Canada's business magazine for traditional natural health retailers

For how long will you be dead?

for how long will you be deadBrian Tracy, the famous sales trainer, has a story that he tells about the importance of great questions.  Brian was having a meeting with a life insurance salesman who asked if he had enough life insurance.  Since he did not want to deal with this man, Brian assured him he did have enough insurance. As he was about to finish the meeting, the salesman asked Brian the question,“How long will you be dead for?  Because” he went on, “with the life insurance policy that you currently have, you are going to need to come back to life after six months to help pay the family bills….”

The reason I bring this up has nothing to do with life insurance, although especially in the early stages of a retailer’s lifetime, life insurance might be a good bet.  Unfortunately, most people in our industry don’t consider their untimely death. None of us want an early expiry date, and while we might hope to live to a ripe old age having accomplished all of our objectives, life has a funny way of throwing a wrench into the best laid plans of mice and men.   

Often, I have clients who want to work with me because they are preparing for their exit from the business.  Some have the foresight to make plans when they hear they have an illness or are approaching retirement age. Unfortunately for some business owners, they don’t have the right plans in place when they die and as a result, there is no one to help their family or employees negotiate through the traumatic days that follow the loss of an owner or founder. 

So, what would happen if your staff woke up one morning and discovered that you have died? Hopefully they will miss you and shed some tears, which means that you probably made a difference in their lives.  However, without a plan for emergencies, like death or even the disability of an owner or founder, companies that were once going concerns, stumble and begin the downward slide into oblivion. In the following weeks and months – as the family is grieving – it becomes apparent that the vision, direction and strategy that the owner brought is missing . Often key employees who doubt the future without a leader jump ship.  Without leadership, many businesses and their employees become paralyzed by indecision. In either case, the future is often bleak for the future of the store.  

While a life insurance policy might protect your family from some of the financial losses of your income, does it protect them from the financial liability of your businesses? To ensure that your business can survive you, there are a number of things that you might do.  

These include:

 1) Writing down a plan for the worst-case scenarios and discussing them with key staff members.  

2) Talking to trusted advisors including lawyers, accountants or mentors, about what your plans for the business are. 

3) Discussing or documenting some options for transitioning the ownership of your business should disaster hit such as: 

• who should your management team talk to? 

• will they need a business coach or fractional CEO to come in and help?

• what should they expect for leadership from your family? 

• how would you value the store if it needs to be sold? 

• what happens if they can’t sell the store? 

• how should they deal with family? 

 While the answers to these questions might be included in your will, having backup documentation in your operations manual or company safe, might be a great start as well. 

Not many people come back to life after being dead! Chances are you won’t either.  If you want to rest in peace before and after you die, it might make sense to come up with some concrete plans that position your business for the benefit of your family and employees long after your untimely departure. 

 

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How to Apologize to Your Staff

One attribute of a good leader is the ability to sincerely apologize for mistakes. This takes skill and experience. Sometimes an apology delivered with the best of intentions leaves the recipient feeling worse. 

Have you ever received an apology followed by “but”? “I’m sorry I forgot to check in with you first, but it was really busy and we were short-staffed.” The implication is that when it gets busy, I have higher priorities than my commitment to check in with you. Feel better now?

Then there’s blaming someone else. “I would have recognized your part in building the display but Jane didn’t tell me you worked on it.” In other words, if it weren’t for Jane, I would have done the right thing. Be mad at Jane, not me!

Most insulting of all is the insincere apology that takes no account of the apologizer’s role in the situation and blames the recipient. “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry you were upset.” 

How to do it right

So how do you make an effective apology? For answers, I drew on the wisdom of medieval rabbi and philosopher Maimonides and other guidance for Yom Kippur, the Days of Atonement. I also found insight here: http://www.cuppacocoa.com/a-better-way-to-say-sorry/, on teaching children about apology and forgiveness, and here: www.sorrywatch.com, a website that analyzes apologies in the media, history and literature. 

Based on these sources, I’ve generated some guidelines for leaders in the workplace.  See sidebar below.

