How would you have handled this one?


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 13, 2002
Fingerlakes Region of NYS
Warning: Major Grumble ahead!

Yesterday afternoon, right before closing, a customer comes in who had been in before. The last "work" I did for him was provide him with several pieces of cut 11 x 14 non-glare glass.

Currently he is looking for 10 11 x 14 mats cut with 8 x 10 openings and would like different colors. Before we get into to choosing colors (thank goodness) he wants to know my price. I ask him if he is going to hang them with just mats, "oh no, I have 11 x 14 frames I will be putting them in that I bought for $6 each at XYZ store" (that happens to be a local home store that provides custom framing at only 2 of its many locations).

I go to my computer and punch in the numbers and I know there is a large markup on mat board - duh - and seeing that they would all be the same I gave him a somewhat discounted price for each - assumming different colors. Then I said if he were to limit it to 2 different colors only it would be lower. The original price came up as $14 each; the discounted I quoted was $12; the last price I said would be $8. Oh, he says - XYZ will do them for $8 each any color I want. Oh really I ask, is it archival mat board. He didn't know the answer.

He proceeds to pick up in a very nervous manner, his pieces and says he will have to think about it. I say if he would like to go thru my scrap pile he could get any colors he wants for the $8 each (which I thought was a good compromise). He still leaves.

Then he returns in seconds - Oh, all this time I have another customer in the store behind him who thankfully was just leaving. He brings one of his already done in.. and says "What if I supply the mat board -how muchwould you charge me". I am dumbfounded - literally!! I proceed that I have not been asked that before and would have to consider it and say that I would charge by the hourly rate with a minimum of one hour. But he presses ask if I would do it? And I say, that I would have to think about it and that I am in business to do custom framing and that takes me out of the custom framing and into production work. WHich, if for the right customer I do as long as I am selling them the material. I advised him, IF I did do it, that I am not perfect nor is my equipment and if there are any screw ups to the mat board I would not be responsible using his materials - it would be his responsibility to provide enough. He then says that he can by the mat at Michael's for $2.50 a piece.

So I want to rip this guy a new "one" ... but keep my composure to a point... I say you have come in here asking me to price something, you then mention two other businesses that are competitors (or in the same industry) and you want me to do work for you for as little as possible. I am in business to make money. If you really want to save money on your photo hobby, I suggest that you visit an art store where you can purchase Hobbyist mat cutters and learn to do it yourself. He asks if it is difficult. I say nothing is difficult once you learn how.

He thanks me for my FREE ADVICE and then leaves.

I truly hope he never comes back.

What a wierd scenario.

What would you have said/done.


Roz, next time ask him if he would go to the supermarket, buy a steak, take it to a good restaurant and ask them to cook it for him - cheap.

I actually have a price for this. (The mat-from-their-board, not the steak.) My POS allows for different material costs for various mats, so I can price a mat with a material cost of .1 (zero doesn't work.) The only ones that normally have me do this are other shops that need me to cut an oval or something they don't do.
I would have politely suggested that since he favored the other shop's price so much, that he go to them to have his work done. You have your price and they have theirs.

Why is it that it appears that our industry is one that people think they can haggle with us? It's not a flea market.

To figure his price cost you divide your cost of the mat board by 6. Say $4.00~6= $.50 then deduct that from your price you qouted him. As easy as that. If he takes it fine if he does not fine. Your time to handle his material still remains the same don't give up your profit or your labor. Just the cost of materials.
Keep smiling the nicest one usually gets them to come back.
Oh, and for what-it's-worth: My price for cutting 11x14 mats from their board would have been $8 each, compared with $11 for the same mat from my AlphaMat. Now that I look at that, it appears I'm crediting them for the retail cost of the board, rather than the wholesale, as Gumby suggested.

I like Gumby's idea better but, as I said, this very rarely comes up.
Wait til you get the customer that nails you down on a price to cut their existing board one day, comes in another day and buys 10 full sheets, then comes back a third day with a master diagram using every square inch and drop out down to 3 x 5" mats, and says "This is MY matboard, you said you would cut mats out of it for $x.xx PER BOARD." After that argument, and after you compromise, they pick up their multitude of mats and stop payment on the check because they decided you ripped them off.

