Archive for October, 2011


October 30, 2011

It is no surprise that I would write about the inspiring run of our St. Louis Cardinals—after all I live in St. Louis and we believe win or lose, this is baseball heaven. This was even more true this year as we saw our Redbirds come from 10 1/2 games behind in August to win the World Series in 7 nail biting games on October 28, 2011. St. Louis fans are not usually fair weather but this year I had a lot more people tell me they had not attended a game than usual. And while our sales held up at Busch stadium thanks to the diehards, we could see attendance slipping just a little. We all needed some magic.

What is more magical than animals? Yes, even the Cards can be influenced by furry friends. We have a store in Busch Stadium if they need one close by to hug, but this came from a real live furry friend—a squirrel who just needed more time to collect his acorns and food scraps and wandered into the stadium to give the Cards some encouragement. “We need more games,” he seemed to say as he was shooed away. It worked!! Rally Squirrel as the fans named him was just what the doctor ordered to shake things up. His determination to go live in Busch Stadium was contagious and the rest as they say is history. The fans started cheering and the players got the message:
If a squirrel can make it to homeplate, so can you!

Of course there is more to winning the Wild Card berth, the NLCS and then the World Series than the motivation a fuzzy, grey squirrel can provide. Like in any business it takes uncommon leadership, plan, a team—24 players + Albert Pujols, determination, encouragement and yes, just a little bit of luck too. The Cards had all that plus a great story.

The Ace-Chris Carpenter
The Utility Man- Allen Craig
The Hometown boy- David Freese.

The Cardinals have given the world something to think about and learn from—giving up is not an option. You have to come to the plate every time as if this is the last. It all matters and there are no sure things—no guaranteed job. Lemons can become lemonade. Change is good and it takes hard work. Thanks David Freese for reminding us that dreams do really come true and being from St. Louis is an honor.

The American dream is alive in well in St. Louis, Missouri (home of Beer, Baseball and Bears) aka Baseball Heaven, USA.



October 2, 2011

I have the good fortune to be asked to speak to various groups around the world about the wonderful business we have created at Build-A-Bear Workshop. Many of the groups are college or grad school students, associations, businesses and schools. I always ask the question: “How many of you have ever been to a Build-A-Bear store before?” Always, especially as we have gotten older and more well known, the vast majority have been to one of our stores. I am always happy to see a few hands not go up—that means we have many new Guests to acquire and inspire!

This weekend I spoke at two events—one on Friday at Edward D. Jones, a local Fortune 500 company in the investment business. I was the closing speaker to their Diversity and Inclusiveness week and today, Sunday, I was the opening speaker for day 2 of a meeting of the National Association of Country Club managers. Both were different audiences and for different purposes but my message is the same—DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND LOVE WHAT YOU DO.

Both groups wanted me to speak on how I came up with the idea of Build-A-Bear Workshop and how we have grown the company over the 15 years to be an international company with over 400 stores. The story is simple: I allowed myself to dream and I am a big believer in dreaming big. I grew up in a time when all kinds of impossible things were being invented every day like heart transplants and astronauts on the moon and Disneyland so there was nothing to keep me from thinking,” I could do that.”

Before anything else, being an entrepreneur takes a big idea and big passion. Then the real work kicks in—the dynamic and ever-changing business plan, the money, the talent, the sleepless nights, the fear and ultimately the implementation of your vision. The easiest part is the idea—ideas are a dime a dozen. It is all in the implementation… the coming together of all the details that delivers your business brand to the consumer. Ray Kroc didn’t invent hamburgers and Howard Schultz didn’t invent coffee—they invented how to sell it their way, sell more and be better. That is the same for us. We didn’t invent teddy bears or factories that make them. We added a special twist—how to make your own special furry friend close to home that is totally personalized to you, for you or for someone you care about. Choose Me, Hear Me, Stuff Me, Stitch Me, Fluff Me, Dress Me, Name and Take Me Home has become a mantra for children (and children at heart) for almost 15 years and soon we will have sold our 100 millionth stuffed animal! WOW!! That even exceeds my imagination.

Both Edward D. Jones and the Country Club Managers have a lot in common with BABW—they are both in the service business and they both believe in adding value through personal care. I call it the Cheers Method. Remember the TV show Cheers starring Ted Danson as Bar Owner and Manager, Sam Malone? For 11 years Sam taught us the power of friendship, of belonging
because at Cheers, everyone knew your name. That is how it is for Edward Jones for the Country Clubs across America and for Build-A-Bear. Our success is accomplished by not being cookie cutter but by being personal. Helping our Guests create a once in a lifetime experience that separates us from the competition. It is what we all want as human beings, to be recognized and appreciated and accepted for who we are.

Thanks to all of our Guests who continue to share with me their personal experiences, their furry friends and for taking the time to remind me that EVERYONE MATTERS and that a business, even a large one, can stay connected to its Guests and grow from those Guests and their word of mouth, when it sees it as a mission vs a task. A special thanks to Edward D. Jones and the Country Club Managers Association for inviting me to share my story and for sharing yours. You made my week!