Small Insights Can Make Big Differences

This post is a follow-up to How to Think Like the CEO of a $15 Billion Company (No Matter What Size Your Business Is) and was told to me by the CEO of an Australian company.

There is a well-known buyout investor in New Zealand named Graeme Hart (Chairman of Rank Group; well-known is a bit of an understatement-he is reported to be the wealthiest person in New Zealand).  According to the story, in the early 1990s, he was evaluating the purchase of a major bookstore chain that was part of Whitcoulls Group and decided to head with a colleague into one of the stores.

They were in the bookstore for no more than five minutes when Graeme left.  The colleague followed him outside and Graeme declared that he was going to try to purchase the chain. 

The colleague was baffled- they had been there just a few minutes.  He probed Graeme on how he had come to a decision so quickly.

The answer, Graeme said, was easy.  He explained that the store was merchandised like a library, with the books lined up on the shelves with their spines facing out, one after another.  Nobody could see the covers!  He told his colleague that all he had to do is take the books, change their orientation on the shelf so that customers can actually see what they are buying, and he guaranteed sales would improve.

As the story goes, he bought the chain, he had the books turned so the covers instead of the spines faced the customers, and sales increased immediately and significantly.  That illustrates the subtle-yet-keen insight that has allowed Mr. Hart to amass a nearly $9 billion fortune.

The takeaway:  How can you tweak your thinking just a little bit?  Can you look at things in a slightly different way in your business?  It may have huge rewards, just like turning books on the shelf did for Graeme Hart.