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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Learn from your Customers

The founder of Country Supply has to stay close to customers even if he has 500,000 of them.  More...

Key Question:


Scott's experience with the first catalog taught him that catalog retailing is not the same as shopkeeping. We have studied many retailers here and the most articulate shopkeeper we know even wrote the book on it. Carol Schroeder is the founder of Orange Tree Imports based in Madison, Wisconsin and her book, Specialty Shop Retailing, is a definitive work on the subject. Studying her in action and reading her book teaches clearly what Scott experienced. The catalog retailer has different priorities from a shopkeeper.

How did Scott make the transition from shopkeeper to catalog merchant?

A: He worked at the shop during the day and started the catalog business by working at night. This was all he could do because he had no way to sustain himself if he quit the shop to start the catalog. The best part about Scott's story is he remained true blue to his original customers. He never took his eye off a market he believed needed service.

When venturing out to grow your business, what we learn from Scott is that you don't know what you will encounter. There are many unknowns. You must steel yourself while staying optimistic and deal with the realty that everything is harder than it looks. Scott kept his overhead under control and grew the catalog business by working day and night. We don't know how many years he kept the store open on Main Street as he was building his list and learning how to be a catalog merchant. What we do know is that time proved him right.

He couldn't bring the 5000,000 customers he has today to his shop in Ottumwa, so he went to them.

Think about it

What would happen if you found new ways to go to your customers?

Clip from: Country Supply

Ottumwa, Iowa: Meet Scott Mooney, the founder of Country Supply.  Scott has over 450,000 customers throughout the USA and in several countries generating over $17 million in annual sales.  Since the taping of this episode of the show, Scott sold his company to a global business.  He got that unexpected knock on the door and an offer he simply could not refuse. 

Country Supply

Scott Mooney, founder

PO Box 369
Louisiana, Missouri 63353

Visit our web site:

Toll Free: 800-637-6721

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1984

Learn from your Customers

HATTIE: And how do you know now and how did you know then what to put in the catalog?

SCOTT: Trial and error. You guess a lot. Part of the problem about going into the catalog business for people that are in the retail store business is that it's not the same stuff that is going to sell. So it's going to be a little bit different. Things that were sold in the retail store may not necessarily sell in the catalog.

SCOTT: Hi, Don.

DON BRIGHT: You Scott?


DON: Pleased to meet you.

SCOTT: Nice to meet you.

HATTIE: Getting out to visit his customers is one of Scott's favorite things to do.

DON: People like these stalls because they're completely covered.

SCOTT: Right.

HATTIE: Don Bright owns the Lone Oak Ranch in Lakeside (California).

DON: This is my stud here. Almost all the horses I own are by him.

SCOTT: Oh, yes. And he's for sale?

DON: No, that'd be the like selling part of the family.

SCOTT: Do you bring the vet down to administer all your shots and your vaccinations?

DON: No. That's the reason I buy some of them from you.

HATTIE: Even Southern California horse country is not too far from Iowa for Scott to do a little market research.

DON: I spend a lot of money every month on fly control.

SCOTT: Yes, We're thinking about putting it in. Did you put that up yourself, Don?

DON: I did.

SCOTT: So you put all the piping in and everything for it. Did you order that?

DON: I ordered it.

SCOTT: You ordered that. We've been thinking about getting into the whole barn system. If you could design a fly spray to put in your fly control system, what would it look like?

DON: I'd like it packaged in a probably quart container 'cause that's a quart and that's what I'm using now. If you got something a little stronger, it might take less than that.

SCOTT: Right. It's easy to ship.

SCOTT: Don and Margaret's place here and Don and Margaret's boarders exemplify a large segment of our mailing list. You know, 80 percent of our customers are represented in these guys and their horses, to be healthy and happy, they need quite a bit of equipment. Their owners to be healthy and happy, they need that horse equipment at the best price. And that's what we do.

SCOTT: See the price work on that? Employee #1: Wow. That's really low.

SCOTT: Eighteen bucks.

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