Take it From Us: Our Experience with Product Niche and Prioritization

achiever brick and mortar leading change small business

In the indelible words of Chris Isaak, we did a bad, bad thing.

We talk a big talk here at The Mann Group. We rebuke and reprimand retailers and manufacturers for a host of inefficiencies and blunders. We turn a keen eye on your innards, pull out your passions, and exalt them as your intention. We tell you to consider what your customers truly want, how they truly want it, and to give it to them with truth and genuineness.

Yes, we talk a big talk—but we realized this year that we weren’t walking the walk.

It was during our strategic planning meeting in the spring that our team took a big step back and considered our business—what we were doing, and why we were doing it—and to be honest, we were a little disappointed with what we saw. This month our call to action is to “put all your eggs in one basket;” it’s our mantra precisely because this is what we weren’t doing at the start of the year, and it’s what’s motivated our own evolution through 2018 and into the new year.

We’d done exactly what we caution others against: we’d heeded the call of profits and potential, and we’d spread ourselves too thin because of it. We had a host of offerings for clients, so many, in fact, that we’d lost sight of our specialty and our passion.

The first question we asked ourselves (a question every business should ask themselves often) was a simple one: Why? Why do we exist? What’s our intention? In other words, what’s our basket?

We were brought back to the idea that motivated the foundation of The Mann Group nearly 17 years ago: we want to help retailers turn their passion into profit by harnessing the power of the customer experience and employing it to revitalize their own business and the retail industry.

Easy, right?

Once we knew our why, we could begin to refine our what. We trimmed off the language and programs that didn’t adhere to our intention; we threw away some bad eggs. We started whittling away at our existing offerings in order to refine them more closely to our goals. And where applicable, we infused new trainings and offerings into our existing lineup, adding eggs that fit snugly and safely into our new basket.

We admit it was tough. We’d developed attachments to our ways and our products, but we knew that distilling our approach with precision would help us be the business we’ve always intended. (Plus, now we have first-hand experience to help you do the same.)

All of that work led us here, to this article and to this announcement. We knew that our most impactful program was Mann U, so this fall, we made an intentional decision to double down on Mann U. In the spring of 2019, we’ll commence the season with a whole new suite of Mann U classes.

If you’re not familiar with Mann U, it’s our course series that helps retail and manufacturing leaders (like owners, managers, and sales reps) capitalize on their existing skillsets and clarify their approach to employee interactions, customer experience, and day-to-day tasks (like inventory planning and visual merchandising) in order to build a successful business. We know Mann U works; with 5,000 alumni across 750 businesses who cite an average 15 to 35% increase in productivity, the numbers speak for themselves. It was obvious that this is where we could continue to have the greatest impact on our clients and our chosen industry.

So we’re doubling down on Mann U. You’ll find some old favorites with new names, as well as a few all-new classes made with Mann U alumni in mind. All of our Mann U courses are designed to help students harness time-tested leadership practices and reliable, replicable skills that are specific to their position and that work in order to increase customer loyalty and profitability.

Without further adieu, meet the new Mann U:

Mann U I: Leadership Skills Development

Formerly Mann U Leadership Foundations

It’s our most popular program for a reason. Our foundational Mann U course works on the individual, giving them the confidence to be an effective leader. Students identify and realize their own leadership style and learn how to employ it to their advantage. Graduates leave with a breadth of new techniques that are easily adapted to their business in areas like hiring, feedback, listening, and influence.

Who’s It for? Managers, owners, CEOs, ambitious employees

How Long Is It? 3 days

When’s It Happening in 2019?

Feb. 11–13, Houston
May 20–22, Asheville
Aug. 12–14, Asheville
Oct. 21–23, Houston

Mann U II: Business Skills Development

NEW Course

Graduates of Mann U I always ask for more; Mann U II is the answer to those calls. Whereas Mann U I refines the internal aspects of successful leadership, Mann U II turns to the external and teaches students the best practices of a successful retail business. We present actionable plans for the core aspects of retail: effective inventory management (including retail planning and visual merchandising), developing a selling culture, and advanced hiring and team building. Grads are easily able to apply their newfound knowledge to their businesses.

Who’s It for? Mann U I grads, or managers, owners, or CEOs with well-developed leadership skills looking to refine their retail business

How Long Is It? 5 days

When’s It Happening in 2019?

June. 24–28, Asheville

Mann U: Master Trainer: Team Development

Formerly Train the Trainer

If Mann U I is your bachelor’s and Mann U II is your master’s, then Mann U: Master Trainer is your doctorate. This class is designed for high-ranking leaders to develop the team of their dreams. In this course, we help students identify their vision and give them the tools to implement it across all levels of their employees. Graduates know how to achieve influence through our patented ORBiT process in order to foster a cohesive and achievable mission for their business, and walk away with precise, applicable skills like public speaking.

Who’s It for? High-level management, general managers, multi-store management

How Long Is It? 5 days

When’s It Happening in 2019?

April 29–May 3, Asheville

Mann U: Sales Reps

As one of our more specialized offerings, Mann U: Sales Reps is designed specifically for manufacturer representatives looking to develop their relationships with buyers and increase sales. We consider students’ performance and identify areas for improvement, then define the best sell-in and sell-through strategies and develop a unique sales process based on product benefits and retail math to ensure they’re an indispensable asset to both the brand and the buyers.

Who’s It for? Sales reps

How Long Is It? 2 days

When’s It Happening in 2019?

You decide! Mann U Sales Rep is performed on-site and at the request of manufacturers

Mann U: Call Center Training

NEW Course

Call center staff need soft skills, too! Customers dread interfacing with retailers and manufacturers on the phone because so often the person on the other line is undertrained and inexperienced. Mann U: Call Center Training turns the tables and transforms your staff into engaging representatives of your company that can adapt to each customer’s needs, presenting them with applicable solutions so that they become loyal fans.

Who’s It for? Call Center Staff

How Long Is It? 2 days

When’s It Happening in 2019?

You decide! Mann U Call Center Training is performed on-site and at the request of the business

Mann U: Ownership Panel

NEW Course

Our most advanced and expansive course is designed specifically for the person in power. Combining our experience with Dealer Panels with our deep-rooted knowledge of effective leadership, we’re bringing together a diverse group of retail business owners to learn from us and from each other. Over the course of five days, we’ll help develop your strategic plan and retail metrics and share know-how on creating an environment of accountability throughout your business and cultivating your own strength as a mastermind. We’ll stick with you for the next twelve months, hosting monthly check-ins with the group and helping you implement your newfound vision.

Who’s It for: Retail business owners across industries and specialties

How Long Is It? 5 days + 12 months

When’s It Happening in 2019?


All courses also available as on-site group packages for large or franchised businesses. Mann U sessions limited to 18 students. Contact Andrew Cunningham at [email protected] for more information, to register, or to inquire about a custom Mann U course.


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