Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Dollar Store Trend...

I recently read an article that said that the Dollar General now has 9800 stores nationwide, making it the largest retailer for the US based on number of stores (Walmart is largest based on sales). And they are building more stores every year. There is a buying trend in the US right now and that is the dollar store trend. However, I want to talk about the real cost. People have been going to Dollar General and other dollar stores because of their 'cheap' prices or the everything is a dollar type promotion. But when you get down to brass tacks it's not really that cheap.

Dollar General and other dollar stores cannot compete head to head with big box stores like Walmart or Target on every item they sell. In fact, I would venture to guess they cannot compete on most items they sell. They appear to be cheaper than the big box retailer because of the pricing games they play. The big one is smaller quantities. The big suppliers of our name brand products, like Proctor and Gamble, will cater to dollar stores by decreasing the ounce size of most products they want. So what I'm saying is... You aren't saving money. Next time you visit your local dollar store check out the ounce price on what their selling. You may look a little like the coupon fanatics on TV, but when it comes to really saving yourself money, what's the harm in looking a little crazy.

The other area they save big money is going the private label route with a lesser quality product. If you are trying to take a $2.00 product at Walmart and make it $1.00, you will have to start cutting costs from making the product. With a lot of products it really doesn't matter, for instance bleach, I haven't found any difference between any off brands and on brands when it comes to bleach. However, if you are talking about chocolate, it makes a huge difference. I think everyone has experience the terrible cheap chocolates you get around the holidays. So when it comes to cutting costs on quality, you win some you lose some.

I am not terribly surprised that this is the new buying trend. People want to think they are saving money nowadays. I just hope you all are educated enough to know that you need to dig a little deeper. If it seems to good to be true, it just might be.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Guaranteed Success and Maybe World Peace!

I was reading back through How to Win Friends and Influence People this week so I thought it was appropriate to report my thoughts on the book from 2009. Enjoy!

The book this week is the best book I have read in a very long time! It was How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It genius in every aspect. If everyone on the planet reads this book and puts it into practice, we might just have world peace. Carnegie's words of wisdom are priceless, it was first published in 1934 and has been in print ever since!

The book is broken into four section and each section has between 3 to 12 lessons. I wish I could just publish the whole book in this blog, but I don't have enough room... instead I will choose a few lessons in each section and explain how they can be applied to your daily life.

Section 1 Techniques in Handling People

"Don't Criticize, Condemn, or Complain"- From time to time everyone get frustrated because of what someone else does... It might be at work, at home, or even driving (I sometimes get a bad case of road-rage). Carnegie has several stories about President Lincoln's life and one I particularly liked related to this lesson is about General Meade during the the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln gave orders to Meade to take immediate action against Lee's beaten and trapped army when they reached the Potomac. Meade did the exact opposite of Lincoln's orders and called council during war which gave enough time for Lee's army to escape. Lincoln was furious! If Meade had obeyed his order's the war would have been over right then and the course of history would have been changed forever! Lincoln was a conservative man in all aspects of his life. He wrote Meade a letter condemning his actions... He laid out all his distresses. However, Meade never got this letter, it wasn't found until after Lincoln was assassinated. Lincoln probably just put himself in Meade's shoes.. If he had just been through weeks of war, surrounded by blood and bullets of fallen comrades he wouldn't be rushing into another battle so abruptly. Sometimes you just have to consider the other person's perspective and it may give you world's of incite into why they acted the way they did and in Lincoln's case, maybe encourage you to reserve your complaint.

"Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation"- Give everyone the appreciation they deserve. Self-esteem is a great way to win someone's approval and friendship. Now, the mistake that is commonly made is giving flattery. Flattery is counterfeit, it's fake. If someone isn't something worth praising then don't say it. It will cause more harm then good. When you are a woman or man of your word you must make sure everything that comes out of your mouth is honest. If you stray from the truth then you will have a difficult time getting trust back from those around you.

Section 2 Making People Like You

"Remember Names"- Carnegie writes that "a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language" and it's very true. When I see someone I haven't seen in a long time and they come out and say "Hi Trevor, How are you?" they have almost won me right from the start. Just saying someone's name to them makes them happy. I try and make it a habit to remember people's name, especially people that provide a service: the guy I buy my suits from or all the people at the front desk of my apartment. I instantly see a difference in the service I get when I call them by name. You build a connection with people and it makes them happy. And if nothing else you should be trying to make other people happy- so give it a shot call people by name, and if you are introduced to someone try your best to remember their name... this is one huge key to building a great network.

"Smile"- It is a tough thing to do, but smiling will make you feel better and happier and it will make those around you happy too. Now don't do a crazy smile all day and scare people. Make an effort to produce a sincere smile and wear it proudly. It is a fantastic way to get through the day. When you meet people and you show some teeth, you will build and instant connection with that person because subconsciously you have made that person happier and when you make someone happy they want to be around you more. I actually have my latest fortune from my last Chinese meal taped above my desk, it reads: "Smile often, and see what happens."

Section 3 Win People to Your Way of Thinking

"Avoid Arguments"- This is absolutely number one. Carnegie makes a great point when he writes that "No one can ever win from an arguement." Even if you are the one that comes up with the most facts and crushes your opponent into seeing "your side." You have ultimately pushed that person farther away from you because you tore down their self-esteem. And as I said previously boosting self-esteem is a great way to win someone's approval and friendship, but tearing it down has the exact opposite affect 10-fold. Do everything in your power to avoid the argument. Use the following words as a template "I understand your point of view, I didn't look at it from that perspective. I got my facts from ________ and you got yours from ________. Please help me understand your side so we can resolve this." It is hard to think that clearly when you are in the heat of a debate, but just try and think. If you concede and hear the other person's side, you will ultimately bring that person closer and build a better relationship.

