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Abe Sherman: Boiling a Frog

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Don’t wait to reinvent your store, says Abe Sherman. It may be too late.It’s said that if you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water it will jump right back out. But if you place the same frog in a pot of cool water it will stay in the pot and go for a swim. Should the heat be turned up, the frog will enjoy the warm water and it will continue to stay in the pot ? even as the water gets hotter and hotter. And even until it boils, finally cooking the poor frog.  
 
I was explaining the frog-in-hot-water story to the heir-apparent of a third generation jeweler some weeks back. We were discussing the need to change. While the owners realized that sales stopped growing several years ago, they saw no need for radical change. The only changes that they were comfortable with were safe, incremental changes ? adopting a ?do a little and see what happens? philosophy. 
 
Change, for all intents and purposes, stopped in this store about 30 years ago. The systems are the same. The displays are the same. The suppliers are still the same. One thing that hasn’t stopped changing, however, is the town. Their town was in serious decline for about 20 years and is just now beginning to revitalize itself. The major jewelry retailers in the mall a block away are brand new. The large department store has a multi-million dollar jewelry department. The one strong independent in town is expanding their branded jewelry and watch lines. The other jewelers are dividing the rest of the pie.  
 
I recommended that this newly invigorated third generation jeweler quit. Resign. Leave. But come back Monday morning as the newly hired CEO of his company. As a business major in college he knew how to write a business plan ? although never did one for his own business. So his first assignment as a new CEO was to write a business plan, examine his marketplace, his competition, demographics, location (and alternatives), merchandise, price-points, opportunities and problems. Everything. 
 
How often you make changes depends on your marketplace and competition. But not taking a hard look at your business on a regular basis is akin to taking a long hot bath? in a pot of water that will inevitably boil. 

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