Outside the Box

If you’ve worked or attended school in the last 30 years, you’ve heard the phrase “think outside the box” more times than you can count. It’s like a mantra for business consultants down to their last platitude. My eyes now roll involuntarily when I hear it.

Of course, all it means is that good ideas often come from changing our perspective and opening our eyes to approaches that previously went unconsidered.

When you think outside the box, you forget for a moment how things have been done and start to ask why they can’t be different.

Thinking outside the box has led to some great innovations, but I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of what it’s produced is absolute junk put forth by people who have no business being in a decision-making position and absolutely no idea what they’re doing.

At least that’s my experience.

I much prefer to think inside the box, to know its every corner, to own the box and to make myself synonymous with the box. While everyone else is busy thinking outside the box, I’m going to hang back and shut the metaphorical door behind them, lock them out and rejoice in the fact that by spending all that time thinking outside the box, they’ve relinquished it to me.

I have no plan to give it back.

But there’s at least one situation where “outside the box” works for me, and if you’re a tackle retailer it will work for you, too.

My premise is simple: The best use of your time is not always inside that box you call a store. Sometimes you should physically get out of your box and take your game to the customer. And if not you, then someone on your staff. In essence, I want you to keep thinking inside the box, but to physically step outside of it.

Let’s imagine for a moment that your store is in pretty good shape. It’s clean. The inventory is well-chosen and attractively displayed. The sign out front can be seen from the road, and no one is blocking your parking lot.

If you’re not overwhelmed with customers (and you have a capable assistant who can be trusted not to burn the place to the ground while you’re away), you should think about going to where the action is — carry your cause to the consumer.

What if you showed up at a boat ramp late in the afternoon, asking anglers about the fishing and passing out discount coupons to your store? Would you be reaching people you might ordinarily miss? Could you get some valuable fishing information to pass along to others?

What if you stopped at a waterfront park where parents sit at picnic benches while their kids throw rocks in the water and terrorize ducks? What if you gave the parents a little one-sheet guide for beginning anglers so they could teach their kids? Could you reach a new angler or even create a family of new anglers? What if you carried a couple of spincast outfits and some live bait to show them how it’s done? Would that reach them better than the sign in front of your store?

What if you showed up at a local fisheries department meeting and shook hands with a few interested anglers, letting them know you share their concerns and want to see what the fisheries office is up to? Would that show them you’re a valuable part of the fishing community and a kindred spirit?

In-the-box time is obviously important. That’s where most of your business gets done. You have to mind the store.

But sometimes it pays to get outside the box and be more aggressive with your approach. When things are slow in the box, get outside — physically — and create some reasons for people to come to you.

Mind your store — your box — and keep thinking inside it even when you step out.

Own that box, but treat it like a launching area for your marketing and your message, not like a fortress you merely protect.

And remember …

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