Compete On Service Not Price.

Amid the reports that Target will report a 43% loss in profits and the reason for that is their lack of focus on price, ie being the lowest, the inspiration for this article arose. In the circle of small businesses that I am coaching, that are friends of mine or advisors to me personally, there is a defined group of businesses that have to compete on price to survive. In fact, in Queens, NY which has a highly immigrant population that in some cases has a culture of bargaining for everything, price can be a very critical thing (especially with inflation and regulations to consider here in the US). For instance, I will never pay the sticker price for a car again and am still kicking myself for a few transactions I’ve made with car dealers where I could have saved more. I am not going to say that bargaining is something we business owners should be doing but will insist that in this day and age it shouldn’t define your business. Identify who you want to sell to and if that customer is big on price, well you have to have good prices or bargain with them at the counter. If your audience isn’t so big on the price- it’s a different story and sometimes it’s the most freeing thing in the world of business. Charging what you want when you want.

Specifically for me, I remember when I first opened how most of the early adopters negotiated price. My favorite thing to this date was this conversation:

Customer: “How much?”

Me: (Price)

Customer: “What? (fake exasperation and devastation) That’s too much! What’s my price? (wink)”

Me: “Uuuuuh, same price I just said?”

Thus began a back and forth of bargaining and in the beginning, I did fall for it. Many times a customer would have an incredible offer for me such as, “I have 3 people that I will bring here if you just give me X price.” I was so desperate to be accepted in the neighborhood and meant well. I would try to appease the bargainers and then the customer would bring the 3 people they referred and those customers would do the exact same thing! Alas, my price was not my price. To them, my then sole proprietorship wasn’t worth anything. There was no perceived value and they took advantage of a green, wet behind the ears dope.

Here’s the thing, the minute I took that price away and raised it then stopped bargaining, those customers went away and the type of customer went away. Yes, sales dragged for a bit, but eventually my customer came in. One that accepted the price, saw the value and understood what we were offering. By then I hired employees and had to teach them that the moment when a customer pushes back on price is not the moment of bargaining it’s a moment where we stand firm.

The price is the price. It’s a powerful way to communicate in an age where commodities are abundant and service is king.

We all know that you have to understand your customer and when I began to understand the culture of my base, I realized that bargaining in some parts of the world is ingrained in the culture. It’s what people grow up with, understand and accept as a part of life. This idea that “the price is the price” is a mostly American capitalist value and sometimes not taken well. Again, being in Queens in the early beginnings of my business and having a decent sample size of my initial customers an fresh batch of immigrant population, this idea was rubbish to some people and “American values” were not theirs. To me, it’s not American values, it’s just a way to do business.

As FUAD I. KHURI states in an article I found dating back to 1969 on the etiquette of bargaining that it’s “as economically favorable.., it breeds hostility, rivalry, and distrust” but also detailing a bit of give and get. Giving something to the customer, such as the gift of compromise or even a gift before the transaction is a type of bargaining on a psychological level. You are opening the doors of trust and if they allow it, a possible transaction. Using my car analogy from the beginning, they give too much in the beginning then light you on fire at the stake in the end. My issue is, the car dealers want you to trust them, but the people themselves that are selling the cars are so untrustworthy that I am suspicious as soon as I walk in the door. Anyone that is my salesperson, smells of 1,000 cigarettes and smoke with a gravely voice packaged in a hastily thrown together suit is not my type of sales person. But that industry breeds those types of people and has a Bazaar mentality. They ready for the bargaining fight, understand the 5th grade math of car leasing better than most people and are looking for the loopholes in your fighting words to make their deal.

Walmart, Home Depot and other superstores have a bargaining mentality. They built businesses on price and continue to obliterate small business margins because of it. Most clothing retail also have to compete on price. Last time I went to Kohls, everyhing was 30% off on top of the 70% off they were offering everything. Last time I checked my 5th grade math, 30% off plus 70% off is FREE. How do you compete with that? It wasn’t free, but damn close. You can’t necessarily open a new hardware store and expect to keep up with Lowes or Home depot sales. It’s a low margin business even lower now that when we think of getting “stuff” for the house we think of home depot not the “hardware store” as we did days gone by. It’s a slow growth industry with Ibis reporting 1.8% annual growth anyway.

Point is this. in the world of $800 Iphones that we all have in our pockets and will run to the store every year to buy, price isn’t king. In your business, depending on the industry, you can have the prices you want to offer as long as you can offer the customers value. You can’t have a retail operation that competes with Walmart on price because they’ve spent more money in one day on burning their brand into our minds (value value value) that you may make this year. You can, however, open a successful boutique that offers a certain quality and service that Walmart doesn’t offer. You’ll just cater to a tiny niche and have a harder time finding your customer.






