There Are No Participation Trophies in Retail!

By Rich Lindblom

About 20 years ago I was at an indoor soccer game with my son’s recreation league. As luck would have it, I was sitting right next to the controls for the electronic scoreboard.

Just minutes into the game, my son’s team scored a goal. So I reached over and gave them a point on the scoreboard. 

A few minutes later his team scored again. I looked up at the scoreboard and it was off. I mean totally turned off.  Looking down, I assumed that someone must have accidentally kicked the electrical cord out from the socket. I reached down, plugged the device back in, and updated the score to 2-0.

No sooner had I done that than an angry mom approached me. As she unplugged the device for a second time she scolded, “We don’t keep score here. There are no winners and losers.” 

I was blown away by that statement. I’m always up for a good debate, but in this case, I chose discretion over valor and left the controls unplugged.  Instead, I simply told the woman in a soft, calm voice, “Lady, if you think for one minute that those boys out there don’t know who’s winning and who’s losing, you got another thing coming.”

Folks, I’m here to tell you that there are no participation trophies in retail!

Simply put, there are winners and losers in the world of retail just as there are in everyday life. And every BrandSource member out there needs to be on the winning side of the retail battle, because there is no second-place trophy in the business world. 

Question: Do you know what the participation trophy looks like that they hand out in the business world? 

Answer: It looks a lot like a summons to bankruptcy court, because that’s what it is. 

Alright, here’s another sports analogy for you. I also coached youth sports for nearly twenty years while my boys were growing up (and even a few years after they stopped playing), and one thing I always reminded my teams was, “They keep score for a reason!”  

Now, you can only imagine how that went over in the age of participation trophies. But if a parent asked me about my philosophy, my answer was always the same: “Do me a favor, on the way home today, ask your son Johnny if he has more fun when his team wins or loses.”  That pretty much always ended the conversation. I wasn’t some lunatic coach; I just believed that if given the choice, everyone would rather be a winner than a loser. 

The same thing is true for our businesses.  We all need to be winners every single day. Frankly, for most of us, losing is simply not an option. That’s why we show up to work every day, to win the Battle of Retail.

How do you do that? How do you win the Battle of Retail?

  1. Make your showroom the best possible showroom it can be.  Keep it clean, neat and appealing.
  2. Keep your employees happy and motivated. Treat them the way you would want to be treated.
  3. Provide great customer service at a fair price. You don’t always have to be the lowest — you just have to be in the same ballpark and better than your competitors.
  4. Trim the fat. Control your costs by finding and eliminating wasteful spending. I guarantee there is waste in your company no matter how efficient you think you are. Look closer, it’s there.

Because in the Battle of Retail they do keep score, just the same as they do in sports. The only difference is the score isn’t counted in goals, runs or points; it’s counted in dollars and cents. So go out there every day and win!

I always get a kick when someone reaches out to me because one of my articles struck a chord with them. So if you have a question or comment about something I wrote (good or bad), please reach out to me at I’d love to hear from you.