Guidelines to apologizing

1. Say precisely what you’re sorry for. What did you actually do (or fail to do)? Instead of referring vaguely to “recent events” or “what happened,” describe those events. Use I statements and avoid the passive voice. (“I made the decision without getting your input first,” rather than “The decision was made without staff input.”)

2. Acknowledge why your actions were wrong. Did you break an agreement? How was the other person inconvenienced or harmed? Show you understand the impact of your transgression. Sometimes people want to feel understood more than they want an apology. (“I broke an agreement we had. You were expecting that I’d get your input first and I failed to do that.”)

3. If the original wrong was committed in public, such as forgetting to recognize someone’s contribution or erroneously accusing someone of a wrongdoing, the apology should be delivered in public, as well. (Granted, this is not easy!)

4. Say what you’ll do differently from now on. Use positive language to tell what you will do. (“From now on, when I need to make a decision that will impact your workload or your schedule, I will talk with you first.”)

Now that you’ve delivered your apology, the writers and bloggers are split on whether to ask for forgiveness. Some recommend making the ask as the final step of an apology, while others feel this puts the onus back on the person who has been wronged. I tend to side with this crowd. Also consider the power dynamics. Who is going to say no to their boss? 

Instead, I suggest making space to just listen. The technique of active listening could help here. Reflect back what you hear without arguing, defending or making excuses. But also be prepared for the recipient to make no more than a brief acknowledgement. 

Note that all these steps require face-to-face interaction. If you can’t apologize in person, try videoconference or phone. Tone of voice matters. Don’t expect an email or text to carry the freight of your apology.

Finally, what really matters is what you do going forward. The best apology is changed behaviour.

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Are you focused on inventory or selling

inventory or sellingAre you more focused on purchasing and inventory control than selling or merchandising?  One of the biggest improvements in health food retailing is the lower costs of software programs to manage and ‘control’ inventory.  Prior to having a proper inventory management system, one of the biggest challenges for retailers was having dead stock on the shelves and not being able to easily identify what stock was moving.

Since the 90s, I have preached the ’90-day rule’ of inventory management:  make sure at least one bottle is sold in 90 days from all stock on shelves.

Most stores without a good inventory management system often have 25 per cent plus dead stock, which means not ONE bottle has sold in the past 90 days.  So if you have $100K invested in inventory, $25K is wasted dollars on the shelf!

Now with the new technology, you can run a report daily or monthly, showing inventory movement. No product should be on the shelves for over 90 days. I know one store gets rid of the bottom 20 per cent slow sellers each month, and another store works to have 30 day turns, not 90!

As more retailers upgrade their systems to manage inventory, this will mean less product dollars tied up in slow moving items.  It will also make it easier for retailers to clean up shelves of dead stock.  As the algorithms track the movement of all inventory, I believe we will start seeing less product/brand selection offered in the stores with the focus on the products that sell consistently, exclusive to their business with strong vendor support (like mass market).

Suppliers may find retailers ordering less, more often or discontinuing brands that do not bring value and sell at shelf level.  Inventory management is vital to the success and profitability of a retail store so I understand why retailers have embraced and are focused on inventory management. 

However, what I am noticing is more attention being given to managing inventory turns than given to training floor staff on how to sell, serve customers and merchandise.  Of everything you do to influence your sales, number one must be customer service and number two is merchandising.

Hopefully as you continually improve the ability to manage each sku on the shelf, you are also making a similar – if not greater – effort to train the floor staff on exceptional customer service and merchandising or you just may find managing inventory becomes easier as you will not be selling as much.

Feelings, nothing more than feelings

The feeling a customer has when they walk out the door, hang up the phone, leave your website, visit your Facebook page, see your flyer, follow your tweets or Instagram determines whether they will come back to the store or follow your social media platforms.

Customer service is all about feeling.  We remember some of what we hear or see, yet recall 100 per cent of how we feel after any family, social or business interaction.

Do people feel like doing business with you and if so, do they feel like coming back? 

