The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall

A cautionary tale about the consequences of complacency

By Rich Lindblom, YSN Contributor

Sears is of course the poster child for this story, but there is an endless number of others in the class photo as well:

  • Circuit City
  • Crazy Eddie’s
  • Fretters
  • Fry’s Electronics
  • hhgregg
  • Highland
  • Kmart
  • Montgomery Ward
  • RadioShack
  • Silo
  • Tweeter

The list goes on and on of major players in the appliance and electronics marketplace that were once considered too big to possibly fail. So let this be a cautionary tale to every BrandSource member: You are never too big or successful to flounder! As the old saying goes, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

It doesn’t matter how big your company gets or how profitable it is; you always need to keep on doing those things both big and small that make your business stand out from the competition.  And that is something BrandSource members are good at. You are among the best in the industry when it comes to delivering world-class service before, during and after the sale.

But unless you want to go the way of that dinosaur named Sears, you need to keep doing these four key things:

Deliver Excellent Customer Service. First and foremost, today’s customers want — make that demand — excellent customer service, and if your company delivers that I believe you will survive and thrive for a long time to come. Empower your staff to dothe right thing when there is a customer service issue and I promise you will have the most loyal customers in town.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Little Things. The bigger a company gets, the narrower its vision becomes. Management can only see the big picture and starts ignoring the little things that got them to where they are. Here’s another saying (and a column by yours truly): “The devil is in the details.” When you begin to overlook the small details they turn into big problems, and this goes for your stores as well. For example, every single one of you should be refreshing your stores every five years, 10 at the most. And we’re not talking complete remodels here; a paint job, new light bulbs, new ceiling tiles, new carpeting and new displays go a long way to improving your image.

Innovate. To survive you need to be at the forefront of industry trends. You need to be able to recognize what’s coming from a mile away, not as it’s passing you by as you stand there on the side of the road with a confused look on your face. I’m not saying to go crazy with wild ideas, but you do need to continually pay attention to the marketplace. And when the leadership of BrandSource tells you something is coming down the pike, be on the lookout for it because they are probably right.

Never Rest on Your Laurels. It’s easy to become complacent, and most of us are probably guilty of it from time to time. But in the world of retail, there is no room for complacency and there is no guarantee that the next customer will walk through your door. So, you need to work continuously to make your business as strong and viable as it can possibly be.

 See: The No. 1 Reason Stores Fail

You are all in the right place at the right time; over the past two years BrandSource dealers have grown share like never before. But just because you’re growing doesn’t mean you should stop looking in the rearview mirror. It’s like automotive icon Lee Iacocca said in an old Chrysler commercial: “In this business, you lead, follow or get out of the way.” 

So, my question to you is, which of those three choices will describe your company going forward?

AVB’s Rich Lindblom is a past principal of BrandSource member Advanced Maytag Home Appliance in greater Chicago. He now brings his 45-plus years of hard-won retail experience to fellow members through his YourSource News columns and as product manager of AVB Marketing’s SYNC point-of-sale system. You can reach Rich at

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