LinkedIn’s Top Voices Retail 2018 | Here’s What Drives Me

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This past week I was named as one of the top voices in retail on LinkedIn along with others including NBC reporter Lauren Thomas. I figured my 50,000 loyal subscribers to my blog and those 350,000 on LinkedIn who follow me - as well as those of you who found me via the Top Voices list - might want to learn more about me as a retail expert, the kind of issues I speak about, and a bit of my background.

When did you start?

I trademarked the Retail Doctor in the US after hearing a Tony Robbins speech in 1994 where he told the audience you have to become a brand no one else can do as well.

What do you write about?

I write about how brick and mortar retailers can stitch together the strands of community from one person to the next. We can make the world a better place through the people working and shopping in retail.

What LinkedIn post are you most proud of and why?

The Five Stupidest Questions To Ask Retail Shoppers. Not only did it get thousands of clicks and hundreds of interactions, but it also developed a dialogue of shoppers confirming my insight and solutions. With over 300,000 followers on LinkedIn, the article opened an important dialogue around training at various size retail operations. This type of groundswell can only lead to better customer service for everyone.

What is the best conversation you’ve seen around your writing?

The posts I wrote on social activism with retailers like Target, Starbucks, and most recently Nike. These posts allowed people to share their perspective, particularly on LinkedIn. It They gave people hope about how they see such roles becoming more in alignment with retailers making the world a better place.

How do you come up with ideas?

While I have an editorial calendar, I most often write based on questions from my own clients, a trending story in the news, or a recent frustration I experienced in retail.

Where and when do you do your best writing?

After growing up in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to move to the mid-Hudson Valley ten years ago. While most weeks I travel on a plane to somewhere across the world to speak, when I get back to my office, it looks out towards the Hudson river about two hours north of New York City. The serenity gives me clarity to share the major trends I’ve discovered on my journeys and what’s gnawing at me in the retail space. When I need a creative break, I go out to watch the tugs travel down to New York City or to see the bald eagles soar.

What's one thing we should know about you that's not on your LinkedIn profile?

I grew up the son of a civil rights activist in Toledo, Ohio. He marched with Dr. King and called the Air Force out for saying communists were in the Council of Churches and received an apology. While it’s easy to say we as an American society still have a lot to do on race relations in particular, I’ll never forget my dad’s joy when he saw Obama get elected right before my dad passed away. Now in my 24th year as the Retail Doctor, I continue his vision of a better society by opening our hearts up to everyone regardless of their background, sexual orientation, race, or religion.

Has your sharing on LinkedIn led to any interesting opportunities?

I gained two business owner followers from Portlaoise, Ireland - Allison and Ladonna - through my LinkedIn shares and writing. They believe in my world view of retail so much they contacted their nation retail organization Retail Excellence about me coming to Ireland to speak. Retail Excellence hired me for their keynote speech in Dublin this past spring, an unforgettable experience in part because I was speaking only a few miles from where my ancestors had departed Dublin to find a better life in the US back in the 1800's. I was able to share that story as almost a homecoming which truly resonated.

What news story did you find most interesting in 2018?

The Toys "R" Us bankruptcy. I received a call from a reporter covering the story wanting to set up an appointment to talk. I just happened to be going through security at the Las Vegas airport. After I hung up, a guy in front of me said he was a Toys "R" Us VP in Canada and that Canada was still doing well. The U.S. part of Toys "R" Us wouldn’t take any of their suggestions. His insight helped inform my interview when I got to the gate. What I also found interesting was the Business Insider follow-up covering all the iterations of “R Us” - even sextoysrus – you get the idea. That interview led to my widely-circulated comment, “I believe that a couple of Toys "R" Us employees who work in the back were too high on energy drinks and came up with these names.”

What story or trend are you watching in 2019?

The pendulum seems to be swinging towards more human-focused interactions. How that can work with rising labor costs and several years of slashed training budgets will make news for those who have the discipline to sculpt every interaction on their salesfloor. Branding the shopper experience in-store will be crucial and that will be much more than AI, beacons or other shiny objects.

What book, podcast or movie inspired you this year?

Nanette by Hannah Gadsby was a tour de force performance. It shows the power of telling your personal story and how, when you start from the heart, you can grip people with your honesty and infuse authenticity.

Those stories - those moments - show us the way forward to who we need to be by sharing our own stories in a vulnerable and honest way.

The future of retail is humans connecting with other humans who have an unfinished story of why they’re standing in our stores. Our work finishes the stories for our shoppers.

Looking for the perfect speaker for your brick and mortar retailers? Look no further than Bob Phibbs, the retail expert called on by retailers of all sizes.