The report this week that Subway tops McDonalds in the restaurant unit race may seem surprising. Actually, Subway passed McDonalds in number of stores six years ago and still holds onto that position. The score: Subway 34,239 vs. McDonalds 32,737. But, just for the record, McDonalds hauled in $24 billion last year compared to Subways $15.2 billion.
Units or dollars, however, are not the point. Rather, its the ideas and lessons that may be adaptable to boat dealerships from Subways move to the top that are worth consideration. Like, how they do it?
One big answer is Subways innovative plan to connect with existing businesses. So, Subway outlets are now just about anywhere a foot-long will fit, such as in Walmarts, airports and gas stations in addition to strip centers or stand-alone stores.
For marine dealers, one thing the Subway example does is call attention to the potential of working with other businesses in a dealers market area. Not as sales outlets per se, but in creating joint displays and promotions with businesses like restaurants and big box stores; couponing with outdoor clothing stores, gas stations and movie theaters; in-store and in-mall cross-promotions or local sporting events, concerts and charity functions any other business that wants to build its brand or traffic is a possible partner.
Subway was also recently cited by Anita Campbell, founder and editor of Small Business Trends, LLC, writing for American Express Open Forum. Innovation can come from much simpler places, as I was reminded recently by a sub sandwich, she wrote, putting down the idea that today we associate innovation with tech breakthroughs.
She referred to Subways director of development, Don Fertman, who appeared on the popular TV show Undercover Boss. Fertman worked alongside employees in the stores to see what really happens on the front line. He said that the experience revealed some "terrific best practices" that he planned to share throughout Subway.
Campbells contends that small businesses can learn from Fertmans experience and, indeed, shes right. First, the idea that a business is too small or ordinary for innovative thinking is wrong. It doesnt get much simpler or more basic than placing cold cuts on bread, she points out. Theres room for innovation everywhere."
Second, forget it if you think innovation means reading lofty books or taking expensive seminars. As Fertmans experience shows, Campbell writes, often the best way to innovate is to look right in front of you. How is your company doing things now, and what can it do better? Theres inspiration everywhere." How long, if ever, have you as a dealership owner or manager, spent time working on the front line to see and feel what really happens there?
Third, theres innovation in everyone! Have you ever tried to branstorm by yourself?, Campbell asks. Ideas come much faster when more people are involved. Everyone in the dealership should be encouraged to think innovation. The best ideas can easily come from the bottom up.
Finally, my favorite of Campbells points innovation is 99 percent observation. She writes, referring to Fertmans experience: He didnt go into the situation pushing new ideas, his role was simply to watch, listen and learn to observe. I couldnt agree more. Indeed, observing whats happening inside a dealership, as well as always keeping an eye for ideas that could be successfully adapted from outside your business, is valuable time spent. After all, were not trying to reinvent to wheel - just trying to observe and adapt a new way to roll it!