The Barenaked Ladies might buy you furniture for your house, a Chesterfield or an ottoman. But what if you really wanted to open a mattress store or dine with a bottle of the finest Dijon ketchup?
by Gordon Hecht
There is an excellent chance you’ve heard music by the Canadian band Barenaked Ladies. They’ve sold over fifteen million singles and albums. Even if you’ve never heard their songs, “Pinch Me” and “It’s All Been Done,” you’ve undoubtedly heard the 32-second opening theme song, “The History of Everything,” they wrote and performed for TV’s “The Big Bang Theory.”
My favorite Barenaked Ladies song is “If I Had $1000000.” There are clever lyrics, such as “And if I had a million dollars... Well, I’d buy you some art, a Picasso or a Garfunkel.” There’s even a shout-out to our industry. “And if I had a million dollars... I’d buy you furniture for your house, Maybe a nice Chesterfield or an ottoman.”
The line that really caught my eye is “And buy really expensive ketchups with it, That’s right, all the fanciest-, Dijon ketchup, mm, mm.” It’s absurd because there is no such thing as Dijon ketchup. And if you had a million clams in the bank, ketchup would not be a splurge item.
And I’d Buy a Mattress Store
The song made me think about what a million dollars used to buy, say, way back in 2019. But it’s still an admirable sum. In our industry, you could start a mattress store and probably open eight to ten of them.
I salute the retail store owners who put it all on the line every day. While I’ve done about every job in our industry, I’ve never experienced being a store owner, but I have collaborated with some great ones, absorbed and shared their skills and knowledge.
If I had the big bucks to invest in a retail store, here is what I would do.
Create $100K earners. Every salesperson would be trained to perform at a level that could earn them $100K or more. We wouldn’t offer hourly pay, just commissions and bonuses. My store would provide the tools they need to get to that level.
I would advertise to bring in plenty of shoppers every day—not only on holiday weekends. There would be ample inventory ready to meet demand, so shoppers would never have to leave and go anywhere else. My delivery team would be trained and rewarded for getting every item delivered on time, without missing items or parts, and in A-1 condition. Should something go awry, my customer service team would be compelled and empowered to create a speedy and fair resolution.
Provide a Fish Fry Experience. Right after the turn of the millennium, I served as the regional manager for a home furnishings retail operation. While looking for store managers, I interviewed a candidate who was employed at a fast-food fish franchise restaurant. To me, a career in restaurant management seems like a nightmare, and a job in a fast-food fish joint seems like Dante’s Inferno-type employment!
The candidate told me he had worked there since its grand opening a few years prior. He remembered how clean and fresh the property and facilities looked. The parking lot, the restrooms, the kitchen, and the windows. Every piece of equipment worked. The staff wore new or freshly laundered uniforms, and they all smiled.
He explained that while working there, his mission was to provide the same grand opening experience to his customers every single day.
My bedding store and staff would follow the fish-fry guy’s example to give our shoppers an opening-day experience every day. It would be clean and fresh. Everything would work, and everyone would be excited to be there.
“The day I open my new store is the day I will start to plan my exit. I’ll state my goals for achieving earnings, sales volume, and number of store locations.”
Graduation Day Never Comes. Retail is a process that continues to evolve. Things used to change every few years. Now, if you think you can run your store in 2024 like you did in 2023, it may not see 2025! You can never stop learning and training.
My store would delight in performing ongoing sales training—in-house and with factory reps’ assistance. Whether my staff liked it or not, role-playing sessions would conclude only after they got it right. Using the latest sales tools or display items would not be optional.
We would do material handling training for our operations team and focus on continuous quality improvement for digital advertising. We would have a system for collecting competitive intelligence via competitive shopping and learning by going on mattress factory tours.
My store staff would have a required reading list of books, magazines and online resources.
Reading, training, fieldwork, and rehearsals are the things you expect from your doctor, lawyer, and accountant. My store would demand the same level of professionalism from its team members.
Citizen Gain. My store would be the best place to shop in our market area. It would be a good neighbor, too.
The annual budget would include a reserve for giving back and investing locally. We would advertise in the high school yearbook and have a banner at the Little League ballpark.
Would we provide pillows or beds for the firefighters? You bet! Linens for the animal shelter? Why not! Merchandise for the community service club’s auction? Sign me up! It’s never wrong to do good. Recognition is appreciated but not required.
“Things used to change every few years Now, if you think you can operate your store in 2024 like you did in 2023, your store may not see 2025!”
Hello, I must be going. The day I open my new store is the day I will start to plan my exit. I’ll state my goals for achieving earnings, sales volume, and the number of store locations. I will pass ownership on to the next entrepreneur when those goals are met.
Succession planning is among the most important parts of a successful store owner’s duties. We build a business, provide livelihoods for a few dozen people, and occupy valuable real estate. However, difficulties may arise when the time comes for us to split the scene. We don’t want to let everyone down, but what if adult children don’t want it? Who will take over? At that point, the business becomes a life sentence with no time off for good behavior.
That’s why I’d prepare my kids to assume the reins by paying them fairly (or more) from day one. At home, I would be dad; at work, we would be on a first-name basis. I would ask my 14-year-old what she thinks of my website and seek input regarding decisions commensurate with their age and level of schooling.
As they moved into leadership positions, I would respect their judgment, even when I disagreed. And I’d never correct them in public.
Should there not be any aspiring retailers among my brood, I’d first look to my team to see if any have the talent to take my operation to the next level. If not, I would hire a candidate from someone else’s team and make my intentions known from the start. It would be open-book management. And if I did everything outlined in this article, the next leader would have the funds and creditworthiness to buy me and my everlovin’ bride out so we could afford as much Dijon ketchup as our hearts desired.