During this economic crisis I think I am more sensitive than ever before to the quality of the companies I do business with. Good companies may bemoan the sorry state of commerce, but they also see these times as a painful opportunity. Bad companies will fail, ultimately opening up the marketplace for better run operations. There is big growth ahead for those that make it through the thinning of the herd.
But the single biggest factor any company faces is the quality of their employees. A company may have great products at great prices and still fail due to the fact that their employees don’t care. Certainly management has a responsibility to create a work environment that fosters good work and concern for the company and the customer. But the worker also needs to realize that they play a key role in the company’s future, and during tough times they need to pitch in and take ownership in the future of the company they work for.
I was reminded of this fact a couple times a couple weeks ago. I went into a NW grocery chain – Fred Meyers – to pick up a few last minute supplies. I am a fan of Fred Meyers. They stores are typically clean, well-stocked, and pleasant to shop in. I went to the fish counter intent on buying a large piece of salmon – a potentially very pricey purchase. When I approached the counter the woman managing the department said “sorry, it’s after 9 – we’re closed”. I looked at my watch, which said 9:01. “Can I just get that piece of salmon”, I said, pointing at what would have probably been a $20 to $30 purchase. It would have taken the woman under thirty seconds to grab the fish and wrap it, but she said “nope, can’t do it. I got home late last night and have to be on time tonight”. I left the store disgusted, amazed that this woman cared so little about her company that she would not take thirty seconds of her time to please a customer and make a large sale.
I often hear people complain about their employers, yet take no responsibility for their own actions. I am sure Fred Meyers did not instruct this woman to be a clock watcher and treat customers rudely. I am sure the airline did not tell the flight attendant to be surley, or the customer service agent on the phone to be a jerk, or the salesperson in the auto parts store to be lazy and make no effort to help me, or the waiter to be so rude I rushed out the restaurant.
In some way we are all salespeople for the companies we work for – even if our positions are not classified as such. And if our employers do well or go broke we share some of the responsibility.