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Steve Dennis on surviving the retail shake-up

Steve Dennis on surviving the retail shake-up

The future of brand strength: "In the future, our brand strength will be determined by our ability to meet our customer needs anytime, anywhere, anyway." - Steve Dennis

Commerce Famous Podcast, episode 22: Steve Dennis on surviving the retail shake-up

In this episode of Commerce Famous, Ben Marks talks with Steve Dennis at Shoptalk 2024 in Las Vegas. Steve reflects on his panel discussion about retail innovation and his career, including pivotal roles at Sears and Neiman Marcus. They touch on Steve's best-selling book "Remarkable Retail," revised for the pandemic's impacts, and the potential of AI in the industry.

Steve's new book "Leaders Leap," launching on April 23, the same day as this episode, is also discussed, emphasizing the need for leadership and adaptability in retail's changing landscape. This episode offers insights into the challenges and opportunities in retail today.

Listen to the episode right here or subscribe to Commerce Famous on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your preferred podcast player

The myth of the retail apocalypse: "Since that became a popular narrative, physical retail has had positive growth every single year and thousands and thousands of stores have opened." - Steve Dennis

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Transcript of Commerce Famous episode 22, an interview with Steve Dennis

Ben Marks [00:00:39]: Well, Steve Dennis, welcome to the Commerce Famous Podcast. First podcast we're doing, actually in person, live from Shoptalk 2024.

Steve Dennis [00:00:48]: Nice. Well, I'm happy to be here. I'm loving shop talk.

Ben Marks [00:00:51]: Loving shop talk. And you were actually, I think I saw you yesterday on the big stage. You had a nice little panel going.

Steve Dennis [00:00:59]: Yeah, we kicked things off with a discussion on exceptional retail experiences, which you may have heard me say that I kind of wish they had called it remarkable retail experiences, but I'm a little biased. But, yeah, we had senior people from Abercrombie and Fitch and Saxoff fifth and a guy named Patrick McIntyre from Krispy Kreme who brought the house down with some free donuts. So I think regardless of whether the content was good there, it's funny, in.

Ben Marks [00:01:26]: High school, worked at a music instrument shop, and there was a kid who took lessons there, and his dad, I think, was of the SVP and then maybe later, president of Crispy Cringe. And it was great because when his, when the mom would come in to pay, she would hand out coupon books for just free donuts. Not buy one, get one free, but just like, here's a free dozen donuts. By the end of high school, I had most of Winston Salem, North Carolina in my pocket because all I had to do if I wanted to rent a video. Yes. That's how old I am. Kids, you know, want to rent a video, walk in with a dozen donuts, and I could take what I want instantly.

Steve Dennis [00:01:56]: Popular. Yeah.

Ben Marks [00:01:56]: So, you know, but you're, you were on stage as a, as a moderator because of your extensive experience in this. In other words, I'm very old, you know, wizened. There are many words. But you spent, I did notice in your cv. So you, you know, you, you spent time at booze, and then, and then you spent, you had a long run at Sears.

Steve Dennis [00:02:18]: Yes.

Ben Marks [00:02:19]: And that sort of, was that up until, like the early two thousands, right?

Steve Dennis [00:02:22]: Yeah, I started in 1991 and left in the fall of 2003, which in some respects was the perfect time to leave for many reasons. But, yeah, that's right before I started my retail career, I had like ten different jobs. And my last job was, as I always say, it's a bit of an oxymoron, but I was the head of strategy at Sears and last couple of years working on trying to fix what was an increasingly broken retailer.

Ben Marks [00:02:47]: Spoiler alert.

Steve Dennis [00:02:48]: Didn't work out, didn't wait, should I sell my stock?

Ben Marks [00:02:53]: And that you jumped.

Steve Dennis [00:02:54]: If you need a lot of tag losses, yes.

Ben Marks [00:02:57]: Not really in the position to need.

Steve Dennis [00:02:58]: A lot of to offset the Nvidia gains.