Watch for GMO ingredients

Meatless does not mean good for every body, human or planet!  GMO farmers must be doing a happy dance as veganism sweeps the shelves of natural and conventional grocery stores.

The food marketers for these large food producers are creating packaging that looks natural, organic and sustainable but a further look at the label often reveals ingredients full of GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, canola oil, soy or sugar beet - the four main genetically engineered crops.

Watch for GMO ingredients

It is becoming harder for conscious consumers to choose non-GMO food, even in health food stores, as food suppliers with profit as the main driver, find ways to hide and mislabel products to keep consumers confused and uncertain of where their food is coming from.

Follow and support activist Rachel Parent (kidsrighttoknow.com;@RachelsNews), as she continues her mission to convince Health Canada to properly label foods containing genetically altered ingredients or the new CRISP-R technology. 

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Writing your first blog

writing your first blogBlogging is successful when it’s done right.  It drives traffic, influences people, and develops that odd cult-like following. You’ve probably wondered if a blog could work for your store or maybe you’ve already decided that starting a blog is exactly what you need to do to grow your store’s business and customer loyalty.

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The 100 year retailer

Recently, a retail store in my community celebrated 100 years of operations.   There was a party, celebrations and even recognition from politicians for their years of service to the community.  I honestly don’t know much about the business except for the great service I have experienced as a patron over the years.

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Opening a second store? Consider impact on staff

carolee colter opening second storeWhen you open a second business location, there may be joy and excitement. But there may also be jealousy and feelings of abandonment. In times of stress and perceived scarcity, that “us versus them” tendency can raise its head among the staff in both locations. 

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Conversations with customers

conversations with customersI believe the selling process comes down to having conversations with customers, to help guide them toward a healthier lifestyle. 

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The most effective way to create social media content

content marketingContent marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

In short, instead of offering products in your store that may or may not add value to your shoppers everyday life, you are delivering information that makes your shopper more intelligent. The framework of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as health food stores, deliver consistent, valuable experiences and information to our shoppers, they will be loyal shoppers to our store. Content marketing is focused on engagement, unlike other more transactional marketing strategies like sale flyers and brochures.

How it applies to us

Knowing who your shoppers are and what they desire from your store, you can start to craft the base of your strategy. We are innately connected to our shoppers, just by the nature of our business model, but we don’t often take the opportunity to use that connection for more organic engagement. 

Let's take a look at the competition

Whole Foods (WF) has consistently been a leader in content marketing for several years. When you look at the complexity of their website, it’s easy to break down their strategy and see why their engagement level is incredible. It makes the lives of the users easier, less complicated, faster and healthier. What more could you ask for as a health food shopper? Let’s take a look at some of the strategies.

  1. WF offers a blog, “Whole Story,” that allows customers to access recipes, displays links to buy the products for the recipes (not always Whole Foods’ products), as well as a family section and a slew of videos, links and photos for new and veteran users to access at their leisure. 

 

  1. WF targets young families and parents, which are the primary purchasers of the households in Whole Foods’ target market. There are “Kid Friendly,”  “After School Snacks,” “Back to School” sections and more.

 

  1. WF hosts giveaways and contests on its website and it seems to be one of its more successful campaigns – some posts have 3,000 - 4,000 comments!

What can we learn?

Whole Foods does not have much engagement on its Facebook page or other social media platforms. This is probably because customers are not allowed to use the spaces as ‘community spaces’ where they can post ideas, recipes, questions to other users or ideas.  Our stores can easily provide that sense of community, something our shoppers crave, without adding much more to what we are already doing. 

How do we do it?

Having an overall checklist to follow when working on your social media content can save you a lot of time and empower more than just your marketing staff to post, blog, upload and share content. Here are the five areas you need to make your content valuable: 

  •  Can the user find the content?
  •  Can the user read the content?
  •  Can the user understand the content?
  •  Is it actionable?
  •  Is it shareable?

