- What attracted me to this business?
- What is their secret sauce?
- Could I apply any of it in my IT business?
Getting Out of Town – Bartlesville Oklahoma
I finally talked my wife into getting out of town for a few days after negotiating with my teenage daughter (I don’t recommend this). I was looking for a place to go on a budget and it had been a while since we visited my mother-in-law in Bartlesville Oklahoma. That’s where I grew up, I met my wife to be and her friend Patty while cruising down Frank Phillips blvd one summer night with my friend Steve. I was 17 and she was 16.
My daughter is about to turn 17. So we went to our home town of Bartlesville.
What to Do in Bartlesville – Nearby Entrepreneur
Wondering what to do in the quiet town, I stumbled on an article in Bartlesville Magazine, about the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. Who opened The Mercantile in the small town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Opening day had 3,500 customers, and that’s a Monday. The following first Saturday 10,000, the second Saturday 12,000 customers.
Okay now I am hooked, how are they so scuessful? It turns out we are 37 miles from The Mercantile, I am chomping at the bit. I have to see this with my own eyes. The closest thing I have seen to this is when Chipolte opened in my town and a line was out the door. This is times 10 that.
Onboarding the Teenage Daughter
What resistance do I get? My daughter asks why do we have to drive 40 mins and wait in a long line to eat lunch… I try to explain you are watching something great in the making and you will get to see it from the beginning. I hear crickets.
So we jump in the van and 40 minuntes later we drive into a very small town. As we drive down the Main Street of Pawhuska other small vendors are capitalizing on the traffic. One vendor Selling honey in a parking lot, a man with a sign is trying to route traffic down a side street.
As we approach The Mercantile there are people lined up for two blocks. My wife lets me out to get in line. I meet a family who drove down from Kansas in front of me. It turns out this line is only 35 minutes, but this line is only to the gift shop and bakery, not the resturant. About that time a nice young man comes by providing free bottles of water while we wait (first value add).
I start pelting the young man with questions. He tells me the line to the restaurant is on the other side of the building. I asked how long is it? He reckons it may be 3.5 to 4 hours long. So now my daughter is like, “we are going to wait in line for 35 minutes, to look at a gift shop.” My prompt reply is, “yep…”
Small Town Warmth – Run by a Well Oiled Machine
The business is run like a Swiss watch. I ask myself, “How do you open a business at this scale and have it run so well?” I was thinking back to the book Good to Great, it is about building great businesses. He has a great line that relates business to fighting pirates. “Shoot bullets, then canon balls.” So, you do not deploy all of your capital until you have a proven business model. How does that apply to this? Ree did not set out and launch this multi million dollar business overnight. As the article in the Bartlesville Magazine brings out, Ree started with a blog so sucessful it turned into her own TV show, “The Pioneer Woman.” Can you believe that? So here is my take on what might be some of the secret sauce.
Ree has reached into the heart of every american. What do we all want? The feel of a small town where everyone knows your name. The neighbors come to your aid when you are in need. The smell of moms home cooked comfort food. Somehow Ree has packaged this and is selling it to over 20,000 the day before I came, and the young man predicted over 20,000 the day I was there December 28th.
They are careful not to let in too many people at a time to not over crowd the gift shop. Ree’s husband Ladd comes out and greats visitors in the line. It was getting very cold so he picked an elderly lady out of the line and told the rest of her group to pick her up inside when they got through the line. That’s class. As he worked his way down the line he stopped and allowed people to take photo’s with him (another value add).
Meeting some of the Staff Behind The Mercantile
I had an opportunity to meet the executive chef. He was very kind and told me about the business. I mentioned I wanted to get a book signed by Ree for my daughter in law who is a big fan. He took his phone out to look at her last text and said he thought she left. He checked outside and said he just got a text she had left for the warehouse. While I did not get the book signed, the care and respect for their customers is what you would expect of that small town charm.
Brittney, Ladd Drummond, and I
Learning from their Sucess
What can I value add to my business of re marketing Data center / colocation IT assets like servers, storage and Networking gear? I think I might have a sliver going already. Over the past week I noticed our team being so dedicated not to a pay check but to taking pride in their work. So many of my team members went beyond their job to protect my assets in one case to not ship a product until it was properly tested in another (staff wanted to do additional inspection). That is how we take problems off our customers to be pro active. How do you build character like that in people. I think you don’t I think you “start with the right people on the bus and get them in the right seats” another reference from the book Good to Great. So if you have any IT assets while you will not smell the home cooked food you will most certainly be treated like family.
Two recent examples of our staff going that extra mile for our customers is when a Data Center manager we have been working with for several weeks to get all his items quoted correctly. Decided he had to move the material in 3 days. The problem we could not send pallets and carts to the Datacenter to stage the material coming out that quickly. Solution two of our staff members rented a truck drove to New York City and were there in two business days to meet the corporate Data center manager. Our staff removed a truckload of servers/racks / switches and networking equipment in a matter of hours.
Our guys noticed a smaller section of equipment with a competitors name on it. When our guys asked about it the seller said the competitor had not shown up to pick the material up they were not sure when they would show up.
Now we are in line to get 5 times as much equipment from another one of their data centers.
The second example on their way back one of our buyers had another data center with 1000 SSD drives that needed to be picked up and wiped then resold for the client. Our team was able to pick them up on their way back from the Data Center pick up. When they picked them up. They noticed they were not packed well and took the time to pack them properly. Why is that important the value can drop by 40%?
Building value in a company is not one or two big things it is 1000 little things that when they come together provide value far beyond the transaction.
P.S. If I was an executive at Walt Disney World I would be on the next plane with a checkbook. With the goal of putting a Mercantile in several of the Disney theme parks. This could scale to a 100 million dollar business.