By Rich Lindblom

I was on a video call with some dealers the other day, and one was lamenting the fact that he was up 30 percent in 2020.

I was literally speechless (which, for the record, doesn’t happen very often). He continued his tale of woe by saying it was now going to be “impossible” to hit any kind of volume rebate growth bonuses for 2021. I just wanted to scream at the computer, “Are you out of your mind?!”

Here he was complaining about being up over 30 percent. Why? Because somehow this dealer already magically knew that it was impossible for him to grow his business any further this year. How could he possibly know that? Only if he had already convinced himself that it couldn’t be done. 

If you want to survive in today’s retail world, you must keep pushing, keep trying harder and keep growing your business continually. Like the theme of next month’s BrandSource Summit, you’ve got to double down on your business for sustained success.

Here are my four keys to growth: 

  1. It all starts with believing it can be done. I have always been a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, and if you don’t believe it can happen it probably won’t.  So never say never to growing your business, even after a 30-percent growth year.
  2.  Set a realistic growth goal for your company. I’m not saying you should expect to grow 30 percent year over year on a regular basis; it’s simply unrealistic.  If you shoot for the stars every year, you’re very likely to fail every year. Shoot for the moon instead.  Set yourself an achievable growth goal of somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent annually. 
  3. Formulate an action plan to achieve your goal. It’s not enough to simply say you’re going to grow your business; you need to plan for it. Consider what worked last year and what didn’t. Take that information and put together a marketing plan that emphasizes what did work and build on that.  And for goodness’s sake, don’t be afraid to try something new! 
  4. Regularly monitor your progress and make adjustments as needed to keep your goal within reach. Sit down once a month and measure your progress towards your goal. If you see something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it. If you start to track poorly, don’t give up. Instead, dig in and try harder, maybe there’s a reason you’re falling short. You just need to find it.

All that being said, positive thinking alone isn’t enough. If you are serious about growing your business by 10 percent this year, then you will need to add 10 percent to your marketing budget as well, because growth is not going to happen without more advertising. I would recommend putting that additional 10 percent directly into digital marketing of some sort. Because if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people are becoming more and more accustomed to buying everything from groceries to bedding, furniture and appliances online

So you need to put your advertising dollars where the customers are shopping: online. 

You know, a few years ago when I was coaching youth sports teams, I would frequently tell my players during a pre-game pep talk — against what I believed to be an inferior opponent — that they needed to “Step on their throats and rip out their hearts.” Of course, I wasn’t being literal when I said that, even though some of the boys thought I was. What I was trying to impress upon my players was that you never let up. You keep working hard until the final out or the final whistle.

The same can be said for retail. You have to keep working hard. There is no time to sit back and be satisfied with what you’ve already accomplished, because that’s in the past and the past doesn’t pay the bills. 

So keep the pedal to the metal this year. And never let me hear you say that you can’t grow your business!

Rich Lindblom is a former principal of Advanced Maytag Home Appliance Center in Schaumburg, Ill., and member of the Maytag Leadership Council. He recently sold the 64-year-old family business and retired after four decades in independent retail. Got something on your mind? You can reach Rich at egvrich@gmail.com.