If you’re able to engage your shoppers with carefully crafted and curated content, you’ll quickly become the place to go for all their shopping and educational needs

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The power of smart goals

brittany bairdBrittany Baird recently gave a two-part presentation for CHFA members, “Strengthening Buyer Skills.” As a grocery manager, store manager and general manager, and now as a consultant, Brittany has helped natural retailers increase net profit and sales growth and enhance operational efficiency. 

Ultimately, improving sales, profit and efficiency comes down to improving the performance of human beings. And improving human performance comes down to effective feedback systems. Here’s a conversation I had with Brittany.

CC: Why is it so important to quantify feedback, to make it measurable?

BB: When feedback is intuitive and subjective, it may not be helpful to the receiver. It’s not enough to say, “Improve merchandising.” You need SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based). Giving feedback in this form can be an impetus for the receiver to grow – or choose to move on. Also, measurable goals make performance reviews easier, when it’s clearly defined what a good job means. 

CC: Could you give some examples of measurable performance goals?

BB: You could set a goal of no more than five per cent out-of-stocks for buyers. 

CC: Do you need to maintain a perpetual inventory in order to measure buyer out-of-stocks?

BB: Even without that, store managers can measure with occasional spot checks of the shelves. Plus, customer complaints can be tallied. Another example is to have written merchandising standards such as: end-caps and displays fully stocked, products colour-blocked, shelves clean and dusted, signage visible and products accessible from every angle of approach. You can have photos that show a well-stocked display. That way you can hold people accountable for what the sections of the store should look like.

CC: How can you measure customer service?

BB: Do you know the 10-4 rule? At 10 feet, you acknowledge a customer with eye contact and smile. At four feet, you greet them verbally. Then there’s how the phone is answered. How long are callers on hold? Do callers on hold get followed up on? 

CC: A manager could tell that through occasional observation at different times of day.

BB: You can evaluate all the touch-points where staff interacts with customers, e.g. through social media clicks and views, and customer comments submitted.

CC: And special orders. You can record whether customers are notified within x hours that their product has come in, and how satisfied customers are with the service.

BB: I want to stress that you need to write out the criteria, the standards and the expectations if you are going to hold people accountable to them. You cannot hold staff accountable for performing up to a standard that is not written down. 

CC:  And you have to keep written materials up-to-date. As soon as one section of a manual falls out-of-date, I’ve observed that staff will stop using it. When it comes to maintaining systems, including training, everything is always needing refining and improving. Without that, you get a loss of organizational memory. Interestingly though, I don’t see front-end departments losing organizational memory of systems and standards the way other departments do. Maybe it’s because you have to stick with your systems for handling money and data.

BB: Quantifying is in the nature of POS and cash handling. There are also cash over/shorts and rings per minute. Where it’s more subjective is produce and deli. 

CC: You can still measure performance in those departments in terms of accomplishing all the tasks on checklists or to-do lists.

BB: If you define what should be done on a shift, you can tell if you have a person who can do the job. Quantifying performance standards mitigates staff turnover and loss of organizational memory. If standards are clear enough, anyone off the street can understand and contribute to the department’s success

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Women serving women

women serving womenSeventy five per cent of health decisions are made by women.  This according to Faith Popcorn, author of Power of the Purse.  I’ll add this: 90 per cent of people who serve customers in natural food stores are also women.

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Engaging effectively with different cultures

carolee coulter different culturesWhat is intercultural competence? And why should a manager or owner of a natural health retailer seek to build this skill?

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Is it possible to work less and earn more?

dave fuller articleRecently, I asked one of my clients what they had learned in the past year. He said: “I learned that I can earn more by working less!” My response: “You just learned in a year what most MBA students never learn in a lifetime.” Not only had my client doubled his income over the past year, but he also significantly reduced his stress levels. 

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The Two Pillars of Justice

two pillars of justiceIn the Kabbalah, the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical Biblical interpretation, there is a saying that the two pillars of justice are mercy and severity. The pillar of mercy represents forgiveness for our wrongdoings. The pillar of severity represents the law of karma – that we must reap what we sow.

