PERSPECTIVES

From The Co-Founders

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Tips, Tactics & Strategic Insights and Commentary
from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts

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In the free enterprise system, owners are free to succeed. And free to fail. 

That's why The Retail Owners Institute has defined the #1 responsibility of the Owner as the survival of the business. 

But then, the owner must define "Why?" Why are we doing this, anyway? Why are we working so hard for this business to survive and thrive?

  • There are many good answers. To be the biggest? The fastest growing? A way of life? Something to pass on to the next generation? To create wealth? To support a cause? 
     
  • It all depends on the owner, and what she or he decides. Then, that answer must be communicated: to staff, customers, family, the community, competitors, everyone.  

That brings us to an event that captured a great deal of attention in the business world last week. 

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Have you seen what the Silicon Valley venture capital firms are saying to the  startup firms they've invested in? 

While it may be tempting to smile and nod approvingly at this dose of business reality, there's a ripple effect to be aware of.

As reported in the May 31 edition of the Wall Street Journal*, "Their advice includes cutting costs, preserving cash, and jettisoning hopes that hedge funds or other investors will swoop in with big checks."  

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You may be one of the many retail owners who share our vision of why to own your own business: “Making money. Having fun. Doing good.”  

You see, we believe that Owners do not have to choose just one goal for defining "success" in their business. Goals do not have to be mutually exclusive; they can converge. Just like in a Venn diagram.

Here's a fun exercise. Make your own Venn diagram for your own business. Start now to make that convergence come to life.  

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Every day, there are all too many headlines of things outside our control. 

  • The war in Ukraine. 
  • The global energy crisis.Inflation. 
  • Rising interest rates. 
  • The falling stock market. 
  • Wildfires. 
  • Droughts. 
  • Supply chain disruptions. 
  • Rising costs. 
  • Crime rates. 
  • Social injustices. 
  • The latest coronavirus variant.
  • And...And...And...

The drumbeat of news about these events is relentless. And wearing. 

While retailers are notably resiliant and optimistic, there IS a limit to how much uncertainty one can continue to take.

Then we discovered that there is a name for all this: VUCA.

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"Retail is a mirror of society."

Yes, Daylight Savings began a couple weeks ago. But it's not just the time on the clocks that changed; the times themselves have substantially changed. 

Followers of The ROI has heard us assert many times that "Retail is a mirror of society." As we reflect on the first quarter of 2022, we are struck by how much has changed in just those three months. And retailers must adapt – yes, again! – to this rapidly changing environment.

Think about it. Consider the assumptions you made just a few months ago, in late December and early January about 2022. 

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Have you noticed? That persisting Plague of Uncertainty that keeps hanging around?

  • The troubling issues in Ukraine and the potential repercussions.
  • Inflation now includes an even greater hike in oil and gasoline prices because of the Ukraine situation.
  • Unresolved supply chain issues, particularly impacting smaller businesses with less clout.
  • Employee unrest, union organizing, the "Great Resignation." 
  • Stock market declines, which seem to foster even more talk of unrest and uncertainty.
  • Not to mention the extended Farewell Tour of Covid and The Variants. 

And amidst all this relentless uncertainty, you still have a business to run, employees to motivate, customers to satisfy, vendors to deal with, creditors to pay, etc, etc.  

Here are some ideas on how to approach that.

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See the forest, not just the trees

Now that we've put a wrap on 2021, and before we really dive into 2022, it's time to catch your breath and reflect on where we are after 2021. 

Perhaps like us you believe that fundamental and enduring changes have occurred; no one can operate on "auto-pilot" anymore. All of us have to learn new processes, and form new habits. What's it called? Oh yes; "embracing change." Lots of it. 

That's why it is a very opportune time, particularly for owners, to have a very active Q&A session with themselves. 

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Just when it seems we can get to the "New Normal" or the "Next Normal," another disruption comes along. 

"There still is so much uncertainty" is the lament, often accompanied by a sigh of weariness. Or resignation. Trying to plan for the Holiday season, or looking ahead to 2022, can seem especially daunting right now.

Occasionally, all of our businesses need to hit "pause;" this is one of those times. 

Recognize that thanks to the pandemics, most everything about running your business has changed. Your merchandise mix; your customers; your staff; your competitors; your suppliers; your landlord; your technology; etcetera. Everything!

  • With all those changes, how could going forward have much resemblance to however you used to do business?
  • And as is always true in retail, the name of the game is adjusting!