Business Is Changing. The New Revolution is Here.

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It’s become increasingly apparent to me that the playbook for business owners has changed and no one really announced it. The landscape has changed, the formats have changed, the “rules” of marketing have changed. Forget the nonsense that you read in “the” expert magazines and on the blogs & podcasts. A new revolution in business is here. And it could be good for small business if we play our cards right.

A revolution is successful when the people charge the castle, so to speak, and take back their country and give it back to the people. However, most of these tales begin with the struggle of the people and end with their vindication, sometimes the untold story is that the people give the power to another leader who is corrupted with filthy riches, blinded by misperception and the process starts all over again.

Here in America, the old guard in business ie Macy’s, Sears and others are failing because of a revolution of the people and by the new businesses themselves that are taking their place. The people chose to buy elsewhere. The new business conglomerates are taking down the old guard of large fancy stores, big fancy displays and people that spray you with sticky perfume. They are replacing it with something completely new and we are accepting that change!`

At a Anthony Robbins seminar recently, he began to speak to us matter-of-factly about this. The biggest business in hospitality owns no real estate (Airbnb) and the biggest provider of transportation in the US owns no cars (Uber)! It gets more incredible as you go down the list. Amazon holds the largest proportion of internet sales at 33% and the closest competitor to them is Walmart (7.4%) who just improved their market share by .04% last quarter because they are seeing the writing on the wall. Sears, once the biggest stores in the world are now crumbling do to lack of vision and leadership losing $6 billion in sales since 2012. That’s billion with a B.

This is perhaps a bit of a relic in terms of examples, but Blockbuster was the king of rentals. Their company had the opportunity of a lifetime to buy Netflix for a paltry sum in the early 2000’s but declined to do it because leadership couldn’t see it’s worth. Think about that! Netflix’s revenue is 8.8 billion today, Blockbuster went bust 8 years after that fateful decision and Netflix with other companies are changing the way we watch TV.

The new giants of business are taking down the old guard one by one. How are they doing it?

Embracing innovation.

Now all this ingenuity isn’t to say that it’s hurting small business because it is. There’s an incredible man that owns a shoe store by my Queens, NY music studio and one day I went in there to buy something. He had just made a huge expansion of his store and he was doing well because of the smart investments he made but also I could tell he was a good businessman. Anyway, I asked him how he was surviving Amazon which has a stranglehold on all retail. He stopped what he was doing, and I’ll never forget this, opened his arms wide as if shrugging and giving up at the same time. He then said, “they are killing small business.”

Since I love a good business back and forth, I asked “why??”

He said simply, “Nike puts out a line of sneakers. I buy them at cost and sell them for a smaller margin than I can afford now.” He pauses as if swallowing a bitter pill.

I say, “ok?”

The store owner looks at me and pleads, “Amazon buys those same sneakers at the same price I did, then sells them below cost.

That exchange is an example of how innovation can hurt people. I get it, because one company has a stranglehold on an industry it disrupts everything, can put businesses out of business and sometimes ruin lives. This gentleman from the shoe store will survive if he continues to innovate his service to compete in the New Revolution. He won’t survive if he markets like he did 10 years ago, sells like he did 10 years ago and even how he pays his bills 10 years ago.

Be forward looking for your product or service. You won’t be able to survive the new revolution if you don’t adjust, measure, change and repeat.

Stand at the tower always.

Why A Customer’s Experience Is The Key To Retention

You don’t have to sell a roller coaster ride, right? It kind of sells itself and sticks with you. Especially the, “Oh so this is a ruse, it’s really just a plot to kill people” thought you have before the “ZOOM!”.

In a product-based business, once you get a customer, get the customer to come back. In a service-based business same rule applies. But the magic question is how?

In my experience as a small business owner, here are 3 key concepts to work towards outside of what you probably already do:

1. Problems are opportunities to thrill a customer. We all hate it when we get a complaint but it happens to every business. Even if you are a customer service wiz like Zappos, it’s incredibly difficult to be perfect 99% of the time because of the amount of people you serve. Think of it this way, If 1 person out of 1000 is dissatisfied, that’s only .001% of your base and not a big deal, right? But if .001 percent of people of 20 million people are dissatisfied that’s 20,000 dissatisfied people. As you grow, problems grow. Make problems an opportunity to perfect your craft before you are too big to fix.

