Many people know Build-a-Bear Workshop and have experienced this unique from of retailing. But many people don’t know Maxine Clark, the woman who left a lucrative corporate job to create Build-a-Bear Workshop. Business Week offers a brief interview with Maxine about her burgeoning empire, which started out as a one-unit retail establishment just like yours.
While the article is a basic overview of her thoughts and is in general a fluff piece, there’s a few key takeaways that every retailer can be inspired by and aspire to.
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY
Maxine spoke of four key “tenets” to consider.
1. “Be passionate about it.” Passion makes the world go round. So many people are in a specific job because it’s a job and nothing more. But there are a few who followed their passion, no matter what the cost to create or find their dream job. What gets you excited to wake up in the morning? It’s passion. Passion gets you where you want to go and makes it seem effortless. Are you passionate about your retailing concept? If so, then you’re ahead of the game. If not, then your employees, your customers and everyone else can sense that. You went into retailing for a reason – reignite your passion.
2. “Listen to what others have to say, but being careful about the advice you actually take.” Everybody’s an expert (or so they think). And many of us take that advice and too often allow it to influence our own thoughts. Before you know it, you’re creating a flavor of the month program simply because you solicited another opinion. So take warning when soliciting advice. Just because someone has a position on a topic doesn’t mean it’s right. Go back to the point about passion above. People who are passionate already know the answers to their questions because the passion drives it. Trust your instincts (it’s that gut-level feeling that never steers you wrong).
3. “Encourage people to take risks and to make the most of the mistakes that do occur.” I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve worked with where making mistakes are a no-no. It’s not that employees get yelled at for making mistakes but it’s more often a disappointed owner or president that makes the employee feel bad. Foster an environment where making mistakes is okay. As long as you’re falling forward and not backward, everything will be fine. Making mistakes goes hand in hand with risk taking — it’s how we learn and grow. Get out of your comfort zone, stretch a little and don’t be afraid to fail.
4. “Dream – and dream big”. Where do you want your business to be in a year, in five years, in 10 years? Those who are content to hum along and keep going the way you’re going will remain at the same levels. Those who dream, think forward and stretch will reach higher and higher goals. Everybody dreams. We’ve all dreamed of winning the lottery, but that’s pure chance. Dream about how big your business can become. But do more then dream. Set a plan for how you’re going to get there. If you want to go from $500,000 in sales to $1,000,000 in sales in two years, the only way to get there is by having a plan.