While reading through “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?” written by David Collis and Michael Rukstad, my old local hardware store, Sarver True Value, kept popping into my mind. Not because I know exactly what their strategy is, but because they are such a small mom and pop shop that continues to excel against the giants like Walmart, Giant Eagle and Home Lowes.
True Value is a locally run hardware store that has very few additional locations. Sarver’s True Value is literally across the street from the local grocery store, Giant Eagle; a 5 minute drive from the nearest Walmart and a 15 minute drive on the freeway to the nearest Lowes/Home Depot. These large chains clearly can offer more of a variety at exceptional prices in comparison to the local True Value. So I began to think to myself…. What makes their small store a success?
Thinking back about my personal experiences, I was able to come up with the following:
Top Notch Customer Experience
Each and every time you walk into the store, you are greeted with at least one friendly smile and a Good Morning/Good Afternoon Sir/Mam. More times than not, the owner is near the entrance and will personalize the message as well. I can’t count on my fingers and toes how many times I’ve heard “Hey Nate, can I help you find anything?” throughout my early adolescent years in stopping in to purchase an item I needed. The feeling that the store itself cares about you is awesome, to say the least.
They Don’t Have Much but Somehow Have What You Need
The store itself is not much larger than your local grocery stores produce section, but they somehow manage to pack everything into their space that their community members want/need. They have a small storage compartment attached to the store where they can house extra items or specialty items certain customers tend to buy but other than that, their small square footage is what they have to work with. My guess is they’ve passed down their equation for success from one owner to the next and have done extensive research in regards to what their clients want/need at different times of the year.
Large, Rental Machinery
Given that it is a small store, they really don’t need a parking lot like Walmart offers, being able to hold 500+ cars. Instead, they chopped up their parking lot into sections, but never took the customer out of the equation. There is always just enough spots for each customer and in the rare occurrence there isn’t enough space, the employee spaces are used as this is only a temporary occurrence. In the area of the parking lot that is no longer used for leaving your car, they’ve invested in machinery for their consumers to rent/buy. Their rates are much lower than that of a machinery shop because the store themselves own the equipment. The rates aren’t super low by any means, but if you need to rent a skid-loader for 2 hours on a Saturday to help with a project, you only have a short drive to fill out some paper work. Did I mention that they also have trailers to help you cart the machinery back to your project site.
Strong Leadership that Care About Customers and Employees Equally
As I mentioned above, the leadership at this establishment is top notch. I’ve seen it in action and rather than having a boss, you have a friend as an employee of True Value. This experience changed for me as my younger sister recently was hired to help fill some gaps in her schedule. Her boss was very understanding and they sat down to discuss times she was available and created a schedule that worked for everyone. She said the conversation was very relaxed and came out of it feeling appreciated. This hit home for me personally, because when I find myself in a leadership role in the future, I plan to be this type of employer. I think this alone is causing the employees to act as they do while at work. Smiling and helping with whatever they can, as I mentioned above.
Trained, Friendly Employees (Including the Owner/Boss!)
All employees are treated equally and trained extensively before being thrown to the wolves. Having the inside scoop from my sister, this was definitely the case in comparison to some jobs that I’ve found myself in. There are experienced employees as well as the owner available for training and any questions that arise throughout the day. The biggest thing that stands out to me in this area is the owner himself, is present in the office, every single day they are open minus a week or so when he treats himself to a vacation/time-off. The other thing that sticks out to me is the owner prides himself in getting to know his customers on a more personal level to create an awesome experience for everyone. I mean, who doesn’t want to be called by their first name the moment you walk into a store?
Location, Location, Location
As I was describing the location of the store above, what I didn’t mention was Sarver True Values actual location. They are positioned right off the main road and right in the middle of the Township. What this means is most people drive right past the store on a daily basis. Also, because it is right across the street from the only large grocery store, a lot of customers can knock two things off their Saturday to-do list in a short amount of time.
So as you can see, I cannot recite Sarver True Value’s Strategy whatsoever, but clearly the Owner has thought about this and has a vision to continue to offer his community with the products they need. The prices may be a little more than the competitors, but the experience every customer leaves with is much different than the other competitors I mentioned above. Years ago I found myself wondering how long this establishment would last with all of the big chains moving into the area. In the present, I’m now wondering what they are going to do next to further differentiate themselves from their competition and where this is going to take them in the end. After sparking this interest again from reading this article, I’m planning to visit the store when I am back in the area to see my parents. I plan to just watch to see what changes take place in the near future and whether they are positive or negative in nature.