In our magazine, one of the most popular regular features is “What’s Hot Where.” Polly Dean does a great job of tracking down a variety of retailers all over the country and polling them on what’s moving in their stores. It gives readers a chance to learn not just what’s selling in the U.S.—including competitors near you—but what could become a strong seller in your store.
Even though the feature is extremely popular, I can tell from talking to retailers that many don’t get as much out of it as they might. A lot of them tell me they scan the spread near the back of the magazine and if they don’t see a shop in their area, they keep turning the pages in search of something “relatable.”
But it’s all relatable!
Maybe I have a tendency to make things too complicated … or maybe too simple … but I tend to believe that there are bits and pieces of ideas and information in almost anything we look at that can help us in other aspects of our lives and careers.
Because I believe that so strongly, I try very hard to be open to all sorts of possibilities and how they might apply to me.
A lot of breakthrough ideas can be accurately described as a combination of concepts that had never been connected before. The iPhone combined telephone, camera and personal digital assistant. The spincast reel combined the stationary spool (spinning reel) with thumb control and top of the rod functionality (casting reel). Someone put these things together to create something new, different and valuable.
The less you look around and think about “other” things, the less opportunity your brain has to make those kinds of connections.
Fishing is my life, and fishing tackle is a passion for me. But I don’t spend all my time fishing or visiting tackle shops. Sometimes I’m in the grocery or a mall with my wife. Even then, fishing is never far from my thoughts. If I see a display, a sign or a marketing approach that appeals to me or that’s obviously getting the desired results, I wonder how I can apply it to my life or career.
I love visiting bookstores almost as much as tackle shops. I used to have the same shopping pattern: magazines to outdoors section to novels. Over and over, always the same, for decades. About 10 years ago, I decided that I needed to change my routine. I still hit those same sections, but now I spend as much time in the business section as any of the others. And on every trip I always visit one area of the store I’ve never looked at before (at least not in a long time). One week it might be the natural sciences. After that, maybe art, self-help or games.
Checking out other sections of the bookstore is doing terrible things to my wallet (there’s lots of interesting stuff out there), but it’s opening up a lot of territory in my thinking that had been closed for too long. It’s helped me to learn, and I think it’s made me better in significant ways.
Now I’m not just “open to the possibilities.” I’m looking for them on their terms, and that’s a much better way to find them.
So the next time you’re checking out “What’s Hot Where” in FTR, don’t be concerned that one of the featured shops is 2,000 miles away from yours. Focus instead on the fact that you’re in the same business. What can you learn from that shop? What can you do to grab some of their success or avoid some of their failure?
If you tell me you don’t sell saltwater gear in your Kansas shop, I still think you should read the saltwater soft baits story. You might learn something that could improve the way you do business. At the very least, you might discover a way to make a few more bucks, do something different from your local competition and set yourself apart.
The thing we call “the marketplace” is more about ideas than products or services. The people with the best ideas usually win. The rest is execution.
You never know where you might find inspiration, but it’s a good bet that it will surprise you when you do.
A rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s be that tide.