. They have over 150 selections listed on their web site, including a gluten-free beer for people with wheat allergies. Beer lovers flock to Yard House for an extraordinary beer experience.

As an award-winning fashion retailer, I fundamentally changed the customer experience. Our award-winning warehouse boutique delivered honest savings of 20% to 40% every day under the tag line No games, no tricks, no lies! We had electric massage chairs for husbands, a pirate ship play area for kids, free beverages for everybody, free diapers, wipes and cream for young mothers with babies in distress. Whether you needed the diapers or not, you were blown away that they were there.

The store became famous for our invitation to “Please take as many items in the change room as you wish.”  A large sign at the front door stated, “Our staff are not on commission…they treat you this well because they love what they do!” We were the only fashion retailer in the world doing any of this stuff. Nobody else had the insight and the guts! And it was all wrapped up in the world’s most unusual guarantee, “We’re so sure you’ll love our store that if you show up and think, ‘we’re for the birds’, we’ll pay your gas mileage!”

Customers loved it! They raved, “It’s amazing, you’ve thought of everything!”

It was a heck of a lot of work to pull it off, day in and day out, but women drove up to three hours to shop in our store. Customers loved us, they told their friends and sales were four times the national average. So, have you thought of everything in your business? If not, you have work to do.

So, how can you use these two levels of business improvement to grow your business, irritate your competitors and grow your bottom line? For each action that you commit to take, get specific about what will be done, by whom, by when, at what cost, with what outcomes, measured how and rewarded how? 

Here’s a little something else to think about:

My business quote of the week: We all talk about marketing, but nobody defines it. Simply put, marketing is anything we do to increase the demand for and sales of what we sell. So, everything from product design, pricing and promotion to the selection and training of our front-line people is part of marketing. Much of what really is marketing does not fall under the control of the typical marketing department, but it’s important that everyone in the business understand that, one way or another, we’re all in marketing.

Where does all our plastic go? A recent analysis of plastic waste in America from Consumer Reports magazine is shocking. The numbers are likely similar for many other countries. It says 75% of plastic waste goes into landfill, 16% is incinerated and just 9% is recycled. This includes all the plastic you’ve been dutifully depositing in recycle bins.

Hot new perk. ‘On-demand pay’ is a new perk in which employees get paid each day for the work they do. You may not have heard about yet but in a recent survey of over 1,000 workers, more than half said ‘on-demand pay’ is a better benefit than extra paid time off. What does this tell us about how financially fragile many people are?

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


Sealy Canada
TempurPedic 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.


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