Good to Better: Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

If you’re a retailer, what’s the best thing about your store? If you’re a manufacturer, what’s the best thing about your products? If you’re a professional working in the fishing industry, what’s the best thing you bring to the table?

The reality is, we all have some weaknesses — some soft spots in our games. And too often we spend a lot of time working to make those weaknesses a little better when we should be focused on what we already do well in the hopes of making it truly great.

If your store isn’t in a great location, you could spend a lot of money on signs at major thoroughfares or buying ads on local radio or in newspapers. Or you could find ways to step up the things you’re already applauded for, like selection or up-to-the-minute fishing information, in hopes that these efforts will help customers find you.

If your weakness is something that’s truly crippling and could put you out of business, you have no choice but to address it and fix it before it kills you. But if that weakness is relatively minor and changing or fixing it is only going to improve things very slightly, why not step things up by going from good to great in an area with more potential?

At the end of the day, are you being noticed, remembered and patronized because of your strengths or are you losing business because of your weaknesses? Where does the balance of influence lie? How you answer those questions can go a long way to determining how you should use your time, energy and money.

Should you spend 50 percent of your available budget to fix a 5 percent problem or should you spend that money to make something that’s already working function even better?

In some cases, you might even be able to turn a perceived disadvantage into an advantage. Is your shop hard to find? Maybe you could market that. Maybe you need an advertising campaign that tells customers “You’ll understand when you get here.” Add a little mystique. Then, when new customers make the effort to get your store, treat them like gold.

When Apple introduces a new product, people wait in line for days to get it. The item is untested, expensive and a challenge to buy, but they line up to do it because Apple has a reputation for innovation and quality. They aren’t known for price or service … and maybe they don’t care. Maybe they shouldn’t care. Maybe they should keep their focus on innovation and quality and do just enough on price and service to hold the detractors at bay. The mix certainly seems to work for them.

Maybe you have a sales associate who is dynamite with customers but lackluster at tasks like inventory. Instead of spending hours developing his bookkeeping skills, why not find a way to schedule his time so he can work the floor more and get someone else — someone with better inventory skills, but fewer people skills — to do the book work?

If you’re a manufacturer who makes great fishing gear for the high-end market, instead of developing a product line for a lower price point — perhaps at the cost of quality and reputation — why not embrace your high-end clientele and abandon the budget stuff?

What mix works for you?

On some level, this all falls under the “be your best you” umbrella. Over the decades, I’ve seen a lot of companies try to manage their people and their products by working on the rough edges rather than polishing the parts that already shine. Too often, the result is a “race to average.”

Sure, they make the weak parts a little stronger, but because they ignored the parts that were already good, they didn’t make them great. And through neglect, they may have gotten a little worse. In the end, the whole thing has just been beaten toward the middle — average — where it’s just like everything and everyone else.

And that’s not where you want to be. You can’t make yourself or your store or your product look special when you’ve spent all your time, energy and money making it average?

A rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s be that tide.