Ask the Profit Prophet


AskProfitProphetPic Ask The Profit ProphetImagine you had a business superhero to call upon with any questions you may have. Well, now you do. “Ask The Profit Prophet” is a business advice column focusing on the soulful side of strategy.

The Profit Prophet is an oracle for questions regarding how to stand out in areas such as organizational culture, personal and professional growth and development, sales, marketing, operations, customer and guest relations, going beyond service and mere satisfaction, and performance development based on the seven principles that make up ROWM – Return on What Matters.

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Questions and Answers


Dear Profit Prophet: I am working with a retail company that simply cannot comprehend the connection between internal culture and customer service. Employees have no empowerment, "training" consists of a two-hour lecture on rules such as which restroom to use (and, by the way, make sure you smile at customers), and results are measured by a secret shopper program that is more threatening than informative. There is hope -- here and there, some new executives are joining the company -- but I don't think they understand the importance of culture and its connection to success, and the old culture is firmly entrenched. Any suggestions on how I can help the newer executives appreciate the challenge (and the opportunity)? And is there any hope for the "Old Guard?"   Dear Consultant, No wonder they hired you! You nailed the answer in the first sentence.  Internal culture and customer service cannot be considered two separate entities if you want great results and diehard fans. If the culture isn’t one of customer happiness at its very core, it IS like putting lipstick on a pig.  Will slide right off and make no difference whatsoever.  The concept of “empowerment” was launched when managers, afraid they hired people who would give away the store, would allow small ways in which employees could solve small problems. Conversely, leadership at every level – cultureship – is what generates off the chart results in what matters to you. As far as the newer executives, you could review how you currently measure “customer satisfaction” with them. (However, I don’t believe “satisfaction” to be a meaningful metric – it misses the mark. Do your checklists and shopper reports really speak to how guests feel or is it just a check off sheet like shelves are clean, light bulbs work, etc…)  You might ask these execs to consider measuring the emotional component along with the basics. Basics are just that.  They are expected.  They don’t buy loyalty.  Once you measure emotional connection, you can commit to drastically improved results in your “satisfaction” metrics – say 25% over current results.  Usually it takes a “cultural transplant” to drive excellence.  But it sounds like you can do it because you see the issue clearly.  (If you can’t, we can). As for the old guard, well, monkey don’t see, monkey don’t do.  Best always, Prof
Motivation is a complex question for many. Let's make it simple. The question is not really about motivation per se but inspiration and productivity. Obviously, profitability depends upon revenue brought in and how much of it you can keep. To optimize profitability is to think about it holistically. One of the key components in the profit game is attracting and retaining the best talent. People join companies for any number of reasons - they may be inspired by the product, the leader, proximity to home, flexibility, a future, or just need cash. Most people want to do their best when they begin a new job. Many have been continually burned by bosses in the past that don't do what they say, don't involve the employee, or don't say what matters to them. Eventually, good talent will leave if not tended to. Employees, untended, like plants, will fade away or strangle others around them. You want what matters to you to matter to them? Tend to what matters to them. Yes, people want to be heard but they want to hear too. Are your employees informed about business goals and daily, weekly, or monthly metrics or do you keep secrets from them? Get them in the game. People enjoy games they participate in or can watch. Ask yourself, are you informed around what matters to them? If not, get in there. Most people want to have a voice, matter in some way, or even make a difference that is aligned with your exact goals. Do you have structures for getting at that? Do you make promises and follow through by when you say you will? When employees think they matter to you, what matters to you will matter to them.
I can offer a most powerful way to reinvigorate and re-enthuse teams. Build a culture where people feel special and that they make a difference. Everyone wants to matter, to be seen, to be heard. Think about what you value most in the organization (innovation, extraordinary acts of service, community involvement) and compare that to what and whom you recognize and emphasize daily. I am not speaking about “habitual” monthly popularity contests. Cultures are built on what is recognized DAILY. Some managers may believe that recognition belongs to the HR Department.  Some think it is unnecessary to acknowledge people as “they get a paycheck for doing what they are supposed to.”  To re-energize the vibe anywhere and get the best out of people, bring about a culture that recognizes people for something specific, their gift, a unique act. What do you want more of? Be on the lookout for excellence and celebrate it in your culture daily through bulletin boards, video, newsletters, pre-shift meetings, break room flyers, etc... If you commit to starting a program, set up a structure to keep it going.  It’s an investment in excellence, retention, and profitability.
Think in terms of distinction, always.  I do not recommend spending money and energy to get “lost in the crowd.”  Rather than a habitual ritual, do something wherein you stand out. I recommend being innovative as in the following: Create your own “special holidays” or use lesser celebrated ones. For example, send champagne when budget season ends to favorite clients or a crunch bar when you know they are going through “crunch time.”  Groundhog Day could be a great and unexpected way to “spring” into connection. Perhaps create a holiday that celebrates a business attribute you share in common. You could create National Truffle Day, Gratitude Fridays or Thank You Thursdays to acknowledge a different client each week. Celebrate partnership in a way you are recognized as well as them. To delight people is to stand out and be memorable.
To be outstanding, first you must stand out. Your boss already expects you to do a good job so that is just not enough. You can stand out with your drive and confidence, however. Tell people that can make a difference in your growth and development.  Might sound like, "Boss, I want you to know how I value this company and the work we do together. I am committed to doing my best and whatever it takes for us to excel. Please let me know what I can do to grow and contribute." Bosses don't hear that every day. Stating your drive with confidence and enthusiasm will set you apart. Use your language, as well as your actions, to affirm your commitment and intention.