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Skeet and I had an interesting conversation this morning. We decided to imagine we were around during the heyday of Walmart’s explosion onto the market and that we were aware, at least to some degree, of what was happening. What do you think would have happened if we’d visited several mom and pop variety stores and informed them that their businesses were on the verge of being disrupted by a behemoth offering what they sell and much more for far lower prices? What if we suggested that mom and pop might want to consider a higher volume, lower cost, smaller margin business model to compete effectively? We might even propose gathering together a group of similar mom and pops to buy in bulk and market collectively. Perhaps we have excellent imagination (or maybe it’s just a great deal of experience) but we can almost hear the conversation that would take place.

“Mom and Pop this Walmart thing is no joke. They have tight systems, great marketing, low prices and the public has shown a desire for what they offer. Perhaps you should alter what you’re doing to compete more effectively?” we’d say.

M&P would reply, “You can’t offer quality products at prices like that. No one can run a profitable business charging such low fees, and besides, our customers won’t stand for such poor quality goods. People want what we have to offer, our customers recognize quality and they will pay for it. Also, no one in their right mind wants to go to a place with so many people where they run you through like cattle. We get to know our customers on a personal level and spend time taking to them when they visit. That’s the only way to properly run a retail outlet!”

“But we’re confused,” we’d say. “If it’s obvious what Walmart is doing is effective and it’s plain that people want what they have to offer why wouldn’t you at least consider the need for change and examine what you do with an eye on cutting cost and waste to make your pricing more competitive?”

“Our time is valuable and we aren’t willing to work for that small a margin. We have worked hard to get here and we deserve what we get. We earn every dime and there is no way we will drop our prices like those low quality ‘discount’ stores. It just can’t be done,” M&P would proclaim.

And more than likely they’d stick to their guns to the bitter end.

How would/did this work out for Mom and Pop? Not very well by and large. Of course there were outliers who had shops that were actually as awesome as M&P believed and there were stores that operated in remote areas that sheltered them but these were exceptions (despite every single Mom and Pop belivieng they were the exception). Of course a few Moms and Pops saw and understood what was heading their way and now they complete very effectively in the form of Family Dollar, Dollar Store and the like. These forward thinkers realized that they could play with the industry giant by emulating but modifying and improving upon the model that effectively provided what people want.

What does this have to do with you? We don’t have to imagine:

“Mom and Pop Orthodontist, this Direct To Consumer, Doctor Directed Orthodontic Treatment thing is no joke. They have tight systems, great marketing, low prices and the public has shown a desire for what they offer. Perhaps you should alter what you’re doing to compete more effectively?” we’d say.

M&P Orthodontist would reply, “You can’t offer quality products at prices like that. No one can run a profitable business charging such low fees, and besides, our customers won’t stand for such poor quality goods. People want what we have to offer, our customers recognize quality and will pay for it…

Skeet Burris

Ben Burris

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