That's a peach.

I still do it. No need to really penalize the honest people. I charge 50% of a new mat but I keep the fallout. If they ask why I say that my mat pricing allows for the reuse of fallouts, otherwise they would be higher.
Ron, Nice analogy!! Puts it in perspective..

and Gumby - that is a good way tofigure it!!

But Johnny, any quotes like that should be on a "per project" basis - certainly not across the board. All new projects to be requoted!!

Boy do we have to COA?!!??

Thankfully, there are many more respectful customers!!
YOU decide what you are worth, not him. He obviously does not think you are worth much.

A photographer you say? Perhaps he is showing his work somewhere, keep tabs on him. If he has a show, attach a Post-It note to his work with an ridiculously low offer, like five dollars or some such thing. Make sure all at the show can see your offer. Leave your phone number. When he calls you, do everything you possibly can to convince him, that your offer is the actual value of his work.

Sure is fun daydreaming, isn't it.

This guy apparently already has a proven "bottom feeder" track record with your shop. Now he has gone to the competition for all the frames, probably already asked them about the mats and glass and didn't like what he heard and then came to you for a "Roz super bluelight special"!

My time is worth a buck a minute in the shop for anyone who comes in to do business with me. When one of these schmoos comes in I try to get their attention to explain what it is I do in my business and then ask them for an order. If they try to play this "so and so will do it cheaper" game with me, my reply is almost always, "What are you doing here, I would grab that bargain before they realize that they made a super mistake in their calculations and decide to charge you what it's REALLY worth!!" Thankfully there aren't many of these scavengers around my area.

Now, so as not to appear totally hardhearted, there ARE many times when the circumstances are such that I do give a break to somebody who just can't afford something. It usually is a judgement call on my part as these bottom feeders are easy to identify and those in real need that want to frame their little baby's first photo are sincere in their questions. And they show it in their eyes. Y'all should pay much more attention to your customer's eyes. They will tell you alot about the person, their real intentions, and whether they are sincere or trying to pull something on you.

This guy may be hopeless. Probably is, in fact.

But it's been my experience that some people love to complain about price and shave every nickel they can. When you quote a price, they act like you're taking food away from their babies.

But they place the order, and they love it when it's done. And they come back.

They can be gently and gradually trained to expect more, appreciate more, pay more and be happy about it. They can develop a taste for fine framing and you can help them. If you don't, they may outgrow you and seek out a framer who challenges them a bit more.

A generalization, to be sure, but some of my best and favorite customers are those who used to drive me crazy with their whining and penny-pinching.
I agree with Ron that you don't want to burn any bridges. This project may be something he's doing for charity or some other condition we don't know. I've had many customers that you train and educate who turn into profitable and loyal customers...but you do need to know when to cut the cord if they don't progress. Some customers can take up valuable time better spent with other customers, etc. Remember though that this customer does know other potentially profitable customers. Badmouthing can destroy good business.

It isn't easy, but you do have to sometimes "fire a customer". Just do it with grace.

Welcome to the Grumble Dave.
I`d have hunted him out the shopfor time wasting.

Haggling a bit is one thing especially if you are spending a bit of money but that guy was taking the ****.
Like our pricing for multiple opening mats, we charge $3.00 for the first window and $2.50 for each subsequent one. I would have hit him up for three bucks, no haggling!

We get a fair number of folks who buy odd sized sheets of lousy mat board from a local craft store then bring it in for us to cut. Regardless of whether it is mat board, glass, or Velveeta, we charge ‘em 50¢ per cut to trim to size, then charge them $3.00 for the opening.

If they object (and some do), I very politely suggest that they bring it back to the craft store and have them cut it. I suggest (again, very politely) that since they got ripped off for the mat board itself, maybe their cutting charges are lower to make up for it.

You can afford to discount materials, but not your labor!
Just for the record... photography is his hobby (and some fine photos I might add) and he puts them around his home, his office and gives them away to friends.

He wants to do it himself at DIY pricing but have me do it for him. Not.

