01 March 2007

Delivering Excellence

“I’m not into complicated theories; I just get up every morning and say, ‘What are home-and-craft customers looking for today, and how can I provide it to them?’” wrote Hobby Lobby CEO David Green.

Identify Essentials
In his book, "More Than a Hobby," Green describes the policies and processes his organization uses to help store managers and staff deliver 100,000 items to customers in more than 300 stores.

Because customer trends ring true across the entire chain, Green encourages Hobby Lobby’s buyers to judge the appeal of items by browsing a Hobby Lobby store. Each buyer has an area of responsibility and has freedom to bring in entirely new products or get a good deal as long as the merchandise meets annual margin goals.

Build the Team
Hobby Lobby sets similar guidelines and allows similar freedom for store managers, and Green emphasizes the importance of hiring and keeping “A” people. He prefers to promote those within Hobby Lobby who have built and lead an effective team month after month.

In "Good to Great," Jim Collins and his team researched companies that rose from average to consistently above average, and Collins describes what helped those companies succeed. One variable he identified was “first who…then what.”

Collins describes how CEO Dick Cooley set the stage for Wells Fargo’s later success by hiring great managers whenever they became available. “That’s how you build the future. If I’m not smart enough to see the changes that are coming, they will. And they’ll be flexible enough to deal with them,” Cooley said.

Face Reality
Another variable Collins discusses regards leaders’ willingness to confront facts. Collins broke this down into four basic practices: “Lead with questions;” “Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion;” “Conduct autopsies without blame;” and “Build red flag systems” so that others can raise important issues on the spot.

In the mid-eighties, facing the reality of a $923,436 loss helped Green and his family refocus on doing what they do best: deliver the largest selection of art and craft supplies at the best possible price.

Hit the Target
Collins observed a similar direction in the companies he studied. Great organizations focus their efforts on their passion, what they can do better than anyone else, and what powers their “economic engine.”

This article first appeared in Character First's business bulletin series 3. It is reprinted here with permission from Character First and Strata Leadership.

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