Want a real rush? Try work ing inside a tire manufacturing environment for more than 30 years and then being assigned as a technical trainer to cover a 15-state area that contains 1,058 dealerships, 142 Sam's Clubs and numerous mass merchandisers. Imagine thinking you know everything dealers need, only to find out from them (once I shut up and started listening) that it's not the tire that is important but the people who sell and buy the tire.
Imagine asking successful dealers and salespeople what made them successful and having them talk about people, not tires or price. In fact, when it comes to talking dollars, they talk high margins, not low prices. Wow!
A dealer located in a suburb of Boston considers 100-percent mark-ups as ``everyday low pricing'' (50 percent on ``sale'' items). His customers, and he has many, come to him for the trust and the ``consumer experience,'' not price.
A ``team leader'' and his crew at a Sam's Club in Illinois, each making less than 10 dollars an hour, are servicing Jaguar and Mercedes customers because they gained a reputation in their area as people who care about people and people things.
Or, how about the dealer in Maine who is located across the way from a warehouse club, and who stocks the same brand and sizes as the club, and gets a higher price because he;
1) uses his customer's name;
2) has a personal and vehicle file on computer for each customer;
3) has a customer (play) area for those with children; and,
4) for the business person, free private phone and fax facilities.
There is nothing complicated here. The solution to firing up a business lies in the head and hearts of the people inside that business. To begin the process we must know our customer's needs, know ourselves, our people and what we want. From there, we let our imaginations take over.
Back to my original question; plus a few more to ponder.
How's business? What's my business?
Do I know my customers? Do they love me?
Do they come back? Do they bring/send their friends back?
What is my purpose here?
Am I a ``people'' person? Are my employees ``people'' people?
Do I use the pronoun ``WE'' when I talk about my business?
Is my day exciting? Are my people having fun?
Are my goals clear? Do I have goals? Do my people have goals? Do our goals support each other?
Am I focused on what really counts?
Do I provide training opportunities for my people?
Am I leading, following or getting in the way?
Are changes needed? Will my people embrace change?
Are my people as focused as I am?
Business is the business of people. People have feelings. People have needs-and people have brains. They have the answers to your business development questions. Your people probably interact with customers and suppliers more than you do. Their capacity to identify the needs of your customers and knowing the company's expectations of its suppliers must be assured. Their freedom to act with authority when an opportunity or problem presents itself must also be granted and encouraged by management.
Each person in a business is that business. The customer, whether face-to-face or on the phone with your employee, perceives this person as the company.
The customer expects this person to fill his or her needs to his or her expectations in a professional manner and without having to ``check with the boss.''
Consider making your employees ``partners''-people you confide in, seek counsel from, celebrate successes with and work with to get over the bad times.
People who feel they are part of your business are worth much more to your business' success than ``slot fillers.'' A ``partner'' in name only won't do it.
Share your plans for the business. Ask for their input. Make your plan their plan; make their plan your plan.
If your people know where you want to go, they will help you get there. If you allow them to have some input and authorship in the plan, they will help with enthusiasm and a feeling of ownership.
Hire people with people skills. Technical skills are easier to learn than people skills, so seek out from your team those who have people skills (they use the word ``WE'' more often than ``I'').
Offer training to your present employees lacking these people skills. If they make a serious effort to learn these skills, keep them. If not, you might encourage them to seek employment with your competitor.
The purpose behind all this employee evaluation and training talk is to prepare you and them for today's business revolution.
Mr. Jennings is founder of Jennings Associates, a provider of training support for building customer loyalty through employee development.