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Is Your Business A Team Effort?

Furniture World Magazine


Is the main goal of employees to cover the customer’s needs and expectations or their own backs?

Is There "Magic" In Your Kingdom? Is your corporate culture sparked with passion and "play," or is it manic and full of mayhem? Do you have a team all on the same page singing the same song, or is each department writing their own lyrics? Is the main goal of employees to cover the customer’s needs and expectations or their own backs?

Most companies in the land of retail experience the "silo effect," characterized by employees who think only about what is going on in their own departments. They’re thinking "up and down" as opposed to “across" the organization. They often fall into three distinct camps. It’s the office staff against the sales consultants vs. the warehouse employees. The mindset is us vs. them, with each camp functioning independently. Sound too familiar? The office and the warehouse don’t feel as important as the sales team. Office and warehouse employees feel that the people in sales get all the perks. They make the commissions, get the bonuses and all the recognition. What’s the rest of your staff, chopped liver? How can management expect employees to function as a team so that the business unit can meet or exceed customers’ expectations in this kind of internal environment?

Years ago, as a newly promoted store manager, I visited the warehouse to meet my delivery team. As they introduced themselves, they told me that they weren’t important. They explained that they just handled the deliveries. I pointed out that they were not just anybody. They were a critical part of the team. They were, after all, the last customer contact and the real close to every sale. Their professionalism and level of dedication could very well determine if a customer ever set foot in our store again. Their position, their job was critical to our success. I explained that I was counting on each and every one of them.

Of course, words are one thing, actions another. If you want to create an environment where your guy on the loading dock feels as much a part of the team as your star salesperson, you need management to pay attention and follow through.

You should salute those special "humans" who work in the office, warehouse and on the delivery truck. They are the "super glue" that holds your whole operation together. You need them on your side and by your side!

How are you bridging the gap between these camps? Let’s take a look at how the "Mouse" does it. That’s right, "Mickey Mouse." In his book, "Inside the Magic Kingdom," Tom Connellan points out that 70% of all the "guests" who visit Disney are repeat customers? 70%! How do they do this? They create commitment through the use of "Pixie Dust." Pixie dust is that special feeling that every "cast member" possesses. It’s their commitment to Disney, to quality, and to customer service. No matter what their position, they are important because they are part of a "tradition." Employees treat their customers the way that they are treated. There is a definite correlation between employee satisfaction, and customer satisfaction. Every Disney employee has a card with their official title, plus the title of "Customer Relations Associate."

Not long ago, I conducted my first seminar in Queensbury, New York for "Sutton’s Marketplace." The "Marketplace" is a two-story furniture store surrounded by a cafe/gift shop/bakery and clothing boutique on one side, and a little toy store on the other called the Toy Cottage. These related stores and the employees in them formed a REAL team. I asked Andrea Chenier, the general manager, how she created such a magical force. She explained that it is her mission to make everyone who works at Sutton’s Marketplace believe that they are a valuable part of the entire operation. She and Steve Sutton, the owner, really came through.

An idea that came out of the two day seminar that every employee attended, was that all members of the Sutton’s Marketplace team should have their own cards with individual titles listed. Furthermore, they now introduce themselves, full name and title to each customer they greet. Kelly, who works at the Toy Cottage, asked what her title could possibly be. She was dubbed the "Toy Wizard!’ Now she has her cards, and is having great fun making new friends, and more sales because she is in fact, the toy wizard! Every member of your team needs a title and possibly even a card to help them remember that they are important. What they do and who they are matters. Tom Connellan’s book illustrates this point well. He shows a business card with these words printed on the front to drive this point home: "Xvxronx makxs a diffxxncx." The back of the card really says it all: Somxtimxs I gxt to thinking that what I do doxsn’t mattxr. But whxn I start thinking that way, I rxmxmbxr my old typxwritxr. Most of thx kxys workxd finx most of the timx. But onx day, onx of thx kxys stoppxd working all togxthxr. And that rxally mxssxd xvxrything up. So whxn I’m txmptxd to say, I’m only onx pxrson, it won’t makx much diffxrxncx if I don’t do this quitx right, I rxmxmbxr my old typxrwritxr. And I say to mysxlf: ‘I am a kxy pxrson and I am nxxdxd vxry much." Couldn’t have said it better myself!


Disney has employed several terrific systems to applaud their associates. These are outlined in "Inside the Magic Kingdom," and are presented in quotes below.