I doubt if he would ever have anything really nicely framed. Too bad for him.

They come, they go and maybe one day he will come back with a real project for me.

I was nice enough to him, though. Gotta be.

Ok I gotta ask. How much is this man spending in gas alone? I have had people think my price was higher than they would have paid down the street but then they think about the time and aggravation of going there and redesigning bla bla bla. All of a sudden $10 or $15 don't sound like that much!

While were all venting let me add this. Yesterday I finally got a hold of a lady I had been trying to call for 2 weeks. Actually she got a hold of me. After my second attempt at contacting her she calls me back and said, "Who is this?" "Jay", I say, "your picture is done". With that she said in her scruffy voice "I work nights and I’m trying sleep". Then she slams the phone down. BTW this was the chick with the fake paintings. I think I will definitely tell her now.
Jay, it's much worse when you call them at the office and wake them up there. Maybe you should have told her it was Terry.

Sometimes I just can't stand the telephone any more and I send everyone a postcard.
Postcard???? Hmmm can you hear my mind churning??? I love that idea!
Sell him a hand held mountcutter.

I see some people advocating the be nice to them and they might become decent customers line.Thats actually true sometimes.You need to be careful who you hunt out your shop.

There is a guy who comes to me who is a retired policeman and he paints as a hobby.He sells a few things but not much and he buys cheap frames and gets me to cut mounts to fit them.I have always done these jobs for him mainly becuase I get on well with him and I like to blether with him.

Well It eventually paid off when he bought a £4750 painting from me.

Anne Redpath if your interested.And he got a bargain!
Why not charge the same for their matte or yours. Customer keeps the fallout. If ya screw up it'l still cost ya to find another & ya don't get to re-use(nor do ya want to) the fallout. If its a big quantity I tell them to show me want you want & I can usually give them a discount. We probably all need cheap customers - but not unreasonable ones!!!!!
Hmmm can you hear my mind churning???
I can hear it! It sounds like rusty gears.

The advantage of postcards is you can include your hours, your policy regarding late pickups, and any other propaganda you want. They have a little reminder to carry around. There are no lost messages (caused by teenagers in the house) and you won't wake anyone up with a postcard.

The disadvantage is that sometimes the post office will decide (somewhat arbitrarily) that the card is undeliverable and you won't ever hear about it.

Either will your customer.
Ron you should try the US Mail they never ever ever lose anything!

I have been working my fingers to the bone on brochures. Now I have to add these to my list. That poor website is never going to get updated at this rate.
We use FullCalc, when they ask, I type it in and the price is right there on the screen. When they ask 'what if I supply the materials?'. I clear the screen, re-enter the sizes and read of the charge. HUH?! Same price. Imagine that. Well, that's the price.
Hummmmm. Michael's is cheaper you say...... Hmmm looks like you should go there.

Of course I know that is cruel, because their best mat cutter smokes dope with my hair-cutter's little sister after school. He's worked there for almost 8 months and doesn't know squat. They will also quote 2 weeks, take 3 and run out of board which will be back ordered for the last 3 mats that the little druggy screwed up and so finally they will get their mats after about a zillion years and about $1 less than my computer would have charged them......
Aint computers grand. If I come up with the price, they want to haggle, but when it's that dumb box quoting the prices set by "corprate", then it's 'I guess that's the price'.

....some of the people some of the time is sometimes enough....

We'd charge $5.00 for the mat and we'd do it for him while he waited. I'm a little worried that Michaels would do it for $2.50. I'm going to check with my local Michaels. I don't want to be twice what they'd charge. I can't see $2.50 per mat in different colors unless Michaels limited the colors to boards or scrap they already had in stock. In our case that's pretty much the whole line but I doubt Michaels stocks that much board.

Here we're dealing with a major perception issue. Think of how it looks if you charge $12 for an item that someone else will gladly sell for $2.50. Is everything in your shop that far out of line, the guy asks himself. To how many people is he going to mention this difference? The classic laws of economisc aren't suspended for the picture framing industry.

BTW, we charge more if the mat is for non framing. Our framing price would be $3.75. Those prices are for paper mats (if that's the right term). For Alpha mats the prices would be $9.00 non framing and $7.50 framing.

