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How Smart Businesses Use Little Green Army Men

armyguys.gifThe hardest thing that some businesses do (or don’t do) are the easy things. Sometimes that even plagues me (part of that need-an-assistant thing that I’m still struggling with).

The easy things are those things that don’t require much money, much effort, or much time – but make a substantial difference to your clientèle because they show you care, and they indicate that you are actually paying attention.

It reminds me of the classic book Broken Windows, Broken Business: How the Smallest Remedies Reap the Biggest Rewards and its story of doing the easy things (like cleaning up graffiti and fixing broken window panes) that showed that a community cared, eventually impacting crime of all kinds in that community.

For you and I, it’s often even easier, simpler and cheaper than that.

Sit down and make a list of the little things you could do that would make a difference in the experience your clients have when they do business with you. Think about every interaction between you/your staff and your clients. Create reasons to let them know that they are important to you. Easy stuff.

Thank you cards. Birthday cards (knowing the month is enough). Anniversary cards. Empty a trash can. Dust off your shoes before entering a client’s home (or better, use those little shoe covers like hospitals do). Pickup up the parking lot. Put salt down in the winter so people who struggle with ice or have balance problems can come into your store safely.

Simple stuff that often goes forgotten. Sometimes it is as easy as driving a mile down the road for 2 minutes.

As an example, I recently slid by the local, poorly managed fast food place and noticed this sign on the order microphone box:


Running out of toys is not a Federal offense (at least not yet), but feeling the need to put up a sign like this is kind of dumb.

It’s also a waste of money, given that school is out (it was at the time) and all that franchise marketing money you send to Big Burger Corp is going to waste – because they are using it to drive kids and moms to your store.

What’s more wasteful is not doing the easy thing to fix this: Less than one mile from this restaurant there is a Dollar Store. Inside that Dollar Store is a $3.99 bag of 40 zillion little green army men. Somewhere else in that store is a similar very inexpensive bag of toys appropriate for a girl. Easy.

If you’re really creative, maybe you offer the kiddie a coupon (ever hear of a rain check?) to come back for the “real” toy at another time along with the 3 army guys you give them (ie: to get them back into your store). Who knows, but the solution to this is EASY if you put just a little thought into the solution.

So maybe you spend $10 to avoid losing $100 worth of Kids Meal sales, not to mention annoying the moms (DONT ANNOY THEM MOMS!), disappointing the kids, etc. Maybe you send the bill to corporate if it was their fault you don’t have toys – if nothing else, just to bring it to their attention that you solved the problem (something they might advise other stores about). Maybe you could get on the phone with Oriental Trading and order a $25 box of stuff to hand out so that the next time it happens, you are better prepared.

Yes, I know the attorneys reading this are sharpening their pencils regarding consumer product safety commissions, lead testing of little green army men made in China, corporate compliance and who knows what else. A little common sense at the Dollar Store (and at the window) goes a long way. Ask permission to substitute if you feel especially paranoid.

Don’t forget to do the easy things.

PS: If you are going to take a job in restaurant management, wouldn’t it be good to know how to spell the word “management”? Maybe it’s just me.