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When customer service is not enough

dave fuller customer serviceI am sure that you have suffered through an experience of poor customer service.  One doesn’t have to look far these days to realize that many businesses put low value on treating customers well. 

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Training for soft skills

soft skills trainingYes, you can teach empathy, rapport and authenticity to your staff. Even those who join your staff with a high degree of these “soft skills” can still improve them through training.

Brittany Baird is my colleague at CDS Consulting Co-op whose area of expertise lies in linking financial success to the everyday decisions we make on the sales floor of a natural foods business. 

 CC: How do you go beyond standard customer service training?

 BB: Every business wants to ensure good customer service. All your competitors are teaching customer service. But you likely have a mission that goes beyond selling products. 

 CC: Yes, a quick visit to mission statements on websites of stores featured on recent covers of CNHR reveals values such as wellness of community and planet, ecological consciousness, supporting local and organic family farms, and empowering people to lead healthy lives.

BB: Then your staff may be inviting customers to come to events, try new products or donate to a cause. Teaching them soft skills can promote all your goals. Also, the longest conversations take place in the supplements aisle. Customers there need guidance far more than in other departments. These skills are even more essential when supplements are your primary product. 

 CC: So how do you teach empathy, authenticity and rapport?

 BB: The three skills needed are mirroring, reflecting and active listening. With mirroring, you consciously match someone’s tone and body language to create rapport. Say someone is new to town and comes into the store with enthusiasm, wanting to be engaged. If staff doesn’t mirror this customer, it’s poor customer service.

If a person is upset, you can draw them back down by reflecting rather than mirroring. For a disgruntled customer with confrontational body language and hand gestures, you can cool that energy down with, “Okay, let’s talk,” while keeping body language and gestures restrained.

 Active listening involves making a conscious effort to hear not only the words but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated. When a customer says, “I drove from far away to get here. This is the second time you’ve been out of this product. I want to support you guys but you make it so hard,” good customer service would be, “Okay, we’ll fix it,” however, great customer service –  using active listening – would hear the desire to support the store and the frustration, and find out what the customer needs to “make it right.”

 CC: What are the most effective ways to train for these three skills?

BB: Role-plays with different scenarios are the best way, and they’re fun. Scenarios can be a bit silly to set a tone that’s not overly serious. Give the trainees the right amount of structure to these scenarios, with some room to play with. When I lead training workshops with my CDS CC colleague Rebecca Torpie, every single person in the room speaks in the role-plays and practices the skills, though not everyone performs for the whole group. A few may be uncomfortable at first but they get a lot out of the experience. We switch partners frequently so people can see how different partners process the assignments. We do “failed versions,” too – wrong way versus right way. 

 I understand it’s hard for small stores to do structured training, but you can  still  teach active listening, mirroring and reflecting. Owners usually model the best customer service. When they’re not there, they need a cornerstone person on  staff who will model for the rest of the team members. 

 Soft skills training for staff can help propel customer service from good to great, differentiate your store from your competition and create loyal shoppers for life.

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Profit Holes

profit holesIt was serious business! My brothers and I were neck deep in it. We were digging to China when we were interrupted by the sound of our mother calling us for dinner.

Digging holes is something that boys do. As kids, we would dig holes for forts, holes for adventures, and holes in search of gold. At the age of three, my son dug a hole to trap bears.

In business however, when we dig holes – unless we are in the construction business – they are usually not good. I have dug myself some holes as a businessman over the years. The biggest hole that I dug was hundreds of thousands of dollars deep. These types of holes don’t happen overnight: they take lots of planning and many hours of making mistakes, and sometimes years to get out of.

Find your profit holes

The most common holes in business are profit holes. Profit holes are those costs that build up over time and eat away at the owner’s profits. According to the National Federation of Independent Business in the USA, 60 per cent of small businesses are either not profitable or are only marginally profitable. To be clear, the profit in a business is what is left over after paying all of your expenses. In a small business, there are many expenses: the cost of goods, labour, insurance, supplies, utilities, computer equipment, etc. The list is almost endless it seems. Unless we are careful operators of our business, we may find ourselves among the 60 per cent of businesses where the owners receive very little to speak of in terms of money at the end of the day.

