The Dead Pixels Society podcast

Building a sustainable specialty retail business, with Peter Mohr

December 07, 2022 Gary Pageau/Peter Mohr Season 3 Episode 94
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
Building a sustainable specialty retail business, with Peter Mohr
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Show Notes Transcript

Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Peter Mohr, business coach and entrepreneur. Mohr helps entrepreneurs transform their frustrations into freedoms by using a variety of frameworks that help them cut through the chaos and overwhelm of running a business. With more than 27 years as a business owner, he's refined many of his tips, tools, and techniques in the trenches within his own businesses. In this interview, Mohr discusses the reality of specialty retailing, using his own experience operating two Shoetopia retail stores in Ontario, Canada.

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Hosted and produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning

Erin Manning  0:02  
Welcome to the Dead Pixels Society Podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau. The Dead Pixels Society Podcast is brought to you by Media Clip, Advertech Printing, and School Photographers of America. 

Gary Pageau  0:19  
Hello again and welcome to the Dead Pixels Society Podcast. I'm your host. Today we're joined by Pete Mohr, and author, coach, and the host of the simplifying entrepreneurship podcast. Pete is coming to us from Toronto, Canada today. Hi, Pete, how are you today? 

Peter Mohr  0:36  
Hey, man, thanks so much for having me, Gary. And looking forward to our conversation with all of your photography, industry, and all that sort of stuff. Love, love the love your audience here today. So really interested to get into and dig into some cool stuff all around that you've got some real world retail experience gain tone, talk a little bit about your story. You've been a, you know, you're currently on some retail stores, not photography, but still you're a retailer and you've got some background in that. Can you kind of paint the canvas for us, if you will? Sure. Sure. I mean, most of the time I spend coaching other entrepreneurs, that's what that's what I do, probably three and a half days a week, but the other day and a half, or there abouts, depending on the week. Of course, as we all know, as business owners, we own a couple of shoe stores here in Canada. And so I'm a retailer, and we have two shoe stores called shoetopia at And you know, from from that side of things, you know, a lot of the stuff that I coach do is around freeing yourself up from law, I'll call it from managing your business everyday to owning your business. And so I basically live that it's I find it hard to coach something that I don't do myself. So from that side of things, it's this idea that I'm the owner of shoe topia, I'm not necessarily the manager of it. And you know, I have management in place, I have structures, I have different things in place that allow me to do have this conversation with you today, Carrie and everybody else that's listening. I couldn't do that if I had to open because we're recording at 926 in the morning. And I couldn't do that if I had to open my door this morning at 10 o'clock to let our customers in. 

Gary Pageau  2:21  
So did you always want to own your own business? Or is this something that you've grown to want to do as you saw how other people run their businesses? Yeah, it's something I've always done, Gary,

Peter Mohr  2:36  
I started my first I'll call it real business in 1994. And here we are in 2022. So 20 years later, I and even before that I had other little businesses, you know, going through university grass cutting businesses, where I'm trucking around town with my lawn mowers and whippersnappers and all that sort of stuff. And making crafts. My mom, my mom started me out making crafts when I was 1213 years old and peddling them to the local craft stores. So I've always had an entrepreneurial nature, I've only really ever worked for myself for someone else on a full time basis for about six months. And then I'm like, No, I do have to be my own boss. And I say for a lot of entrepreneurs who have this sort of nature, we are virtually unemployable. Right, exactly. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So you've seen a lot sounds like you've done a lot. Yeah. What are the things that you see, with a business like yourself, like a lot of like, I was talking to you before the podcast, a lot of our audience, our camera stores, or stores, people like that. Totally got it are mired in the business. Now, what do you suggest for someone like that, who's you know, they're concerned about the 10 o'clock opening, as opposed to thinking strategically? What suggestions do you have for them to kind of elevate themselves above the fray?

