Are you Playing to Win or Not to Lose…?

By:  Jay Wallus

Are you playing to win or NOT to lose?It was one of those moments when you realize that some business people just get it.

There I was with my 5-year-old daughter Jayna standing outside of the new Jordan’s Furniture in Reading Mass. We had just gotten something to eat and we wanted to go in and see what Barry and Elliott had come up with this time. These stores were a lot more than just furniture stores in the traditional sense. They were stores that when you went into them, you just got a certain feeling about what these 2 guys were all about. They had taken a commodity –furniture – and turned the shopping for it into an absolute experience. Did you know that their five New England stores sell more furniture per square foot than any other furniture retailer in the USA? Quite an accomplishment – huh?

Well, I think that it’s important for all of you (especially those of you outside of New England) to know a little bit about their story before I continue on – so I took this directly from their website:


Jordan’s Furniture Company is the country’s all-time, undisputed, retail-furniture Success Story. The statistics, citations and awards speak for themselves – Retailer of the Year awards from many industry and trade groups; appearances on Best Places to Work lists; the Tri-State Home Furnishings Association’s “Guerrilla Marketer of the Year”award.

Jordan‘s is truly the American epitome of a family business. The feeling of family is spread throughout our organization by a remarkable group of dedicated employees who call themselves “The J-Team”. This success story began in 1928 when Barry and Eliot’s grandfather opened his store in Waltham, and “Jordan’s Furniture” was born. With the help of Barry and Eliot’s father, the store began to prosper and grow.

In 1963, Eliot became actively involved in the company, with Barry following a few years later. The winning combination of the two brothers working together pushed sales volume well beyond predictions, turning a local furniture store into a major retailer, with customers from all over New England.

Realizing the dreams of their father and grandfather, the doors to our second store were opened on February 12, 1984. The success of Nashua quickly sent Barry and Eliot looking for a larger central warehouse facility and a third location. Our Avon flagship superstore and warehouse opened January 31, 1987. Avon became a huge success from day one because shoppers were treated with respect and furniture shopping became a fun experience – thanks to our fabulous Motion Odyssey Movie (MOM) ride and our commitment to making Raving Fans of our customers and employees!

In November of 1999, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. purchased Jordan’s Furniture. Barry and Eliot remain integral parts of virtually every aspect of Jordan’s Furniture. “We are very excited about this venture. Berkshire Hathaway and Jordan’s are a perfect fit. Our growth potential is huge with the financial support of Berkshire Hathaway,” said Barry.

As the business continues to expand, the original goals of the company have never changed: maintaining a superlative reputation for customer service and satisfaction, quality merchandise, personal attention to detail, integrity, honesty, dependability, community goodwill, and a genuine concern for every employee. Our “J-Team” is really a family of employees with a unified common goal: to keep Jordan’s Furniture Company number one.

Jayna and I walked into this new Reading Mass. store and were immediately greeted by someone who thanked us for coming. As we walked around and looked at all of the different attractions that were there to entertain the shopper (an ice cream shop, IMAX Theater, liquid fireworks and an actual trapeze that you can take a swing on to name a few), we actually saw Barry (Jayna recognized him from the commercials) speaking with a visitor. We walked over and heard him talk about the store and how proud he and his brother were about how it came out. When he was done chatting, he simply turned and watched as a child took their turn on the trapeze. The child had that scared but excited look on their face as they jumped off of the stand and swung back and forth. As the child was swinging you could hear her scream: “Mom, I did it!”  What struck me was that Barry seemed to be enjoying watching the girl swing just as much as the little girl. When the girl got off – he walked over and asked her if she had fun and thanked both her and her mom for coming.

Then it hit me.

Shouldn’t this guy be running around like crazy making sure that everything is ok? Why wasn’t he “swamped” with the opening of the new store? Why wasn’t he “so busy” with all of the paperwork? After all, there had to be kinks that had to be worked out – right?


Now, granted, when he and his brother ran the store in the early 80’s they probably did a lot of the “busy” work. However, they got away from it as soon as they could and they never made it their job. That wonderful store and all of the happy clients that it creates – would never have materialized if those 2 brothers had continued to ignore the big picture and tell people that they should do outrageous things to grow their small furniture store – but they can’t because they’re “so busy”. No happy kids, no money donated to the Jimmy Fund with the profits from the attractions and No IMAX theater for Jayna and I to go to to see The Polar Express.

Why am I bringing this up, you ask? I’ll tell you why.

When you play small – nobody wins. When you play small in your business and your life the world gets cheated. Where would we be if Bill Gates, Martin Luther King, Oprah or our beloved Red Sox thought small (remember Theo Epstein saying his only goal is to win the World Series – anything less would be a disappointment?)? Thinking and playing big is what gets people excited. Thinking and playing big is what changes the way the world works. Thinking and playing big is when you can go home at the end of the day and truly know that you’re doing something that will really make a difference.

It’s an absolute shame when I see business owners and salespeople going through the motions. I constantly hear things like:

I can’t do the things that I know will build revenue for my company because:

  • of all of the paperwork
  • of all of the competition
  • the industry is changing
  • I need more time in a day

If you’ve ever said these things, I’d like you to remember that famous saying: “You can fool all of the people some of the time or you can fool some of the people all of the time but you can never fool all of the people all of the time” – and  – most of all, you can never fool yourself. So, go out there and play big: with your family, your relationships and your career.

Good Luck

Jay Wallus

Jay Wallus is the President and founder of Street Smart – The business development solutions company.


He can be reached by email at