One of my clients, we will call him Paul for the sake of this story, owned a health food store that he ran for several decades. As he was thinking of selling the business, he realized that new owners would probably like a business that was a little more profitable. Paul started examining his income and expense statement with a fine-tooth comb. He discovered several areas in which some of his costs had crept up over the year. In one case, he found that he had originally employed a cleaning company on a contract for a small job for $50 per week. Over time, they had gradually raised their prices to $100 per week. He consulted his employees concerning this job, and was told that they thought that they had time to do the contractor’s work as he was only spending 15 minutes a week in the building. Profit hole filled = $5,200!!!

Paul kept digging. One day he got a call from a service provider for debit machines. They told him that he would save $400 per month if he switched over. Paul didn’t switch, but he used that call to ask his current provider to match their rates. When they agreed, Paul saved an additional $4,800 being lost through a profit hole.

When Paul plugged these two profit holes, he saved himself $10,000 per year. For a small business owner, $10,000 a year can be very significant. Not only did Paul enjoy that money immediately, but he increased the value of his business at the same time. Potential buyers always want a profitable business!

When we are looking for ways to reduce our expenses and plug profit holes, we need to look through each and every area of the business.   We must ask ourselves how we can reduce our costs in this area. In my book Profit Yourself Healthy, I identified 107 different ways that small business owners can reduce their expenses. These include reducing costs in areas such as labour, energy, consulting fees, insurance, travel expenses, maintenance, and more. Sometimes we can eliminate an expense.   Often times by putting the product or service out for tender again, we can lower our costs. The trick is to look at the largest expense areas first, and figure out ways that we can create efficiencies.

The longer we have been in business, the more profit holes we can find. Like Paul, we let little expenses build up over time and the result is an erosion of our profits. It’s easy to dig holes but sometimes it’s much easier to fill them.

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Hiring for success

hiring for successJames Morrell has over 25 years experience in natural foods retail management. Over those years he’s done a lot of hiring. I’ve written about hiring in this column before, but for a fresh perspective, I turned to James, now a consultant in fresh category management.

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The problem no one wants to talk about

employee theftA client, who I’ll call Mary, is the owner of a small natural foods store. A new bookkeeper had been on the job for several months before Mary studied the bank records and realized $15,000 had disappeared. Mary confronted the bookkeeper, who sobbed that she'd "borrowed" the money to pay her mortgage. Mary was touched by this story. She intended to fire the bookkeeper, but should she report the theft to the police? She was concerned about ruining the bookkeeper’s employability in their small town.

Charges pressed

Eventually Mary decided to press charges, which were reported in the local paper. At that point, two former employers of the bookkeeper called Mary to apologize for withholding information when she’d called them for references. Apparently this employee had stolen from them too, and told the same compelling story. Also Mary got a call from the bookkeeper's new employer who read the newspaper, checked his bank records, and sure enough, she’d already stolen from him.

In the end, in a court-ordered settlement, the bookkeeper agreed to pay restitution, and eventually did pay back most of what she’d stolen.

This story made me wonder how many small businesses with kind-hearted owners are vulnerable to employee theft because they just can't believe it's possible.

According to the Retail Council of Canada, employees steal an average of $2,500 in cash or goods from their employer before they're caught. On average, customers steal about $175. In addition, the Council estimates 566,000 undetected employee thefts occur across Canada annually.

For insight, I turned to Mike Feiner, loss prevention specialist and my colleague in CDS Consulting Co-op.

In Feiner’s experience, even employers that provide good wages and benefits, opportunities for advancement and great co-workers can still be subject to theft. “People can operate with a split consciousness and find ways to rationalize what they know is wrong. “Address the opportunity first,” he advises. “The motives we can’t control.”

