Published on: June 28, 2012
Responding to yesterday's piece quoting a Sir Terry Leahy column about management precepts that was in the Wall Street Journal
, one MNB user wrote:I thought I’d share a story that came to mind when I read Sir Leahy’s comment, “I realized how much one learns—for free—by simply walking around their stores and looking how they did business . . .” Just proof that this type of logic cuts across many industries (which is why I read MorningNewsBeat every day and promote it to my co-workers).
My father worked for Buick for 40 years. In the early 60s and into the 70s, he was part of the team that supported the import, sales and service of vehicles under the Opel brand—and sold through Buick dealerships. You might remember the gold Opel GT “Maxwell Smart” used to drive.
Anyway, when I was in high school, I went with some friends to one of their homes for the evening. As he introduced us to his parents, the father asked, “What is your father’s name?” I told him (proudly) “Bill.”
Well, I was completely baffled by what happened next. “THE SPY!” he yelled. At first I thought he was kidding. But, no. He didn’t exactly show me the door. However, I didn’t get the feeling he was all that happy to have me in his house.
When I returned to my home, I asked my dad about this. He laughed and said, “Oh, I used to go to his Toyota dealership and talk to the sales people. They’d sit and swing on the car doors to prove how well-built the cars were. They’d tell me all about their products and plans. And, then I’d use the information for my reports at work.”
Ah, the days before the internet.
Looks like my dad had something in common with “Sir” Leahy. Not to mention I will always remember him as my knight in shining armor.
Thanks for sending me on a very pleasant trip down Memory Lane.
I'm pretty sure I've told this story before, but years ago I was doing a magazine piece about a Missouri retailer named Dave Trottier, and after we looked at his stores, he took me to see the competition. When we were there, we bumped into one of his regular customers, who was a little nonplussed to see Trottier there. "What are you doing here?" she said.
"Never mind that," he replied. "What are you
doing here?" And then they had a long conversation, Trottier took copious notes, and he walked away with an understanding of things he needed to do better.
That must have happened more than 20 years ago, but I'll never forget it.
More discussion of Apple...
One MNB user wrote:Your discussion about the increased wage scale at Apple Stores spurred these questions:
How soon will there be price increases for Apple products?
Will service fee charges be transparent?
Will there be fewer staff to assist customers?
What implications does your discussion about Apple have for your core audience (the low margin food industry)? Help us connect these dots with our retail reality.
Will Michael’s point about doing “more with less” be in play more than ever at Apple in light of this changing cost structure?
The discussion to date seems to be about Apple retaining quality employees and making up for lagging in market surveys about pay scales. The pay increases (in dollars or percentages) Apple is contemplating, or already taken, are unheard of in our industry. The typical supermarket retailer could not sustain these kinds of increases without significant cost-savings measures to offset them.
I bet that is the discussion going on in the minds of your core readers.
Full disclosure: I’m a grocer and a fan/customer of Apple.
I get your point. I could be wrong about this, but I suspect that Apple won't be making wholesale cuts in staff because of these increases. At least I hope not. Smart. committed people are among its greatest assets, and I think they know that. There will be some on Wall Street who will argue that if you raise salaries you have to raise prices and margins (they've been telling Costco that for years), but hopefully Apple will resist, believing that in the long run, this helps its brand and its sales.
As for lower margin retail industries...I think the lesson is not one of economics, but philosophy. All the most important stuff in any retail business happens in the stores, and it is front line personnel who serve as a retailer's face to consumers. I believe you have to value those people, nurture those people, train those people, empower those people, and treat them as valued assets.
One reader the other day suggested that it is none of my business what Apple pays its people and that this "is between them and the employee. Only do gooders want to dictate to them. I assume if someone is underpaid they can leave." But another MNB user responded:I can’t begin to write how much that comment annoyed me. I’ll go out on a limb and assume he has a relatively well-paying job and has little concept of how difficult it is to become employed and his assumption is on the shakiest of grounds. If an employee leaves, finding another job is extremely difficult and, of course, that now unemployed-on-the-dole person will be faced with the flip side of the MNB user’s persona – “just get a damn job!”
