I was fortunate to sit between Paul Cheema and Kevin Threlfall at the Independent Achievers Academy dinner last year.

kevin threlfall An inspiring story about how one man started out with a market stall – and 25 years later sold his chain of 1,000 shops for more than £500m to Tesco. Find out more.

Working in retail a generation apart, they are two people who have had an enormous impact on the shape of the convenience market today. Remarkably, Paul’s flagship shop is a former Lo-Cost outlet, a chain co-founded and part-owned by Threlfall in the 1970s.

Things they have in common are that they’re 24 hours a day switched-on retailers, always talking about what works and what doesn’t, what the competition is doing, and how to get an edge for their shoppers.

Paul and more than 120 retailers attending the Academy gala dinner also had a once in a lifetime chance to hear Threlfall share his retailing philosophy in eight simple rules of retail.

They are:

  1. Never get so busy that you don’t have time to look up and see the opportunities which are passing you by.
  2. Never be afraid to take a financial gamble when you truly believe in your own judgment.
  3. Find a partner with whom you can share ideas, holidays and the workload.
  4. Always give the customer what they want and at the most competitive price.
  5. You have to love what you do, otherwise it will destroy you.
  6. Know when to get out.
  7. Be in the right place at the right time.
  8. Continually prune out unnecessary costs from your overheads.

Sprinkled between Threlfall’s success story of moving from a single market stall to a chain of more than 1,000 outlets, the power of these eight ideas could be missed. As one retailer remarked to me on the night: “One minute he was starting out, the next he had a 1,000 shops. He made it sound so easy.”

If you think about your own business and then think back over the ideas above, how strong a match do you find? Some things are easy to say and hard to do. Many things are hard to identify in advance of doing them and much easier to label in hindsight.

In the 1990s, Threlfall said there were two types of convenience stores in the UK. Those that were poor or those that were very poor. The grocery-based stores were all poor at CTN and the CTN-based stores were the opposite.

Threlfall and his team faced the chicken and egg problem. They needed good fresh displays in order to build a reputation with shoppers but the waste involved was so large and costly that they could not keep going long enough to build up sales in the first place. Then only Tesco had solved the supply chain problem so using rule six Threlfall exited the business.

Today’s independent retailers and their supply chain face a similar problem. But independents have better support. Today, Threlfall says, independent retailers are in the right place (rule seven) as shoppers abandon the superstores and seek to shop locally.

One of the things you need to be successful, Threlfall says is: “That desire to get out of bed in the morning, that determination and hunger to get things right and a thirst to constantly learn.”

That’s why you are reading betterRetailing and why you too can win in 2016.

Find out how you can get involved in the 2016 Independent Achievers Academy.