"Get them Saying Yes, Yes"- I am sure all of us have had our run in with a door to door salesperson or any salesperson for that matter. One concept they understand is this lesson and you probably don't even recognize they are doing it either. The idea of this lesson is getting someone to be in affirmative mood. If you ask somewhat obvious questions from the start, that have the answers "yes," that person is subconsciously more likely to say yes to what is coming next. So when you talk to the salesperson at the car dealership and they say "You have had a drink in your car, right?" and you say "yes," and then they say "You like to have your drinks cold when you drink them, right?" and you say "yes" again. You are much more likely to say "yes" when that salesperson says "Well you should probably get the Cooling/Heating Cupholders shouldn't you?"

Section 4 Be A Leader

"Let the Other Person Always Save Face"- This is very important for leaders. It is easy to try and "set an example" when you are in a leadership role by reprimanding someone in front of everybody. The result will be pushing this person farther away from you and you'll lose trust and they will be less likely to work hard for you in the future. So always let a person save face. When someone does something "wrong" just make sure you take them aside to discuss the situation. No body likes to be "called out" in front of their peers. It hurts their self-esteem and we all know how important that is! Now I should note that Carnegie doesn't use this approach just toward an employee/employer situation, this can be applied to all relationships. Parents can grow closer and build better relationships with their children, friends with other friends, on so on and so forth, all by using the methods laid out in this book.

"Give Reputations to Live up to"- If someone is told they are good at something in front of their peers, they will do even better at it. So if you tell one of your friends in front of everybody that "so and so" is the best goalie you have ever seen. That will encourage that person to do even better. You have set up a good reputation to live up to and that person will most likely put in the effort, work extra hard, and really become the best goalie they possibly can become. This is a situation where it is okay to single someone out in front of their peers. It acts as a boost and that person will even grow to like you more for singling them out in a positive way.

That is all I am going to write about this book. I wish I could do more, but it's getting to be pretty long already. However, I want to reiterate that the lessons in this book are priceless and timeless. I will encourage each and every one of you to go buy this book. Carnegie is a great writer and I think you will find the book very fascinating. (I did!) And just to show you how important I feel the lessons of this book are I added a picture of my whiteboard. I wrote up every lesson from the book and I review them before I leave my apartment every morning. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.

Amazon Link to buy How to Win Friends and Influence People

Saturday, January 7, 2012

On Target...

The book of the week was On Target by Laura Rowley. It was a very well written book and extremely informative. I may be a tid-bit biased in this because of the time I lived in Minnesota. And I don't think I have ever met a person that lived in Minnesota the disliked Target. I heard Minneapolis described as the "stickiest city" one time because people move there and stay there forever because it's such a great place. The city and the people and the culture are just magical. And whether it was the companies that created the culture for the city or the other way around, the companies based in Minneapolis are pretty incredible. And Target is absolutely among them.

Target was the creation of a brilliant family. The Dayton's. The Dayton's are still a household name. The Dayton's created incredible empire with such an amazing culture. My favorite part is that the Dayton's formalized their corporate giving to be 5% pre tax in 1946. And then in the 1970s the 5 Dayton brother's went out to other companies in Minnesota encouraged them to give between 2 and 5% of their profit's pretax. There is such a culture of giving as a foundation of Target and when it starts at the top it trickles down and infects everyone in the company.

So onto Target... how do they hold a niche in the market? They are customer centered. From the Dayton's basing their company around the principle of honesty. Not only does the honesty apply to being truthful to the customer about the products they carried but also having an underlying culture in everything they do. So honest prices by not over charging the customer, providing the customer with genuine quality in the products they sell, and providing honest feedback to all their employees and, also, taking honest feedback from their employees.

Customer's love Target. I remember when I was in college, I was shocked that the girls I hung out with loved to shop at Target for clothes. Back then I had little distinction between Target and Walmart. And you never, never, never hear cute college girls talking about shopping at Walmart for clothes. Since then I have been intrigued with the differences of these two Juggernaut retailers. And differences, there are plenty. This book, On Target, was written in 2003 and both Target and Walmart have undergone changes since. But it helps you realize when reading this book that Walmart took a lot of pages out of Target's book over the past several years. The book talks about how Target has wider aisles, it's brightly lit, and in every way has a more artistic approach to their work. Well, over the course of the past several years, Walmart has gotten larger aisles, and they have added more lighting... but they couldn't match Target's creativity. I think a hundred years could go by and Target will still be at least 5 years ahead of Walmart artistically. Because you can't copy creativity. I also have never seen a more clean Walmart than Target. And I think that comes down to passion... the passion of the employees.

I think another thing that puts Target miles ahead Walmart is they hire people that truly care about the company, whereas, Walmart hires everyone. I have seldom seen a Target employee that looked like they hated their job. They care about their displays and their signage and the presentation of their displays. And most importantly they care about their customers. Target stands by their creed - fast, fun, and friendly.

I believe, so long as Target keeps their edge (style), they will be around for years and years to come. I will choose Target over Walmart any day because with Target I know I am getting quality for a great price.

If anyone has any questions about this book let me know. I highly recommend it. The author was right on the Bull's-eye with this one, and if you are interested in how Target got to be how she is then you should check it out.