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?

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