Great ideas in tough times

June 6, 2008
 I’m aptly reminded of the saying: when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Here’s just one example of a company that is working the angles rather than just complaining that there’s nothing they can do and the economy is to blame. And it comes from John Menard, owner of home improvement giant Menards. I have an inside scoop on this company (a family member works for them).  John Menard rewards employees with small tokens throughout the year and a bonus during the holidays that they can spend (in the store, smart). He is known for innovative ways to do business and it must be working because I haven’t heard any gloom and doom from his holdings, but have heard them from The Home Depot side of the big box aisle.So don’t just sit there and use the state of the economy as a reason not to do business—find new ways to get it done. For example, Menards is creating a need for its drills, saws and toilet seats in a way that’s unique to their industry. The Eau Claire, Wis., based firm is developing homes in residential subdivisions. Homes have been built in Yorkville, Ill., and plans are in the works for similar construction projects in Indiana and another in Illinois as well. The company looks for new projects around its existing stories.  This approach has been called a “first†among home improvement retailers.Are you creating a need? Are you visiting with community members and not just spitting out the corporate jargon about what your company does but instead targeting the message to the audience? For example, won’t members of the “Newcomers†club be interested in knowing that you offer a video service that allows them to look in on latchkey children when they are not at home; or that you have a way they can use their cellular phone to start the spa running minutes before they pull in the driveway; or better yet, arm and disarm the alarm system remotely?Building sales takes an innovative approach, no matter what the state of the economy.