Last week I had dinner with a friend of mine. He was telling me about a problem that he was having at work. Not really a “problem” per se, more like an issue that had come up that he was wondering how he was going to resolve it. Even then it was really only an issue to him, and nobody else. He was a part time worker at an independent bookstore, and had been for several months. He reported directly to the owner of the bookstore, as it was a small store, and only had a few employees. It wasn’t like one of those huge chains that have about eighteen levels of middle management, with each manager only concerned with pleasing the person above them. Since this was her first store, my friends’ boss, the owner, was acutely aware of the day-to-day operations. It’s a tough gig these days to open up and run your own shop, as I’m sure you know.
The problem my friend was having was with an issue that had come up with stocking the shelves. He used to be an assistant manager at a grocery store, and was well aware of the strategies employed by large supermarkets to trick you into buying way more stuff that you’d originally intended. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of going to the supermarket to pick out one or two items, and then ending up with a basket of stuff that disqualified you from the nine items or less line. I donâ€™t even want to start on what happens when you go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.
But my friend was worried about talking to her. He didn’t want to approach her, because she had spent a lot more time in a book-selling environment than she did. But he was sure that if he applied his expertise learned from the supermarket, he could easily increase her sales, her profit, and likely her happiness. All it required was arranging the books that would allow people the opportunity to browse through more of the store, then just grabbing the recent best seller and then making a beeline for the register. Her store had many treasures that people would love to find, if only they had the opportunity. My friend was absolutely certain of this.
It’s interesting when you think about it. Somebody from a grocery store applying marketing techniques to a bookstore. People buy food and buy books for completely different reasons. You’d never think that a strategy in one environment would translate well into another environment. Some people have the mistaken belief that if you learn a skill in one area, that it can’t apply to many other areas of your life. Others have realized that you can take something that works, and apply it in other places. One of the great things about being human is your inherent ability to find all kinds of resources that you already have and apply them in other areas of your life.
Which is finally what my friend did. He finally got up the courage to go and talk to her, and express his desires and convince her to let him help her. Because he was able to speak with confidence, and that he had her best interests in mind, she was able to accept his ideas. When I spoke with him last night, he said that they had spent the last two days rearranging the bookstore per his experience. And they were both much happier for it. He for being able to express himself and his ideas, and she for being able to discover a new way to increase her business.