There are certain things we don't like to do (an example is repairing and cleaning up someone else's frame job; if its one of our jobs we'll do it for free forever). We decided long ago to do these jobs but charge enough that we want to do them. If a customer complains, we tell him we have to charge that much because it's work we don't want to do.
forgive me if this has already been addressed:

what if you cut THEIR mat, and for a discounted price, and something happens to the mat, and you don't happen to have a match in the shop for replacement?
I think you would loose a few bucks on that one.

ps we only use rag mat. I can't recall anyone coming in with their own and I doubt my boss would want even that much liability, so if at all, would probably charge the same whether theirs or ours.
Once again, Warren and I are of the same mind about perception.

When you price yourself to look silly (compared to competition) you look, well, silly.

Now, the only time it doesn't matter is when you have them lined up 5 deep (then you probably ought to go up to "thin the herd")

We keep forgetting that consumers get the final vote and price is a MAJOR component.

We hear all the time about the sticker shock we face daily. There are two threads today. This perception is a real concern and we would rather talk about how stupid the consumer is (as he walks away with righteous idignation-and worse, a no sale)

We repeat, as it were valid, shop rates of $60hr (like any of us have really ever calaculated it). The 15 minutes you debated with the client cost you $15. Two terrible things probably happened: One: you wasted a lot of time and the net result was a no sale, and Two: This customer will get it done elsewhere and he won't be back.

That doesn't mean that you shouldn't have price integrity; you should. But, it ought to be based on something that resembles relative worth in your market.

I'm developing a model of Ruth's Chris Restaurants. It is one of my favorite places to eat. It's real expensive-I mean it's picture framing expensive-yet they average almost $4million in sales annually-and that's for one meal a day.

How in the world do they get $28 for a NY Strip and then charge extra for everything else? How do they convey that what they charge (way above market-you can get a 12oz T-Bone at Sizzler for $6.99 and that includes a potato)is worth what they charge and get them standing in line to do it.

I have talked to several GM's and they tell me they do get afew people that look at their menu and walk out, not many.

What is about them that they can attract, so successfully, the right type of clientele that will gladly pay what they charge?

I think it is pretty obvious, but we can we learn from them and thier marketing that might benefit us?

Let's hear the plan (and PS it doesn't include them thinking their clientele is stupid)

I suspect you are talking about a mat that is part of the bigger project within moulding, glass, etc. versus "just a mat"... that makes sense since we are making our money on the whole package - it's hard to make money on one 11 x 14 mat no matter what you charge...

And froptop, I had advised this particular customer that I would not be responsible if I screwed up his material.

I have already spent more time on this dumb thing and I don't even have the work. Hah!

But a girl's gotta b*tch when these things happen.


I just had to respond since I read page 1 before I saw your response...

I couldn't agree more about looking silly - if you are comparing apples to apples... but I do not believe this is the case here.

I also believe that when you are providing a full package the costs balance each other out and when you do piece meal - you see it in a different light - and it may seem out of line - but in truth it is not...

I still say my particular "customer" looks much sillier than I feel I do in the marketplace.

Bob, Ruths Crisp isn't a fair comparison. There isn't one in Wilmington and as far as I know, probably not one in either Charlotte or Raleigh. Sure they do a lot of business, but there is a very, very limited clientel. Only a major city could support more than one while in that very city there may be 20 to 30 frameshops. Too, my guess is that most of the meals consumed there go on an expense account and are partially tax deductable, a situation and status we can't hope for picture frame shops and frames. And, of course, there's a whale of a difference between a Rugh's Crisp New York strip and one from the Western Sizzler while there is no difference between an 11 x 14 mat cut at Michaels and one cut at an up scale frame shop.
A woman called here the other day, she called a frame shop, me, referenced another frame shop in order to find the name of another frame shop. She said, "What is the name of the frame shop that is near XYZ Frame Shop on Church St'. No sense being rude and loosing a potential customer. The frame shop she was looking for was first a paint store, then a frame shop, add a gallery and the last I knew he wanted to become a pool hall and he has extremely inconsistant hours.
(Hey Wally, I think I just heard Bob say that he is taking us to Ruth's Cris for Sat. evening dinner in Atlanta!! What a rightous d*de that guy turned out to be!!)


