Road trip

The Power of a Road Trip

I spent many years in a “trust but verify” culture. What this meant was that I, and every executive above me, was expected to constantly show up in the retail stores to experience what was happening as the customers would.

Is there a bird’s nest over the front entrance risking bird poop falling on a customer’s head? Are customers being serviced in a timely way? Does the store look inviting with all light bulbs on and phones charged? Are the employees up to speed on the latest products and services? Can the store managers articulate their key initiatives and what they could do to improve?

There’s no question that knowing an exec could stop in at any time, kept everyone on their toes. The stores undoubtedly were cleaner and the customer service better as a result.

Of course these visits were always stressful. The general sentiment was that there was “No such thing as a good visit, only not a bad one.”

Which is what made the technique I learned from my predecessor so brilliant.

Every summer, instead of the usual pop-in store visits, Chris and his right hand guy, Jimmy, would pack up a van, wrap it in some marketing bling, and hit the road for a month visiting over a hundred stores across a nine-hour radius.

The schedule was pre-announced and there was one big rule: only positive feedback, celebration and fun.

If something was wrong, he or Jimmy would just quietly fix it, and make a note to circle back at some later point to see if there was a chronic problem.

This tour was all about noticing what was right.

He would do his homework and came prepared with all kinds of recognition, along with a token of appreciation for every employee.

The store managers came up with all kinds of creative ways to add to the fun.  Jimmy took tons of pictures of every visit. Every evening, they would Photoshop them into creative collage, including names of those recognized and why, along with descriptions of best practices. This “postcard” was emailed to the entire region every evening.

The other store directors jokingly referred to the month as “Chris’ love tour,” but Chris didn’t care, he knew what worked.

The truth is, the employees loved the love.

Of course, results skyrocketed during that time. Everyone wanted to be on top of their game when the tour stopped by their store.

And as you can imagine, there was not a bird’s nest in sight. The phones all had charge, and the employees knew all about the latest products and services.

Trust your employees to rise to the occasion, and they will.

Sounds easy, right? But I know a lot of managers who fumble their managing by walking around (MBWA).

There’s real power in getting out with your people with a single intention– to uplift, recognize and celebrate.