Trade Secrets

Several years ago, I was the Director of Store Operations for growing retailer that had won an award for great customer service. We had received an invitation to speak at one of our vendor’s user conference. I went to my boss to ask if I would be allowed to present and he said “No, I really don’t want to tip our hand and give our competitors any information about our best practices on how we deal with customer service.” He went on to explain he felt our company was disrupting our corner of the industry and we needed to guard our methods against being discovered by our competition.

For the next several years we won additional awards for our customer service; year after year, for over 6 years straight. I received additional invitations to present at not one, not two, but at three different events. One was for the National Retail Federation’s Big Show at a women’s breakfast. The second invitation was from SAP – Women in Retail dinner. The third invitation came from ShopperTrak at their annual user conference shopper. So, I went again to my boss with these three invitations to speak. This time, he said “Yes. I think this is great exposure for our brand and it will be a great experience for you.” I had to ask “So what is different now than a few years ago when you didn’t want me to share any of our best practices?” He told me he had learned something over the past few years. He explained that it is one thing to share best practices and even tell people exactly what and how you go about your business, but it is an entirely different thing for someone to take that information and actually do it.

The Gap. There is a big gap between knowing what you should be doing to be successful, and actually doing it. You can read all kinds of case studies on successful companies. You can get your hands on another company’s procedure manuals or training documentation. Even with all the details of how a success came about does not guarantee that success can be replicated. Why is that? The answer lies in a company’s culture much more so than just the list of processes and procedures that are done.

Creating Success. The retailer that won all of those customer service awards was Coldwater Creek. From 2000 through 2007, the Coldwater Creek brand was on fire. We experienced a whirlwind of explosive growth. We went from being a catalog-only based business, to opening brick-and-mortar stores, to introducing a website for online sales, and even did a brand extension and opened several day spas. We did a lot of things right to achieve that massive growth and success. One of the most critical factors was how aligned we were as a team. The entire company was aligned with the vision of what our brand stood for. Our company mission was clear, and it permeated throughout the entire organization. The beliefs and the values that our brand stood for, and the company goals were shared among everyone in the organization. When everyone is bought into the company culture, that energy can be felt. It amplifies and compounds the results. When you have a positive and compelling culture, it creates great momentum.  Having a list of best practices, business processes, or proprietary trade secrets would be helpful to any competitor but putting those practices into place and duplicating sustainable results takes much more than just having the information.

Key Take-Aways.

  1. Having an Abundance Mentality. Approach your business from a standpoint of abundance rather than scarcity. If you approach it with the idea that there’s more than enough business to go around you’ll get so much farther. That can feel tough especially right now in the state of brick-and-mortar retail, but remember that when you give, you always gain more than you gave.
  2. Clear Vision and Mission. Having clear vision, mission and values is so important; as well as being consistent with those expectations so that everyone throughout your team, throughout your organization, throughout the brand are on the same page and working towards the same goals.
  3. Application, Action, Communication. It is not enough to have vision and mission statements. Successful businesses engage in consistent conversations on review, feedback, and encouragement to move from what should be done to actually making it happen.

Retail Level Up provides coaching, training, and consulting services to individuals and teams. To learn more about how to create a plan to achieve this kind of success in your company, or for your team, visit www.retaillevelup.com. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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