Ben Marks [00:03:00]: Yeah. Boy, another near miss for me. And then you spent some time at Neiman Marcus and actually in multichannel. So that was, you know, this is zero four to zero eight. And that was an interesting time to be in the space, right. Because that was, the things were going online and people were figuring things out.

Steve Dennis [00:03:20]: It was, though, what's funny, actually, even before that was in 1999 when I was still at Sears. I was the vice president of multi channel integration. And one thing I used to talk about in my keynotes, it's not as popular anymore for a bunch of reasons, but I used to put a quote up that said something like, in the future, our brand strength will be determined by our ability to meet our customer needs anytime, anywhere, anyway. And I ask, who said this and when? And the answer is Arthur Martinez, CEO of Sears in February of 1999. And so I often say to people, as much as we talk about omnichannel, frictionless, seamless, unified, blah, blah, blah, blah, we actually were working on that stuff. Our mantra, silos belong on farms, the customers, the channel, and things I've been saying ad nauseam now. So that was one of the things I started on. And then, yeah, I carried that over as part of my responsibilities at Neiman Marcus.

Ben Marks [00:04:16]: And this very topic came up on stage yesterday, actually, I remember that. And people were talking about unified commerce. It does seem like we have these themes that we have to revisit every so often. What is old is a new lesson to learn again. And then you've actually, in your time in the space, you've been kind enough, I think, to write a book now in its second revision. Remarkable retail. Now that revision came post COVID, right?

Steve Dennis [00:04:47]: Yeah. What happened? So this is actually, I mean, I'm glad I did it, but I would say it was extremely egocentric, which is kind of funny because my new book is a lot more about letting go of ego. But in any event, yeah, I wrote, I finished writing remarkable retail in the fall of 2019. And as much as I like to think I have some ability to understand the future, I did not see a global pandemic coming. So the book came out basically like three weeks into the pandemic, and it did okay. But as I was talking about it and doing, speaking and working with clients and whatnot, like all people wanted to talk about really was the effect of the pandemic. And of course, you know, early on, we didn't really know where it was going. But the lack of having this, you know, pretty new book, well, brand new book, not have any reference to the biggest thing that's happened, really, in any of our lifetimes.

Steve Dennis [00:05:40]: And the potential implications, which, as it turned out, I don't think they've been nearly as significant as a lot of people were worried about at that time. But that's another story. So, yeah, so then I very quickly decided, you know, maybe I need to update this. And so about a year later, we.

Ben Marks [00:05:53]: Did the second remarkable retail revisited.

Steve Dennis [00:05:56]: Yes.

Female Narrator [00:05:59]: Commerce famous is proudly presented by Shopware, the leading open source e commerce platform for mid market and lower enterprise merchants. More than 50,000 clients already process over $25 billion in annual GMB through Shopware. Find out more about Shopware and the best value in e commerce@shopware.com.

Ben Marks [00:06:16]: Dot well, and so you've been around to see the massive transformation. The whole point of commerce famous is we like to think of people entering the industry today and looking around and saying, okay, why are things the way they are? And some of these conditions predate even e commerce. But you've literally been around for the shift at what at the time was one of the big retailer brands. And I was kind of curious how much with everything happening today, of course, we see AI has entered the room back in October, over a year ago. So that is just one thing in a series of things that are transformational. Do you see that it is kind of this, well, I've seen this happen before, and now it's happening again. It's just now. Here are the elements, here are the players.

Ben Marks [00:07:12]: Or do you think you see things headed in truly new and interesting ways?

Steve Dennis [00:07:16]: I'm generally of the belief, but my disclaimer is I'm absolutely not an expert on AI in any regard, but I do believe that AI is going to be the most profound disruption we've seen in decades, probably relative to the invention of the Internet. Thank you, Al Gore, by the way. But we've had many, many waves of disruption. And I think there's two big lessons. I think one is pay attention to more carefully than most companies that have found themselves into trouble. Actually did I often talk about this idea, which is not an original idea of there's awareness, there's acceptance and there's action. I think many, many companies are plenty aware of what's going on. They don't necessarily accept the degree of impact some of these changes are going to have on their business.