The "Guest Service Fantastic Award" is given by management. Disney’s managers walk around with Guest Service Fantastic cards. They hand them out to cast members and thank them for their good deeds. The cast members drop their cards into a box. The more cards, the more good deeds, the better their chances to win prizes at the end of the month at a drawing. There’s a big ceremony complete with fireworks. The vice president or "Mickey" draws the names out of the box. Service and teamwork set the priorities for recognition. The standards for service are:

"One: Always smile and make eye contact."

"Two: Exceed guest expectations and seek out guest contact."

"Three: Always give outstanding quality service."

"Four: Greet and welcome every guest." How many of your sales consultants ignore the customer because it’s not their UP? If they’re doing this – stop them. It is rude and unprofessional.

"Five: Maintain a personal standard of quality in your work."

Guidelines for teamwork

"One: Go beyond the call of duty."

"Two: Demonstrate strong team initiative."

"Three: Communicate aggressively with guests and fellow cast members."

"Four: preserve the ‘magical’ guest experience!"

Get everyone to experience the experience! Don’t just try this -- build it into your system. Fellow cast members recognize each other, and nominate each other for a special honor called the "Spirit of Disney" award. The award winner gets a silver name tag. Talk about team building. What would this do for a driver who receives praise for a job well done, or a special person in your office who found just enough discontinued fabric for Lilian’s sofa? How about presenting a “Full Moon Award” for the team member that diffuses the customer from hell! Consider also the "Radar O’Reilly" award given to cast members who "do an outstanding job of anticipating internal or external customers’ needs."

The Best Companies Are All About Communication

The best businesses are all about communication and providing appropriate feedback to their customers, suppliers as well as employees!

Did you know that in most operations negative feedback is delivered three times more often than positive praise? Three-to-one!

There are three types of feedback outlined in Connellan’s book. These are positive (reinforcement), negative (punishment) and no feedback (extinction). The style of communication that is delivered most often is not surprisingly extinction, and it is also the "most common response to good performance!"

Getting no feedback is as devastating as a negative response. When people receive no communication they withdraw their commitment. Their mindset of why-bother takes over! The old adage, No news is good news does not apply when dealing with humans. People treat customers the same way they’re treated. There is a definite correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Everybody needs an ‘atta boy or an ‘atta girl for a job well done.

Feedback should be positive, immediate, and specific. Be careful here, don’t just pass out general words of praise. I call this Jellybean Motivation. Cheering them on for nothing in particular is like handing out candy. When there’s nothing to associate with the words of praise, the words, and the meaning lose their impact. Make your praise specific. Be proud of them and what they’ve accomplished, so they will be proud of it too, and continue that behavior! Psychological income is just as important as Economic income.

Companies That Grow People Grow Profits!

When we grow, we become passionate about what we’re doing. We want to keep growing, to keep getting better. Let them know how they’re doing. Ken Blanchards said it all many years ago in "The One Minute Manager," "Catch them doing something RIGHT!" When you make them feel proud of their accomplishments, they’ll want to do more. They’ll want to give more to you, and to their customers. Recognition, and thanks spark passion, and when they are passionate, they make sure Ethel has a terrific experience and wants to come back again, and again.

Connellan puts forward the proposition that, "Every time a customer comes in contact with your company, you have an opportunity to create value. Capitalize on the opportunity." Replace customer acquisition with client retention. "Every 1% increase in customer retention produces… a 7% increase in profits!"

Passion, he says, is not only crucial in creating clients, it is also the magic force behind keeping employees. "One with passion is better than forty who are merely interested." When your people feel they are part of a team, that what they do matters, and that their efforts are recognized and appreciated, they’ll sign up for a long time. This means that your operation can drastically reduce high turnover. "They all contribute to the total experience and that’s what really counts!" If you want to add more dollars to your bottom line, make terminate-turnover your new battle cry. Just think of all the money and time you spend in advertising, interviewing, checking references, debating who to choose, training, hoping this one will work! Plus if they’re on the sales floor, how many ups do new people run-through and run-off without doing business with you? You can’t even begin to put a dollar amount on this! Eliciting passion and fun just makes good business $ense! No wonder it’s magic! Make it the new force behind your success! Get your guests to experience the experience!

"Pixie Dust," anyone? Here’s to the "Mouse," and here’s to you and your team!