You know, everybody's at different stages in their business, and everybody wants different things out of their business. And that's the beauty of entrepreneurship, right? That's the beauty of being a business owner, you can craft that how you want to, and can you do it this week, and unnecessarily, it does take time to roll through. But it all starts with the clarity of what it is you actually want. So usually, I when we start working with with entrepreneurs, you kind of I kind of roll back the dial a little bit and say, Okay, remember when you first started your business, or when you were thinking about buying your first or starting your first photography, business or whatever, you know, any of those things. What was it that you thought was uniquely different about business ownership than it would be to go to work for somebody? Right? And usually, it revolves around certain freedoms, right? And the freedom is like, I want to control my own time, or, hmm, I'd like to actually stay at home in the mornings with my newborn, whatever those things are. I mean, however, everybody's unique can be different. I want to actually I'm a big fisherman, and I don't want to, you know, have to be mired down into working every morning and I want to go out and fish in the mornings before I go into the store, it doesn't matter. But you had some dreams about what business ownership would be, I want to take a three month vacation, you know, or whatever, one year, three years, five years, 10 years down the road, we've kind of lost track a little bit about why it is we became a business owner, because we've had to be. And I'll rephrase, I'll just say that, again, we've had to be a business manager. Well, if all you wanted to do was be a business manager, why wouldn't you go and work in somebody else's business and not have all the risks and not have all the, you know, headaches, and sleepless nights and all these other things? If you didn't, if you weren't actually getting some of those rewards? The reason you first got into business. So this is the kind of thing is like, let's let's read by like, what does your life look like? How do you want your business to prop up your life instead of you? Propping always propping up your business? And how do we set that up? Well, generally, we set that up by in my framework that I'd like to use, it's called the five P's. And, you know, just to kind of lay it out very quickly. It's really around, what is your promise that you're offering? You know, as far as your business? How do you align your products, your process and your people to your promise, so that you can earn the right amount of profit. And when you have the right amount of profit, then you can start buying some of those freedoms in whatever way you need to buy them, whether it's arranging to have a manager help you out, or whether it's, you know, I want I'm thinking of doing these different things with my life. But until we get to that point, we are often sort of sit in a position where we do have to manage the business. So most of the people that I work with really are have been at it for a while, and they're starting to see some profit come in, and they're starting to say, Maybe I need to change some things around here, because I'm still working 50 6070 hours a week. And I don't necessarily want to do that anymore.

Gary Pageau  7:12  
Right. Right. Right. So one thing I think, some entrepreneurs have is, is they don't always understand their own promise. In other words, they think their business is solving a problem, but it's really doing something else. Can you talk a little bit about that idea? Yeah,

Peter Mohr  7:31  
it's this is this is a big one. Because the promise is where it all starts. And so much has changed in the last few years. I mean, here we are on Zoom, right? We've been using zoom in our business for probably five years now or six years now, before the pandemic. And I can't tell you how many people I actually helped train to understand zoom through a certain amount of time. But like that changes things. And if you're still living, whatever those changes are for your business? Well, as retailers, many things have changed. You know, like, if you're not doing what you need to do to be online present, and all this other stuff, you know, what are the changes? And so if you're still living with that original promise, it's time to upgrade. And, you know, here are the things that we see, often, I'll just give you the quick way to do a promise, because it's a quick podcast is understand one, what is your client's problem? Two, how do you uniquely solve their problem, different from your competitors, right three, so that they can live a better life, because everybody buys a better life. And if you're finding, you're not getting people buying, your promise probably isn't providing them a better life. Because if it is, if they see that my life is better, I don't have to do as much I'm, you know, I like this product better. I like this service better. In some way. I'm improving my life by buying your service. That's that. So that pulls in all your marketing stuff, too, right? It's like now I really have to mark it, what my promise is how I take them through the promise with my unique structures, so that they can build a better by my services to have a better life. Because nobody will spend their money if they don't see their future being better than where it is. Now. How are you showing that to them?

