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That stings a bit.

As someone who has spent nearly 30 years working in journalism, I'm pretty familiar with criticism. (Even more so when you consider I've been married for more than 20 years.)

Though it was all the way back in the 1980s, I still remember my first journalism professor. Every week, he would take the stories we had written and read them aloud to the entire class. His criticisms were quick and brutal but honest. It was not at all a rare sight to see students slinking out in tears after class.

While some students resented the professor for his candid nature, I embraced it. Not only was his blunt honesty a great precursor to the atmosphere I would later face in newsrooms, but it was also refreshing for someone to provide honest feedback on my efforts sans saccharine.

I knew that his harsh feedback had a means to an end. He wanted us all to become better writers and journalists. He also wanted to weed out the students who weren't open to criticism. He knew if they couldn't deal with the pressure to excel in his class, they would never be able to deal with the pressures of writing for a living.

I can't say that I actually enjoyed being dressed down in a room full of other aspiring journalists. I also can't say that I never mumbled a few choice words about my professor under my breath. Through it all, however, I like to think that his criticism and guidance made me better.

Today, I rely on the feedback of my peers, our readers and my communications team to provide this same kind of feedback and criticism.

My question is: Where do you get the feedback you need to get better?

I know that your customers are a constant source of ... let's call it "feedback." The soccer moms, contractors and weekend warriors who shop your stores aren't shy about criticism, but usually their insights are confined to how you're overpriced, understocked, rude or unfair.

I'm talking about feedback from other retail professionals. Others who know the business and are willing to provide you candid insights into how well (or not) you run your operation.

While customers might be able to tell you "your price on those widgets is too high," only a retail professional can provide feedback about your pricing strategy, merchandising tactics, assortment or inventory policies.

The only place to receive this kind of unbiased, concise and insightful input about your business is from others, like yourself, who are in the trenches earning a living buying and selling every day.

That's exactly what we did for this month's "Brutally Honest" feature that starts on page 46. We talked to several groups of retailers out there who work together to provide constructive criticism about each other's businesses. We also enlisted the help of two brave retailers who volunteered to critique each other's operations.

So why would anyone subject themselves to this kind of public scrutiny? Because these progressive retailers approach this process the same way I approached Professor Little's Journalism 101 class. They realize that soliciting candid, brutally honest feedback about their operations from respected peers can only do one thing: make them better (though they may mutter a few choice phrases under their breath in the process).

Dan M. Tratensek, Publisher

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Author:Tratensek, Dan M.
Publication:Hardware Retailing
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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