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The secret to delivering hot concepts


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Gene Baldwin is a partner
in CRG Partners Group, LLC,
a national turnaround consultancy that brings new life to distressed companies through operational and financial restructuring.

Gene can be reached at 316-371-2908 or at gene.baldwin@crgpartners.com

Everyone wants to own the hottest retail concept. If you are in the restaurant business, you want to own either Panera Bread or Texas Roadhouse. The “latest and greatest” is the place to be. Growth and expansion are a snap because investors, lenders and landlords seek you out to do business with them.

So I’m going to give you the secret for getting rich with your own hot concept. No, I am not going to recommend the recent best seller by Rhonda Byrne,“The Secret.” If you want to find out that “secret,” you’ll just have to buy her book. I found my secret for creating a hot concept at these three places: Williams Hardware, Barn’rds and a street vendor at 53nd and 6th in New York City.

It seems that Williams Hardware has every tool and building supply in the world. It is unbelievable. This small, family-owned hardware store has been a “fixture” for as long as I can remember. It has withstood a withering attack from retail “category busters” Lowe’s and Home Depot. When you go into Williams, a friendly and knowledgeable associate greets you, listens attentively to your request and walks with you to the area of the store where your item is located. The store is clean, the inventory is expansive (even for a relatively small footprint) and the sales people are bright and well informed.

Barn’rds is a family-owned restaurant in a building shaped like a barn. It has been owned and operated by the Hertel family for about 20 years. Their specialty is a great roast beef sandwich. Every item on the menu is fresh and made-to-order. Barn’rds has a drive-thru, so it fits in the fast-food category. I had lunch there a couple of weeks ago for the first time in a while. It was just as I remembered: Mom took my order and ran the cash register. Dad was in the dining room busing tables and greeting guests. Sons and daughters of the Hertel family (including the spouses) were behind the counter filling orders. The roast beef sandwich was as good as I remembered and the dining room was full and there was a line at the drive-thru window. Word-of-mouth advertising is their best marketing strategy. The restaurant was clean, the landscaping outside was alive and there were no trash or potholes in the parking lot.

I was in New York on business last week. When we went into our meeting that morning, my partner called my attention to the street vendor down the block. He said that both he and his attorney friend get something to eat from that street vendor every time they are in New York. I knew something special must be going on because there was a long line down the sidewalk. People were waiting in line to buy lunch from this vendor. When we left our meeting that evening, we walked to a local restaurant to have dinner. There was still a line at the street vendor. We finished our meal after 10:30 p.m., and there was still a line stretching down the block. This time I had to walk by and see what he was serving. The sign out front touted their chicken gyros. We left town the next morning and I never got to try those chicken gyros. I am sure I missed a good meal.

It is pretty obvious these three retail businesses found the “secret” to success. By now, I bet you can guess what the key ingredients to success are, and you do not need to buy a book or pay a well-known speaker to tell you what they are. In fact, I am going to tell you for free.

None of these businesses are a “hot” concept as we would traditionally describe it. Hardware, roast beef sandwiches and chicken gyros are not the latest fad. What these three businesses have in common is that they have consistently delivered high-quality products at a fair value to their customers for an extended period of time. The high-quality products at a fair price are the easy part in today’s world. The hard part is consistent delivery of those products and services over a long period of time. When you and your team succeed at being consistently good, you will build repeat customers. These loyal patrons are retained by giving them the same great products and services every time they shop with you.

Baseball provides a good example here. They never elect anyone to the Baseball Hall of Fame for having one or two great years. Each new member must demonstrate outstanding performance over a period of time. Get started with consistently delivering high quality over a long period of time and you will have developed your own “hot concept.

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