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  • Mark Lipton

It's Best to Shut Up!

I love getting feedback from readers. Most of the time at-least!


On Wednesdays after I post this blog, one of the first readers I usually hear from is my Aunt Emily.


Faster than waterborne colorant can clog your dispenser nozzle Aunt Emily likes to let me know what she thinks about my post. While she also is connected to the paint-world (her husband was a painting contractor AND my father’s business partner in our stores for many years) she generally keeps her commentary to my use of grammar and punctuation!


Last week Aunt Emily schooled me on proper use of “me and you” and “you and I.”


I love the feedback. Whether you’re my aunt or a paint dealer, the more I hear from you, the better I can make this content.


Most who know me would agree; it’s not so easy to quiet me down. But when Aunt Emily is giving writing tips, it’s time to shut up and listen!


Emily has got all the hardware she needs to show that she’s the top writer in the family! Take a look at the pictures below of some of her Emmy awards-all won for writing! She’s got 23 of them; they’re literally scattered all around her house. She got so many she uses three of them just to hold some feathers and a finger puppet she feels sentimental about.


It must be hard to display 23 Emmy awards without looking braggadocious. But Emily pulls it off! Draping a few with finger puppets and feathers sends the message:


“What, these old things?”


If I had 23 Emmy awards for writing, they’d hit you in the face when you walked in the door! My mailbox would say “Mark Lipton-23-time Emmy Award WINNER!”


In BIG letters!


Anything I own 23 of usually ends up piled in the corner in the basement! But for 23 Emmys, I’d have to change my ways.


Last week not long after my blog posted I got an email from “Em” as the family calls her. The subject line said, “I found a problem!”


Of course she did!


I’m sure she finds them every week and is polite enough to only point out the really bad ones! As she gave me a lesson in pronoun usage, I shut up and listened!


Don’t argue writing with Em!


As I’m writing this, I’m getting ready to leave for the Allpro show in San Antonio, Texas. My first Allpro show since I sold my stores! I’ll admit to having some nerves about it: my “big reveal” from the “other side of the counter!”


One thing though that I don’t expect to change is what I’m doing while I’m there. Attending an Allpro show and listening to their members speak about their businesses is a bit like listening to Aunt Emily speak about writing: it’s best to shut up and listen!


I’ve said many times that the greatest repository of knowledge for how to run an independent paint dealership exists not in my words but in the minds and words of the retailers who are successfully doing it every day!


And the best ones understand the value of making it to the trade shows, so I go to listen to them!


There are limits to what you can learn about your stores while standing in them! New and creative ideas to help you succeed are not going to walk up to you at the counter! Successful dealers know this! One of the best ways to get better at what you do is to listen to others who are doing well and incorporate their behaviors into what you do in your stores!


And the best dealers understand the value of attending trade shows!


And it’s not just dealers that I focus on listening to when I’m at a show. I like to spend plenty of time with vendors too! They know what’s selling, where it’s selling and what other dealers are doing in their stores that is working well. They often have a more national or at-least regional view of things versus the very localized view we tend to get in our stores. I always found value in that.


Having sold my stores, you would think that I would view these shows differently, but you’d be wrong. Or as Aunt Emily would say “you would be wrong” (because “you should be careful not to use too many contractions.”)


These shows remain for me what they always have been: an outstanding resource to acquire knowledge regarding any aspect of the channel that I’m interested in. It’s true I won’t be buying anymore, but that was only one dimension of why I was attending anyway!


After Allpro it’s on to Las Vegas for the National Hardware show on May 5th-7th (with a few weeks vacation in between)! If you’re not a member of Allpro or some other group that has a show, attend NHS or one of the other regional shows such as the ones put on by Lancaster or Emery-Jensen.


The point is: GO!


And make conversation! Get to know the retailers and vendors who attend these shows and get them talking! It WILL make you a better retailer.


If you’re reading this thinking “didn’t Mark write this same thing about this time last year?” the answer is YES! I did and if you've had enough of this topic you can skip my blog 52-weeks from now!


These shows matter!


Attending trade shows though is about more than just acquiring information or knowledge. These shows are an outstanding opportunity to grow your network. Over the 32-years I owned my stores, I often used that network as a sort-of Board of Directors! A place I could go to get direction when I felt I needed it. Also, more executives attend these shows than you’ll get a chance to meet in your stores. You think you're going to run into a CEO or Vice President of sales standing at your counter?


Those relationships may come in handy one day! I would argue that I built a career using these relationships!


And of course, your attendance helps the whole channel. The more we attend these shows the more vendors will see our channel as vibrant and the more they’ll be willing to invest in the independent dealer channel.


So if you want to learn more about how to properly use the active voice in the “subject+verb+object” structure, call Aunt Emily! She’ll probably even buy you dinner! At least that’s the way it works with me.


But if you want to learn how to maximize your profits, grow your sales or manage your cash flow, get to a trade show!


‘Tis the season!





©2019 by Mark Lipton

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