Steve Dennis [00:08:15]: And then of course, if you don't have acceptance, you're very unlikely to get to action. So I think one lesson is just you've got to stay on top of what's going on. You have to really think carefully about your business and not be in denial essentially. But the second thing is how are you going to put together a learning plan? How are you going to put together testing and learning experimentation? I think the companies that typically do best with any kind of disruption or ones that are committed to discovery and exploration and testing because very few people get, probably nobody really gets these profound shifts right early on. Right. It's just too hard to tell how things are going to play out.

Ben Marks [00:08:55]: Yeah, I guess the spoils go to those who do, especially when you have this kind of Greenfield minefield of AI and because it is doing something that really hasn't been, we haven't quite seen before.

Steve Dennis [00:09:10]: Yeah, I think you also, one other point I make in my new book, leaders Leap, is that you gotta be really careful about what I call unreliable narrators because there's a lot of people, and I'll use one example that probably is familiar to many people. It's actually sort of two sides of the coin. So the first part is the idea that we were going through some retail apocalypse now. Since that became a popular narrative, physical retail has had positive growth every single year and thousands and thousands of stores have opened. So if you listen to this idea that physical retail was dead or dying, just as an investor, lets say I forget all the other people in the industry, but just as an investor, you would never buy Walmart stock or tractor supply stock or any of these companies that were overwhelmingly physical retailers because it's going away. That would just be stupid. At the same time there was this idea, or around the same time there was this idea that you could build big powerful brands online only. So we have all these so called digitally native vertical brands.

Steve Dennis [00:10:15]: So if you had then said, well, I'm going to sell all my Walmart, I'm going to sell all my tractor supply, I'm going to sell all my TJ Maxx, I'm going to sell all my american eagle, Abercrombie and Fitch, whatever, because there's no future in physical stores. But man, I'm going to go buy Allbirds. And I'm going to go buy the realreal and I'm going to buy stitch fix. Well, you would have lost somewhere between 90 and 98% of your money because it turned out that you can't actually build. I mean, unless your name is Amazon and Etsy and a handful of others, you can't build big, significant brands online only. So to a certain degree, there was really a misunderstanding. Yeah, fundamental misunderstanding. So you got to do the work and really understand the economics.

Steve Dennis [00:10:54]: But also, frankly, there were people like Mark Andreessen in the venture capital community that were promoting this narrative, whether it was because they were just dumb and stupid about that or whether it was in their own self interest. Spoiler alert. Probably the latter to promote that narrative.

Ben Marks [00:11:09]: Yeah, I was going to say I was just assume. And now I'm risking maybe never having him on the podcast, but I brought him.

Steve Dennis [00:11:16]: There's a few. There's a few companies that I need to bring security with me, and I think I just always assumed they had.

Ben Marks [00:11:21]: Positions on the other side of whatever they were selling. Well, and as we think about what's happening today, you had remarkable retail, and now you've got a new book coming out in April.

Steve Dennis [00:11:34]: That's right.

Ben Marks [00:11:34]: And that's leaders leap. You want to give us the skinny on that one?

Steve Dennis [00:11:39]: Sure. So it's, while I draw on my retail experience and I talk somewhat about retail, it's not a retail specific book. It's really a strategic leadership, transformational leadership book. And, you know, and what I, you know, people have asked me, well, what was the impetus for the book? And I said, I think there's like three things. One is some of what we already talked about was, having started my retail career at an iconic retailer, once the most valuable retail brand in the world, Sears, and seeing how they were not able to make remotely close to a successful transformation, that's just been part of my, I don't know, PTSD or something like, yeah. And then as I see other companies, both companies that I've worked for or just study, et cetera, continue to struggle, there's just part of me which is like, you know, this shall not stand. You know, I want to try to bring something to it. There's also this.