He might use the term ‘do gooder’ derisively but I see it as an honorable term.
I offered a link the other day to a piece in The Atlantic
by Anne-Marie Slaughter called "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," which I thought was provocative and well-written.
One MNB user wrote:Both my wife and I read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and discussed it over our anniversary dinner last night. Like you, I have great admiration for my wife and her ability to multi-task her many talents, keeping our family on schedule and under budget. I continue to marvel at her attempts to find a balance between her work career and her desire to spend time with our two sons, especially as they are now both very near to leaving home.
Over the years, there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over my wife’s decision to forgo her career opportunities in place of raising our children, with very valid arguments having been made on both sides of the debate. Ms. Slaughter’s comments have convinced me that my wife “did it right” in that she got her degree and established her career first before having children, scaled back her work hours and obligations while our children were in school, and now faces an incredible opportunity to shift her career into a different gear in her late 40s as the kids are grown and gone. Given the contacts that she has accumulated over the years, I am confident that if my wife chooses to reinvent her professional life and work more going forward, she will have no problem finding employment she truly enjoys. Most of all, I am proud of the fact that she had the ability to make these choices, based on our mutual willingness to exchange family responsibilities whenever necessary.
In my wife’s current role as an adjunct professor for a college of pharmacy, she serves as a preceptor to many students who spend five week rotations in her store with the expectation that they are going to work in a retail setting to see how “the real world” of pharmacy works. The vast majority of these students are now women….and my wife often finds herself in discussions with female students helping them determine their expectations for finding a life partner, having children, and balancing a challenging career. The employers who can best understand and work with these expectations will have the greatest success in hiring, training, and retaining talented women in the years to come.
Another MNB user wrote:Last night I checked out the Atlantic cover story about women not being able to have it all. My wife and I both work and have 2 young children (ages 1 and 2), so I was naturally interested in here commentary regarding work life balance. While there were some nice insights in the article (even though our kids haven’t reached school age yet, I’m already dreading what we’re going to have to do once they are in school for 6 hours a day with summers off – that doesn’t exactly mesh with a full-time work schedule), the rarefied air she operates in (having to settle for a tenured position at Princeton) is at times quite off-putting in my opinion. At the very least her problems come across as difficult to relate to for your average (or even above average) human being.
I get what you mean, but it didn't bother me. Sure, she lives a more rarefied existence than most of us, but she's also more eloquent and perceptive ... and I just thought she did what she wanted to do, which was provoke thought and discussion.
From another reader:Appreciate you sharing that article. As a working mother in the CPG industry, there are far too few role models and productive conversations about this subject. Often it always taboo to discuss…as if talking about “work-life balance” means you aren’t a hard worker or even broaching the discussion of being a stay at home mom vs. a work outside the home mom. Much appreciated.
A sweet note from MNB user Linda Wish, who wrote:I believe two of your most insightful and touching pieces were RIPs.
Christopher Hitchens and Nora Ephron were both authors who inspired us to look harder at the things, people and cultural anomalies around us. I think it is notable that you wrote RIPs that identified them so clearly and yourself in reflection. Well done, again.
No surprise, I have a weakness for writers who have a specific voice and a unique take on the world, an incisive writing style, and an ability to touch my mind and heart. I wish I could be that kind of writer, but at least it gives me something for which to strive.
By the way, yesterday afternoon I read a quote from Nora Ephron that I thought was wonderful. Remember, she was the writer who was once married to the philandering Carl Bernstein, who she skewered mercilessly in her novel "Heartburn." Well, something I did not remember - or did not know - was that Ephron also was an intern in the Kennedy White House.
She once told an interviewer that she may have been the only intern JFK did not make a pass at, perhaps because he “somehow sensed that discretion was not my middle name.”
What a great line.