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John R. Eggers: What is in your business tackle box?

BEMIDJI — Most fishermen believe in the philosophy that you can never have too many lures in your tackle box.

That’s the way I lean because I have five tackle boxes. “Lean” probably isn’t the best word, “falling over” is better.

Before, as in the olden days, fishermen didn’t have the extensive tackle boxes we have today because there were not that many lures.

In my little metal box, I would have no more than five or six lures.

There would be a red and white Daredevil, a Red Eye Wiggler, a Lazy Ike, and one or two copper spoons, which were my favorite. That was it.

Today’s fishermen like to be ready for every circumstance.

They’re a lot smarter because fish have become, it seems, a lot smarter. I have no way of knowing that for a fact but the fish, especially walleyes, seem pretty smart in Lake Julia.

To catch fish you need a comprehensive tackle box filled with the kind of lures that attract fish.

Similarly, if you want to make money in business, you need a business tackle box filled with ways to lure in customers and get them hooked on your business.

Smart business people follow the axiom, “The truest test for business success is not whether customers return but if they go out and tell others what a great place you have.” That’s how businesses make money.

It’s less by purchased advertising and more by word of mouth advertising. How do you do this?

If you walk into any restaurant, food store, place of business, school, church, whatever, the first thing that the customer notices and will comment on is, “Did you notice how nice those people were?”

As a teacher, principal, flea market vender, and antique shop owner, there were times when I was peeved at my customers because of something they said or did, but I knew that offering a rebuttal would not be good for business.

I would dig into my good business tackle box and pull out something that would be more “Minnesota nice.”

A scene in the movie “To Kill A Mockingbird” shows a father, whose daughter claimed a black man raped her, who spits in the face of the black man’s lawyer, Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck.

I wanted so much for Atticus to punch the father’s lights out but after Atticus looked him in the face, he casually took out his handkerchief, wiped his face and walked away.

In the end it was the father who was humiliated and not Atticus Finch.

It does pay to keep your cool. You will feel better about it and so will your always-right customer.

If you aren’t nice to your customers, you will lose them.

There is one thing about being nice that’s nice; it is free.

You just have to do it, which means smiling, taking the time with customers, being helpful, and to paraphrase the Boy Scout motto: “Be friendly, courteous and kind.”

My father was always big on having an organized tackle box. I try to follow his example.

Today, many stores are the “megastores.” Some are big and very organized and some are big and unorganized, which can be OK if staff is helpful.

It is not helpful when you ask for the location of an item and the employee tells you it is down such and such aisle on the left side toward the bottom.

I can never understand why they just don’t show me.

Another skill that should be included in the business tackle box is the ability for clerks to count out change rather than just dumping it into your hand.

I know the cash register tells the clerk how much change is to be returned, but they could still count it out.

Too often change is dumped in your hand along with the receipt and some spills on the counter or floor and the whole scene is just badly handled.

If I were a storeowner, I would put a big sign in the window that reads, “To be certain, we count out your change.”

We can’t forget treatment of employees in our business tackle box.

They have to be treated fairly, receive a good wage, and feel comfortable about making suggestions.

I always felt that to have a successful business, employees have to feel that they have some ownership in it and they need to be rewarded.

This is why raising the minimum wage in Minnesota is important.

Being nice, keeping your cool, being helpful, counting out change and treating employees fairly are things to include in our tackle box.

None of these is more important than the quality of service and what we get for our money.

Most of us follow the rule, “You get what you pay for.”

The food has to be good even though it might be a little spendy.

Building projects have to be done properly even though the fee might be a little high.

The quality of teaching and student learning has to be high because people already feel we spend too much on education.

The church service has to be organized, the sermons have to be meaningful, the quality of concern has to be genuine even though the church keeps asking you to dig deeper.

In our business tackle box, we need to have something that shows we can deliver the goods.

Is this really that important? Congress has a 16 percent approval rating because they just can’t deliver the goods to the people who elected them.

Many of them will not be elected for another term. In other words, “Hasta la vista, amigo.”

What I have told you is nothing new. It is part of Business Basics 100.

We shouldn’t take these basics for granted.

We need to make sure to include them in our business tackle box and use them to lure customers in and keep them hooked.

What’s in your business tackle box?

— John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

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