Friday, January 25, 2013

Sharing is Caring

sharing This week is the annual Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, CA and I have yet to set foot on the show floor in my career. I have been to plenty of state educator shows and national product shows, but NAMM is one I have yet to experience. Now, being a gear hound, I can imagine how many things I would want to play with and try while walking the aisles. In addition to the tons and tons of gear, there are the NAMM University sessions throughout the day as well. What better place is there to get so many ideas under one roof?

Now, I am fortunate enough to have a fairly varied territory that has a number of creative owners and staff members that have come up with a lot of great ideas. Part of the job that I love is being able to share these ideas with others. Something I have been trying to focus on is helping dealers overcome obstacles they are facing and grow their business. If there is an idea that is successful, it is worth trying. If there is an idea that is successful, it is worth sharing. Something I have seen to be often overlooked is cultivating existing customers. Most dealers will work to get their rental customers to set up to a better instrument. However, there is money being left on the table.

How often are you making contact with your existing rental customers to promote other services or products you offer? For example, if you offer a maintenance program with your rental contract, how often do you have contact with your customers with maintenance tips or reminders for service? Why not encourage those customers to come in for an instrument check up? Below is an idea on how to turn those rental customers into something a little more. Please feel free to download the files and customize the plan to work for you.

Yearly Maintenance Promotion
YMP - Postcard

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


As I sit and think about a topic for this month's newsletter, I am doing so while taking a personal inventory.  I am typing this note at 12:30am in a hospital room in Connecticut while taking a shift watching over my grandfather. This past weekend his health took a turn and he was admitted to the hospital.  He has been dealing with health issues for a little while, but this turn frightened my mother.  Couple this with the events in Newtown (less than an hour from where I am sitting right now) from last week and it really made me think about where we place our priorities.  

Like most professional people, I have a lot of pride in the work I do and strive to do it well.  Often, I will place work ahead of other things in life.  Something I have tried to do though, is make sure I take care of my family.  Unfortunately, I have always looked at that as just MY family, my wife and daughter.  I have not done a good job of keeping up with or spending time with the people that are part of my entire family, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  

While I am typing, I am sitting next to my sleeping grandfather who is doing better.  Listening to his breathing and watching him rest makes me reminisce about the times we have spent together.  The trip to Washington D.C. when I was a teenager, getting our car locked in a parking garage.  The Christmas card from George Steinbrenner (my grandfather signed the card and had me fooled until a couple years ago!).  This once strong man is now unable to lift a spoon to feed himself and it makes me miss those years of summer visits learning to play tennis and golf when I was young.

There are lots of great memories that we experience with our family and we often do not think about them until the tougher times or when we fear we might lose them.  With the holidays here we very often feel obligated to spend time with our family, thinking about all the cliche holiday horror stories.  Then once we get into the new year, we get back into our routine and normal life and do not think about trying to spend time with family.  

There are many material things we desire as human beings, but the only thing we gather that we cannot lose to disaster is memories.  The only way to make memories is not with those physical things we covet but with the time and experiences we share with those we love.  The time we spend with our loved ones is something that can never be taken away.  Before you jump back into work and the hectic day to day life, please take time to make a memory.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Do You Have a Partner?

For a long time this industry has preached that it is not like other industries.  It is built on relationships.  You cannot be successful without face to face interactions.  For the most part, that is very true.  However, most of the time you focus your efforts on building those relationships with your customer.  The relationship/partnership with your vendors is just as important as the relationship with your customers.  Here are three questions for you to think about.

  • Have you built any strong partnerships?
  • Are you leveraging the strong partnerships you have?
  • Are you fostering stronger partnerships?
So, have you built any strong partnerships?  You know, more than just calling to check on an order or what the current stock is on an item.  Your vendors and suppliers want a strong relationship/partnership with you (their customer!) but often feel their efforts to build it are a one way street (sound familiar?).  Dale Carnegie said it best in his book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" - "You can make more friends in two weeks by becoming interested in others than you can in two months by trying to get others interested in you."  It might be hard to make the small talk or find time to ask how their family is doing (they are people) but building that relationship is key to your success.

Are you leveraging your strong partnerships?  Having a strong partnership is something that can help you grow your business.  While your rep might not be able to cut extra deals, they can help you find those extra breaks when they are available.  They will also fight for your best interest in situations that are behind the scenes.  How else can you leverage a strong partnership?  Your rep will find ways to make extra things happen.  They will find clinicians or events or other ways to build business.  They will provide extra inventory or manpower at times when things are tight.  They will lend themselves for situations that need an extra hand. They will sacrifice their own time for you.

So, do you have a rep or two like that?  How can you foster that partnership or build it with other reps?

  • Don't take advantage/abuse it!  They will do those extra things for you because of the relationship.  If there is a feeling of being taken advantage of, those things will end quickly.
  • Express gratitude!  You don't need to give gifts or take them out to dinner.  Most often a genuine Thank You will make them feel amazing.  You can take that a step further by expressing your gratitude to their boss.  Every rep likes a pat on their back by their boss!
  • Return the favor!  Your reps are involved in many different events and extending your help with go a long way in showing a mutual partnership.
  • Ask them to be part of your business!  Introducing them to your key customers and accounts will give you more credibility with those customers.  It will also show your willingness to ask for help and that you have someone you can turn to.
Your reps want your business.  If they are doing their job, they should also be building those relationships with you.  You can help them build that relationship by being an active participant.  A partner you can turn to when you need more than a widget will help you grow your business.