Steve Dennis [00:12:35]: This part, though, of kind of this balance for fear of fear and hope, because I have the fear that some of these great companies are going to go away. And I've seen, obviously, many of them, you know, bed, bath and beyond, most recently, et cetera. But also I want to try to provide a more hopeful message. Like, there is a different way of doing things. Like, you don't have to necessarily sink into irrelevance or extinction. And then the third thing, which is really what makes the book different than some other books that have covered somewhat similar territory, is what I've come to see is, yes, there are plenty of mistakes of strategy where people haven't done the work, misunderstand the trends, just like we were talking about physical retail. But ultimately, leadership comes from the top, and many senior leaders, I think, have a hard time even if they know the right thing to do. Because part of the question is, if you knew the right thing to do, like at Sears, what do we.

Steve Dennis [00:13:27]: You absolutely knew. Knew what we needed to do. We just didn't do it, or we didn't do it to the degree we needed to. What's the reason? Well, what I've come to see, particularly leaning on some of Renee Brown's work, is a lot of that gets back to fear ego protection. I use the word ignorance, but maybe that's not the right word, but it's kind of leaning into this, not really opening the aperture enough to look more broadly. Because, for example, to use a non retail example, if you look at what happened to, say, the taxi industry or the hotel industry, Uber and Lyft are not a better. It's not the fast, proverbial faster horse. They're an entirely different way of accomplishing essentially the same thing the customer wants, which is get me from here to there.

Steve Dennis [00:14:12]: But they came at it out of left field, marrying new technology, understanding how customers were responding to technology. Same thing you could say about Airbnb and Vrbo. They weren't caught in this idea that, well, how do I make my Marriott or my Hyatt or whatever a little bit better? Oh, put in a nice bra, all these kind of incremental things, which might be okay, but they came at it a totally different way. And if you look at the value that's been created in lodging, almost all of that has gone to. It's a little hard to tell with verbal, because they're part of Expedia, but massive value creation, you know, Netflix, et cetera, you can go down the line and see where people took on a traditional industry in a fundamentally different way. So I think if you're gonna allow yourself to understand that, you have to really think more radically about what's going on. You have to approach problems in different ways, but you also have to realize that you have to compete with yourself, which is also not a new idea, but it's still very much in play.

Ben Marks [00:15:14]: Well, it is sort of. You brought up a couple points there. I mean, just when you get down to ego, is it hubris? Is it just intentionally leaving the blinders on? What has worked before is working now? I'm coming from the technology side of things. I'm always of the mind that if you're not, probably, if you're not innovating, I see innovation as a forward movement, not always movement in the right direction. But if you're not innovating, you're effectively standing still. And if you're standing still, you're getting behind, right?

Steve Dennis [00:15:43]: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. One of the things I talked about in the beginning of the book is this idea of a transformation gap, which others have talked about this in a similar way. But basically, if you think about on one dimension or one axis, the speed of innovation, and Gen AI is a great example. But I think you can look at the past 2030 years and say that the pace of technology innovation at least is accelerating. It's accelerating at an accelerating rate, more exponential in many cases than linear. Not always.

Steve Dennis [00:16:11]: And you have Moore's law and a bunch of other things that we've known about for a while. So if you see what I call the speed of disruption, you have to be able to change at the speed of disruption, which will be different.

Ben Marks [00:16:22]: I like that.

Steve Dennis [00:16:23]: Depending upon your industry. I don't know. In the dry cleaning business, probably not a ton of innovation, but lots of other industries, massive changes that we've witnessed over the past decade or whatever. Then the other issue, which is a little bit leans into what I talk about in remarkable retail, is this idea that when customers, whether we're talking about b, two C businesses, b, two b businesses, but customers have way more choices than they had previously when they have ready access to all sorts of information. It's so easy to compare products, get pricing, what other customers say. It's completely different than back in the day when I started in retail, where almost every transaction involves somebody getting their car, getting on the bus, on the subway, going around to a couple of retailers. That was your set of choices. So the idea of being remarkable is to be intensely relevant and very clearly differentiated from your competition.

