7 business takeaways from the Sears demise

In every great game, the win is determined by what you bring to the playing field. The world of business is no different. As a long-time business owner, I saw things Sears could have done early on to save the company. Here’s what they are:

Keep up with the times: When the internet started becoming a big thing in 1994, I knew that if my company was to keep up, I’d have to learn how to use it, and quickly. As the owner of Wesley Berry Flowers, I changed my strategy to provide a way for my customers to order online. By 1995 we had a presence and were way ahead of our competitors who were not yet on the internet. To survive, Sears and the other big box stores need to take an aggressive direction into ecommerce.

Embrace the world market: Because of the internet, and the ease and fluidity of worldwide multinational commerce, our competition is not simply just within our own country anymore. If you want your business to prosper, you must do retail internationally. That new playing field allowed us, as Florist Delivery Express, to compete in a worldwide market, racking up sales from coast to coast and around the globe with millions of customers in over 150 countries. In my book, Big Things Have Small Beginnings, I detail how I did this.

Think creatively: When I started out, I didn’t have money for advertising. So, I bartered with radio stations, offering flower donations for their events in exchange for free airtime. I made many new business connections and with the on-air radio advertising, my revenue greatly increased. Keep looking for new strategies. The great game is not just a single roll of the dice.

Find the right people — and appreciate them: Make sure your team includes people who aren’t afraid to take chances. I look for employees who will think on their own and act to the company’s benefit, even it means doing something differently than we did before. I try to be open to their ideas and encourage them to experiment. My ideas aren’t the only important ones in the company, and I make sure they know this.

Optimize productivity: What makes your work more efficient? For me it was going electronic with my calendar, lists, and contacts so the information would always be at my fingertips. I also studied successful leaders to figure out how they had succeeded. Then I worked hard. Success is often owed more to a sore thumb than a pretty one.

Map your destination: Write down your business plan and know where you want to be in six months, one year, and a decade from now. Nothing in business gets done without a due date.

Finally, remember that big things have small beginnings. Sears is really a victim of its own success. It was so successful it couldn’t change course in time. Maybe Sears didn’t need to make a $20 million change a decade ago. Maybe instead, it could have started small, tweaking its sales tactics, entered the e-commerce world in small chunks, and searched for a few employees who would come in with innovative ideas. Get those “small beginnings” done — on time — and you can be assured of reaching the big things. That has been my business philosophy and it has worked well for me, taking my company from $60,000 per year to a $60 million business.

I truly hope that Sears and the other big box stores can save themselves. They are iconic and a staple of what made America great. Maybe they’ll make some New Year’s resolutions to embrace change and role with the times. In business, you have to keep your eye on the ball or you are going to be out of the game.

Wes Berry is a business consultant and event speaker, and the author of Big Things Have Small Beginnings and host of The People’s Voice, a weekly radio talk show.

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