Welcome to Directions Inc.
Several years ago there was a highly popular specialty food retailer with a strong brand. The company had hundreds of company owned retail locations, and its aspirations were high. It was blessed with a cadre of loyal employees and the culture was built around an entrepreneurial management style, innovation, hard work and high expectations. Like a shooting star its presence was bright, but over a few short years brightness dimmed as performance fell short of expectations and dramatic changes took place. Key players left the company, ownership changed hands, the product line changed, the brand lost its “mystique” and operations were converted from company owned to franchisee owned stores.
Recently the former CEO, Chief Operating Officer, real estate and human resource executives unexpectedly found themselves staying at the same hotel. The CEO suggested they get together for dinner to relive the “old days”. Here’s what they said:
CEO: “I wanted us to be the biggest and best specialty food retailer in the world. I was frustrated by our inability to get everything functioning on all cylinders at the same time. It was like punching a pillow; every time we’d fix one lump in the pillow, new ones would pop up. I’ve thought a lot about what happened. Maybe our eyes were bigger than our stomach – I don’t know.”
COO: “I wanted us to have the highest quality products found anywhere, and I wanted our employees to have fun doing what they were doing. We were doing store conversions and new store openings while trying to keep things under control in existing stores. Rather than having fun, people were going crazy doing everything at the same time. Our store systems were good, but given the situation, I don’t know what we could have done differently without adding more people, and that wasn’t going to happen.”
Real Estate executive: “I wanted us to have the highest profile locations possible to drive customer count. I was limited by staffing and had to rely heavily on brokers for site selection. I had a really tough time balancing the pressure for top quality sites with store growth objectives. It was tough; I probably should have passed on some sites, but I really wanted to get the job done.”
HR executive: “I wanted the quality of our workforce to match the quality of our brand, and I knew in my gut that wasn’t the case. People fought their daily battles, and as things started going south everybody just worked harder. How could the vast majority of our people be meeting or exceeding performance expectations while the business was going downhill? It didn’t make any sense. We needed a better plan for how we did things, and we needed a way to really understand how we were doing. I wish we’d had something like that; it would’ve made a difference.”