For the past month I’ve been sitting at my home in Sacramento, CA, nursing a banged-up knee. All you folks who ride motorcycles and ATVs, be careful. The suckers can throw you in a heartbeat! My accident was riding a quad down by our home in the Baja of Mexico. I’m a serious Type A - not a sitting around type of boy! This past month - and the next two months - will be a test for this old guy!
But, fortunately, I love to write. My dog Skidder and I wrote a book on her many adventures during her 14 years. Several of my consulting clients have put me to work and I’ve had my two monthly articles for trade magazines to write. And, my wife, kids and many friends have been taking good care of me.
Last evening, one of my consulting clients, my wife and I were relaxing after a busy day of helping my client put together a three-year business plan for his showroom business. My client is in charge of several showrooms for a large family wholesaler business. While sipping a glass of wine, I mentioned that my Supply House Times article was due in a few days and did they have any ideas for an article topic. For the next hour we brainstormed several ideas before we settled on the topic for this column.
Our client friend asked, “How do you get all your showroom employees to take pride and ownership in the showroom?” Her company has spent a lot of money building out great-looking showrooms. The company does a good job training showroom personnel. These folks are well compensated, but only half (if that) of the employees really take pride in wanting to maintain the showrooms in a first-class manner. Only some of the people really try their hardest to render the very best customer service possible. And only a portion of the employees are really team players. For too many folks it’s “just a job.” They arrive at work exactly on time (hopefully) and leave at the stroke of five o’clock. There’s no extra effort.
Oh, how well I remember the challenge of trying to motivate folks to buy into taking pride of ownership in the showroom and the company. How hard it was to get our employees to go the extra mile with customers and fellow employees and help maintain the showrooms in that first-class condition that we - and our clients - expected.
I’m sure there is no one set of answers to the challenge. The three of us agreed that it’s a whole series of things (some larger than others) that when all added together help develop that all-important feeling of pride, respect, caring and ownership. We also agreed that you’ll probably never be able to achieve a 100% buy-in. Some folks will give 110%, others 90%, and a few something less than that.
Owners and top management naturally have very high expectations. Plus, their rewards are greater. For many employees, the job is just that - a job. They’re doing it because they have to work. “The job” is not the most important thing in their lives. Their families and everything they do outside of work is more important. I understand this. But (always a “but”), I also believe that if you are an employee and you’re going to put in your 40+/- hours a week, that you should give it your all - all the time.
I’ve tried to reach back into my memory bank and identify which one of my many consulting clients has done the very best job at building a team, esprit de corps, camaraderie and pride of ownership in his or her company. The hands-down winner is a family-owned wholesaler that has 16 branches and several product divisions. They’ve just opened their fifth showroom. The company is pretty darn humble and they don’t like a lot of publicity. But when I say they call themselves the “Blue Team,” a number of people will know who I’m referring to.
Every member of the “Blue Team” wears a company shirt (blue, of course) except the showroom folks, who wear professional business attire. The owners of the company for the past 40 years have built a sense of pride and hustle that starts at the top and filters all the way down. There are a number of keys to this company’s success and I will incorporate them in my list of bullet point items that each of you can (should) do to help build your very own “Blue Team.”
One of the moments that I’m very proud of is when, after working with the “Blue Team” as a consultant for three or four years, I was presented with my very own blue shirt and made a permanent member of the team!
Following is a list of things that you can do that in my opinion will help you develop in your staff that all-important pride of ownership that I’ve been talking about. These are not listed in any order of importance because they will be different for each of you.
A company long-range plan (3-5 years). This plan should be communicated to everyone. Your employees need to know in what direction the company is moving. No surprises.
Great hiring skills and practices. This includes learning how to hire the right people the first time.
The list could go on and on. My favorite place to shop is Nordstrom’s. I have had several wonderful experiences with this company. Their people do have a pride of ownership. They are empowered to take care of their customers. They bend over backwards to please. A couple of years ago I asked a salesperson in the shoe department how this wonderful, contagious attitude was taught. His response was, “It all starts at the top.” This person also said, “If you’ve worked for Nordstrom, you would never be happy working for any other retailer.” Wow, what a great testimonial.
Your charge as owners, managers and employees is to be the very best you can be - all of the time. Good selling - and be happy!
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