Flawless execution must start at the beginning and carry through every subsequent step in customer engagement, sales, and fulfillment process.

Let’s look at a true-life business scenario:

“We are trying to fill positions in our retail locations. We keep identifying the same type of candidates: nice people, willing to do whatever it takes, pleasant, the type of people we want dealing with our customers. They are loyal. They will show up every day and do a good job consistent with the job description and their experience. Yet the numbers for our stores are not as good as they could be, even for this economy. What’s missing?”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because for many it’s business as usual!

Whenever an approach does not achieve your strategic outcomes and/or heartfelt desires (in this case profitability goals), it’s time to look deeper.

Typically, this company hires based on skills and experience, and they assume new employees will continue their past “performance”, producing the results they crave.

The thing preventing the business from meeting its goals is flawless execution. Flawless execution is about making progress instead of stagnating. It’s a corporate mindset that inspires employees to work hard, work smart, constantly evaluate whether objectives/goals are met, and to look at ways to do better even when goals are met.

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone has to do his or her job to perfection. Of course, as humans we can never truly achieve “perfection.” Environments change and we can’t control every outside influence. That doesn’t mean we stop trying; the way we get there though, is through training.

How well a leader trains their people goes a long way to improving the bottom line. The best place to start is with the basics. One cannot assume more “seasoned” employees know how to answer the telephone or let customers in the door. Additionally, the assumption can’t be made that someone with a great education and experience is even aware of the company basics.

For example, my first job out of graduate school was with a formidable consulting firm. As new hires, we spent our first week training on how to dress, meeting dos and don’ts, what types of foods to eat at business meals, among other things. Our first two hours on the job covered telephone use and etiquette. (You don’t get much more basic than that.)

Examine the business scenario again. The assumption is that hiring experienced and pleasant employees would automatically equal positive results. In reality, that wasn’t the case. Thus, I was brought in as a consultant to look more closely at employee behavior. I found the following:

  1. If employees were doing something (completing paper work, typing, daydreaming, etc.) when the telephone rang, they would let the call go to voicemail. I quickly found the easy remedy: no more voice mail! The company installed a call center system where managers could review call statistics and implement goals based on results. By tracking “lost” and “abandoned calls,” the business began to experience fewer of each and sales increased.
  2. When arriving at the posted “open” times at the retail locations, I found the doors locked. Apparently, employees were coming in early and locking the doors behind them, often for some 15 minutes past opening time. Customers couldn’t get inside the stores! The word spread and many customers went elsewhere. To fix this problem, employees were told to open the locations 15 to 30 minutes earlier than posted. As a result, early-bird customers were pleased to find open doors and the stores began to experience consistent, increased sales.
  3. The company also implemented a program where managers could call in occasionally as customers to observe employee behavior. Through these calls, they were able to discover first hand: Was the greeting professional? Does the employee say things that are consistent with the brand and company expectations?

What’s the moral here? Observe employees through every step of the selling process from beginning to end. Don’t make assumptions based on experience or traits such as kindness or loyalty. Don’t ignore basics. Manage by walking around and observing employees. Greet them. Do they present themselves well? Do they present your business well? Encourage your managers to walk around as well.

A leader who takes time to examine these things will find areas to improve.

There’s no substitute for first-hand observation. How else will you know where the gaps are that allow revenue to slip through the cracks?

The choice is yours!

Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates. He is a business visionary who guides organizations through cultural shifts. He promotes environments that inspire collaboration, transparency in the pursuit of strategic outcomes and heart-felt desires. Reach Stuart via email: stuart@pma-co.com