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Key Idea: Enjoy Serving

Owner John Gregory says that the secret to success is to find joy in helping people.

Key Question:


Pete said you don't need to know a lot about business or have years of experience to run a successful retail business. He said you must be able to derive enjoyment from seeing that the customers are happy.

Q: Why is this idea so powerful?

A: Joy gives you energy and makes work seem like play. If you derive joy from making customers happy then you are never tired of doing it. Why is it than when kids are sitting in a classroom studying a subject they don't like, the time drags? When the bell rings to dismiss the class, the kids shoot for the door with an incredible force of energy that has been building up during the course of the 50-minute class. On the playground, the same kid that was nearly asleep in class, is running to dodge a ball or put one over home plate.

Q: Why do adults get so confused between work and play when kids can so clearly define the two?

We're not psychologists, but we know what we see and how we feel. Kids are honest; they don't fake it. The saddest thing in the workforce is a person who actually thinks work is work. The right thing is to have Pete's attitude that work is joyful or playful.

I've read child psychologists who say that play is the work of children. So, why can't work be the play of adults? At Small Business School we say that a job is something you are doing when you would rather be doing something else. Fortunately, excellent small business owners have positioned themselves to play 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People who don't understand this concept actually think small business owners have it easy because it seems as if we can do what we want when they want to do it.

We arrived at our position through putting forth years and years of effort. And all along the way, we actually thought what looked like to others to be work was play.

Does Pete think that all customers are alike?

A: No. He said there is a segment of customers that want "face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball service." Some people may prefer to go to a Home Depot where they can find lower prices but fewer knowledgeable people to answer difficult questions. Some people may even prefer to not speak to anyone when they shop. At Feasel's, a customer is greeted, often by name.

Think about it

What do you do for your customers that no one else does for them? If you can't answer that question, think about what you could do for customers that no one else does.

Clip from: Feasel of DeLand, Florida and the Rebirth of Downtown

DeLand, Florida: Just northeast of Orlando, this town personifies the statement, "Big business homogenizes. Small business diversifies."

On the Main Street of this town they celebrate the rich variety of one-of-a kind shops owned by locals.  Just on the outskirts of town looms the big-box retailers.  How does a family-owned hardware store on Main Street survive? How can they compete?  

We do not have any simple answers. We do know that small businesses must develop a many-sided customer relation that competes in value against the volume discounters.

When we taped this episode of the show, Feasel Paint & Glass  was being slammed by by nearby discounters, both Home Depot and Lowe. And, we are sorry to report that this downtown store closed on December 9, 2008 (more).

We were fighting for the small businesses.  We still do.  Up until the store's closure, we had encouraged people to drop in on Feasel's on Main Street and buy something.  We talked with the new owner, Mike Woosley.  He's a very nice person.  He was optimistic and we all wanted to encourage their esprit de corps for their role in the continued Main Street revitalization.

This town, cited by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a "Great American Main Street" award winner, the people of Feasel Paint & Glass are helping to paint that picture.

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Feasel Paint and Glass

John Gregory,

Business Classification:

Year Founded:

Enjoy Serving

HATTIE: Did you ever think 20 years ago that it would be so difficult to run a business today?

PETE: Never.

HATTIE: Don't you think it is getting harder?

PETE: Oh, it's definitely become harder. It's become almost overwhelming. The chain operations -- and we're soon to have a big chain operation move into De Land -- has taken their toll on this end of the business. The other end of the business is manufacturers who refuse to sell to the single-store operations; they sell only to chain operations. You know, you make money buying and you make money selling. And if you're not able to buy, then you've really got a problem.

HATTIE: Now how does a small-business person make the margin when we don't have the volume, we don't have the economy of scale, and we have vendors who won't sell to us because we're only one store? What's our edge?

PETE: The only slight edge that we have is our desire to provide one-on-one, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball service to our customers. There's still a segment of our consuming public, and I think there will always be a segment of our consuming public--it may change percentagely, but there's always going to be one there that wants to go in, have someone greet 'em at the door, someone wish 'em a good morning, see if--be asked if they can be helped, and then ultimately get the product that they're looking for.

TONY: I've been treated by the people of this store very good for many years. They started me in business here when I first came back to De Land. And they helped me get started by...

HATTIE: What do you mean they started you in business?

TONY: They helped me get started in business by setting up an account and saying, `OK, Tony, you have a 30-day charge. Go out, make some money, come back and give us some. Use our products.'

HATTIE: OK. All right. So they sort of bankrolled you for 30 days at a time.

TONY: They certainly have, for many, many years, and the good times and the bad times.

Unidentified Man #4: Well, I started buying here in 1952. If we have any problems, they handle it. And we just had a good relationship all these years. And the main thing, they handle good product. And that's the bottom line. Satisfy your customers.

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