Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Man Who Said No To Wal-Mart

I really enjoyed reading this article in Fast Company about a company president that chose quality and integrity over the Wal-Martizing of our society.

We share his view - there is a better way to run a business than enter the race to the bottom. And Relentless Improvement's race is a marathon, not a sprint.

There has never been a better time for business, especially a small business like ours, to leverage technology. Today 3 or 4 people can do what it took 20 people to do just 10 years ago. Our global marketplace has provided tremendous opportunity to source regional talents. Outsourcing (1099's) allows business to hire as needed for the task at hand without continuing payroll expense.

But to cut price, quality, integrity, growth and innovation is a path to business oblivion.

Cutting-edge, innovative suppliers must invest in research and development, modern equipment, testing and facilities. Without a profit, those things go away, and we wind up in the state our supplement market is in now - 95% of businesses trying to sell the same old shit ... just for a lower price.

(it is actually worse as testing routinely shows, what you are buying sometimes doesn't even contain the active ingredient you think it does! California went so far as to pass Prop 65 into law regulating toxin and heavy metal content of products because contamination was (is) such a problem.)

If you are a retail business, and I know some business owners read me, what one innovative thing have you done in the past month? Past 6 months? What have you done to differentiate yourself from the same old crap in the marketplace? What are you doing to add value to your customer's purchase experience? If all you know how to do is cut your profits, just shut your doors now. You are already dead. Seek out innovative suppliers, offer them value in your distribution and enjoy whatever niche you develop.

If you are a manufacturer, do yourself a huge favor, align yourself with smart, value-adding distributing retailers. Be choosy, and your product will be rewarded with professional and enthusiastic representation. The thinner you slice the pie for your distributors, the more you commoditise your products and the less value they can afford to build in. You lose, they lose.

If you are a customer, go where you find the best value. There is a happy medium between quality, purity, service, shipping, selection, the safety of your personal data, price, purchase experience and content. Real businesses have real expenses, if the price seems too good to be true, trust me that you are sacrificing quality and safety.

Not all of us want a world of Wal-Marts.

No more business philosophy rants for a while, I promise...