P.S. Bob, I'm not gonna let Wally make fun of your robe and sandals ever again!!
Shucks, Roz, I guess I need to fill all my posts with smiley faces and ROTFLMAO so it doesn't seem I'm picking on anyone. People tend to get so defensive.

The point always gets lost

It's not what we say or think that matters, it's what the consumers thinks that matters. We may think we are absolutely doing it right, but it doesn't convert intoKa-Ching, it doesn't matter.

If you are $16 and everyone else is $6, and you have no apparent reason to get that much more, than what do you think the consumer thinks (insert HaHa here with a smiley face).

Again, unless you are selling tons and tons, you might wish to open up your mind to some other options that just, doggone it, seem to work for other people that sell product to the same consumers we do. You make such an issue of one customer (I still say my "particular customer"...), but we need to remember, we shouldn't create policy for the what if or once in awhile. We need to set direction based on the middle of the fairway occassions. Roz, shucks, if you're selling a million bucks a year, then you are right on target. If you are not, and 98% do not, then we might want to look for some of the reasons that we don't. And we simply should not be afraid of changing to make more money (insert another happy face)

We have to accept that we often don't understand they why's of merchandising. We refuse to accept that price has any bearing and that location plays no role.

If we remain defensive about the things that work in other retail activities, we just miss some opportunities that might make us some more money.

And if we make some more money, we may not have to work 6 days a week.

Now, who doesn't want to work less and earn more?

Want to bet Warren and me don't work more than we want to? LOL

I can't speak for Warren, but I have a sneaky hunch that his take home is above average, too LOL
Oh, Bob, I don't take it as you are picking on me. And I do understand what you are saying - from the customer's point of view - is that he thinks (and perhaps he is) getting exactly the same thing. One shop charges $8 and one charges $12. And the perception that I am not giving added value for my $12 is what a customer may not understand now or ever.

I have a friend who happens to be one of my best friends over time - but she is extremely (ahem) cheap. She has made numerous comments to me and in light of the fact that she sends friends and family to me, admits "that you are expensive". Well, she sure doesn't buy her jewelry at Walmart or Sam's but thinks nothing of buying home decor there.

So that is the kind of customer that worries me with "looking silly" - but it is human nature for someone to put less value on one thing than on another thing. This same person will fly to Europe to ski at the drop of a hat. So go figure.

All the differences in the world - I just want to have a good base to work off where I know I am giving good quality service and product for a fair and not inflated price. And I am not going to give it away. Sure I'd like the $80 in the drawer - but that $80 would have cost me $85 - now does that make sense?

So I can "do good" for some schmuck that doesn't want to spend alot of money.

Okay. I am done ranting and raving. I have said enough. Must be one of "those" days!!

On the mat pricing thing. We just price mats 20% less than what it would normally cost if they bring in their own board.
I have also taught people how to use a "Dexter" mat hand cutter many times. When they are "in the money" they come back.
Hey Roz-I hear you. But, let me make a little point about perception-yours versus your client's.

When you walk into Ruth's Chris, isn't the "atmosphere" set to meet your "expectations?" When you see the ambience and setting, do the prices surprise you? Then, does the service "meet" your expectations? Does the average person really know te difference between "prime", "select" and "choice"cuts of meat. Does the average consumer care? Does the staff spend much time explaining the difference? Are they in the education business?

Yes to the first part, probably no to the last

But, will it be the best steak you probably ever had? Probably.

Our good friend Jim Miller often suggests that you sell the sizzle, not the steak. This is a great example.

However, to match the expectations you better do all the other little "things" just as well. Would you expect to pay as much at Sizzler as you do at RC's? Isn't there a level of expectation?

There are many, many galleries and high end framers that probably don't get many clients like the one you mentioned. I don't mean to question your marketing, but somehow this consumer (and it could have been an isolated incident, in which case quit worrying about it) came in with a level of expectation that he felt wasn't met. If it happens with any level of regularity, look for the root cause.