2. Never let a customer walk out angry. For the business I started, customer service is the thing that sets us apart and letting others handle customer service after the early days was extremely hard for me. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to pay people to help customers, I found it difficult to find people that understood how to treat people when they are angry! We all can get testy when issues arise, but playing it cool and making sure that the customer’s issue is resolved before they leave is the most important thing.

3. The transaction doesn’t stop after they purchase. A complete experience is important these days. Do you know why? Unless you’ve innovated a product or service to the point where no other business offers it the way you do, you won’t be an original. There’s very little way to offer a unique product or service these days. Offer an experience at your store. If the secret to living is giving, offer whatever else you can to spice up the memory of your transaction. Give more and get more.

Make your business a ride customers will never forget and they’ll wait in line for 4 hours to get back on it again.

Getting Customers So Happy They Cry

It was about 6 years ago when I made a customer cry for the first time and I am proud to say that others have bawled before me many times after I learned how to do it. As the day unfolded and she experienced what we had created, felt the true emotion of the experience, she cried happy, big wet rivers of tears.

Make your customers feel complete joy. How did I do it?

Let me step back a minute and give you the opposite of joy to a semi unrelated event, but it gives you what your employee may feel as you try to pump them up for sales on a product you’re just darn skippy over! I was an floppy haired employee of a distribution company in the mid 1990’s. It was a very famous and successful company and I had a decent opportunity to find a path in sales there and make something of myself even though absolutely hated it. This company distributed cookies and I sold them to stores. I’ll never forget the weekly phone calls we had with grown men talking excitedly about selling cookies. I could care less!

The motivation calls were about our progress on initiatives, “hard numbers” and goals. They were all jabbering about how they were going to do it and what that would mean for the bottom line. I sat there on my end, always quiet, not giving even the smallest damn.

I didn’t have any connection with the distribution company’s product. They were damn delicious, but I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about who I was going to sell them to, how big my display was going to be and how many boxes we were going to sell. Because I didn’t have an emotional attachment to the product personally, I couldn’t be an effective sales person. Sure, I could pretend, but when it came down to it, I just didn’t care.

Fast forward years later to my own business and a service product that I cared about deeply and I changed people’s lives with the passion I felt towards them and the service product. That moment where I began to realize that we can create a deep emotional connection with our clients with incredible concerts at my music school was the moment where our fate was sealed: we were embedding a deep connection to our customers and our product.

Because we cared so deeply about the students and the parents, we took steps to really make sure that they had an incredible time and a memory to last a lifetime. We made sure our event featured students in such a caring and embracing way customers became emotionally attached. Addicted almost.

So back to the crying customer. It was a typical concert for me and as producer… I was busy running around trying to do all the jobs that I could because we couldn’t afford many people working at the shows. I remember running down the aisle to the front and my goal was to get to the stage before the next performance started but I was too late. A young girl stepped to the microphone and the music began. I nestled in to the first row and decided to listen because she was one of the better performers at the studio and I was sure to be in for a real old fashioned ear treat.

Enthralled by the music and her voice, I began to get goosebumps. I thought, “I created this opportunity for her to shine. For everyone! This is incredible! What an incredible moment” I kept thinking over and over, “Incredible.”

As I turned to the left, I saw the girl’s mother not too far away from me. She was sitting with a huge smile on her face barely holding the camera steady because of the river of tears flowing down her face. The light from the stage created powerful shadows as they met the dark of the crowd around her but illuminated this loving mother’s face as if on a screen. This powerful moment shook me to my core as I started to well up.

She never saw me witness this moment. Her daughter finished the song to thunderous applause.

Shaking my head and clapping like a crazy person, it was then that I realized that the key to raving fans is finding the portions of your business or one idea, product, event, promotion, design, SOMETHING that can connect deeper. To fulfill their needs.

When you do that, they’ll never leave you. You’ve won their trust because you are a great business person, but more importantly, you won their heart.

How Resistance To Innovation Killed An Industry

With the Grammy Awards on tonight featuring some truly great talent and with the rest just incredible branding and fashion, it’s time for my semi-quarterly takedown and challenge to what was once my industry. I am at my core an artist who likes to perform and teach. That’s why business entrepreneurship and business coaching speaks to me. However, I am an artist that hasn’t bought a CD OR purchased an iTunes song in 6 years. The music industry lost a customer. Why?

Think of any business that sells a product or a service product. How can they survive when their customer stops buying? TomTom, the ingenious navigation hardware that we all bought and used… that is until phone makers started placing them for FREE in our phones. Goodbye TomTom! Now they’ve actually innovated other products quite well to stay in business and more on that here. Anyway, Polaroid, Blockbuster and the list of all the companies that were destroyed because of innovation is getting longer and longer. Innovation is that hand that giveth and taketh away!

