Making over the Makeover

“Makeover: Scoot Richmond – No Free Rides” by Phaedra Hise (Fortune Small Business, November 2009). As you’ve followed this blog you’ve probably come to realize that FSB’s Makeover feature is very often an engaging read. The review of this Richmond, Virginia’s scooter business is worth a go.

For what it’s worth, here are the AU caveats as emailed to Ms. Chelsea Lahmers, Scoot Richmond’s owner.

Hello Chelsea,

I just finished reading/skimming the article in FSB on Scoot Richmond. Kudos to you for stepping forward and looking for new ideas. In my previous life, I too was the owner of a retail business. I certainly understand how difficult it can be to juggle the day to day details and try to be open minded and forward thinking at the same time.

I have some thoughts as based on that article. Unfortunately, I’m running late for a meeting with a client so please accept this “rapid fire” style. I’m not trying to be blunt. I’m not trying to be critic. I’m just once again a bit pressed for time. Please forgive me.

I will preface my input with one presumption – I realize the article is not everything that was discussed, etc. The article is however all I am able to go on. Please accept my thoughts knowing the limitation of my perspective.

— Rather than waste your time going to the police station, contact your bank or whoever does your credit card processing and ask them what they offer in terms of check protection. For example, as I understand it, Heartland Payment Systems offers a (hardware/software) solution that mitigates the risk of bad checks. It might even eliminate it.

— Maybe he was misquoted but Mr. Wilson’s suggestion to “interview each candidate several times…” was (for me) almost comical. Yes, I agree with “prevention” but will you be getting the best candidates, or just the ones willing to jump over your hurdles. Moi? I like the birds of a feather rule. That is, ask your current (or former) employees and then from there ask your customers. Also be attentive of when you shop elsewhere, maybe you can steal someone else’s good employee?

— Speaking of asking your customers, it always amazes me how many of these FSB Makeover articles never recommend speaking with the customer. Maybe that’s stating the obvious but maybe it’s not? When someone buys a new scooter, do they get a follow up phone call? What about a new service cusotmer? Do you have a suggestion box? Maybe “Suggestion of the Month” get a free oil change? This is the Web 2.0 age and whether online or off people have thoughts and they want to share them. Try to live up to that expectation/reality. Yes, I know it’s easier said than done but try we must.

— Speaking of web sites, IMHO, you might want to consider a make over. I would have never guessed you were doing $1.1m by the look of your site. I like the idea but it’s not “tight”. If you’re interested in discussing such a project just let us know. We’d like to submit a proposal.

— The best way for me to describe my reaction to Ms. Angstadt’s recommendation is, “Be careful what you wish for.” If the incentive is to do something quicker then trust me, it will get done quicker. But is that really what you want? More importantly. is that what the customer wants? Will quicker still mean 100% right? That said,  what is the cost of that (say) 5% error? If you’re going to offer incentives then be 250% positive they are (what we call) guest-centric. If they’re not, then expect the worse. Try the Harvard Business Review site web for insights on incentives. The ones recommended seem counter productive.

— Also, I would not recommend looking at your books in that way *too closely*. Do you need to watch the numbers? Of course you do. In the current climate we all do. But being the size that you are then I would favor a more holistic approach. For example, if using an oil change as a loss leader inspires more sales of scooters then is that a bad thing? Much like Mr. Wilson, Ms. Angstadt’s “the store should sell the oil to the repair shop…”, seems a bit out of touch. In theory, the idea is cute but it’s not going to happen – especially if a customer is waiting. Especially if the incenttive is to get it done faster. Such a transaction is just not practical on a day to day basis, is it? Maybe checking inventory and shifting whole cases might make sense but even that probably isn’t worth the time.

— If you going to watch the numbers then do some research and try to benchmark against your industry and/or your peers. If you’re strictly focused on your own numbers you might end up “grabbing the balloon”. That is, squeeze one end and it pops out elsewhere. In other words, drive up margins and profit can in fact drop. Small biz is about cash flow, service and long term repeat relationships. Margins will take care of themselves if you’re making people happy.

Not to worry, I’m almost done…

— I agree, VCU students sound like a great market for customers and possibly part-time employees. But did Ms. Cantrell really say “target them with a flyer”? Don’t get me wrong. I will be the first to say that print is not dead. But is that really the best medium for Gen ______ ? (Sorry, I don’t know the current buzz phrase of the current college generation.)

— Also,  “Buying ads in a newletters…” also sounds not very 2010. I have a couple of clients who spend quite a bit of money on print ads and unless you’re targeting the (age) 50 & up crowd, I strongly suggest you rethink that strategy. In fact, you might have the option to position the scooter as being “green” – and not being in print ads might be a statement in and of itself, eh? Hand out some t-shirts, etc. But unless more than a couple customers recommend a print publication thentry to avoid them. Naturally, as I’m sure you already know, avoid one-off ads at all costs. Lighting flashes very rarely produce cost justifiable results.

— The donate / non-profit idea is great! Never a bad thing!! Supporting them is also probably the one exception to the No One-offs rule.

— Finally, with regards to the guy you sent home late. (1) Unless he was specifically told that late = home with no pay then that was a pretty big no-no. (2) If that was his first time, then it was an even bigger no no. “Punishment” like that might come back to bite you in the butt. Do I think there needs to be expecations? Yes, I agree with you there. But much like incentives, be careful what you wish for. You’re Scoot Richmond, not Ford Motor Company. Think “team”. Not “I’m going to get you”.

Hope I helped. Please let me know if you have any questions, etc.

Good luck,
Mark Simchock
Chief Alchemist
Alchemy United
Princeton, NJ

Alright then, anyone else have any thoughts on this article, Scoot Richmond or even the AU feedback? Please take a moment and share it.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>