Gary Pageau  9:26  
You know, that? You know, that's a very interesting point. Because in the camera business specifically, you're talking about in a lot of ways a commodity product, you know, there's a lot of competition for it. The retailer themselves can't distinguish the product much differently than what they can buy it from somebody else and they don't have a usually they don't have a different version of a Nikon or Canon or, or what have you, that is sold differently. So they have to enhance the value. So I imagine the same thing in the shoe business, right. So so talk a little bit about how you've had to do that in the shoe business where Again, is super commoditized highly competitive, but very, you know, high demand people want you. Yeah.

Peter Mohr  10:08  
Yeah. So you know what? We do have an online store for people that want to go to the

Gary Pageau  10:16  
all my listeners do too, right? Yeah. Great.

Peter Mohr  10:18  
So it's there. Let's take that out of the equation. And just talk about in store brick and mortar. Right. And so brick and mortar, how are you uniquely? Do you have a process for greeting the person when they come in? Are you just kind of saying, hey, right, you know, like, talk about the experience? And what what does it mean, when somebody's coming in? How, what are the questions, you're asking them? How are you making quick connections? What are you doing to understand what their problem is as quickly as you can, and then relay your unique solution to them back so you can give them the confidence that you are a professional. And I can take you to where you want to be in a quick way with lots of value. So you know, this, that sales process, whatever it is, for your store, or your business, or even if you're selling service needs to sort of be very quick in explaining what that is, so that they can understand it, you know, you have to clarify the why. But first, you have to know why they're coming in the door. So, you know, you don't want to be like on them. And like hounding and all this kind of stuff. That's not the idea. But you know, setting up the different structures of of understanding that, and then they came to your store, because they didn't want to go online, right, because they wanted a professional, because they wanted to have a conversation, they wanted to understand the difference, and have somebody else, show it to them other than just an image on your website, or on Amazon or any other place that they're going to look for this stuff they want you to. So how are you training your team? How are you training your staff? How are you laying out your store to have these conversations in areas of your store that are going to make a difference and make them feel comfortable. And you know, so I'm going to flip it back into my shoe stores because we have a whole model. And it's one of the things I coached to it's called our heart model, right? And we're not really chatting about that so much today, but it's relevant, I think. And the heart model really has three nodes, and it looks like a heart. But really, it comes down into these three things. And so we have on our guiding principles for Shoetopia, what do we how do we want our clients to feel and what what are we actually providing we want them to, at the end look great and feel fantastic. Four words. That's how we want it. We want them to look great and feel fantastic. So how do we deliver that? We deliver that, you know, with another few letters, what I call ooh, ah, and ah ha, what does Ooh mean? Who means when I look in the mirror, and I have my shoes on, I'm going Whoo, I look pretty good. Right? It's that feeling of ooh, I look pretty good. Well, isn't that interesting? Look good is one of our our sort of things, right? And then the other one is, ah, these feel fantastic. You know, close your eyes. You got the new shoes on, you're like, oh, yeah, this is what I want. Right? So I'm delivering the glue and the awe of look good and feel fantastic. I everything we do, it's on our business cards on our website, it's on it's behind our door, it says look good, feel fantastic. That's so but I've set up the structures to deliver that to our clients, right. So we have Ooh, we have and we have a ha and a Ha is I finally found the perfect pair of shoes that actually allows me to look good and feel fantastic. Because usually, I think if they look good, they don't feel good. And if they feel good, they don't look good. So I've delivered the aha moment. So when they're at the cash and they pay for their shoes and we've reconfirmed that do look good, you feel good with our questioning and getting them in front of the mirror and the different things that we do in our process, which is that middle P the process the sales process, right? Then they happily pay their bill. Right? Because we have solved their problem. They do feel better. And now it's like poof, I'm walking out the door with my shoes. I'm looking back at utopia and I'm gone. She tells me is my favorite shoe store.

Gary Pageau  14:29  
You know, you know it's interesting what you just talked about that whole process of looking going to feeling fantastic. doesn't even mention shoes?