When was the last time one of your vendors went above and beyond the call of duty?  What is your relationship with them?  Do you have that type of partner?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Off the Rack

This month's issue of Music Inc. highlights some of the best accessory displays and looking at some of the displays, it made me thing of a few things.

Very often we are tied to the typical gondolas and display pieces we find in the jobber catalogs.  However, there are many other sources to use to create great displays and different looks. 

Something that has long bothered me at trombone shows was an effective way to display multiple horns I had an idea in my head but needed to find away to implement if.  If you were part of our traveling road show last March, you were able to see it in action.  It is something I turned to my local hardware store to help engineer.  Using some pipe flanges and compression fittings I was able to put together this display.  After figuring out the details of how to put it together and make sure it was stable, it worked out great and I hope to incorporate it in other ways.

Another creative display for saxophone mouthpieces is one I turned to my wife and mother-in-law for help.  Trying to find a way to display 50+ saxophone mouthpieces is no easy task.  Especially if you want to keep track of them all.  In this instance a spool rack from a sewing store did the trick.  Plus if you make it a permanent fixture, you can paint it and/or label it for easy reference (and re-order).

There are plenty of places to turn to for inspiration.  Often the best sources are small gift stores or other local businesses.  Anyone on a small budget will usually find ways to display product in manners that do not break the bank.

Get creative!  Show something in a way people are not used to seeing it!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Spending Other People's Money

With the election less than 60 days away, the airwaves are full of ads pushing each party's agenda.  Those ads are very good at promoting a thought or concept the candidate wants to bring to the front of your mind.  This made me think of something I hear on a regular basis by dealers and teachers both.  "My customers/parents can't afford that."

The problem I have with that statement is, how do you know?  How many of those people are walking around with a new iPhone?  How many of them have nice new cars?  How many of them are wearing brand name shoes and clothes?

Very often teachers and dealers will shy away from a product solely because they think it costs too much.  However, the long term cost ends up being significantly less than all expectations.  Especially if they have to buy one or two more of something to replace their initial purchase.  There are two difficult pieces to overcoming the "they can't afford that" assumptions.  One lies with the parent and one lies with the teacher/dealer.

First the teacher/dealer.  The obstacle here is making assumptions.  You must stop being a clerk just ringing up the widget for the customer.  You have to become a salesperson (I will save my rant on this for another post).  Ask questions to get answers.  Don't assume anything!  If you ask the right questions, you can find out everything you need to know and more (including what they can truly afford).

Now for the parent.  The obstacle here is priorities.  Most parents will put their child's needs ahead of their own desires.  Parents will often sacrifice personal needs to meet the needs of their child.  I am not saying all parents are this way, but the majority will put their child first.  How important is it for Mom or Dad to get the new iPhone when they already have the previous model?  

So, before you start slipping back into clerk mode and making the assumption that your customer can't afford something, put on your salesperson hat and start asking questions.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Schedule Yourself

Are you spending your time on the right things?  Are you always doing stuff but do not feel like you are getting anything done?  If so, it is time to take a look at what you are doing and how it impacts your business.

One of the best ways you can see how you are spending your time is to log everything you do for one week.  List what it is you are doing and for how long.  Compare that information to the business you did (or the income that came in).  This exercise will open your eyes to how you spend your time. 

Now, how are the things you are doing impacting your business?  Are you spending time doing things someone else can do?  As the leader of your business, you don't need to be doing things that can be done by someone else.  You don't need to check in the orders.  You don't need to be re-organizing the reed drawer.  Your role is to plan the future direction of your business.  You need to making the moves to grow and build.

Now, as a small business owner, you often have to play the role of bookkeeper, janitor and everything in between.  However, even if you are a one man show, you need to set aside time for long term planning.  Put it in your schedule and keep the appointment with yourself.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


About a month ago, I made a comment on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn about Passion. This is something that yourcustomers can see, feel, smell and taste in the way you do business with them. You can do the same at other places you shop at. People who have passion for what they do stand out and make you feel good. Here is an excellent example of someone who stood out to me recently.

Working the National Flute Association Conference in Charlotte, NC a couple weeks ago, Amy Pribulick (Conn-Selmer Flute Product Manager) and I were heading back to the hotel and we stopped to take a picture of the marquee at the convention center to post on the Avanti Facebook page. While taking the picture, Reginald, a worker at the Convention Center made a suggestion on a time to get the best shot. However, in addition to this he also suggested taking a trip across the street to check out the small park with the great picture opportunities. This might not seem like much... but the cordial nature and enthusiasm that he spoke about that little park was amazing! It made me smile and look forward to the show!

Do you present that type of passion with your customers? Do you show how much you love what you do and the fact that you have the opportunity to do what you do?

It feels great to make money. You love the feeling of a great sales day. But most of the time, You are not really paying attention to those sales as they happen. You are "in the zone". You are so wrapped up in expressing your passion (without actually saying anything) that those sales just happen.

Your customers can feel your love for what you do... but are you doing what you love?