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May 19, 2008

Heard Stew Leonard, Jr. Speak

I live 2 miles from the World’s Largest Dairy Store (according to Ripley’s Believe It or Not)–Stew Leonard’s. I had the privilege of hearing Stew, Jr. address my Entrepreneurial Woman’s Network (EWN) meeting on April 24.

Totally inspiring.

His message was: how do you grow like a chain business and maintain the agility of a mom & pop operation? For example, he bemoaned the fact that as members of our network came up to him with great products for his store, he was unable to immediately run with their idea as he may have in the past. Now the store has systems in place that reduce that mom-and-pop style spontaneity.

Another message for all of us small business owners is that we must constantly be educating and communicating with our customers. He said that Stew’s has THOUSANDS (!) of demonstrations in the store every year. If they want to sell a particular breed of tomato, they have to let their customers know why it’s great. They have signage, demos and taste tests constantly educating everyone who passes by.

Most entrepreneurs I know feel uncomfortable with the constant promotion necessary to be seen and heard above the noise. One email blast, direct mail piece or ad in the local paper is not enough. That’s where his advice to ‘get really excited about your customers’ comes into play. Take the focus off of your own discomfort. You’re serving a community. Don’t be shy!

As Stew, Jr. said: “Everyone has problems.” He urged us all to focus on the solutions instead. Great speaker with usable content and authentic style.

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