Peter Mohr  14:35  
Nope. That's not where we're delivering. We're delivering a feeling that they want to buy for a better life.

Gary Pageau  14:40  
Exactly. So I think that's something that people can, can walk away with. So where does product and process fit into your sequence your next sequence of the five P's?

Peter Mohr  14:52  
Yeah, so I mean product or if you I mean I use product, but it's a service to right if you sagen service, just that service standard. ain't just really most Yeah, yeah. So product or service. I mean, here's where we go back to this alignment of the promise. So if your promises a little bit out of alignment, maybe it's old and you haven't updated it, you haven't really given it a whole lot of strategic thought, sometimes we have legacy products that are in our business or legacy services. It's like one of those things. While we've always done that,

Gary Pageau  15:21  
right? There's a lot of that.

Peter Mohr  15:25  
We've always carried this line, we have it and choose to write, we've always carried this line. But is it still relevant? Does it still deliver your promise in the way it used to? Do your clients still pay for it? Do when you look at it from a profitability structure? The fifth P? Is it still profitable? Look at your inventory, look at your turn rates, look at your items per sale? Look, is it part of your package of retail? If you're a retailer or you know, if you're if you're selling the services? Is that service on your list and menu list being bought? Like it used to? Right? Is this still driving the profit? Is it still delivering the promise if it isn't, you got some work to do. Either, you're gonna have to shave it off of your product list and bring in something new. That's your job as a leader, by the way, as always be looking for things new that are going to fit into your promise. Right? And, and so you're always looking for these new things to come in the pipe testament triumph. And you have to have to have to have to release the ones that aren't anymore. Even if you've always done those are these words that I'm rehashing here again, but just because you've always done it doesn't mean that it's part of your future.

Gary Pageau  16:32  
You know, I you know, I see that a lot with a restaurant, right? Or, you know, restaurants seem to always add things to their menu, but they don't always want to get rid of things off their menu, right? Yeah.

Peter Mohr  16:42  
17 Page menu, right? Yeah, exactly. Same thing. But the other thing is, if it still is providing Sure, and it is like, it's like, I'll go back to restaurants do I just like to have a regular club sandwich, I don't need you to fancy it up. I don't need it to be on a fancy bun or any of that stuff. It's like, I want three pieces of toast and my turkey and my lettuce, my tomato, my bacon. I know what I'm getting. Right. So that's part of your product mix, right? You don't have to change just to change because a lot of entrepreneurs do that, too. We just changed change because we have crazy minds. Right? shiny stuff, right? Yeah. Like we have crazy minds like whoo, and but also understanding does it align to the promise? Is it still part of our core, what I call core products. And if it is, then hone it, make it better, make it cheaper, make it faster, deliver it in a better way, but don't change it that much. Because it's still what your clients are coming to you for. And that's great. Just make sure that it is what your clients are coming to the fore end and that it does deliver your promise. And the same thing with processes, Gary, you know,

Gary Pageau  17:45  
well, the thing is about process that I find interesting is coming out of COVID. A lot of businesses not even not just photography, but restaurants and things like that we're talking about had to change their process, they were forced to, they were forced to go online, and they were forced to do delivery, they were forced to do a lot of things that probably they should have been doing before, but didn't what is the procedure that a business owner should go through to evaluate these processes without being forced to buy a pandemic?

Peter Mohr  18:15  
Well, I like all my p's and A's and all these different things. And, you know, one of the one of the ones I use often is is the four A's and it's assess it, address it, align it and assign it. So when we look at our processes, assess what needs to be done, address what needs to be changed, like all of the different things, align it to your accountability chart or your organizational chart so that where does it fit in the process of everything you do? And we talked about sort of that middle structure of how are you doing things differently? And then assign it and that's the freeing up, right? It's like, okay, I'm actually going to assign this I'm not going to make the decision on this Susie is or Jim is because we've actually laid out this process in a way that makes sense is understandable, is repeatable. We've aligned it to our promise to the rest of our people in the organization on the accountability chart. Now this person owns this. And when you start doing that, it becomes almost addictive to start releasing some of these things. And it's my philosophy that that decision should be made at the lowest possible level of your business every single time.

