[Editor's note: This is one of three honorable mention winners in the Pets+ essay contest. Pet-industry professionals submitted essays in response to the prompt, “Tell us the story of your single greatest day in business.”]
In retail, sometimes timing is everything. That is what I learned when I invited John Grogan, the author of Marley & Me, to my store for a book reading. It happened the week before Christmas 2005. It turned that Saturday in December into the best, most memorable day ever in business for me at Godfrey’s Welcome to Dogdom.
How it all came to be, how it surprised and delighted people in my area and surrounding counties, and the boost it gave me as a new retailer in the pet industry taught me a lot about how to be successful in business. It taught me to never be afraid to reach out, make connections, do my homework and believe magic can happen, even during crazy holiday retail times.
In the first week of December that year I went to a local bookstore to buy a copy of John’s book after reading a New York Times review, where it was No. 7 on the list.
The book jacket included a brief biography of the author and what popped for me was this: “He lives on a wooded hillside in Pennsylvania with his wife Jenny, and their three children.” With my business located in southeastern Pennsylvania, I thought, “He must come to Godfrey’s to share his book.” I knew nothing about how these things usually work, but here’s what I did.
I searched the internet and found that John had a blog, including his email address. In my first email to him, I explained my delight in his book, described my store and philosophy, sent some photos and asked him if he would consider doing a book reading and signing event at our store. He wrote back immediately, much to my surprise. He said that he gets many requests and could I please provide him with more information so that he could make a decision.
It was what my business was meant to be, a gathering of people who loved their dogs like family.
My email reply contained statistics such as sales per day, highest foot traffic days and times of the week, sales increases over the last year, and advertising and public relations methods I used, including press releases. Once again, he promptly replied and it was a “Yes!” He was free and able to come on come Saturday, Dec. 17, the busiest day of the retail season!
The event was a hit! Customers listened to his words, laughed out loud, and teared up when Marley passed. The day felt right; it was what my business was meant to be, a gathering of people who loved their dogs like family. Sales were “over the top” that day for this new specialty retailer, only a year-and-a-half in the business. And we even got a photo of John standing next to our own “Santa Paws.”
The whole experience taught me that sometimes in business you must do “the ask.”
Reach out, make connections, be open, be accountable, be respectful, and keep working to make things happen.