“Lunch & Learn” Roundtable At Norwalk Furniture In Tampa: One of the keys to Disney’s success in keeping the "magic" in the Magic Kingdom is their attention to details. This process called "Imagineering" is performed by people called "Imagineers" who begin their planning process with "the sky’s the limit" sessions!

I want to share some insights of some "Home Furnishings Imagineers" I have the pleasure of knowing. Let’s take a look at some of the ways they create "magic!"

Susan Solomon, the general manager of five Norwalk showrooms in Tampa Florida, has created the "Lunch & Learn" roundtable. Talk about communication, and feedback. This is a great idea!

Here are the words of a true "Imagineer!"

Once a month we get together. I select a top performer, a brand new member, another consultant who has been there at least three months, plus others I feel will benefit and contribute... I like to have no more than six or seven. I want them to feel as if they can ask anything, and say anything. I am there to toss out topics and keep them on track. The ideas that are working, we celebrate. If something isn’t working for someone we strategize, then come up with lots of workable solutions.

“One of my designers, Jeff Hartman, from the Largo store, learned from Dianna Taylor from the Brandon store, how to add an area rug to each order. That skill as well as a few others that were discussed helped Jeff get to the highest level he had ever attained the very next month.

“Brand new designers can’t wait to be in an environment to learn from those who are successful and find out exactly what they do and how they do it on a daily basis. Everyone learns, everyone wins! Then they go back and share all of these ideas with their fellow team members...

“I have found that the time slips away and no one wants to leave. So now we start at 9:30 A.M. and I call it "Brunch & Learn!" I give them a ‘Remembrance of the Day,’ a tiny stuffed animal, or something for their desk. The format is simple but the result is fantastic. The cost - one day, one lunch. Then just stand back and watch your sales take off in the next thirty days!"

Newsletter & the “Maggie Award”At Norwalk Furniture In Houston: Sandy Murray, the General Manager of Norwalk in Houston, brings "magic" to her kingdom each and everyday. She believes in motivation through the power of play! She started a newsletter that keeps everyone in the know and up to date. The publisher of said Newsletter is listed as, "Madame Murray." She has also initiated the "Maggie Award." This award is "in appreciation, and to recognize and honor Outstanding Sales Achievement. It is named ‘the Maggie’ after Margaret Aylward, a veteran design consultant who has broken all sales records in Houston." Margaret has a wonderful British accent and she makes all her clients feel like royalty. What a terrific way to say "Thank You" to a special lady for her years of dedication and service. It will be awarded every year for the number one writer in Margaret’s honor. Sandy even had her husband George record a special song for the award ceremony. The song - "The Lady is a Champ!

There Is A Manager of Fluffery At Lippmann’s In Peoria: At Lippmann’s Furniture in Peoria, Ill. Michael Weisehan had the corporate team in his three stores read about the "Magic Kingdom." He and his sister Kathy Crank are in the process of spreading the "pixie dust" throughout their organization. Along with Josh Murray, the Bloomington, IL store manager, we spoke about putting titles on cards for additional showroom duties. So far we’ve come up with "The Genie of Display," and the "Manager of Fluffery!"

These are all true "Imagineers" who are paying attention to the details by making it fun, rewarding excellence, and creating a true team, all through the art of communication and caring.

Sutton’s Staff Speaks Of Team Building & Their Descriptive Business Cards: Andrea: “In the past we have had a “them vs. us” mentality. Our goal has been to overcome this. Store cohesiveness has been achieved in a number of different ways. We try always to maintain a positive upbeat attitude - this is contagious. We make an effort to put ourselves in the other guy’s shoes, so to say, give respect and get respect. Finally at Sutton’s we divide 1% of sales amongst the support staff. This bonus is an incentive and a reminder that we are a complete unit. We can only be as successful as each working part.”

Laura: “Business cards are gifts.... You give them to your clients to help you solidify the relationship you are developing. Only then can you continue to move toward assisting them in making good buying decisions.”

Pat: “My business card represents “me.” All the pertinent information is on the front and any note to my client can be added to the back. It’s a little reminder of their Sutton’s experience.”
Kelly: “I believe that your business card should generate a message of eye catching and positive concepts. Whether you are in furniture design, gift buying or a toy wizard you should be sure that your card sparks a design image of your creative soul.”

Sally: "When you have made yourself memorable to your client - your card acts as a “book mark.’ a reminder that you will be there for them.”

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at finney@furninfo.com.