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J.C. Penney’s 7 Keys to a Smashing Success

J.C. Penney’s 7 Keys to a Smashing Success

Image by ul Marga.

“Every man must decide for himself whether he shall master his world or be mastered by it.”

“The thought in my mind was that I must be a good merchant. If I were a good merchant, the rest would probably take care of itself.”

As you may know, John Cash Penney was the founder of the very successful chain of American department stores that bear his first two initials and last name. He founded the company in 1902 and everything went swimmingly until the big market crash in 1929 and the following Great Depression. Penney went into a big financial crisis and as a result of that a health crisis too but managed to work his way out of them both.

In his spare time he spent time on philanthropy with other positively minded people like Norman Vincent Peale – of The Power of Positive Thinking fame – and IBM-founder Thomas J. Watson.

Here are 7 of my favourite tips for success from J. C. Penney.

1. You receive the value you provide.

“We get real results only in proportion to the real values we give.”

“A merchant who approaches business with the idea of serving the public well has nothing to fear from the competition.”

The Penney chain of stores was actually first named The Golden Rule stores, and that rule was Penney’s guiding principle.

So the key here is not to keep your main focus on the money.

The key is to focus on the value you can give your customers. By giving value you get value back.

And the more value you give the more satisfied and loyal customers you get. And the more money you make. There are exceptions of course, but generally I think this is how things work.

I also think that, for at least a whole bunch of people, it’s important to focus on the value for motivational reasons. If you focus on the value you can provide you can maintain and even increase your motivation and keep going. If you focus on the money and it doesn’t flow in as fast as you’d hoped it’s easy to be discouraged and give up. Plus, money alone isn’t always a strong enough long time motivator.

I think this is why many blogs/websites fail as the owners have been focusing too much on the money and too little the value they can provide. This makes the blogging less fun and if you are thinking about the money all the time then you’re probably not thinking as much about your audience as you could. And so little value is received because little value is given.

The people that are really successful financially often seem to – a large degree at least – not care that much about the money. They love what they do and therefore provide a great amount of value to their customers and fans. And so they are richly rewarded.

2. Give more value than expected.

“It is the service we are not obliged to give that people value most.”

One of the big reasons people get “normal” results is because they give a normal amount of value to others. But some people go beyond that. They give even more. And so they not only receive more value because they give more, but also because they stand out amongst the rest. And, as Penney says, it’s that value that is most important because you don’t really have to give it and few do.

I believe that the smashing success of personal development bloggers like Steve Pavlina and Leo Babauta is to a large degree because they give extreme amounts of value – practical or inspirational – to their readers on a consistent basis. Other factors like strategic thinking and who you know also play a part but without that value in the content you won’t get that far.

3. How you treat people determines your success.

“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.”

“The well-satisfied customer will bring the repeat sale that counts.”

Here’s one way how bringing the extra value pays off. The best promotion is said to be word of mouth recommendations from one friend to another. It is also one of the harder things to get because people only recommend really good and valuable stuff to their friends.

So you have to provide a big or, even better, an extreme amount of value to people to access this form of advertising and relationships. It is also the extreme amount of value that keeps people coming back over and over no matter if it’s to your store, your blog or to just to hang out with you.

Now I’m not saying that I’m doing this consistently online or offline. Such a thing is quite difficult. But it’s a rewarding and useful ideal to move yourself closer and closer towards.

How to bring this extreme amount of value is something everyone has to figure out for themselves depending upon who you are and what area of life we are talking about. In blogging an extreme amount of value may lie in very practical and useful tips or something very entertaining. In relationships between people some factors may be the amounts of fun, positivity, authenticity and support a person can bring to others.

4. Listen.

“The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.”

People want to be understood. If you are just waiting for your turn to talk instead of listening then you’ll often miss much of what is said (verbally or non-verbally). There will be a lack of genuine understanding.

