“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu – The Art of War
MY PLAN may not be as good as your plan. But at the least, it IS a plan. A plan established after four decades of working in the convenience store industry. And I have to tell you, I see enormous opportunities and fortunes to be made in the convenience store business, but only for those of you that have A Plan.
To say most businesses failed because they ran out of cash is like saying, “The airplane crashed, because something went wrong.” The real reason most businesses crash, is because, get this… ‘their luck ran out.’ They were running on luck since the day they started, and this will become apparent in the tumultuous years ahead.
Things that could change your luck:
The Demise of the Internal Combustion Engine
The Demand for Higher Minimum Wage
Online Sales and…
the internet in General
Yes, I said “the internet in General,” because honestly, we just don’t know what we don’t know. Do you know that we’ve had real time, item-level inventory control for over 14 years? Probably not. But that’s not unusual. We come into this world with the innate ability to learn about our environment much too late to gain an unfair competitive advantage. Too much of our knowledge comes to us as a result of mistakes.
Does your company have a ‘Technology Impact Analysis’ division working night and day to identify potential threats and unfair competitive opportunities? Of course not. You’re probably too small. You probably get most of your news from your employees, coworkers and peers. Or you go to one of those trade shows where the hyperbole reigns supreme.
“Howzit going Ralph?
Killing ‘em, Fred. Howzabout you?”
For the next few seconds, I want you to think about your plan. I’ll wait……….
Bob Harris, one of my favorite Texas oil marketers and convenience store operators cracked me up back in the 80’s (shortly after Texas got into the lottery business), when I asked him: “Bob, what are you going to do when you hit that lottery for a few millions bucks,” and he replied, “Well, I guess I can stay in the oil business a little while longer.”
That may be a bridge just a little bit too far when it comes to an analogy of not having a plan, but it drives home a point. Bob’s assumption was that the odds of winning the lottery were about 1:6 Million, so naturally he had not contingency plan for something like that, but it demonstrates how our minds work in the decision making process.
Each of us have a collection of assumptions that guide us in our daily decisions, and if they are not revisited regularly, we can easily be making thousands of small mistakes every day that are silently leading us down a path of destruction and we may not even be aware of it.
Seriously. What are your plans when something you’re not prepared for threatens to drive you out of existence? And it might—much sooner than you think. I don’t believe there is one individual listening to me now that will be able to make it through the storm of obstacles headed in our direction without some serious help.
Oh sure, you graduated from that college that everybody wanted to get into. You were voted most likely to succeed. I’ll bet you married the most beautiful girl too, and all your kids are Einsteins. You lucked out and got the money you needed to get started. Or maybe you won it at blackjack table in Vegas like Fred Smith did when he started Federal Express. You stumbled onto a field that was set to explode with or without you. You may have simply been in the right place at the right time; but, take it from someone who’s been there. What you have accomplished in your past, means nothing unless you have a plan for tomorrow.
Tell me, what are your plans when you are the only convenience store in your city that’s still pumping gas?
Next month, I’ll get on a plane to visit my wife’s family in Eastern Europe. I’ll board the plane, sit somewhere in tourists, play with my computers, take some naps, and arrive in Vienna early the next morning. That’s not what my pilot will be doing I hope. I expect him to be working like the dickens to be sure himself and everybody in the back of the plane gets to the same place at the same time.
In business, you are the pilot. You are the guy or the gal with ‘The Plan.’ Sink or swim they all look up to you. The pressure is intense. And your plan to stay in business is much more complicated than what my pilot will go through, because his job is over when he pulls up to the gate and his sleepy passengers file out to go through customs.
In business, your journey never ends. You know, you don’t actually die until your cell phone stops ringing and they delete your email account.
Just assuming you have a plan, did you have help in drawing it up? Is it based on assumptions that have not been revisited in decades? An adequate plan must be written down in precise detail, a living document that can be adjusted on an almost daily basis? Who does that? I didn’t do it, and look at me. Now I get the job of telling everyone what I should have done. You need to share your plan with your management team and employees… and yes, in some cases, even with your competitors. Yes I said ‘with your competitors!’ It’s all part of “The Plan.”
I wrote about my plan in a book, “Retail Is Detail.” But that was published in 2010. A lot has changed over the past 2,555 days. Heck enough has changed during the last 2,555 minutes to put me in the corner wearing a ‘dunce’ cap.
My plan goes back 50 years ,when in Shreveport, La, I was sitting with an executive vice president of the Southland Corp. and going over his advertising budget for his local Pak-A-Sak stores regarding the commercials that were being run on my radio show. He shared with me his one wish. One that according to him, would double the profits in his stores. I began to think, ‘If one thing could have so much impact, how about two things, five things or a dozen things?’
For the past 40 years, as I worked in the oil marketing and convenience store industries, my plan gradually began to take shape. It started with a list of assumptions gathered from my experiences in working with 360 unique convenience store companies throughout the U.S. Mainland, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
In 1990, I became obsessed with relational databases, distributed database management, and computer assisted software engineering. But you don’t want to hear all about that, other than all that stuff I studied has had a huge impact on where we are today. I spoke about this at seminars and educational facilities in IBM offices all across the country, and they went ahead and did what they wanted to anyway.
Seventeen years ago (according to IBM), I launched the world’s first, Cloud Computing, ERP solution for retailers. (Only it wasn’t called Cloud Computing back then. It was called “Application Service Provider (ASP)” and later “SaaS”. One by one, my customers traded their local computers in for a link to the StoreReport Data Center as everything was moved to the Internet. Three years later (in 2003), I added their POS systems to our network, and we have been processing their sales in real-time now for 14 years. We can watch their sales on the internet as they occur, and have immediate access to the disposition of every pack of cigarettes, bar of candy, and can of bug spray in their stores.
Along the way, the plan became clearer and more focused. We reveled in the parts that worked, pondered over those that didn’t work, and came up with ways to make them function properly. But no matter the twist and turns it took to get here, the destination was always be to put every convenience store in America, their suppliers and their auditors on one centralized computer system that will give our customers an advantage over retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Target.
And by the way, it’s imperative that all this be absolutely free with the system paying for itself through the increase in the profits it generates. How do we propose to do that? Well one things for sure. We will not be able to do it without a plan.
As we move forward, we are continuously looking for partners who will join us in making our goal successful. If you have an interest in my project, especially if you are a supplier, drop me an email at [email protected] and we can start a dialogue. If you are a like-minded individual, I would like to hear from you. Maybe we can uncover some earth-shattering ideas.