Investing where it counts

I was going about my normal boating news searches this morning when I stumbled across an article written by a stock analyst who had recently visited a handful of stores along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. Like many of us, he has kids, and after being gone for a week on business, he was headed to the Disney store to pick up some “missed you while I was gone” presents before traveling home.

Next to the Disney store was a handful of other stores the author couldn’t help visiting while he was in the neighborhood, and the excursion became “a reminder that Peter Lynch’s feet-on-the-ground approach to investing still has merit.” In other words, the author felt his experience in each store was probably a good indicator of the company’s future and therefore the long-term value of its stock.

With less than two weeks until spring officially starts, now is a good time to think about your biggest investment, your business. What experiences does it offer (these days, that means both online and offline) and what messages do those experience send to visitors?

Last summer, during a business trip, I called a half-hour before visiting an area dealership to let them know I would be stopping by. When I walked in the front door, there wasn’t anyone at the reception desk. After waiting for a moment, I wandered by the sales offices and into the showroom. The two salesmen at their desks were on the phone, and after perusing the showroom for 10 minutes and helping myself to the restroom (that’s a story for another day), I moved on to my next appointment without having spoken a word to an employee. I had never met anyone at the dealership before that day, so I might as well have been a businessperson on a lunch break. If so, what messages would I have received?

We’re all guilty of getting used to our familiar environments, at which point it becomes hard to see opportunities for change and improvement. That’s why it’s important to take the time before the season gets underway to take a fresh look at our businesses. Walk through a handful of recreational products stores (boat, RV and motorcycle dealerships, ski shops, boating supply stores, outdoor recreation shops, etc.), talk to the employees and surf their Web sites. Think about what you liked and didn’t like about the experience. How you can turn those observations into improvements at your facility and on your Web site?

On a related note, last week, I met with one of our Top 100 Dealers to discuss how he might improve his application. The one piece of advice I now realize I left out is to include facility goals and improvements. Many Top 100 applicants forget to include paving their parking lot or updating their restrooms. But as consumers, we know the small stuff can make all the difference. When customers see us investing in our businesses, they’re more likely to invest in us too.

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One comment

  1. This article brings to mind the old adage, "You only get one chance to make a first impression." I hope that dealer reads this and gets the message...

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