Steve Dennis [00:17:19]: So the bar continues to be raised to stand out. So in the battle for attention, just getting noticed, you have to do that. But to actually get customers to engage with you, ultimately buy your product, become loyal, give you high np's scores, the bar continues to be raised. So. So my little mantra for this book is, you know, you have to aim higher move fast or act more boldly if you're going to be successful in the future. And that does require you to be willing to be wrong. Getting back to ego, it often requires, again, not an original idea. But one of the things I say is what got you here is not likely to get you there.

Steve Dennis [00:17:52]: And in fact, what I've seen in many cases is many. I don't know, I'm not going to name any names, but I think you can think about some retailers that are struggling, that have been around for a while. They are leaning, I think, about Liam Neeson. I have a very particular set of skills. Set of skills. It's like, well, if my business is struggling and I came up through merchandising, it must be, I need better product. Or if we have a little trouble with sales associates, we need a little bit more service, or we need to paint the walls. Those are all perfectly fine ideas, but if your fundamental business model is broken, that will be a lot of effort for very little return.

Steve Dennis [00:18:35]: And just to use the department stores as an example, because it's like my favorite whipping post or whatever, but depending on the data you see, department stores peaked somewhere between 1999 and 2003, and since then, they have lost about 70% of their volume. So from a relative market share, it's just been a bloodbath. And if you look at just the recent results of, well, we don't know so much about JC Penney, but it's pretty bad from everything I can tell. Look at Macy's, Coles, Macy's, Dillards, all have had sales decreases, very mediocre profits. Macy's just announced they're closing 150 stores, which at this point might be the right move for them. I'd have to see more data to know. But very few companies have store closed and costs cut their way to prosperity. In fact, the list is approximately zero in retail.

Steve Dennis [00:19:33]: So the response is typically, I'm going to take something that's, I call it the slightly better version of mediocre. I'm going to take something that's mediocre, which means you're not going to be successful in this day's world, and I'm going to make it slightly better. And I'm like, well, that's kind of what we tried at Sears and that didn't work. And I think you can go through history, whether we're talking about bed, bath and beyond borders, you know, blockbuster, that's just the bees, you know, that tried it and they didn't change for a new era fundamentally. Right?

Ben Marks [00:20:02]: And that's you know, I mean, I guess you can have some empathy or sympathy with the, you know, the collective folk behind these brands because it is, it can be awfully hard to, you know, when you are in, when you're in a certain lane, it can be really, really hard to recognize what's happening outside of that lane.

Steve Dennis [00:20:22]: Absolutely.

Ben Marks [00:20:23]: So do you cover this in leaders leap? Just not even, just that. You need to, do you need to step out of the lane or do you also provide maybe some recommendations for how to do that?

Steve Dennis [00:20:33]: I do. I get into, I mean, it's a little hard to be highly specific because of the breadth of the audience that I'm trying to approach. But what I do in part two, which I talk about these, what I call mind leaps, which is really different ways to think about particular issues. At the end, I have a series of kind of study questions which I hope will allow readers to look at the material that I just covered, but now put it in the context of their own business, as opposed to me saying, well, if you're in the pharmaceutical industry, here's the four things you should do. This.

Ben Marks [00:21:04]: Yeah.

Steve Dennis [00:21:04]: Or even within, like, if you just think about retail in particular, you know, what Macy's needs to do is probably completely different than what the real, real needs to do versus. So, I mean, there's such a vast number of different sectors. The one thing I will say, and it's a caveat I try to make, and this is why it's not very helpful. Like, people ask me all the time about Macy's and, you know, cause I've just spent so much time in the department store business and have worked in and around it for the last 15 years as well, is, well, you know, what would you do if they made you CEO of Macy's? And first of all, I'm like, a, that's not happening. But, but b, is, you know, and I'm not trying to be funny about it. I would be, I wouldn't take the job because I think it's an impossible job. I hope I'm wrong about that. Yeah, of course.

