It was 1879.
At the ripe old age of twenty three years, Frank decided to launch his new business.
He was going to open America’s first 5c & 10c store.
It had become the fashion for stores to have a 5 cent counter in their store. However, nobody had devoted a whole store to the idea. The 5c counter was a novelty, designed to get people in the door.
Many thought a complete 5c & 10c store totally unworkable.
When people heard about Frank’s plan, critics were quick to point out the short-comings of this idea.
Undeterred, Frank borrowed heavily and opened for business.
The annoying thing about critics, of course, is they can be so irritatingly right. In this case, they were 100% correct.
Frank’s store boomed for two weeks, then sales fizzled out.
Frank faced an uneasy choice. Stay open until the store died a natural death or return to his old job, working in someone else’s store, with his old mates.
Full marks to Frank, though. He wasn’t easily deterred. He gave his next move some thought. He felt that the idea itself of a 5c & 10c store was not wrong. It was just he hadn’t really thought the idea through. The idea was still half baked. It needed a little more work.
Frank paid out the lease and closed the store.
He went in search of a better location. He also went looking for a better style of merchandise.
When he opened a second store it boomed. This time sales didn’t tail off. He started to turn a profit. In quick succession he opened a 3rd and 4th store. They both bombed.
Frank closed them and opened store No. 5. Like the second store, it prospered. This time though sales didn’t drop off. Frank was off and running.
Woolworths was born.
Still it had a long way to go before it would be a viable, profitable idea.
Frank’s profits in each store were small. He needed lots of stores for his idea to work.
Frank was an innovator. He took in partners in each store. These partners provided the capital for quick expansion. The partners worked in the stores. This meant that each store now had a vested interest in making that store work financially.
Frank discarded the usual idea of sales clerks. He replaced them with the forerunner of the modern day checkout.
He cut costs to the bone on everything, including the wrapping paper. In Frank’s stores your goods were wrapped in newspaper.
He scoured America, and then the world, for quality products he could retail in his price range.
He introduced candy as a stock item when everyone said it couldn’t and shouldn’t be done.
Frank Woolworth built a retail empire. Nevertheless, his critics were right. His original idea never would have worked.
Frank’s genius was in taking this half-baked idea and working it until it became a great idea in its own right.
That’s how great ideas arrive. They often come half- baked. If you’re waiting for an off-the-shelf, ready -to-go idea to pop along you could be waiting a long time.
A better strategy is to take your half- baked idea, and like Frank Woolworth, work at it until it becomes an irresistible force.
Unleash your awesome power.
Don’t underestimate your ability or power to take an idea and fashion it into an irresistible force.
Like Frank Woolworth you will need a little courage to swim against the tide. There will always be pushback against a creative, new idea. Expect that! Don’t expect that your idea will necessarily be an immediate success. Trust your instincts. Tap into this awesome power you have.
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