One way to become a better listener is to stay present – you can find 8 tips for doing that here – while listening. This will help you to decrease the bad habit of thinking about the future and what you should say next while trying to listen. If you are present and really there while listening then that will also come through in your body language, which gives the person talking a vibe and feeling that you are really listening to what s/he has to say. Being present also improves your focus and allows you to better tune out possible interruptions or distractions in your surroundings.

And, if you really listen then that alone will often provide you naturally with a better and more genuine answer than a clever response thought up while trying to listen simultaneously.

A couple of other small tips are to keep eye-contact while listening and to be open to the possibility that whatever the person is about to say will actually be interesting. If you have already made up your mind that he or she will say something boring then it will be hard to pay attention.

Listening isn’t just good to avoid miscommunications and improve understanding while managing people or working in groups. If you have a blog, company or a friend then listening to what your audience/clients/friend really want can help you to serve their actual needs. Instead of the ones that you just presume that they have.

5. Books are good. Experience is even better.

The greatest teacher I know is the job itself.”

“Theory is splendid but until put into practice, it is valueless.”

To really learn you have put what you have learned into practise. You have to take action over and over. Try one thing, then another. Learn from your mistakes.

The more action you take, the more valuable feedback you’ll receive. The amount of practical knowledge and results you get is largely decided by how much action you choose to take and how much you are able to learn from previous experiences. You can then use that real-life knowledge together with lessons from external sources to readjust your aim more accurately for the next attempt.

Check out How to Take More Action: 9 Powerful Tips for some pointers on how to develop a habit of taking more action.

6. Think for yourself. Prepare yourself.

“Determine to do some thinking for yourself. Don’t live entirely upon the thoughts of others. Don’t be an automaton.”

“As a rule, we find what we look for; we achieve what we get ready for.”

Social conditioning may not get you where you want to go. It will tell you to do certain common things and to provide adequate value.

But to fulfil more of your actual potential you have move beyond that. You can do that by educating yourself, by reading and talking to people who already are where you want to go. And, as the previous tip mentions, you must also do that by taking action over and over to learn, readjust your aim and to receive the rewards from the real world.

And to actually wind up where you want to go you need know what you are looking for. What is it that you really want? What is your mind focused on?

What you focus your thoughts on will generally be what you find amongst all the different shapes, sizes, people and information that is your world. Without being focused on what you want opportunities will pass you by like anonymous strangers on the street. And without the proper knowledge – both from external sources and from your own experience – you may not be able to grasp that opportunity and turn it into gold.

So you can build your view of the world upon the shoulders of giants and other people. On what you focus your mind on. Then you try. And you see what actually works for you out in the real world.

And so you refine your maps of the world to – over time – make them more and more accurate and useful for yourself and perhaps for others. Because, as J.C. Penney says in the tip that will end this article, to have continued success you must…

7. Improve.

“Change is vital, improvement the logical form of change.”

“Success cannot come from standstill men. Methods change and men must change with them.”

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sounds like Penney really knew what he was talking about. I like a suggestion that I was reminded of this week: Abolish all rules to please the customer.

    Also, I have a new rule I’m trying to live by: Make each person I come in contact with feel like they are the most important person in the world! This one takes lots of thought and focus, but I beleive it will be well worth it.

  • #8. – Break a window at a JC Penny’s store 😉

    Seiously, great post and important to remember … especially the one about delivering value.

  • JC Penny was the first company that allowed customers to return merchandise that they even did not purchase from JC Penny. That rule was paramount in their focus to provide value to their customers.

    I have few articles related to post –




    Great post.


  • “It is the service we are not obliged to give that people value most.”

    I love that quote! It’s what makes the great companies successful. There are times that I do get lazy at work or on my blog, but it’s quotes like that that help me to stay focused.

    I love your style of presenting other people’s thoughts and analyzing their meaning.

    Great Post!

  • Rule 2 is so important especially to the small business owner. In today’s marketplace customer service for the most part is a joke. There is very few places that give outstanding service. A small business owner that gives more than expected is going to referred by his customers.

  • Thank you for an inspiring and very helpful post! Just what I needed at just the right time…!

  • Elvin

    Nice Article !!! Very Inspiring !!!

  • Yo


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