Business tips still good today

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nearly 20 years ago, I met a unique man. His name was Charlie Mouser and I liked him immediately.

He was knowledgeable about his field, a loud talker with that wiry evangelist's haircut. He worked hard, was at times gruff and always opinionated, angering listeners on occasion without a care.

We hit it off just fine.

He was a marketing professional and merchandizing expert who was paid large sums of money to, as he liked to say &#8220stir the dust”. He would survey your town, jot down observations about strengths and weaknesses, share statistics and a deep reservoir of data he gained from experience or his disciplined reading habit that began daily at 5 a.m. and often supported or formed his theories, suggestions and recommendations.

I was a newspaperman in an Oklahoma town a little larger than Greenville, one of several who helped pay Mouser to tell us what he thought and to guide us out of economic troubles that threatened our local business community.

And I was the guy who introduced him to audiences that from time to time included retail owners, managers and decision makers, government leaders and civic club members, teachers and school officials, industrial leaders, doctors and lawyers, accountants and building contractors, gas station attendants and over-the-counter clerks, hospital officials and realtors, housewives and preachers and anyone else who dared hear him deliver the gospel of Charlie.

He'd say &#8220I don't care what you're selling. If you're open from 9 to 5, you're catering to the unemployed.” Then he'd launch into reasons why businesses ought to open from 11 to 8 and stay open on Sunday afternoon because it's, hour for hour, the best shopping day of the week.

He'd tell a clothing store owner he ought to be selling suits instead of sleeves, explaining a potential buyer saw only a portion of the product he wanted because the suits were compressed tightly on bars that exposed only the sleeve. &#8220Would you buy a steak if you only saw the knife?” he would ask.

He'd walk into a store for the first time and amaze the owner by asking, &#8220has business been good since you remodeled your buildingŠ20 years ago?”

Then he'd talk about dated styles and designs and the need for fresh marketing based first on how goods and products are presented to the customers.

He'd tell a merchant his employees ought to be paying him for the privilege of working at his store instead of him paying them a salary. His rationale was intriguing. &#8220Look at your employees tomorrow morning when they come to work,” he would say. &#8220They're sluggish and lethargic. They have no energy and it's all they can do to punch a time clock, open their desk, answer a phone or be nice to people.

&#8220Then,” he continued, &#8220look at them again about 4:30 p.m. or near quitting time. They're clicking their heels. They're singing and smiling. Their pace is nearly a sprint. They're happy and eager and they can't get out of there fast enough to do something exciting. I'm telling you, if they get that kind of energy from your place, if the transition from morning to afternoon is so great, they ought to pay for whatever it is you're giving them.”

Often, Mouser would close his example with an &#8220Am I right?” to be followed by an almost cheering chorus of &#8220amen” from his now clear-thinking listeners.

He could go on for hours.

He'd say selling isn't easy; it takes work. He liked the analogy of your employees to a football or baseball team. Have you ever been to a game when the teams didn't warm up before the game started? he'd ask. They stretch and loosen up. They practice throwing and catching. They practice batting and fielding. They work with their teammates. They get there early and they get ready for the game. Then, he'd add the zinger. Any of your employees do that before they start their workday? Or do they get there at &#8220starting time,” then spend 30 minutes talking about everything but work?

He'd push the &#8220customer is always right” philosophy, suggesting there ought to be a citywide commitment that centers on proper merchandising, courtesy, salesmanship and service.

And he'd constantly spin off tips like overcoming poor telephone manners will save time and boost sales; ask sales-oriented questions like &#8220Are you looking for a shirt for yourself or a friend?” instead of &#8220May I help you?” or insist you provide quick credit and easy product exchanges even when the item wasn't purchased in your store.

Hearing his presentation 27 times was exhilarating on each occasion. So was watching every audience nod in agreement. The messages were strong and to the point then. They are no less so today.

I tried to tell him that earlier in the week, but couldn't reach him.

I was pleased to learn he's still preaching, still shaking his fist to drive home a point and still sprinting from one side of the room to another for added emphasis.

Even now, Mouserisms pop up in casual or business conversations and I understand both his newsletter and coursework remain in great demand, stirring up more dust, pushing tips that remain helpful.

Say &#8220amen” if any of what he said rings true in your business. Then, make something positive happen.

Ed Darling is president and publisher of Greenville Newspapers LLC. He can be reached at 382-3111 or