Author: Cassie Gasaway
Humans have always talked and laughed about their successes and failures. After all, learning requires communication. For ATA members, communication improves customer service, troubleshoots product issues, identifies business best practices, obtains and spreads new ideas, and shares insights about the archery and bowhunting industry.
Although many members recognize the need to communicate, not everyone makes it a priority. Larry Murray, owner of Lost Nation Archery in Michigan, rates member-to-member communication a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. That must improve, he said.
We spoke with Murray and Jeff Parker, owner of Parker’s Archery in Indiana, to understand how ATA members communicate, and the benefits and challenges of those conversations.
Talk to the retailers outside your area to compare trends. Photo Credit: ATA
Murray and Parker said they talk with other retailers about five times a year, usually by phone or at the ATA Trade Show, to share insights and advice. Those talks also help them distinguish faulty from trustworthy information.
They also compare prices, evaluate products, share fresh perspectives, commiserate over supplier issues, and determine what’s working, what’s not, and what’s worth trying. By talking with retailers across the U.S., Murray and Parker also learn how the market fluctuates in different regions. For competitive reasons, they like talking to folks outside their sales district.
“I don’t sit down with shop owners from down the road to discuss what we should do to enhance our business,” Parker said. “We’re competitors. He’s never going to tell me anything successful, and I’m not going to tell him anything successful. I hate to say it, but it’s the truth.”
Parker sees no animosity between him and nearby competitors. In fact, they value and respect each other, which fits Murray’s foundational principle of being kind and courteous to everyone in the industry. “We’re all in this together,” he said.
Keep a line of communication open with your manufacturers. Photo Credit: ATA
Conversations between retailers and manufacturers happen more often because they have to, said Murray and Parker. Retailers must order products, trouble-shoot product issues, and join forces with manufacturers to meet customer needs. These conversations help retailers learn about products and how to service them. Meanwhile, manufacturers learn how to improve or enhance products based on problems retailers report.
Both parties juggle multiple relationships and daily responsibilities, which can create challenging conversations. Retailers want timely, reliable service for customers, and manufacturers try hard to meet lofty requests.
No matter who’s in the conversation, members must strive to improve their interactions and communications with other ATA members.
— Use the Phone: Texts, emails and social media complicate things. “When conversations take place that way, it’s very incomplete, and the message can get misconstrued,” Murray said. “People aren’t as inclined to work with you if they don’t know or understand what you’re saying, or they didn’t take it the way you meant it. Talking on the phone, or better yet, in person, is much more effective.”
— Cultivate Friendships: Professional working relationships are important, but you can improve the quality of your business interactions through personal relationships. “Wouldn’t you do more for your friend than you would a stranger?” Parker asks.
The closer you are to someone, the more you trust their help and advice. Murray said good relationships spur open dialogue, which generates solutions. He also said customers appreciate it when retailers lean on a tight-knit community for guidance.
— Listen to Learn: Parker said no school or college degree can prepare you to run an archery and bowhunting business. You must learn from peers and other industry experts who have conquered obstacles and business hardships.
“There’s a lot of knowledgeable people in this industry, and there’s always something to learn,” Parker said. “We need to talk to – and listen to – successful shops and manufacturers. More communication will always be a good thing.”
— Make Time to Communicate: Life gets busy, but if you hope to grow or expand your business, you must make communication a priority. If you enjoy visiting and sharing ideas with a peer or two, try scheduling monthly or quarterly calls to connect more often.
Not sure what to say? The conversation will likely flow naturally after cordial greetings. Start by asking how things are going, which products are selling, and what have they recently seen or learned. Do they have tips on finances, customer service, or best practices?
— Use ATA Resources: Parker and Murray view the ATA Trade Show as a valuable networking event. Parker likes to “brush elbows” with dealers from across the U.S., and Murray likes to meet providers and competitors face to face. Attend the ATA Show and other industry get-togethers, including R3 events and Archery Academy workshops to meet fellow ATA members.
You can also use ATA Connect, an online discussion community for ATA members, to connect with peers and talk with other business owners. ATA members are invited to share ideas, ask questions, and get business advice on the MyATA network. Meanwhile, the Retail Growth Interact community is exclusively for ATA-member retailers. Log into your MyATA member dashboard and click “Network and Make Connections” for ATA Connect.
The more knowledge you accumulate, the more power you’ll wield to succeed. Go ahead, take the first step and start the conversation.
In Part 2, we’ll explore how the ATA communicates with its members, and why members should tune in for ATA information and announcements.