If you’re thinking, “I don’t want to live in fear and suspicion of my staff,” Feiner’s advice may counter that impression. He recommends regular individual check-ins. “Get to know who they are, what’s happening in their lives, any signs of stress. You might find creative ways to help them such as changes in schedule or getting financial counselling.” You are sending the message that you care, but also the message that you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the store.

Focus on your policies and procedures to make sure they are clear and well understood. For example, an overly complicated staff discount system can be open to misinterpretation and abuse. If there are no portion controls, employees could be tempted to put more ingredients in a sandwich made for a friend than for other customers.

Check more thoroughly

Have someone besides the cashier check the cash in the till at closeout. Regularly check your POS reports for line items showing an extraordinary number of voids. If you find them, start paying attention to what’s happening at that till.

Even check the dumpster from time to time. Feiner says, “Hiding stolen goods behind or in the dumpster in a trash bag is one of the most common forms of theft.”

If you don’t do your own books, reconcile the books with the bank statements yourself instead of leaving it to your bookkeeper. Talk to your bank about safeguards such as an alert when deposits seem unusually low.

Would your employees steal from you? Hopefully not. But stay aware. As Feiner says, “If you’re not looking for employee theft, you’re not going to see it, but it’s often right in front of your face.”

To contact Feiner about loss prevention strategies, please go to:

http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/consultants/paul-feiner

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Fail to win

fail to winFailure is the quickest way to success. The faster you fail and learn from your failures, the faster you will determine a way to succeed.

Thomas Edison is a classic example. When he was asked if he was discouraged after attempting thousands of times to invent the light bulb, he replied “No, I am thousands of times closer to making it work.” Passion with persistence overcomes the fear of failure.

A recent study made to fail.  There were three groups

 

1. Business people

2 .Engineers

3. Kindergarteners

Each group was given spaghetti, marshmallows and duct tape. The objective was to build the highest structure to hold marshmallows.

They had 15 minutes to discuss among each other and 18 minutes to build. The kids won. The engineers came in at a close second and the business folks came in at a distant last.

Why did kids win over educated, experienced adults? Kids started immediately putting it together, failing over and over, until they got it. The engineers took some time to discuss but then started failing. Meanwhile, the business folks sat around discussing it so by the time they started, it was too late to learn from their mistakes, leaving them far behind.

So perhaps instead of sitting around ad infinitum in a “bored” room with the management teams discussing the annual sales plans, strategic initiatives, sales marketing objectives, competitor’s activities, budgeting proposals, and appeasing the bean counters so no one looks bad - Just Do It!!!

Listen up!

The ability to listen has been proven to build trust, lower sales resistance, build self-esteem and heal. A feeling of trust is the key to long-term customer engagement. But how do you listen? When a customer is speaking, make sure the spotlight is on them, not you.

Questions combined with active listening increases sales and customer retention. Ask questions to clarify the need of the customer. For example: “Do you want a therapeutic or preventative strength natural medicine? Have you been on a cleanse before? Have you used XYZ? Are you on medication?”

These types of questions help you quickly identify an effective choice so the customer is satisfied with results. It also gets the customer speaking, which allows you to listen attentively, creating an energy of trust and respect. With mindful practice to listen better, you will notice positive results in your personal relationships, and in your overall wellbeing.

I understand in today’s high-traffic stores, engaging customers is becoming less and less possible. Yet it is the foundation of our industry – to share the unique benefits of the products we sell.

Look how difficult it is to keep up with all the new products on the market with a wide variety of ingredients from all over the globe. Is it organic, free trade, non-GMO, ethical, gluten-free, grass fed, vegan, paleo, local, etc….

The “interNUT” is full of nonsense on natural heath products which as you know brings in customers with all sorts of ‘ideas’ about natural health. Some sound whacky and some are intentionally created to deceive.

Most stores have well-trained staff with accredited nutritional expertise to help guide the consumer to make a good choice within the ever expanding natural lifestyle movement. Yet sharing knowledge is not the best way to build trust.

The words you use during a conversation with the customer have little effect on building trust or engagement. Some studies suggest only a seven per cent effect.   Your tone of voice and body language speak far louder than words of nutritional advice in building long-term customer relationships.

