Guest Column | October 24, 2016

Preparing To Dominate

Preparing To Dominate

RSPA President and CEO opens annual event with a challenge to attendees to disrupt, then deliver

On Monday, August 1, RSPA’s Kelly Funk burst onto the main stage to open the association’s annual educational and tradeshow event. Her opening address comprised a call for action, not just for the days of the event, but for the industry itself. An excerpt of her address follows.

Welcome to Dallas and RetailNOW 2016! Are you prepared to connect? Are you ready to embrace the future? It’s a tall order, I realize. A lot to ask when you’ve just taken your seat.

You’ll have many words thrown at you over the next few days — you’ll see and hear words like “change” and “trusted” and “innovate.” Great words. It’s one thing to think about, or even say, you’re ready to embrace the future, that you’re ready for change, that you’re innovative. But it’s another thing entirely to do it. To take it back to your business and make it happen.

Take the word innovate for example. Our industry has heard the word innovate so much over the last few years it has almost lost its meaning. At a time when ingenuity, thinking differently, and being open to new ways of solving problems is more important than ever, the very word that encapsulates all of that feels overused and trite. So instead of talking with you this morning about innovation or change, I’d like to talk about a new word. Disruption.

Disruption … now that sounds intimidating. It sounds powerful. And it is both. It can be something that happens to you, that disturbs you, that interrupts you. Or you can be the one who causes it. Be the one who takes a situation and shifts it.

Our industry has been doing this for years. Many of you have experienced it firsthand. Yet no matter what industry you study, disruption is not new and it’s also not going away. While I would encourage you not to leave what you are doing — you all are so bright and fun and our society needs you to continue supporting the world of commerce the way you do — I will encourage, actually strongly suggest, that you challenge yourself. We need to all push ourselves to adopt some of the habits and practices of those who have disrupted their marketplace like Hallmark, HSN, and Hilton have. I’m not suggesting we completely blow up the way we do business, but I am challenging each and every one of us to think about what we can do better.

And how we can do it better.

I have four suggestions to help us on this journey:

  • Look inward. Self-reflection is hard — it’s much easier to see what others are doing right or wrong, but to truly evaluate yourself — it’s much more difficult.
  • Asking the right questions. There is power in the word: why. Take a look at the fundamentals. Is there a purpose behind this practice, or are we doing it the way it’s always been done? Sometimes, this happens by accident when you bring a new person on to your team. Their unique experience and perspective is an advantage for you in a way that’s not obvious. Sure, they will help you enhance how you deliver service, or operate. But they can also help you look at your current processes differently because they often ask, “why.”
  • Identify the pain points for your customer. Do you understand what their everyday struggles might be? Seek the opportunity to help them solve what keeps them up at night. This can be implementing a new product or solution, or maybe it’s saving them money through pricing, but it can be so much more. Would they benefit from your insight on how to provide custom experiences for their end users? Whether you are a hotel chain, sell can openers, or are a POS VAR, we can all benefit from this mindset. Help solve our customers’ needs and, in developing solutions, remember the most important last part of this, which is:
  • Follow through. Deliver. Without delivery, disruption means nothing; it’s completely worthless. If you can’t/won’t/don’t deliver — it’s meaningless. Larry Bossidy, one of GE’s top executives and the right hand to Jack Welch for many years, wrote a book called Execution. He shares execution is “the missing link between aspirations and results.” Follow through — do the work, make it happen.

RSPA’s roots are over 67 years old. This organization began as a revolution to allow a small group of cash register dealers to stand up to the big guys who dominated a market and who wanted things to stay that way. Had guys like Stanley Hayman or Lou Rosenstock or Matty Berger been satisfied with the status quo and not seen the opportunity in challenging how cash registers could be sold, we may not be sitting here today. Their disruption changed everything about the industry. Through the last six decades there has been much more disruption and change, some happening to the organization and sometimes the organization driving the change. That continues today as we continue to move forward, to evolve, innovate, deliver.

Disrupt and deliver. You come from a great tradition. The same old words are too limited for you and your business. You already know how to change to stay relevant. You are already trusted resources. You have had to be innovative to stay relevant to your customers. So, use your time here to discover the opportunities for disruption. Seek out the partners you need to help you deliver to your customers.

Get ready to dominate your future!