Look no further than the music industry, the (now) handful of companies that create products out of artists music and use their own distribution chains to sell it and market it, to be up next. These guys and gals in suits that make the decisions of the business, initially failed to see how resistance to innovation almost killed their business. They fought back against the internet usage of their property. Initially it was probably best from a copyright and a trademark point of view but they failed to see the power of how fast the revolution was changing the BUSINESS. They were busy in the courts (still are) and they had the illusionary comfort of their model and how THEY would win because it was “stealing”. They failed to see any opportunity with it. Their illusion that their CD product would keep their revenue safe for years or the unrealistic vision somehow that people would pay for a virtual CD almost killed them. Thanks to artist innovation, streaming and iTunes-like products they are making a comeback. The industry has a long way to go- revenue is still way down.

The industry experienced a severe downturn with revenues plunging in 2009 50% to 9 billion and only recently getting back to $15 billion in 2015 thanks to the same technology that almost destroyed them. In fact the 3% growth it experienced last year was the largest increase in almost 20 years.

What make the music relevant aren’t the companies that traditionally monopolized the industry or the greed that we are familiar with, it’s the resilience of the artists that make the music and the people that consume it. Music will always be a part of our lives but how? When will the next revolution be? How will a whole industry adapt?

Better question here is how can you take the lesson of innovation that brought down the giants of an industry, ones who were comfortable in the illusion of the lasting identity they had in their product, ones who scoffed at the notion that they would be brought down by a simple idea. How will you apply this lesson to your business? To your product? Will you look for change in the world and embrace the change? Even better, look at the world around your business… all the change around your business that it’s not taking advantage of. Will you incorporate new marketing tactics to your business or still use the old world marketing tactics?  For instance, an astonishing almost half of US businesses DO NOT HAVE websites. How much business are they losing by not simply being on the web? How can they innovate by resisting the fear that is holding them back? Maybe they had a business than sold sneakers and now Amazon is crushing their business. They are still holding on to the old world brick and mortar model and not taking the initiative to make bold steps forward.

Where do you stand? Where does your business stand? Will your business be around when innovation is the hand that take the away?

7 Ways To Build A Great Culture

Credit: Zappos
Credit: Zappos

Don't have a great culture at work? Let's build one together starting right now. And see Zappos for culture 101

As an employee, I grew in businesses with eye-rolling bosses, unapproachable managers and straight up scary people. I worked in construction, as an law office assistant, in retail, in management and elsewhere. When I made a decision to open my own business I knew I was going to be a great boss because of my background... I was going to do the exact opposite of what people did around me in my various roles year prior. I would create a home outside of a home.

Over the years the culture has evolved quite a bit- but not the "home" portion.

  1. Define your values. When people are reacting in a way that aligns with your beliefs and values, you will find an inner peace at work that is unbreakable. Define yours today and post it. Evangelize.
  2. Get rid of anyone that doesn't fit in to your value set. Hire slowly and fire quickly. Get rid of dead wood or anchors slowing you down.
  3. Learn how to control your emotions. Stay in a peak state always and learn how to stay positive and motivated all day in front of your employees. Study how your state affects others.
  4. Speak to your employees one-on-one & OFTEN. Employee reviews and even simple chatter matter. Know what's going on in your employee's life and coach them. Make sure their trajectory aligns with yours because if it doesn't, you will always have high turnover.
  5. Create in-house activities. A simple dance party at 11AM everyday will kick everything up a notch everyday.
  6. Empower and coach. Today's workforce wants to be involved. They want to matter. They don't have to be involved in the everyday important decisions but opening up discussion about issues or opportunity keeps everyone engaged. Don't be a caged business owner.
  7. Keep the spirit alive. Innovate. Celebrate. Keep your passion alive no matter what the odds of you making payroll next week or whatever stress you may have.

Stranger Things: A Lesson In Understanding Your Customer

Jeepers! They’ve nailed it. (credit: Netflix)

The producers of the show understand their main audience and another type of audience that longs for nostalgia so well that this is headed for more rocket-stardom. The Nostalgia Strategy as per this Vanity Fair Article. I’m not a critic, I am far from a film expert but in terms of understanding who they are speaking to, these people nailed it at just the right time. The power of timing and having an opportunity with Netflix for their audience to find them made this possible. It wasn’t the writing… or Winona Ryder.