In Whatever Arises Love That by Matt Kahn, he has these loving words on listening: “When human interactions become a way of practicing self-acceptance by treating others with more patience, kindness, and respect, a constant need to be heard drifts into listening as an act of love”.

I believe the business that listens best will become the trusted voice of natural health in the local buying community.

   Happy sales!

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Things You Can Do for Your Store to Thrive

dave fuller articleMany retailers are stressed at the thought of what is happening in the health food industry right now. Amazon buying Whole Foods, the erosion of margins with online shopping, and more and more products showing up in the mass market.

If you want to survive as a health food retailer in the next couple decades, you are going to need to do things differently than you did in the past.

  1. Exclusive products

To survive, health food stores are going to need to have their own brands that are not available everywhere.   To have access to this, health food retailers will need to have a supplier that is giving them brands of products that are not available in the mass market.  While you may feel you need some mass market products, your customers are coming to you because you are the trusted advisor. If you have the knowledge to help them address their problems and concerns, they will buy what you put in their hands.

  1. Niche markets

Health food stores who survive the change in the retail environment will have to have specialty niches where they are able to identify their potential customers and offer them specific products to satisfy their needs.  Perhaps this is an anti-aging clinic, the men’s testosterone stop, or the skin care centre.  This may mean that you will have to do things that you didn’t do in the past: offering services that are difficult to do, or products that are hard to get.  Health food retailing will be getting harder, but the creative will thrive. 

  1. Human contact

Millennials, Generation Xers and upcoming generations are going to want the human aspect of retailing that baby boomers had and then some.  While we all might be on the computer more, we all crave to be touched, spoken with and humoured. Physical touch and real human presence is hard to experience over the computer. Brick and mortar health food stores will be around as long as they can offer this.  Store owners are going to have to encourage their staff to develop meaningful relationships because this is what customers want.

  1. Experiences

   It’s true that 3D is coming to retailing online, but you can’t taste food, feel fabric or smell scents online. Health food retailing is going to need to give customers even more experiences that fill the senses.

  1. Business knowledge

It was once the case that you could open a health food store because you wanted to help people have a chance of success.  The chance of success now has been significantly reduced. In the past, store owners would spend money in advertising without measuring the results and set margins and price products upon a whim. Look at financials once a year and rely on your accountant to interpret them.  Future store owners are going to need to be strategic, cunning and knowledgeable to thrive.  Those that understand how business works and how they can create value for their customers, are going to be successful.

Health food retailing is changing but those who can adapt will be able to feed their families, hire great staff, help their customers and contribute to their communities for years to come. 

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What's in the Jan-Feb issue:

  • • CHFA West Show Preview
  • • Alberta store features
  • • Wrap-Up of HFN AGM
  • • Amazing business columnists

Get into the hands of 10,000+ retailers

Reach 10,000+ natural health store professionals via CNHR Magazine.  CNHR is delivered by Canada Post six times per year to virtually every health food store across Canada.  Retailers are your true sales force.  So, get your product into more stores and get them selling for you.  

Remember, your first sale is to the retailers.  CNHR can get your message in front of them. Connect with the retailers who sell and recommend your product.

Put CNHR’s many resources to work for you:

Display ads, Product Profiles, Trade Talk news in CNHR Magazine along with Facebook, CNHR web page, 

podcasts, inserts, videos posted to our website, sending product samples to stores…we have the access to Canada’s natural health retailers.  Put our many resources to work for your company and products today.

CNHR is your Trade Media source.  We’re more than CNHR Magazine.  That is just part of what we do.  

We are keeping the industry informed and updated through the magazine, the CNHR Website, our Facebook Page, the CNHR Podcast and our industry e-blasts.  Ask me about all we can do to connect you to the industry and give you blanket coverage across Canada.  Let me help put all of CNHR’s resources to work for you!

Contact:  Katherine Stevens:  kstevens@cnhr.ca   647/975-3370         Contact:  Candace Sicari:  candace@cnhr.ca   705/209-9280

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