You may have heard Rich talk about three signs that hang in our office conference room:
When times are bad things change.
When times are good things change.
10 percent of your business changes every year.
Change is good – and important to your business – no matter how it finds you. It certainly found us.
After 18 years in the same offices we decided we needed a change. Okay, that isn’t entirely true. Our idea of change was buying new furniture and rearranging the joint; our landlord’s definition involved a new lease that was absolutely unsignable. Our only option was to move, and fast. We had to be out in less than 60 days.
Our old office was in a 100 year old, very cool (and haunted!) office building. We were surrounded by small business service providers; nice people but definitely non-creative types. The best time was when the Special Olympics team down the hall brought kids in to get ready for some event; otherwise, it was a pretty quiet place. This daily lack of stimulation was affecting our attitudes; we were in a rut and we knew it, so if we had to move, it wasn’t going to be to a similar office environment.
We wanted to stay in
we wanted to be where all the action is, so that meant being downtown. (A
little St. Charles
trivia: in 2011 it was named the best city in St. Charles to live in by Family Circle
Magazine. We stumbled upon it when we stuck a pin in a map right between the
two cities where we live. Voila! America .) We looked at plenty of spaces that we loved
but couldn’t afford, took a deep breath, and kept on looking. And then, almost
by accident, we found the perfect space, in a great location, with a private
entrance and floor to ceiling windows. Or maybe it found us; the space had been
empty for over a year. Before the ink was dry on our new tenant-friendly lease,
two other companies tried to grab it, too. St.
We decided that we were going to throw away everything in our storage room. We hadn’t looked at most of it in years anyway. In the office, we tossed old files, video tapes – junk we didn’t need. And we sold our big cherry office suites in favor of sleek new furniture.
One of the joys of owning or running your own business is that you can make positive changes whenever you want. That’s the easy part; the hard part is deciding to do it. The other hard part is convincing your staff that sometimes in order to grow your business change is necessary.
In our travels we’ve visited well run stores, and we’ve visited stores where things have gotten a little out of hand. We’ll never forget the retailer who had three absolutely rotten associates on her team, but was afraid to confront them about their bad behavior. Other associates complained, customers complained, and she had witnessed several nasty incidents herself. But she was afraid to let them go for a number of reasons, one of which was “What would I do without them?”
This retailer needed positive change and she needed it fast. We said, “You cannot afford to be afraid of the people who work for you. They work for you.” We needed to convince her of the damage these employees were doing to her business, because that was exactly what was happening.
Several years ago we had the opportunity to conduct an in-store study. We interviewed each of the store’s associates and made a list of those we felt had a positive attitude about their jobs, and a list of associates we felt were on the negative side. Next, we chose three associates with positive attitudes, and two who were just the opposite. We asked the store owner to assign these five associates to work together in the same department. Three weeks later we returned and interviewed the five associates again to see if their differing attitudes would affect one another. In this phase of the experiment we were happy to find that the positives won – the two negative associates had substantially improved their attitudes. But the experiment wasn’t over yet.
Next we reversed the chemistry and placed three negative attitudes with two positive attitudes in the same department. At the end of this three week study, the associates who started out with a positive attitude had crossed over to the dark side. But our study wasn’t finished yet.
In the third phase, the store owner assigned three positive sales associates to work with three negative sales associates. All things being equal, we waited to see what would happen. At the end of three weeks time we had six associates with much less than positive attitudes, proving that people with negative attitudes are likely to have a more powerful effect on others as those who think positively.
Yet, even in stores where positive attitudes prevail, sometimes things just don’t feel all that positive. You may have noticed how “up” your associates are on days when the sales floor is packed. On busy Saturdays, associates are engaged, customers are happy, and you’re selling lots of stuff. But on a slow Tuesday afternoon, you’re likely to find that everyone is just a little less enthusiastic.
What’s the difference? Actions drive attitudes. If you find your associates dragging their feet or feeling lethargic on slow days, then assign tasks and responsibilities that will keep them busy when they’re not helping customers. You’ll find that their attitudes will improve. You can’t change a person’s attitude, but you can control their actions, and that action will fire up attitudes.
You want to talk change? If you own or manage the store, the attitude of your company and all who work there, falls directly in your lap. Your store has your personality. So be the daily example, the positive attitude everyone can count on. When you walk onto your sales floor, shine. New year, new attitude! Make some changes. Get organized; kick the negatives to the curb, and good things will happen in 2012!
© KIZER & BENDER .
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