Are You and Your Business in the Race to Win?

August 28, 2009

Yesterday, I bought a brand new pair of running shoes.  The shoes I wear retail for $140, and I buy 4-5 pairs per year.  Accounting for the other running gear that I purchase I probably represent about $900 worth of business annually.  I live in Reno, home of the largest sporting goods store in the world, but I choose to buy my running gear at the locally owned specialty store.  I do this because I believe in supporting local business. 

As I was getting ready to check out yesterday, a pair of socks caught my eye and I asked the sales employee about sizes.  He didn’t have my size in the style I wanted, but he suggested another style and since they were not exactly what I wanted, he gave me the $9 pair of socks for free.  I left impressed and committed to return the next time I need a pair of running shoes.

But it almost turned out very differently.

The night before yesterday I pulled up to the store at 5:57 pm.  I parked my big red SUV right in front of the store’s entrance.  Not knowing they closed at 6 pm, I took a call on my cell phone.  As I got out of my car to enter the store, the employee working at the time locked the door and hastily disappeared from sight (no way he missed seeing me). I was very unhappy, so much so that I plotted to abandon my loyalty to the local store and take my business to the big-box retailer. 

How do you explain what happened?  Was it something about me, something about the two different employees, or something about the store’s policies and processes that one day left me disgusted and the next day impressed? 

How YOU answer this question affects how you run your business.  Especially in a tough economy, it could mean the difference between evaporating revenue and a stable, even thriving business.


About the Author:

Comments (4)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Wally Bock says:

    Years ago, when I was running sales service centers, I got some great advice from Annie, who was, by an order of magnitude, the best processor I had. She continually reminded me and the rest of us that when we picked up the phone to talk to a rep, we had no idea what had just happened in his life. He might be angry or happy or distraught over something that wasn’t even related to business and it would affect how he reacted to us. With that in mind I’d like to add one more question to your list: “Had something just happened in the life of that door-closing employee that affected his behavior that one time?”

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Such a great point, Wally! What I left out of the story is what happened in MY life right before my visit to the store that night that really pushed me over the limit when i got bad service. I had just spent the last two hours and $100 dealing with a dead battery in my car. The shop was on my way home from where the battery died and was replaced. Your friend Annie had it right! Thanks!! Bret

  2. Joseph Logan says:

    It’s entirely possible in a situation like this that the employee gets an hourly wage and doesn’t have a stake in the business–or perhaps an understanding of how it works. I’ll resist typing a treatise on open-book management, but if you look at how employees feel and behave at this grocer:

    …there are some good lessons for small, independent businesses. By the way, I’m not sure to what degree that kind of engagement scales up for larger business, but firms like SAIC and CH2M Hill use it to good effect.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Joseph, I appreciate your thoughts. No need to convince me about open book management – like the concept. Both employes would be getting the hourly wage, so that can’t be it. And I don’t think it is an engagement issue either. I think it is a systems issue. Wide range of variance in employee behavior has me thinking poor systems. Thanks! Bret