Gary Pageau  19:27  
Can you go a little more detail on that by the people we're having contact directly with the customer should be deciding that?

Peter Mohr  19:34  
Yes, yes. You know, I don't get involved in returns at our store. The person who's in front of the customer does returns, they're accountable for the return, we have a structure and a process in place that allows them to make that decision that they do not need their manager or they do not need me or anyone else to help make that decision. And if it's not if it's kind of an odd sort of thing a little bit different because everybody will say all there's we can't do that. It's different. It's not that different, so long as they actually have these four words in mind look great, feel fantastic. So if you need to change the process a little bit, remember, at the top of your head, your customers in front of you, we need to help them look great, feel fantastic. And if they feel fantastic means I gotta Wibble this one around a little bit to make this happen. I'm going to do that at this level. And if we need to talk about at a managerial level after that, we talk about it after that, and that's fine.

Gary Pageau  20:29  
Yeah, cuz I imagine that, you know, they're, your business should be coming down to one transaction, right? If someone needs to make a judgment call at the counter based on, for sure know, what kind of fuss the customers making, they need support and management to be able to do that,

Peter Mohr  20:44  
for sure. And you need to have the process in place that allow them, right. And so here's, here's the scary thing. If all of the process in your business is in your head, and I'm talking to you, the listener, if all of the process for your business is in your head, and not in everybody else's, how do you ever expect to relay accountability to anyone else, you will be the person to make every decision. So the sooner you can get that out, put it into some sort of form, in a document forum, on a loom video on, you know, an audio side of things, and have start putting that structure in place to allow people to get the information they need to make a decision at the lower level than bringing you into it every time. That's where it all starts.

Gary Pageau  21:25  
Okay. So that rolls almost directly into the people side of it, because you have to have the right people in place to do that. So can you talk a little bit about how you get in today's world where you can find a human to walk into your store to work? How will you even get people who can align with your your vision? Yeah,

Peter Mohr  21:48  
well, as a retailer, I'll just share with you, I'm very, very fortunate that we've had an unusual sort of longevity with a lot of our team, you know, seven years, eight years, nine and a half years, five years, you know, we have a lot of these kinds of things. I've been the owner for 12 of this particular business. And so, you know, it's interesting, how do you how do you create that? Well, you create the culture, you create the culture and have clarity around what it is you're doing and have all the things we're talking about. Now, do people buy into that other than just, you know, hiring the next person that fogs up the mirror? It's like, we don't hire those kind of people. And we will we will absorb the work ourselves if we have to until we find the right person, right? And do we always hit No, we don't always hit. But we have procedures, you know, that process in place that allows us to find those as well? How are you advertising mean, you probably have a marketing department or you are doing marketing to advertise for your store? Well, you actually need to properly advertise for people to come work with you to write, and you need to put that sort of lens on it is like, I want this kind of person and be specific, you know, and it's really around the idea that it's okay to repel the wrong ones, because they're just going to cause you grief anyway. Right? So make it specific as to and when you have the proper alignment, and you have the right, you know, on your organizational chart, that person you need to hire, then you're laying that out in a way and you're saying this is the kind of person and now this is what we do. As far as our culture goes. We're trying to make people look great, feel fantastic. And you can leave some of that language in. So that do you do align with this? Because if you don't, I don't even want to have really a chat with you. Because you're wasting my time and I'm wasting yours. Because we don't want to go down two weeks down the road and find out nobody's working here. 

Gary Pageau  23:41  
Do you find that people who shop at your store become employees?

