A Funny Thing About Positive Reinforcement

Back in February I wrote a post about positive reinforcement.  At the time we were just realizing how important it was for all four of us to see the positive feedback that the others get.  The prime example that I used were Detailed Image orders.  At the time we weren’t yet in the warehouse and George and Greg were doing 100% of the shipping of the products.  There was no real “need” for Mike and I to also see the emails every time a sale came through, but we started doing it after I realized that it was helping our morale to open up our inbox and see ten orders instead of just getting weekly sales updates.

It’s crazy how much this has helped.  We all get the immediate positive feedback any time a sale comes through.  We also all have become great at inspecting orders at a quick glance for any errors.  As refined as our system is, there are infinite order possibilities – I’d say 1 in 100 orders still has one of us doing some manual work to double check that everything went through properly.  A few times each week I make minor tweaks to the code to prevent a wacky scenario from happening again.

BUT positive reinforcement also works the other way.   Weekends and Monday’s have been our biggest sales days the past few months.  Of course, the days where we get the most work done are probably Tuesday – Friday.  See where this could mess with you mentally?  I feel like in the middle of the week I’m working my ass off and seeing so-so sales.  Then we’re out drinking beers on the weekends, doing no work at all, and George pulls up our system on his iPhone and shows everyone how much money we just make during dinner.

Don’t get me wrong – making $1,000 while you’re out drinking for the night is a cool feeling that you can’t really get unless you run your own business.   However, waking up every day in the middle of the week and seeing sales slow down a bit kind of sucks.   You go from the high of all highs to just feeling OK about things.  Even though I know the weekends are when we make our money it still messes with my head.  I’ve become conditioned to seeing a sale as my positive reinforcement for doing a good job, whereas I used to just think that the completion of my daily tasks was enough.  Not saying that we shouldn’t be monitoring sales closely, but doing so often has the by product of being on a roller coaster ride emotionally based upon how many customers purchased on that particular day.

6 comments on A Funny Thing About Positive Reinforcement

  1. Anthony says:

    Good points all around here. This doesn’t have to do much with the actual point you’re making in the article, but why not put some effort towards increasing sales on the slow days? For example, you have your “Daily Special”, “June Specials”, etc. The point of all of these are to increase sales. But it would probably make just as much if not more sense to concentrate on having not only steady specials, but specials that only exist on slower days. For example, what about a “Two-for-Tuesday”, where select accessories are buy one get one free, etc? Maybe that’s not feasible – I don’t know the circumstances. But I’m sure you can think of dozens of more similar examples.

  2. Nev says:

    I get this same thing too. I’ve been learning to stop looking so much at daily sales and focus on weekly sales.

    …although I know how hard it is to totally tune out daily sales. Right now I’m looking at a small, pithy amount of orders this morning, whereas yesterday I had a kickass day.

    It’s just the ebb and flow of things.

    The ebb usually kind of sucks.

  3. Adam McFarland says:

    Nev – glad to hear I’m not the only one 🙂

    Anthony – you’re completely right. We most definitely need to do a better job of that. For some reason I never thought of this (duh) – I’ll bring it up to the guys next time we meet. One of the fringe benefits of blogging about your business: other people can see often obvious solutions to problems that for some f’ing reason I don’t.

  4. nethy says:

    “what about a “Two-for-Tuesday””

    I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad idea. But the reason a lot of Businesses have mid-week specials is that they have to pay the fixed costs during the week as well and their capacity doesn’t scale down past a certain size (1 shop, 1 cook, 1 delivery boy, 1 bar staffer). A hotel is an intuitive example (they’re cheaper when they expect high vacancy) but the principle also applies to fish n’ chips.

    Retailers have less of a straightforward incentive because a weekday sale is likely to have a cannibalisation effect (you won’t buy a third shoe cuz its on special and you can put things off till tuesday.

    Any promotions and specials can still be good ideas. But like Nev said, weekly sales are what count. So they need to be on whatever day they’re most effective.

  5. nethy says:

    I just read that and I think it didn’t make sense. Let me try again. This is the opposite of what we’re talking about:

    A hotel, a fish n chip shop and a drop shipping e-merchant walk into a bar. The barman says ‘I can tripple you Sunday sales if you you half your Saturday sales.’ Assuming that Saturday & Sunday Sales are 100 each now, here’s what they say:

    “No. I’ll be overbooked Sundays. I can’t sell rooms I don’t have (unless he’s at a lot less very underbooked to start)”

    -fish n chip shop-
    Well, I’ll need an extra 2 cooks on Sunday and an extra 3 counter girls. I can take 1 cook off saturday but I need…” “OK” “No, wait a minute” “Got a calculator?”

    -Drop shippin’ E tailer-
    “Yep. i’ll take it”

    There are other factors at play here, but you get the point. An e tailer can take sales when they can get them. They are pretty much the most flexible on this front.
    Others have a certain amount of ‘sales when I have them.’
    So Tuesday specials only have more value then Sunday specials if they increase sales more then Sunday specials.

  6. […] I mentioned last week, weekends have been our busiest time (which does seem counter-intuitive, but whatever, we’ll take it).  Friday afternoon Mike […]

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