The Duncan Banner

Opinion

December 6, 2012

Business tips still good today

DUNCAN — Years ago, I met a unique man. His name was Charlie Mouser. I liked him immediately and he visited us in Duncan. You may remember.

He was knowledgeable about his field, a loud talker with that wiry evangelist’s haircut. He worked hard, was at times gruff and always opinionated, angering listeners on occasion without a care.

He was a marketing professional and a merchandizing expert who was paid large sums of money to, as he liked to say, “stir the dust.” He would survey your town, jot down observations about strengths and weaknesses, share statistics and a deep reservoir of data he gained from experience or a disciplined pre-computer era reading habit that began daily at 5 a.m.

He spent a week here.

My job was to introduce him to audiences that from time to time included retail owners, managers and decision makers, government leaders and civic club members, teachers and school officials, industrial leaders, doctors and lawyers, accountants and building contractors, gas station attendants and over-the-counter clerks, hospital officials and Realtors, housewives and preachers and anybody else who dared hear him deliver the gospel of Charlie.

He’d say, “I don’t care what you’re selling. If you’re open from 9 to 5, you’re catering to the unemployed.” Then he’d launch into reasons why businesses ought to open from 11 to 8 and stay open on Sunday afternoon because, hour for hour, it’s the best shopping day of the week.

He told a clothing store owner he ought to be selling suits instead of sleeves, explaining a potential buyer saw only a portion of the product he wanted because suits were compressed tightly on bars that exposed only the sleeves. “Would you buy a steak if you only saw the knife,” he would ask.

He’d walk into a store for the first time and amaze the owner by asking “has business been good since you remodeled your building … 20 years ago?” Then he’d talk about dated styles and designs and the need for fresh marketing based first on how goods and products are presented to the customers.

He’d tell a merchant his employees ought to be paying him for the privilege of working at his store instead of him paying them a salary. His rationale was intriguing.

“Look at your employees tomorrow morning when they come to work,” he would say. “They’re sluggish and lethargic. They have no energy and it’s all they can do to punch a time clock, open a desk, answer a phone or be nice to people.

“Then,” he continued, “look at them again about 4:30 p.m. or near quitting time. They’re clicking their heels. They’re singing and smiling. Their pace is nearly a sprint. They’re happy and eager and they can’t get out of there fast enough to do something exciting. I’m telling you, if they get that kind of energy from your place, if the transition from morning to afternoon is so great, they ought to pay for whatever it is you’re giving them.

Often, Mouser would close his example with an “Am I right?” to be followed by an almost cheering chorus of “amen” from his now clear-thinking listeners.

He could go on for hours.

He’d say selling isn’t easy; it takes work. He liked the analogy of your employees to a football or baseball team. Have you ever been to a game when the teams didn’t warm up before the game started? he’d ask. They stretch and loosen up. They practice throwing and catching. They practice batting and fielding. They work with their teammates. They get there early and they get ready for the game.

Then he’d add the zinger. Any of your employees do that before they start their workday? Or do they get there at “starting time,” then spend 30 minutes talking about everything but work?

Mouser would push the “customer is always right” philosophy, suggesting there ought to be a citywide commitment that centers on proper merchandising, courtesy, salesmanship and service.

And he’d constantly spin off tips like overcoming poor telephone manners will save time and boost sales; ask sales-oriented questions like “Are you looking for a shirt for yourself or a friend?” instead of “May I help you?” or insist you provide quick credit and easy product exchanges even when the item wasn’t purchased in your store.

Years later, I can still see him shaking his fist or sprinting from one side of the room to another to drive home a point. And the messages, strong and to the point then, are no less so today.

Say “amen” if any of what he said is true in your business. Then, make something positive happen.

edarling@duncanbanner.com; 580-255-5354, Ext. 130

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