Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e at 90)
As I've preached for a couple of months: Every month you rent, you pay for one ceiling, four walls and one flat floor. A-n-d I've presented some examples of retailers that have done a great job of maximizing their rent-paying investment. Therefore, why have some of you not been merchandising this paid-for real estate like all sharp, aware entrepreneurs do?
Well, here's another retail location I want to tell you about that I ran across some time ago. I think it was called, The Highway Home Furnishings Gallery, planted somewhere between Nebraska and Kentucky and Maine. This operation was a retail package consisting of a smart one-guy manager/owner, and a team of uniquely selected sales personnel that knocked me for a loop with surprise and delight. It was a winning combination that rattled around in my tiny mind for years.
"The Gallery" was the home furnishings location of entrepreneur-owner, John Doe. When I found it, the store sported an inviting, warm display of dining room furniture, bedroom sets, mattresses and upholstery, plus a full range of accompanying dress-up accessories.
This retail store actually started as a picture frame shop, selling only stock and custom-made (empty-in-the-middle) frames.
One day John realized that he was paying rent for the empty-in-the-middle frame spaces, so he filled these spaces with paintings, framed prints and mirrors. Then he noticed that his floors and ceilings were bare, so he added furniture and chandeliers. After that, he went to High Point and bought oriental area rugs to fill the empty spaces under the tables, and pillows and throws to fill empty spots on the sofas. He saw some bare mattresses, so he added bedding protectors, sheets, pillows and comfortors. Y-e-s, John was obsessive about filling those empty spaces!
When he ran out of floor, wall and ceiling space, he started adding services such as expert in-home decorating consultations and furniture/leather repair. Then he went one step further, by tracking the profitability of each of the items in his store, since he figured that an item that doesn't sell has a carrying cost, so it is worse than an empty wall, floor or ceiling.
John was a unique professional who practiced what he dreamed about. As the operations chief of the store he was a committed bug to value and service. A chief who delivered to his customers what he would enjoy receiving if he were furnishing his own rooms. A-n-d he trained his gang with that concept as a guide. Then he took it one step further by (believe it or not), hiring the wives of his male staff for heavy traffic holidays and selected weekend-special promotions.
Did I say "wives"? Yes, the partners of his regular sales team who listened to their husbands' job-opinions, sales suggestions and complaints, at dinnertime.
I ran across this store quite a while ago when most spouses working in retail stores were the husband part, and the stay-at-home people were women. But it could still work today in this underemployed time of the business cycle. Well maybe not, but his basic idea was sound. That idea was that even with the complete merchandise selection at Highway Home Furnishings, John knew that if his salespeople weren't coached, corrected and watched by someone in authority, much of his investment in rent would still go down the tube! He figured that there was nobody better than a wife to notice that their husbands' were being too pushy or not pushy enough -- talking too much, listening too little... or saying the wrong things at the wrong time and losing sales from their women customers.
John said it was a training scheme that worked. Especially, when weekend-planned-sales goals were stirred up and backed up by extra weekend sales bonuses pre-set by the company management. Not only that, but during the marked weekends the closed-sales were announced for the sales staff on the company loudspeaker. Wow-e-e! It was a winner!
If I saw John today, I would suggest that instead of hiring wives to coach their husbands, I would hire a good sales manager to act as a sales coach and make sure that he or she stayed out of the the back office. A sales manager should be on the sales floor watching sales! A-n-d a really good sales manager who watches the numbers, coaches and supports salespeople is better than any bring-your-spouse-to-work day.
Do you have a story you would like me to share with Furniture World readers. Yes? Then plop an e-mail on the airwaves and let me know. Even at 90 I haven't heard everything!
Thanks, again, for listening.
Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90
Got a question? Got a comment? Great!! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
PS. See the new YouTube music video staring me, Grandpa Mike-e-e! with my granddaughter Becca in a supporting role at http://bitly.com/qALkrX
About Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e!)
Retailer, author, columnist, lecturer, composer and lyricist.
Came to US with immigrant parents in 1924 at the age of three.
Graduated high school at 16.
Managed a small bedding retail and manufacturing company at 18 in 1939.
Hired as Assistant to the VP of Purchasing (Sweets Corp. of America... approximately 500 employees) in 1940 at 19.
Drafted into US Army Signal Corp - Communications Personnel Div., Fort Monmouth.Tested and selected for Army Specialized Training Program, Rutgers University. Qualified for O.C.S. - Officer Candidate School and graduated as Second Lieutenant, Inventory/ Personnel Division in 1944 at 23.
Married his sweetheart, Anita, and he gives thanks to the Almighty that they are still sweethearts... after 73 years.
Rejoined Sweets Corp as Director of Personnel in 1945 at 24.
Joined his suddenly widowed sister as President of a small retail/ manufacturing company in 1946. Stayed on for 46 years managing the custom designing of over 20,000 childrens rooms and master bedroom beds.
Attended Hofstra University (evening program), and graduated in 1968 at age 47. Two of his kids followed right along at two other college campuses.
Applied for 30 day temporary columnist opening offered by the Reed Business Newspapers in NC and stayed on for 27 years. His retail columns were distributed everywhere from Brooklyn to Bangladesh, to Belgium to Beijing.
Traveled the US and visited with 3rd/ 4th generation retail owners.
He was admitted to the Writers Hall of Fame for, "Conspicuous Excellence In reports and appraisals of the furniture industry."
Retired from retail management at age 70.
BOOKS: (1) At age 72: published first book "Where's The Green Pea?" vegetable character stories including his original music and CD.
Designed programs for primary and pre-K schools and presented them with his Anita. (2) At age 76: Gee! I Wish I Had A Bedroom All My Own," lectured in middle schools (teenage), with tech info for parents, teachers and students in Home
Science. (3) At age 80: Tzedakah - Caring And Sharing classic book with original music CD and illustrations for high school chorales and drama groups.
At 89 -- published Retail Life: How To Get In, Stay Alive a-n-d Love It! in online and printed version for business schools, industry, and entrepreneurs. Includes how-to educational section for "Wise Women Who Love A Challenge" and "Oldtimer Retailers Who've Missed Some Basic Goodies In Business Promotion. Also provides business professors and career students seeking everyday practical trade experiences and business thinking.
Invited to address Levitz Furniture retail salespersons, Furniture Designer Associate members,
IHFRA sales associations, High Point University students and F.I.T. retailer evening sessions. Also accepted as an ASID associate member.
At 90 plus... is a musical playwright, composer and lyricist with original music and thinking for very young and very old America.