What winning culture looks like: How I took my store to #4 (Part 3)

At its core, leadership is about inspiring people to do their best. Several years ago, I took over a broken bookstore (near the bottom of rankings in a major chain), and in a little over a year, brought it back to 4th in the company out of hundreds of stores, based on metrics including sales, customer satisfaction, profitability, etc.

This is Part 3 of a 5-part series (Read Part 1 and Part 2) in which I will share leadership basics which can inspire your team to greatness. Even though I am no longer in the bookselling business, these principles are transferable to any leadership situation.

Photo courtesy of Julie Rybarczyk (Creative Commons)

The culture of your organization is probably the most important aspect of your winning plan. At the bookstore, we built a culture of excellence by treating our customers like guests. Based on the ideas of Disney, and the book, Be Our Guest, we translated everything into terms of welcoming guests into our home, the store. And we interpreted that on every level from answering the phone to greeting people at the registers.

Keep It Simple
By boiling the principles down to 3 main ideas, we were able to instill the principles in every team member:

  • Treat everyone like a guest
  • Leave it better than you found it
  • Exceed expectations

Communicate Culture At Every Level
These simple concepts modeled and repeated by the leadership team, filtered down the ranks to every team member. We communicated with each other as well as with every guest (customer) who came in the store with respect, kindness and generosity.

Treat Everyone Like a Guest
We greeted each guest who came in the store to make them feel welcome, and offered assistance without being pushy.

The team was challenged to be creative in interpreting what “be my guest” looked like, so it was fun to see how each person excelled. It could be making recommendations of additional titles, a fun way to answer the phone, or interesting conversations during the checkout.

Leave It Better Than You Found It
We focused on keeping the store neat and orderly, from the shelving standards to cleanliness.  Team members had section assignments, and were expected to check the order of the shelving periodically and if there were problems, they could request help to get the order corrected, whether that was a block of time for themselves or a team to help reorganize.

Sharing new release titles was part of the morning routine before the store opened, as well as during the day as new team members began their shift. We talked about what we were reading or listening to in order to be knowledgeable when recommending titles to our guests. Inventory levels were monitored closely so we could reorder titles quickly.

Neatness of the store was valued, so we were always picking up, straightening and restocking. To this day, I cannot go into a bookstore without straightening the stacks of books!

Exceed Expectations
No matter what the situation, we encouraged team members to exceed the expectations of our guests.

If we did not have the book or music a guest was seeking, we offered several options for finding it, from ordering it to checking another store (even a competitor).

Customer satisfaction levels skyrocketed as we focused on guest service. Team members from other stores requested transfers because they heard that our store was the “jewel in the crown” of the stores in the area.

What does a winning culture look like at your company?

Read Part 4, “Communication isn’t just talk.”  Thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “What winning culture looks like: How I took my store to #4 (Part 3)

  1. Great post! At my work, many of my customers are internal. I need to make sure that I treat them the same as any other customer and send then the best possible product. Realizing that we are on the same team even when we are working in different areas helps to make a good start toward a good culture.

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