We need to be as honest as possible with ourselves. When I travel around, I often get drug into many shops and their owners are beamingly proud of their Taj-Mahals. They all have a keen sense that they have all the bases covered and understand their market intuitively. I wish it were true, but often, not even close.

We talk about thinking outside the box, I wish many would think outside their stores. Look at what other successful operators are doing to promote, to sell, to excel. What is wrong with copying what works well? Look no further than what the Japanese did to us in the 70's and the Chinese are doing today? We don't need to reinvent the wheel, but it wouldn't hurt to see how others are making the wheel go faster.

So, back to my original question: What is it about RC's that we can adapt to our models?
Originally posted by Bob Carter:
There are many, many galleries and high end framers that probably don't get many clients like the one you mentioned. I don't mean to question your marketing, but somehow this consumer (and it could have been an isolated incident, in which case quit worrying about it) came in with a level of expectation that he felt wasn't met. If it happens with any level of regularity, look for the root cause.

Bob, I agree with everything you are saying about RC's!! And this is an isolated incident. And I am going to quit worrying about it. Right now.

But, I am also going to plan my "sizzle" too!! What sets me apart from the others... so my marketing is true to my store, image, mission and mostly my customers.

Now, I am ready for one of those yummy RC steaks... will settle for less tonight though since there are none for miles around here!!

Oh, and I will stop after this one last comment.

If you walk into a messy, older, "diy" framing place - his expectations would have been a good fit. I don't have a taj mahal - but I have a very nice, quality, welcoming store.

Don't get me wrong - it is not "below" me to do this kind of work for a customer - I bend over backwards to help my customers and sometimes don't charge enough for some services, so when I get whittled down like this guy did to me I go into shutdown.

The end.

If we were to look toward a restaurant as a business model wouldn’t McDonalds be a much better choice than RC’s?
Jay, isn't Mcdonalds going to bring the masses who expect ordinary and fast and cheap? Sure they know how to attract people but I would rather serve 100 people $28.00 steaks than 1,000 people happy meals......I'm probably wrong but I thought I'd take a stab at it.....
I'm not saying everybody wants a $28 steak. Some people are okay with the happy meal and I want to have that to sell to them if need be. I want to be able to satisfy both ends, maybe more like a Macaroni Grill, something for everybody.......
Okay-Explain what are the benefits of a McDonald's plan and compare those faetures to a RC's. The point is to look closely at what does work and try and find those "mirror" benefits that we might utilize.

BTW, not one is perfect and neither may be a good fit. What we are attempting is to look analytically at what could work and for what reasons. Dig a little deeper than the surface.

It's not about scoring debating points; it's about looking for tools and methods to improve our ways of doing business.

What is it about either that we might use to our benefit.
My attempt to make you think, for a change, just backfired on me. I was trying to think like a business owner not a framer when I asked that question. But your question is worthy of thought.

I’m not sure how to keep this discussion in the context of framing.

I have framed many more posters than I have L.E. prints. So its hard for me to grasp the thought of getting a fancy store front and charging double (triple if I give myself some foo foo French name). I could find more benefits from studying Ruby Tuesday than I could either of the other two joints. Thats more the catagory framers fit into.

A dollar is a dollar and I really don’t care how many frames goes out my door. 10 or 10,000 it makes me no difference. If I sell 10 I would like to get $10,000 a piece for them. Ill build them myself and chat on the Grumble the rest of the time. If I sell 10,000 for $10 a piece I will pay my staff as well as I can and chat on the Grumble the rest of the time. So which is more likely to succeed?

/\ I learned to answer with a question from Bob! /\
I wonder if I can answer the question “What is it about either that we might use to our benefit,” by listing what the two actually have in common rather than different?

-Both have unique values. High end or “extra value”. I guess this is were the theory that you can’t be everything to everyone? What do I learn from this? Find my customer. Know them and sell to them.

-Both business models are hard to copy. You would have to have enough money to burn a wet mule to copy each model. One has amazing customer attention and the other perfect ex ecution. It would be very hard to compete with either of those two business on their own turf. What do I learn from this? Be, do, and sell what NOBODY ELSE CAN!

