Why businesses fail, and how to succeed

Donald Cooper speaks in Prince Albert on October 12, 2017. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Donald Cooper passes along his insights at Chamber of Commerce event

Donald Cooper knows a thing or two about doing business.

The man behind award winning fashion retail and 18 years at a leading sports equipment company, Cooper has become a renowned, highly sought-after speaker in the business world.

Last Thursday, he brought his wisdom to Prince Albert as the keynote speaker for the Chamber of Commerce’s Chairperson’s night, where the new board was sworn in and Fred Matheson named a lifetime chamber member.

In his decades in business and consulting with others on how to improve theirs, Cooper has learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t and why.

His presentation focused on traits that lead to business success, as well as the importance of clarity and creating value.

“In business, we cannot get someone else t do our thinking for us,” Cooper said. “We need to do the thinking. We need to work on the business, not just in it.”

He looked out over the room. He had one message for everyone.

“The number one reality, your market is over-served and under-differentiated. Whatever you sell, there are too damn many other people selling it,” he said. “You mostly look alike, sound alike, talk alike and charge alike. We need to differentiate ourselves or we’re in trouble.”

The number two reality, he said, has to do with customers.

“Customers are better informed, more confused, more cynical, more demanding, less forgiving and connected,” Cooper explained.

He used the examples of headache pills and phone companies ‑ two things that typically go together —Two things that also include dozens of options and little clarity as to what options are best and why.

“Every industry is tough,” Cooper explained. “Unless you love it and have a burning desire to do it.”
When that desire, at the top, fades away, Cooper said, it also disappears from the rest of the business.

“We start out passionate, and then we get a bit complacent, and then the results aren’t as good so we get resentful and blame somebody else. Then we get bitter, and then we die,” Cooper said. “For a lot of people the life journey is passionate, complacent, resentful, bitter and dead. What’s wrong with passionate, passionate and death?” he asked.

“It’s always going to end the same way, but the journey is so different.”

For more on this story, please see the October 17 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald