Celebrate small business week, implement a small businesses mindset and revive your day to day!

Small businesses aren’t cookie cutters. They require unique, out of the box thinking to thrive in this online, big box world we live in. As small business week ends, keep that unique spirit alive with your teams big or small. Think like a small business. Ask for unique perspectives from yourself and your teams. It’s true, even from the 3,000 th cubical on the 20th floor, it’s possible to bring the small business ideology to day to day tasks!

How to bring small business thinking to any situation:

  1. Identify a routine task, process or project
  2. Ask yourself how many unique perspectives you have around you
    1. HINT: add up all the people involved directly and indirectly
  3. Ask yourself if you’ve ever challenged the team for new ideas
    1. Think also about how many new ideas you’ve ever agreed to or implemented
    2. HINT: The impact of your answer to a. may require more work on your part to open the team up to this new approach. Ask yourself if you’ve ever challenged the team for new ideas
  4.  Ask the team for new ideas
    1. Accept the new ideas
    2. HINT: Accepting the new ideas will drive more participation and more unique ideas
  5.  New ideas will bring a unique brand and excitement to the group
  6. Unique branding and excitement will lead to engagement and fuel further new ideas

Think about your role in your business. Are you going about the tasks or excited? If you are more task driven and less energized, champion a new way of thinking. At Ace, we like to act local and think global.  It’s how David beat Goliath, and how our little guy entrepreneurs win out over big box stores and online retailing. We all know there is great importance in operational efficiencies, best practices and procedures; just don’t get lost in them. Think like a small business and try applying a unique perspective to liven up a routine task.

The Ace Center For Excellence celebrates the continued success of Ace’s small businesses. Within the larger efficiencies of our cooperative, the heart of the small business beats strong! We’d love to hear from you! Tell us about a time you’ve thought like a small business to make everyday tasks unique!

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April 2017 marks The Ace Center For Excellence 2 Year Anniversary

How we got there

As we reflect on the last two years, we can’t help but also proudly reflect on Ace’s many successes, especially in sales and customer satisfaction. Most recently we received top marks in the 2017 Temkin Experience Rating and Top 10 in the January publication of the Entrepreneur Magazine Top 500. Ace also recently celebrated the opening of its 5000 store.

Our strategy

We all realize that success requires learning from the past and creating strategies for the future. Rather than sit back and revel in our victories, the Ace team continues to strategize against the soaring success of online retailing by bringing to life our unique weapons in the world; an irrational pursuit of service, quality and convenience.

We’d like to hear from you about the 2017 successes or challenges your organization faces!  The first five comments (made below) we receive will receive a free
Amaze Every Customer Every Time book.

What we do

With each tailored Ace Center For Excellence event, our speakers talk from success not about success and bring to life Ace Hardware’s culture of customer service. As we move into year three, our keynote speakers and workshop facilitators are poised to help you morph, modify and translate your business. Our goal is to help galvanize your teams to take up your weapon in the world and protect your brand promise.

Read some of the most recent client feedback.

Our 2017 team includes:

  • John Venhuizen, President & CEO, Ace Hardware Corporation
  • John Surane, Executive VP of Merchandising, Retail Operations, Business to Business, and Wholesale Holdings
  • Kane Calamari, VP, Human Resources, Organizational Development, Communications, Ace Foundation and Customer Care
  • Tom Knox, President and CEO, Westlake Ace Hardware
  • Gina Schaefer, Founder and CEO of 11 Ace Hardware stores
  • Art Friedman, Managing Director of Retail Operations for 21 store Ace Hardware chain and International Trainer
  • Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware’s resident Home Expert and Ace Store Owner

The Ace Center For Excellence is positioned to help. Contact the Ace Center For Excellence or refer a business partner to us today.

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Taking an idea to the next level.


When you have an idea that’s gained traction – be it a business, product, or a vision for our team. How have you taken that idea to the next level?

  1. Thinking even bigger (stronger, broader, faster, cheaper).
  2. Thinking like a small business (better, focused, personalized, differentiated).

Thinking Even Bigger

The saying goes, “March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” It suggests the attitude that sometimes drives entrepreneurs, team leaders and executives in pursuit of a big idea – roaring in, like a lion. If you recognized this approach, is it working? Are you celebrating long term, repeatable success? Is the culture of your organization strong? If positive answers to these questions aren’t readily available, try thinking smaller.

Thinking like a small business

The second approach is one that we hear most often from our Ace Center for Excellence speakers and clients as they’ve worked to unite members around a national brand, merge corporate cultures or strive to compete with larger companies. Here are a few examples of strategies they’ve used:

  • Celebrate uniqueness. If you’re selling a product or service, find what you can do that bigger, stronger competitors can’t, and pursue it. If you’re motivating a team to move in a common direction, let people and teams contribute their own unique skills and personalities.
  • Put the “unity” in “community. Create shared values for your team, especially if they encourage community service. Local businesses are amazing in their shared passion for serving their local community. As teams serve, it helps them connect with each other and their customer.
  • Tell your stories. When striving to provide a consistent customer experience, gather stories about how individuals delivered service with something extra. Then, find a way to share those stories with your members, owners, dealers or team members.

See what we’ve learned from our clients and speakers.

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Five Questions to Help Share Your Vision

Many of the teams, associations and companies the Ace Center for Excellence speakers and workshop leaders collaborate with have reached a milestone on their path toward a future vision – the challenge of winning some hearts and minds.

Creating opportunities to learn from outside experience can help you meet the challenge. This helps reinforce leaders’ messages that, “it can be done,” with examples of how, “it has been done.” We’ve noticed clients who seem to have the most alignment around their vision, start collaborating with our keynote speakers or workshop leaders using a list of questions like this:
1. How does a neighborhood Ace Hardware store survive with such big competitors?
2. What examples can you share to help our team feel confident we’ll reach our goal?
3. Our members are proud of their local brand. How do Ace retailers maintain their local identity, while upholding the national brand standards?
4. How do culture and values contribute to performance?
5. Can you share examples of amazing customer service?

As you roll out a vision for your team, gather some outside perspectives. Find examples of other organizations or companies who were on a similar path. When teams learn what is possible, how it’s been done, and how they can contribute, they can start seeing eye-to-eye.

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Let’s think about…your purpose

As 2017 begins, you’re likely to face big challenges. You could be toe-to-toe with bigger, faster competitors, or changing consumer perceptions and buying habits. Maybe you’re working to stand out among the myriad of other choices customers or talented job candidates have.

To meet the challenge, business demands that you give your consumer what they want and most people want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

That’s where your business purpose comes in.

Of course, in business we keep score with money. But a meaningful business purpose can offer that “something bigger” your customers, and your team, are looking for.

Take Ace Hardware’s business purpose as an example. Our customers know us as the helpful place. That means our business isn’t about selling hardware. It’s about serving others.

Here’s how that was demonstrated by a store in Chattanooga, TN:

When the community was hit by a massive snowstorm, Steve Kelly, Director of Store Operations made sure all his stores stayed open. In fact, Steve, his store managers and associates spent the night in the stores to be ready when people in the community needed supplies to deal with the snow clearing and power outages. As he put it, it was about “being there for the community in a time of need.”

While some may argue that a servant heart is the enemy of a profitable endeavor, we’d argue it’s about being part of something bigger.

With the New Year underway, take a fresh look ask yourself “What do we stand for beyond making money?”

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