Steve Dennis [00:21:52]: But my sometimes more jerky answer is, well, I'd get somebody working on a time machine because the problem is they started, like, many of the things they're doing now are really good ideas 15 years ago, but now, and this is where it's not helpful advice. It's like, well, if you get to a point, and this is what I'm worried, when I talk about hope and fear, it's like, there's many people that still have a chance to make a difference. And I try to be hopeful about that. My fear is that it's too late because these brands watched the last 20 years happen to them. I call it sleepwalking through the revolution. And the other day I was talking to somebody, and I'm sure somebody else said this, but I can't find the reference. So if you're listening and I stole it from you, tell me, come find it. But I said, I keep coming back.

Steve Dennis [00:22:40]: When I look at some of these companies that have gotten themselves into a lot of trouble and they're still thrashing, my question is, and sometimes, I mean, like, literally, you the leader, but other times I just mean, you, the company is, if the world has changed so much, why have you changed so little? Because it's not news. Right. Right. Like, you have to be really asleep to not realize how seismic the shifts have been in the past 15, 2025 years. And, you know, and then we got this whole thing, oh, it's going to happen with Jenni and all sorts of other, you know, retail media networks. You know, there's plenty going on that's new and quite transformative. But, you know, if you've been in these jobs for a long time and you basically watched the last 20 years happen to you and you've done so little and, you know, okay, well, now you are where you are, though, right? So that's like, you know, in the absence of a time machine, you got to deal with where you are.

Ben Marks [00:23:34]: Inertia is a hell of a drug, right?

Steve Dennis [00:23:36]: And the problem is that for many of these companies that find themselves in these situations, their options are very constrained. I mean, the answer for Macy's might be, and they're actually kind of moving in this direction. But I said ten years ago, Macy's needs to take a couple of markets. They need to blow it up and say, what is my ideal situation look like in the future? Which probably looks like one or two really powerful destination stores with really cool stuff like go to Howard's and steal a bunch of things. Food halls, have a ski slope, I don't know, but have things that are really, really differentiated as well as some really exclusive product, amazing service, et cetera, but a destination store. And then you probably need a bunch of smaller satellite stores, which are advertising for your brand, maybe feature a couple of hot categories, like you happen to own Blue Mercury, so maybe Blue Mercury should be there because that's a distribution they're so outleted by Ulta and Sephora at this point. So blow that out and then have buy online, pickup in store because half the stuff that gets ordered online is bought online. You can return stuff there, lower your costs.

Steve Dennis [00:24:36]: Right. So I pretty like that's my hypothesis for what Macy's should do. Well, since then, TJ Maxx has opened 1000 stores. Alt has opened 500 stores. You know, Kohl's is open, you know, so, so the degree to which you can now invest that kind of money, I mean, nobody's going to give you $5 billion to pursue that strategy because it's too big and bold and their investors aren't, and their board are very unlikely to stand for it. So now you do. They call it a bold new chapter. I'd call it a somewhat tepid new chapter.

Steve Dennis [00:25:09]: And I hope it works. I mean, really, I'm not trying to be funny about it. I really do hope it works. I don't know Tony spring personally. He seems like a good guy. People that do know him say great things about him. He's done a really nice job at Bloomingdale's, so I wish him luck. But it would have been better to have started far earlier.

Steve Dennis [00:25:25]: So don't be Macy's. That's first show, title page on the first book.

Ben Marks [00:25:31]: Yeah. I've always enjoyed being on the open source, but kind of argue open side of e commerce platforms. But one of the reasons I enjoy it is because it tends to innovators show be up. And so there's tons of innovation and there's some wacky stuff that I've seen over the years, people doing all sorts of bonkers things. But I love the idea that innovation, I think in order to do that, you are stepping outside of what you know and what's comfortable, and it just forces you to look at things from a different angle. Probably forces you to take in new information, listen to some new voices. And it sounds like if that was something that Macy's or others were doing 1015 years ago, ago, because they had the footprint, they had the brand recognition, and you're right, they could have taken a couple of those stores and just flipped it on its head and say, hey, by the way, this is the new era of retail. We're defining it.