Peter Mohr  23:46  
Sure. One of our one of our we have a fairly substantial email list. And one of the things that we do whenever we're looking for somebody is literally send it out to our email list and say, hey, you know, we have to shoot topia stores, shoe topia, Mount forest or shoe topia, Fergus is looking for a salesperson or a store manager or whatever it may be. And then we lay that out, and they're like, huh, because we're not only asking our email subscribers, but if they know us well, because we've been in communication with them. And they understand what we're all about, because they've been in our store, and they've had that feeling. And they look back and they say, shut up is my favorite shoe store. They become our recruiters. Right? Exactly. Because now I might not be hiring them. But they may say, You know what, my sister's looking for something now. And I love she told me and she probably would do and exact so this, this is the way it happens, right? And but understanding how all of this stuff fits together and why your promise is so important. So that everybody understands it, they start becoming your ambassadors. Right? And so when when I take a look at the people and the structures that we do around people in my coaching business, really, I lay out in three different terms. One is your ideal client who is that and really understanding who is your ideal team member team member, which we've just been talking about. And the last one that a lot of people don't think about as much is all of those other people that helped deliver you deliver your promise, right? Like your brands, right? If we're talking retail, all of the different wholesalers that you have, we're talking service, it'd be outsourced suppliers, your marketing company, your bookkeeper, all these other things that help you deliver your business so that other people can live a better life? Do they align? Are they in alignment with what you do? Do they even know what you do? Really? Have they ever been to your location? Do they understand when you're having conversations around how they're helping you what your business is about?

Gary Pageau  25:38  
So that naturally comes to the last P which is profit, because all the money to starts rolling in, right? It just you're just you just can't stop it? It's just flowing in endless Yeah, right.

Peter Mohr  25:49  
You know, here's, here's the thing, if there's disconnect with any of these, any of these levels, if there's a disconnect with your product, if there's this connect with your process, if there's disconnect with your people, you aren't going to make profit, right? And that's the whole idea of this conversation here today, Gary is really what you know, you have to take some time to assess these different areas of your business every now and then and work on your business every now and then not just managing it and opening the door. So that you're really getting this flavor and idea for Where do where am i doing like really well? And where do I maybe need to do a little bit of thought, and, you know, structure around what I need to change. Because if the profit isn't where I think it should be, there's work to do. And so and usually most people are have a couple of these areas pretty good, but maybe one not so good. And we're you know, there are no perfect processes, but we're always trying to tweak them out a little bit. It's like compound interest, right? Every little tweak that you make will enable you to make a little bit more profit and the profitability of your business is where you can buy the freedoms that we talked about at the beginning, right? It's really this idea of saying, Hey, listen, once we get to a profitable level, it's now it's like, huh, I can start thinking about this stuff. Do I want to take a vacation? Do I want to hire a manager? Do I want to open another store? Do I want to maybe own a triplex or buy a cottage or whatever else is going to be the different freedoms that I want? Maybe I want to take that trip to Europe that I've been talking about, or, you know, all these different things, until we get to the level of profitability, those things are shut down. And we're just mired down into management, right? And so the idea here is, are you ready to move from management to ownership and start thinking in this way, and if you are, then let's straighten up those five P's. Work on those things so that you can become as profitable as you can, and enjoy the life that you deserve as a business owner.

Gary Pageau  27:50  
So where can people go for more information to learn about you, the five P's and your podcast best way

Peter Mohr  27:57  
is head on over to to simplifying entrepreneurship. If you Google simplifying entrepreneurship, you'll find me my podcast, all sorts of stuff about simplifying entrepreneurship. And if you want to speak to me directly, you can just go to speak to, speak to and book an appointment with me and we'll have a chat for half an hour or so. And I'll learn a little bit more about your business and give you a couple little tips, maybe tips and tricks and tools that will help you sort of into this discussion and having a better business. Well, thanks

Gary Pageau  28:30  
Pete for your time and best wishes, hope the shoe business is thriving, as well as your consulting business.

Peter Mohr  28:37  
Hey, thanks so much, Gary. It's been a real pleasure. And thanks so much for having and thank you the listeners for continuing to listen to this awesome show and learn more about your business every week to thank you.

Erin Manning  28:50  
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