Earl Tupper invented Tupperware in 1939. He worked briefly at DuPont plastics. In those days plastic was greasy and very brittle. He was the pioneer credited with purifying a waste product called polyethylene slag into a flexible, clear and durable plastic. Earl developed an ingenious lid, modelled after an upside down lid used for paint tins, and in 1946 first introduced Tupperware. Until then food was stored in glass, metal or wood containers. The product was revolutionary however Earl struggled with introducing it to the public. Along came Brownie Wise! She was already a pioneer in the home party plan business with Stanley Home Products. They sold cleaners and brushes. After Brownie came across Tupperware selling in Department stores, she added it to her line of products. Brownie became the highest seller of Tupperware, selling more than the department stores! Earl has also tried home party sales but was not successful. He very cleverly approached Brownie and made her Vice President of Tupperware. Tupperware sale boomed. What made Brownie so successful at selling? She recognised that the ladies who sold the product at home parties were the key to success. She created prizes and trophies, annual Jubilee celebrations, which combined humour and fun with selling. Unfortunately there was a falling out between Earl and Brownie in 1958, and the company was sold to the Rexall Drug Company. Tupperware not only survived this but has continued to become bigger and better. What can we learn from this? The story of Tupperware is fascinating in that the conventional wisdom of selling through a department store was trumped by the party plan. Central to the success of the plan were the “Mums” who ran the plans. What drove these ladies to do this sort of thing? That’s a no brainer – they wanted more than being just stay at home “domestic goddesses” – they wanted some financial independence and be mixing with the rest of society. Bookkeeping in 2014-15 I’m not suggesting party plans, but Bookkeepers need to know that they have to make their interaction with small business customers less painful, and dare I say it, a more happy experience. Most bookkeepers are women, and at least half of their customers are women. There is a competitive advantage here (the same one that Earl found out about!) Bookkeeping a “happy experience”? Firstly let me digress briefly. The technical gurus and their software companies are telling bookkeepers that they will succeed if they have the right gadgets and software. Brownie Wise had none of this! Lap tops weren’t invented then, but I’d bet Brownie didn’t need one. We can’t be dogmatic and prescriptive about this, but the best way of looking at it, is to consider some “doe’s” and “don’t’s” What you should NOT do
- Be unwilling to visit them (a massive lost opportunity)
- When you do visit – comment that their records are in a shambles, computers old fashioned, and software is unsuitable.
- Tell them how smart you are and what gadgets you are using
- Talk down or be condescending.
- Talk to them over a lap top or E-pad (leave them in your bag, or better still in your car)
- What you should do
- Find out what business they are in, and how they started off, and how they see things.
- LISTEN and take notes (customers love this – they know you’re interested when they see you take notes)
- Make constructive comments about the state of their files (for example) but do it in such a way that you are not talking down to them.
- Tell them that their sort of business is something that really like dealing with, and that you have a lot of experience in helping customers just like them.Getting the chance to visit a small business owner at their place is a great opportunity to observe, spot opportunities, and hopefully gain a customer.
- In summary, we are in a very competitive business world, and the Bookkeeper of 2015 has to grasp any opportunity to win a customer.
Remember that one person, Brownie Wise, beat the Department store at its own game. Brownie got closer to her customers. John Feros, Editorial Board, BookkeepersHub