Excellence in business goes beyond mere science

score Question:
What does it really take to succeed in the retail business? I've read business books and gone to school, and I'm still not sure how to do it.

To succeed in business, you need specific skills. How to hire employees, use technology, market your product or services, and plan for the future as the market changes. Abilities like these are the basics to running your company every day. They are what are called the "craft" of the business.

You don't need to know how to paint a picture or carve a statue, but the best entrepreneurs and managers bring passion, inspiration, and their soul to work. The craft of the business enables you to survive, the art of the business enables you to thrive.

But as Rhonda Abrams, author of "Wear Clean Underwear: Business Wisdom from Mom", says: You need art as well as craft to tun a great business.

Abrams recently interviewed John Whitcare, chairman of Nordstrom department store chain. "He told me there was an 'art and science' to retailing, a flair as well as specific skills and that Nordstrom concentrates on art as well as the science," she says. And it clearly works.

"If you've ever been in a Nordstrom store, you immediately know where you are. You can't confuse it with Macy's or Penney's or any other store. You'll hear someone playing a grand piano, the floors are covered in thick carpeting, the lighting and colors are muted. And to top that all off, the sales personnel are friendly and helpful.

"The sense is not merely that Nordstrom is different, but that Nordstrom cares. It has taken the extra trouble to make the environment welcoming. It makes customer service an art.

"Art is always personal. Rembrandt, Matisse and Picasso are all brilliant artists, but each is unique. Only Picasso can be Picasso. Only Nordstrom can be Nordstrom. And you can only be yourself. When you put yourself, your unique vision, your heart, your passion into your business, you can create something exceptional."

Learning the craft of your business is essential, so don't short-change here. Many decent businesses survive on craft alone, by consistently doing the basic day-to-day task well. Now add art to that mix and your odds are improved. It's the difference between concept and execution, inspiration and perspiration. Even the most inspired business concept goes nowhere without hard-working execution.

But if you want an exceptional business, one that not only survives but excels, that provides exceptional rewards, especially in terms of personal satisfaction, that's where the art of business takes over. You allow yourself to care deeply about your products, service customers, employees, not just about your bottom line.

Bringing your soul to your business means that you can allow your values and visions to drive your company's direction. You've then become an artist as well as an entrepreneur.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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