From a branding point of view from an 80’s child (me) all of us born in the mid 70’s are eating this up. We grew up with corny movies and haircuts, we were latch-key kids, we snuck out at night to hang out, we snuck in Jason & Freddy movies behind our parents backs… and we long for those days.


From the opening cut in season 1 to the opening cut of this trailer, nostalgia is selling big! Now, I don’t know one kid in the 80’s who wore a or could afford a realistic looking ghostbusters costume but to me, understanding your audience (80’s kids with a flair for nostalgia) and Audience 2 (Netflix binge watchers) will win for this year and next. Just pummel me with the Rubix cubes, Alf and bad hair styles (want a laugh? Click that link). Then, if they are smart, they will adapt when we get bored of it (something Walking Dead writers and producers forgot to do).

Know your audience. Know your customer. Take a risk on something you like and research how big that audience is. For the millions and millions of us born 1965-1975 (Generation X) and 1976-1981  (Generation Y) there is an untapped reservoir of opportunity still waiting. How are you communicating with your ideal customer and what opportunities are you missing?


Daniel Powers Jr is a successful entrepreneur and business coach

Brand: It’s Like Brandy.

What’s your brand?

is it:

  1. a strong alcoholic spirit distilled from wine or fermented fruit juice. (via wikipedia)

Or: Branding

Same name, 2 completely different meanings. One completely dating ME… I’ve never listened to her, it’s just a reference and hilarious to 90’s kids probably. (Almost doesn’t count? Why BRANDY??)

I’ve been hovering around this branding concept for 10 years now and more recently went in for the strike at my companies. To me, when starting a business, screaming I NEED TO GET CUSTOMERS NOW was a bigger rallying cry than a casual me at a coffee shop asking “me” SO, what my USP and what value do I add. ? Or what emotional value do we add?

It was more like: Branding? No rally the troops!


So when customers talk to me about what Real Brave or even my non profit After School Rocks does, I’ve spent a lot of time separating us from the pack. It’s important more than ever to start shaping your brand. Because of the noise. See Gary for that.

Now, for the next person that asks you “What makes your X unique?” or “what does X company” do start crafting your message. Let’s take a stab at it with a few simple steps.

  1. People buy people. When differentiating your company from others whether it’s in a start up stage or possibly a few years in, write down your beliefs, your values and who you are and start with that brand. A brand is only unique if the person who drives it is.
  2. Fall in love with what your client wants. What I’ve learned very recently is that business owners tend to fall in love with their product or service but not the customer. I was guilty of it and many more are. Identify your customer and what they want and LOVE ABOUT YOU. There is a pattern in everything.
  3. Differentiate yourself. Your brand is what you offer that resonates with your customer. What people love about what you offer. Why they buy. Market that.


Daniel Powers Jr is the founder and Chief Inspirer of Real Brave Inc, After School Rocks, Practice Pad and the artist’s business coach. Find me @danielpowersjr on instagram, facebook and more.



Heat of the Moment, John Wetton 67

Whenever I think of the song “Heat of the Moment” by Asia, featuring the songwriting and singing skills of recently departed John Wetton who died today at the age of 67, I have to admit that I am transported back to a Queens, NY bar in the 90’s with bottles being hurled over my head as I try to kiss a girl.

This honest moment was brought to you by: beer. Ironically, John’s victory over alcohol abuse is something I recently read about him and as someone who is keenly aware of my own alcohol consumption, I greatly admire him for that.

Years removed, I recently sat down with the music of Asia and as a musician began to truly appreciate the musicianship of their early work. Like a lot of the 80’s music that I grew up with, Heat of the Moment will forever be enshrined with the drippy sound of reverb and style. It will always have the strut and the swagger of an 80’s movie, it will always be an 80’s song. I’ve grown to accept the 80’s and turn it up when I am driving with my kids. (cue: DAD STOP!!!) Even as a departure from progressive music, it’s impressive that they nailed harmony and structure of a solid tune.

As a musician turned successful entrepreneurial business person, the work that we all submit early in life is a testament to who we are currently. I know that I (may) never have the massive commercial success that Mr Wetton in music did but if he is reading this on the big RocknRoll Diner Counter in the sky, I hope he knows his music lives on past the jukeboxes, past the greatest hits cd’s, onto Spotify, XM and beyond.

Immediately upon hearing of his passing, I had that memory of being young and enjoying life… then pushing the thought away because of the dated music. Years removed, I am thankful to have known his music and had it a part of my life.

Growing a business as an artist or business person in part is the same I feel. You have this massive success and it can become dated if we don’t constantly innovate. And that’s something I’ll remember in the heat of the moment here growing my business. Thank you John. Now I have to dive back into King Crimson again.