Published on: October 13, 2015by Michael Sansolo
REPORTING IN FROM NACS 2015 ...
We’re all loaded with opinions. Whether it’s Mac vs. PC, iPhone vs. Android, Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton (or Ben Carson vs. Bernie Sanders, or whoever), we know what we like and we believe our opinion is correct.
However, when it comes to successful business relationships, either with trading partners or customers, our likes and dislikes matter less. The reality is that we must work with our partners and sell to our customers even if they are carrying what I perceive as the wrong smart phone. Or even if they wear a Yankees cap.
Our personal styles and methods of communicating go way beyond opinion and choices. Some of our issues are built into our DNA. Unless we learn to work against our own type we’ll surround ourselves with only like-minded staff, serve only similar customers and our businesses will likely fail.
Connie Podesta, the rare speaker who combines stand up comedy with human resource guidance, offered a glimpse into the pitfalls of our powerful personality traits in her keynote session Monday at this year’s NACS Convention in Las Vegas.
Podesta’s approach was both funny and instructive. She asked audience members to select their preference among four shapes and then proceeded to assign key personality traits to each of the groups. One-by-one she showed how the members of each group would find themselves incredibly discomforted and put off by the traits and behaviors of other groups.
Her point was simple: we work with people of all types, including many whose styles really irritate us. Some of us demand punctuality, while others put a premium on creativity. Some of us like need lots of personal space in any discussion, while others are comfortable with casual contact.
Success, as she explained it, requires us to work through these issues and understand that our own approach isn’t the perfect or universally accepted one.
Her example is especially significant today as more generations than ever collide in the workplace, and again she used humor to make a point. Podesta, who is clearly a Baby Boomer, pulled a 20-something audience member on stage to show the difference in how the two generations tell time. Podesta was wearing two watches; the Millennial used her smart phone.
We might tell time differently, but we need to work together especially at a time when the skill sets of every generation are so different. (Another Podesta point: if you aren’t on social media and don’t use text messaging you have no chance of communicating with your staff, customers or family members from the younger generations.)
Understanding differences helps us understand how and why consumers behave so differently in the exact same conditions. In one workshop on Sunday at the NACS show, Lisa Wollon, head of consumer insights and brand strategy at Wawa, spoke about how her company is using data to better understand customer decisions.
Wollon showed how different specials offered on sandwich purchases yield highly different results depending on the store and the demographics of the shopper and how they perceive value. Her point is powerful: properly analyzed data can vastly improve results. Plus, careful attention to those same results can help companies recognize when a program isn’t working, which in turn can lead to a quicker change of strategy and less financial pain. (To quote a chapter from my book Business Rules, “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap.”)
Wollon also made the point that Wawa, a highly regarded company, looks for ideas everywhere, not just from other convenience stores or even simply other retailers.
To quote a Boomer era song: "Different strokes for different folks" are both essential and a great way to learn and grow. In fact, there’s really no choice.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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