-Both seem to have a very accurate assumptions about what their customers expect. What do I learn from this? Provide what I advertise every single time no matter what. I might pay $30 for a steak once, but if it sucks never again. If it were what was advertised I might actually pay that twice (I doubt it though).

Am I on the right track?
If this was a Class Room Exercise, do you think we would get passing grades. Okay, if DS got a B for his project, maybe we would (I agree with Maryann, but I think even a C- was generous).

In B School, you oten do Case Studies-Examining different models to look for keys-to look for applicables-to do comparatives.

One of the favorites a few years back was Mrs. Fields Cookies. I know, I know a few will say"What the heck does a cookie store have to do with my business?"

It has to do with systems, methodology, execution. But, if you don't take the time to break it down and understand it, how can you expect to benefit from it. I don't think we learn Business skills via osmosis.

I am asked every so often why framers tend to be such lousy businesspeople.

My short answer is they don't have the analytical skills necessary to make great decisions.

It's not because they aren't smart enough (many are), it's that they haven't been taught. I'm sure a lot couldn't care less. Hey, no problem. Every one that opens a business can operate it any way they wish.

But, clearly many feel they don't need these skills and the market punishes severly those that ignore the rules of the marketplace.

The evidence is overwhelming

My suggestion?

Quit looking for reasons why exercises like this won't help. Make a simple T Chart; On one side list the things that anybody (except you) does well. I used RC's because they are a recognized leader and they share a lot of info. But, it can be a DQ-it doesn't matter

One the other side detail how you address the same issue. Within those parameters, determine how much of an impact your decision probably has on your success/outcome.

For an easy start, lets use these headers







Take these most basic elements. Determine what your target firm does in each category, determine what impact each has on the final Mission and what would you do different if you owned/ran the company.

Once you get a sense of the direction and it's impact, then do the same exactly the same for your own business. You need to be brutally honest-it does no good to rationalize your decisions.

Remember each category (and there are more to examine, I just selected the easy ones) contributes to your volume.

Now, if you think you got it all covered, then ask yourself the most telling quetion of all: If you are so smart, how come you aren't rich? (Insert laughter, LOL all the other goodies to needed to indicate I am not trying to be mean spiritd)

This last part is the tough part, because we hate to point out our own flaws.

But, it is necessary and it will probably help you understand your own business better.

And, finally, you get out of this exercise exactly what you put into it.

I teach classes at the Trade Show. I get a fair amount of repeat attendees and I always ask what part did they feel helped them the most from the last class and how did the implement it?

The typical response is stammering and counting te fibers in the carpet and comments like "Well, we are getting around to it real soon". There ain't no silver bullet, it doesn't come in a 20 second sound bite. It does require thought, introspection and execution.

And the first step is to acknowledge that we don't have all the answers and we could all use some help. Even a know-it-all like me still refers to mentors and advisers
Bob, just a casual observation about the comparison. The most diverse menu I've ever seen in a restaurant may have had 20 entrées with another handful of specials. Even RC's limits themselves to several cuts of meat, a poultry and a fish (for arguments sake lets say 10 entrée choices) with the ala carte sides totaling perhaps 6 choices, and a choice of 2 salads for a total of 120 possible combinations of 1 entrée, 1 side and a salad, but to offer these combinations they only have to produce 18 different items...OK OK, there's desert, and drinks and wine, etc, but I think I've made the point. The folks at RC's have limited themselves to offer a very select number of choices. Does this not also allow them much greater control over all aspects of their business?

What combinations do we offer (600 frame samples (unless you're me) X 200 mat samples (unless you're Ron) X numbers of layers of mat X types and grades of glazing X mount specialty services ad infinitum), and how would that affect the results of the comparison?

I agree that there are underlying structures to business that can be universally applied regardless of offerings of goods and services, but for the life of me I still can't think of another business that offers so much in the way of choices in the product they offer and that may well be part of what makes this business so hard to conform to another business model.

Are these real differences, and if so, how do they affect the information one gets from such a study as the one you have put forth?
Hi Wally-I hope we are not making this too difficult. I certainly don't mean to imply that we need a direct comparative analysis on each bit of minutae.

So let's do a few direct comparatives:

We both sell items that are generally perceived as expensive

Nobody really needs either of us

We both feel that we offer a "top of the line product"

We both do custom work-the custoner doesn't walk up and pick one off the shelf and go

One of us does a great job in attracting their targeted clientele

One of us does a great job of consumer acceptance and high level of desirability (As in, how many customer's get excited coming to see one of us , while the majority of those going to see the other, put it in the same category as a trip to the dentist)

We can nitpick the differences til the cows come home, but it doesn't help us identify our areas of concern.

This drill has no benefit util we start looking at it analytically. As in What does RC"s do so dad-gummed well as to get a waiting list at dinner time.

Once we identify that cause, then we might look at if it is applicable to us. But, if we cannot even understand what it is they do and why consumers accept it, we sure can't learn from.

Heck, I'm only using RC's because I have knowledge of their practices. I think they are highly adaptable, but let's not debateif that's true or not until we identify what it is they do.

If it's more comfortable, use Ruby Tuesday's or anyone else. The exercise is the same-the idea is to look for adaptability.

But, would you guess that your coveted target audience is more likeley to dine at Ruby or RC's. Or, more specifically would you rather have the Ruby's customer or the RC's customer

That's another component of the exercise

Wally, you asked if these are real differences or not and what do you do with this information.

That's pretty much Marketing 101, my friend. Understand that differences become real the instant that the consumer percieves them to be. Is Michael's cheaper? If the consumer believes it, to them, it is?

Are we expensive? If the consumer thinks so.

And that is exactly the purpose of this drill.

What makes consumer perception to feel that while we are both expensive, one of us has no problem getting their price in spades with lines waiting to spend big bucks for something as transitory as a meal, yet balk at our prices for something permanent?

And DO NOT make this a debate about which is more valid. Everyone of us know this is indeed a fact.

The drill is all about how in the heck did the convince their clientele, and how can we learn from them

Let's don't lose our focus
Dangit don't change gears on me. I'm slow and have been very busy today but I'm still working on my "T" chart comparing me to my competition.
Bob, I recognize RC's ability to convince the customer. Around here (Eastern MA) there are a few (of the same name) jewelry stores that do the same thing. (Sell much more expensive (sometimes quite similar) jewelry than the shop (usually a chain) next store or on the next block.

In the RC case, I had a business acquaintance that made it a point to go to any RC he could find. He said the sizzling butter on the steak on the platter made all the difference. Presentation and ambiance, I guess. The jewelry store I am thinking about has hardwood and marble with oriental rugs and ornate cherry display cases. Again, presentation and atmosphere, I guess.

In both cases I "heard" about them LONG before I noticed any of their promotion or advertisements.

So, word of mouth (I don't want to wait!
) and atmosphere? But, what do you do with the customer that almost walks out before you can even talk to them because the shop "looks too expensive." (I've had a some of these.)

The trick I have not garnered (maybe you see it in RC, but I haven't yet) is how do you get the attention of the customers that are willing to pay without waiting for WOM?

Did I miss something? Too simple an analysis of RC and the jewelry store?
Too bad this discussion is getting buried in this thread, it is important enough to be it's own subject.....I am also going to do a T comparison with a company of my choosing. Don't know if I'll share it here though, we will see.....
I am having a hard time with the comparison. I thought that I would compare apples to apples I chose to write down what 2 successful frame shops here do well. The thing is that I don't look up to them at more than say 2 categories.

For instance the BB on my list did a good job advertising, location, and products. However the other independent shop did a great job with service. So is it critical that I find ONE business that does all these things great?

Is the point here to find a business that is similar to me (price, clientele) but is kicking everybody’s butt in the few areas you mentioned? Then identify how they are kicking everybody’s butt. Finally try to align my company like them to kick my competitors butt?

Using two frame shops that I know a bit about isn't really working as they only do a few things well. (Insert the guy shrugging his shoulders and the guy with the "help" sign to annoy Bob)