By Rich Lindblom

If I offered you something at absolutely no cost out of your pocket — zip, zero, zilch, nada — and it would be guaranteed to increase your business by at least 10 percent, would you take me up on it? While most of you would say yes immediately, believe it or not there are dealers out there who have turned down that very offer. 

Surprised?  Don’t be, because things like this have happened within our own buying group. 

I know for a fact there are dealers out there who, as recently as one to two years ago, still did not have a website. But that’s not even the scariest part. The scariest part is that many of those dealers were approached by a major manufacturer and offered an absolutely free website through BrandSource, just so they could have some kind of online presence. But even though it was free, their answer was still, “No thanks.” 

I’m dead serious about this; these dealers insisted they had no use or need for a website, even if it was totally free.  Their reasons were all over the spectrum, ranging from, “The people in my area don’t shop online,” to “I did just fine for 40 years without a website, I don’t need one now.”  Now, if you’re thinking I’m going to say that the number one reason stores fail is because they don’t have a website, you’d be wrong. It goes much deeper than that. 

I believe the number one reason stores fail is … complacency.

Reminder: Don’t Be Complacent, Register for Summit Before Friday!

For this column, I returned to the dictionary to find the precise definition of the word “complacent.”  And here’s what I found: “Marked by self-satisfaction, especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”

Honestly, I was a little surprised by that definition. I knew the satisfaction part, but the unaware of actual dangers partcaught me off guard. I found that to be a very interesting concept. In other words, a dealer may think tht everything is going along just fine and there is no reason whatsoever to change, when in reality their company could be in grave danger of failing sometime in the near future.

Does this sound like someone you know? Maybe it’s time to take a quick look in the mirror, just to make absolutely certain that I’m not talking about you. Remember, the definition specifically states that the complacent person is unaware of actual dangers.

In the ever-changing world of retail, none of us can afford to be complacent. What worked as recently as last year may not work again this year. Just as technology is changing at an exponential rate, so too is retail. Yet there are dealers out there still trying to do things the same way they did not just last year, but often ten, twenty or even thirty years ago. And that’s just not going to get the job done today. 

The reality of the situation is that if you are unwilling to change, you are for all intents and purposes a dinosaur destined for extinction. It’s just a matter of when. 

In order to survive, I believe each one of you needs to constantly be looking for ways to both increase revenues and decrease expenses. The real question is, why do so many dealers out there have their heads in the sand? Not only do they refuse to change, but flat out refuse to even consider change. 

Here are the reasons I came up with, just off the top of my head:

  • Fear of failure.
  • Fear of success.
  • Laziness.

Actually, those are the only ones I can think of. And since I really don’t think anyone who owns their own retail store is lazy, by default that only leaves Fear of Failure or Fear of Success.  Either way, it’s a poor reason to be unwilling to change. If you want to survive and thrive, you need to embrace change and welcome what’s new and different.

So please, do yourself a favor and look in the mirror, just to be sure you’re not one of those people … The Complacent Retailer!

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 65-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.