PMAC 2012: Advice unique from Pete's Frootique

Customer service expert and grocery store owner Pete Luckett gives PMAC members one-of-a-kind business advice

June 7, 2012
by Michael Power

For Pete Luckett, business is all about relationships.

Never lose sight of the relationships that make a business work, the founder of Pete’s Frootique  grocery stores,  told a packed room during a lively and humorous opening keynote address at the 87th annual PMAC National Conference. That may be difficult, he said, but it’s also necessary since business has become a complicated and multi-faceted endeavor.

“You have really got to spin a few plates at once,” he said. “And if you can’t ride two horses at once, you shouldn’t be in the circus.”

Luckett left his native England decades ago on what he called “a crazy adventure around the world” that ended when he found himself broke in St John, New Brunwick. He had sold fruits and vegetables in a market in his native Nottingham and decided to continue that line of business in Canada.

Business has changed vastly since those early days, he told the audience. Customers know more than ever and people are constantly appraising businesses. If an organization is doing something wrong, the whole world knows. But more than ever it’s important to change the way organizations do business in order to advance and keep up with the times. “You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea,” he said.

It’s also important to know what your competition is doing and never underestimate what they’re capable of, Lukcett said. So much competition out there these days has raised the bar in business. “Once you stop paying attention to your competition it’s all over,” he said.

But while it’s important to be aware of what the competition is up to, carving out a unique brand is also important, he said-while buyers buy because of price, believers buy on emotion.  A brand is a symbol in your customers’ minds, while “reputation is king”, he said. For Pete’s, each transaction must be exciting, memorable, authentic and have value for the customer, he said.

These days, customers are more stressed than ever, and whatever pain you can remove from their experience with you will be rewarded, Luckett said. He gave the example of buying a pre-assembled barbeque, rather than having to do so himself. “They removed that pain for me,” he said.

Yet another relationship Luckett stressed during his presentation was with employees. As opposed to the early days of his business, he now invests heavily in his staff to ensure employees remain with Pete’s for as long as possible. Today, he said, it’s all about teamwork. “We probably spend more money on training our team than anyone I know,” he said.

It’s a joyful experience for Luckett when a customer asks him where he gets his team members. “It’s hard to develop team when you’ve got so much else to do,” he said. “But more than ever before, I think this is the time.”