Published on: October 23, 2014
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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy. I'm coming to you from Manchester, New Hampshire … it is the middle of the night as I record this, but I'd rather be outside than inside my room with the TV on … because if you spend any time watching TV here, you're going to see political advertising for both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and you're probably going to want to take a shower, no matter what your political preferences happen to be.
I'm here because I spent the day at the New Hampshire Grocers Association annual conference, during which I had the opportunity to do two sessions - including what I like to think was a Socratic discussion with the audience about lessons to be learned from the recent Market Basket situation … or whatever you want to call it.
My goal was not to rehash the various parts of the Market Basket story, mostly because I'm reasonably sure that it is a lot more complicated than could be examined in 45 minutes, and that neither the Artie T. nor Artie S. sides can be labeled as purely sinners or saints. Though I do think it is fair to say that Arthur T. Demoulas's side played the PR game a lot better … which was part of another session I did on crisis management.
But the main point of our discussion was the importance of the people on the front lines … for whatever reasons, and there surely were many, they felt invested in Artie T's vision for Market Basket, and they communicated that successfully to both customers and the media.
While there was a lot of high drama at Market Basket, the chain is not alone in believing that the people on the front lines are the most important part of a customer-facing business. That's certainly the attitude at a place like Dorothy Lane Market … and at places as different as WinCo and Zappo's and Costco. I think in just the past few weeks we've seen evidence that this is the way they feel at places like Ikea and The Container Store. My friend Jim Donald, who has been CEO at Pathmark, Starbucks and now Extended Stay Hotels, has made this a core value in every company he has led - making sure that the people dealing with customers understand the mission and the vision, and feel totally invested in both … to the point that he communicates constantly with them, offering news, pep talks and soliciting their opinions and feelings.
Here are the questions I posed to the New Hampshire Grocers:
"Do your employees feel like an investment/asset or a cost? And what are you doing to encourage those feelings? And if you are making them feel like a cost, what should you be doing differently?"
There will be those who will say that not every retail business needs to have smart, committed, invested and, yes, appropriately compensated people on their front lines, that not every retail business needs such a thing.
But to be honest, I think that's malarkey. I think that every business is better with great people, and that every business ought to be invested in making sure its people are great.
You may disagree. But that's what is on my mind, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: