Friday, July 15, 2016

always thinking, always thankful

First let me begin today's post with a moment of silence and reflection for the tragedy in Nice, and for all those around the world who are suffering, unsafe, or are unwell. 

A few weeks ago, I was enjoying a quick lunch and getting some work done remotely at Chickfila, and overheard the owner/operator conducting a few interviews.  Miss Laurie was looking to hire a community relations type manager, and conducted each interview the same way.  She began by explaining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the business, the direction she was hoping the position would take, and engaged in dialogue to really get to know the candidates as people, and not just professionals. 

It's one thing for an owner / operator / manager to define expectations for their employees and their business, but it's another for them to lead by example.  I can't tell you how many times I've been to this location and witnessed Miss Laurie walking around the dining room, talking to customers, refilling beverages, and cleaning tables, let alone working the cash register, taking orders, or busy in the kitchen.   When most quick service restaurateurs are hoping to turn customers in and out as quickly as possible, Miss Laurie fosters and encourages a community atmosphere, where customers are encouraged to take their time, relax, and enjoy their meal and the pleasure of their company.  From students doing homework, to older customers visiting with their friends over weekly coffee and biscuits, people are welcomed to the restaurant just as warmly as they would be in Miss Laurie's own home.  How many times have you been to a business, let alone a busy restaurant, and felt like there were no employees working, let alone a manager supervising? 

When you lead by example, you not only intensify your location's business plan, but you also show your employees and customers that you care.  You care that employees have the right tools, at the right time to accomplish their jobs.  You care that customers' needs are not only met, but expectations are exceeded.  You care that the experience for all is positive, professional, comfortable, and complete.

In any business, but especially luxury retail, your mind must always be moving.  Don't just limit your observation to businesses in your same demographic or neighborhood; push your growth by observing multiple types of businesses in your community.  Which businesses have a comfortable atmosphere for their clients?  Which businesses think creatively to market their brand, intensify their awareness, or redefine their image?  What can you do to make your store / business more marketable, more profitable, or more efficient?

Take a hike.  Literally walk out to the parking lot.  See what greets your clients.  Do you see trash, litter, and dead plants?  Are carts scattered throughout, making more of a hazardous obstacle course, rather than an easy place to leave the car?  Are signs lit, doors operating properly, and accessibility easy for all?  Walk in your facility. What's the first thing that you notice?  Are the lights all burning brightly? Is the floor shiny, free of dirt, debris, and dust?  Is the fragrance of your store pleasant?  Do signs make sense, encourage and entice a purchase, or spark a conversation between associates and customers?  Each week, I try to walk with my teammates, encouraging them to "think like our customers" and focus to the customer experience.  As operators, it's so easy to get lost in a sea of never-ending tasks, to-do lists, floor updates, and reports.  The more we walk and work on the floor, the better. 

To be on top of our game, we must constantly assess and observe.  Perform a SWOT analysis and encourage your managers, supervisors, and teammates to periodically conduct their own assessment.  Celebrate your strengths, identify your weaknesses and formulate a plan to turn them into strengths, highlight opportunities for growth and improvement, confront threats head-on with a concise plan of action.   Not only will this effort make your own brand more marketable, more profitable, and more efficient, but you'll also build a strong team and provide the opportunity to develop talent from within your own organization. 

Who do you look for inspiration?  What companies go above and beyond?  Who impresses you?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

it only takes one.

The experience is everything.  You must constantly strive to create the culture and ensure success.  It's no longer enough to have the right products in the right place at the right time at the right price.  You must pay special attention to the lighting, the music, and music.  You must host events, offer refreshments, and meet your clients in their own environment.  You must do what it takes to go above and beyond.  The products/services may get the clients in the door, but your service and their experience are what keep them coming back.  You don't want to push too hard or you'll push them away, but you do want to control and maximize the experience.   There is a formula to "clienteling" and this is just the beginning.

In the 1800s, shortly after his parents died, a teen-aged Louis Vuitton walked nearly 300 miles to Paris.  The long journey took over two years.  When he arrived, Paris was bustling with the industrial revolution, and he quickly became an apprentice with an established box-maker.  Back in the day, box making was a very lucrative business - each box was handcrafted, and the better box-makers even packed the items for transport themselves, ensuring a secure and perfect fit.  After 17 years, Monsieur Vuitton started his own business, specializing in customized boxes and trunks.  The competition primarily had round tops; Louis's versions were mostly square or rectangular in shape, allowing multiples to be stacked for more efficient transportation.  Because of his quality and innovation, he became an official supplier to the fabulous and famous Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III.  It was this relationship with Empress Eugénie that opened the door for Louis Vuitton to the luxury demographic - securing future business and the future of his company. 

You never know who you're going to meet, what opportunity may present itself, or who is watching. 

You don't just "network" at work or for work. You're constantly meeting new people, representing yourself, your interests and industry, and profession. You're assessing what others are doing, actively engaging to discover why they're doing what they're doing, and amassing best practices as often as possible. You capitalize opportunities to maximize business, knowledge, and growth, whilst minimizing expenditures. You might not always be armed with business cards, but a firm handshake, a smile, and the courage to say hello.

After all, the answer is "no" until you ask...

This is the art of clienteling. Let's stay in touch.