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Birds do it

The value of consistency

When the major league baseball season starts each year there are several things that are certain. Every team is in first place on the first day. Twenty nine of the thirty teams are going to be lose at the end of the season. Every team is going to have disappointments with regard to players as well as injuries that will affect the performance of the team.

How a team deals with these last two certainties are what make the difference in which teams are in that group of twenty nine. Speaking at a conference in St. Louis this past month, I had the opportunity to listen to the announcers for the Cardinals. There was an amazing statistic they talked about. Of the 130 games the team had played to date (the season is 162 games), there had been 112 different lineups used in determining the 9 players on the field.

Of course, every team has multiple lineups as most teams utilize 5 pitchers in rotation to start a game. However, the statistic for the Cardinals was amazing. It indicated that there had been a lot of changes with regard to who the 5 pitchers were as well as the other 8 position players.

Yet, the Cardinals continued to be in first place with the best record in all of baseball for most all of the season. The announcers went on to explain that there is a “Cardinals way” that runs through their entire organization. With minor league teams in Memphis, Springfield, Palm Beach, Peoria, State College, Johnson City and Jupiter, the Cardinals have a system as to how a player is to be taught.

Instead of having a manager that coaches to his own strengths, the manager is to teach the Cardinals way. The idea is that when a player is needed to be moved from one Cardinal affiliate to another, depending on their skills improving or needing rehabilitation, the player will continually be taught a single system.

Hence, as there have been injuries or players needing rehabilitation, when someone from the minor leagues is called up to the team in St. Louis, there is no need for a period of adjustment.

This causes me to think about stores with multiple locations. How many multi-store owners have a system so that their employees fit in wherever they go? Or, when an employee moves from one location to another location, is the owner more likely to over hear a conversation in which the employee says, “Here’s how we do this at the store I came from?”

The same could be said for the lesson learned from Ray Kroc and McDonalds. The success of McDonalds does not come from their having great food. If you want a great tasting hamburger and milkshake, there are plenty of other choices of places to go to. Instead, the success comes from the consistency of delivery of the product.

Long before fast food became a highly automated process, you could count on getting a hamburger and milk shake in San Diego that would taste just like the ones you got in Atlantic City.

The singularity of purpose may be something that is written for your business, but a singularity in process allows a business to deliver a sameness in the experience for a customer. Starting with how the phones are answered, the way customers are greeted when they first come in the store, to the way furniture is delivered to their home or office, and any technician that might have to be sent to take care of adjustments and repairs.

Anyone who has stayed many nights in hotels, know this is not what you get with the hotel chains. You can have a stay at a great Sheraton followed by another Sheraton that will have you swearing you will never stay at Sheratons again.

In our industry, having customers telling their friends that you should, “only go to Smith’s south side store”, is damaging our image and diminishing our sales. It definitely destroys the various reason why we opened additional locations as a means of capturing a bigger share of the market.

Looking at the “Cardinals way” from the perspective of the employee, having twin sons who have had jobs in chain stores through high school and college, it is interesting to hear their experiences as they have been transferred from one location to another.

While store appearance and the selection of hard goods may be the same from one location to another, definitely they have experienced the challenges of stores that take on the personality of the manager instead of having the personality of oneness of the chain.

Both sons have spoken of the time necessary to adjust from one location to another; from one manager to another.  What is the sense of being a chain; of having multiple locations if they operate as individual businesses? How much productivity is lost when time is taken for an employee to get up to speed at each location they work?

Even as the Cardinals lose a star player, change managers or general managers, or even change ownership, the Cardinals way remains intact. As the owner of a business, there is something that can be learned from their success.

One team has won more World Series than the Cardinals; another has won more World Series than the Cardinals just in the last five years. But when it comes to consistency, the Cardinals are in a class by themselves. How is it with your business?

The title of this article makes a reference to a Cole Porter song. The first verse is, “Birds do it, bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.”

The same is true for each of our businesses. Let’s have customers and employees fall in love with our stores.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
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