Lisbiz Strategies: When to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em

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May 26/June 2, 2014; Volume 27/Number 28

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Having seen lots of card playing at Coverings in Las Vegas, I started thinking: How do you know when to throw it all in?

Consider what’s going on with Sears. The retail chain has decided to close a number of stores. After shuffling around brands, executives decided the store doesn’t need so many locations. Now I’m not a retail analyst, but I have gone through Sears stores and its brands, and I came up with one thought: They sure need something!

Hasn’t Sears noticed the world has changed, or does it just continue to dream about the catalog days when it was the only game in town? I still remember my mom purchasing a magnificent turquoise blue sweater from the Sears catalog. It never looked half as good, and it was returned almost immediately.

According to the New York Post, Sears Holdings Corp. chairman Edward Lampert is exploring the sale of the retailer’s Lands’ End brand. It seems like Sears bought the brand yesterday, but it was actually purchased in 2002. Apparently Sears continues to tweak rather than kick butt. Tweaking is only good enough when you have something valuable that needs a little “nip and tuck.”

Does any of this apply to your business? Do you continue to make small changes without looking at the big picture?

Chinese General Sun Tzu said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” The point being the better you know your enemies the better you can defend yourself. How can you devise a plan if you’re not clear about the problem? What is going on in our industry and who is winning the flooring game?

I decided a trip to the box store was in order. I had The Home Depot come out and measure my kitchen floors for some tile. The estimator came with his iPad and estimating software and had it done in 15 minutes.

Here are some questions that will help you take stock of your business:

• Is there anything you can do to change the rules of the flooring game? By understanding what others are doing, can you find a new way to stay on top?

• Is low price something you can compete with? If you can compete with price, is it worth the effort?

• How important is the customer experience? What can you do to take it to the next level so that you can entice the higher-end customer?

• Are you up on social media and using it to your advantage, or are you dabbling?

• Are you adding countertops, granite, marble and kitchens to your product mix?

• Are you having a problem competing because your e-commerce efforts are inefficient? Are you unable to source unique products?

• Are you enthusiastically seeking new business partners, or have you given up?

Don’t be afraid to admit your weaknesses. We all have areas where we need to improve, or those we should give up entirely. We continue to do things that aren’t profitable just because we are used to doing them. It’s like a bad relationship. We know it’s not going anywhere, but it’s comfortable and predictable. Changing would mean a whole new set of rules and problems to solve. You can’t do everything well, but why not take a serious look at what you’re lacking and see if it’s worth pursuing a solution?

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