Ben Marks [00:26:30]: And I think if you come at the problem that you know is always going to happen, which is that things are going to change, things will evolve. If you're the one that is actually sort of pushing those boundaries, you're probably going to ride the crest of that wave a lot further.

Steve Dennis [00:26:44]: Well, yeah, two other things I'd add about that. One is just quickly, is that one of the great things about e commerce, the risk of staying the obvious is just the agility that you have built in, right? Like you're not going out building these big massive stores that you got to live with and the lease for ten years, right? So not that there aren't massive technology investments you sometimes have to make, but the ability to respond, be more dynamic, test things more easily, have better, generally speaking, better data attribution, that's a huge advantage. So some of these companies are just constrained by the protection of the installed base. One of the quotes I have in leaders Leap is I forget the venture capitalist name now. But he says, why was God able to create the world in seven days? He didn't have to worry about the installed base. And I think, but you see, and we saw very much our situation at Sears was that, well, we got all these stores, 870 or whatever we had in malls mostly. And you know, we're losing all this market share to Home Depot and Lowe's and best buy. And it's pretty clear that there's very little we can do on the mall to get that share back.

Steve Dennis [00:27:52]: So we experimented with a bunch of things, but we never did the bold things we looked at, including buying lowes when we had an opportunity to buy lows because it was going to cannibalize our core business. And this is, some people may know this as the innovator's dilemma. Clayton Christensen, a great book in the nineties and I'm trying to like, I'd love people to say this is the innovator's dilemma for a digital age because I'm very much calling back some of his work, but his, you know, his work was really in a pre digital world and smart, connected world, et cetera. So. But no, it's a pretty common, common problem. And so you really have to change your relationship to risk. One of the things I talk about is this idea that safe is risky. And you know, it often seems like these incremental improvements are the smartest things you can do because you're sticking close to what you already know how to do.

Steve Dennis [00:28:44]: It's easy to predict the ROI, or easier to predict the ROI doesn't require you to take these big bets. But to your earlier point, you know, you may not be literally standing still, but you're going 10 miles an hour when the world is going 70, and then that just means you're falling further and further behind. And then it turns out that this slow and steady trajectory is actually the riskiest thing you could do because now you're irrelevant or maybe even extinct. Yeah.

Ben Marks [00:29:10]: So, yeah, so don't shuffle your feet and just do the hard work. Do the hard work is the hard.

Steve Dennis [00:29:15]: Work and take smart risks. I think one thing I don't want people to think, and I deliberately call it leaders leap, because I'm trying to sense that you need to take big, bold steps. But it's not about taking moonshots. Sometimes we get really confused. It's just like, well, here's my betting strategy. I took all my money and I put it on one number in Vegas. Every once in a while, somebody becomes extremely rich doing that. But, you know, that's a dumb strategy statistically.

Steve Dennis [00:29:43]: So it's not about these big bets, necessarily, or falling in love with something that Elon Musk did or whatever automatically, and saying, well, I should be more like Elon Musk. Kids don't. I would recommend against it, but also probably impossible. But the companies that are most successful in innovation, from what I've seen and experienced directly, it's not like they've found some magic formula of how to innovate. They have a culture of experimentation. They understand that innovation is central to their business, and they try more stuff, and they're good at saying, okay, this is not working. Stop. Some of this is working.

Steve Dennis [00:30:24]: Reshape kind of pivot and see what we can salvage from it. Or stepping on the gas when there's a lot of promise.

Ben Marks [00:30:32]: Well, Steve, we're going to leave it there. I appreciate you showing up. Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Dennis. Remarkable retail podcast book. And then coming in April, leaders leap. Sounds like you'll have a lot of good advice in their actionable strategies and really just a way for people to get out of their comfort zone and actually do the hard work.

Steve Dennis [00:30:53]: Well, I hope so. Get ready to leap, folks.

Ben Marks [00:30:56]: All right, enjoy the rest of shop talk.

Steve Dennis [00:30:57]: Steve, thanks very much.

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