November 19, 2009

The Men’s Wearhouse: Success in a Declining Industry

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:44 pm by ctennert

Men’s Wearhouse was premised on a great idea that is very true:  Men typically do not enjoy shopping as women do.  It is genius that Zimmer founded his company as a stand-alone store that offers great suits at reasonable prices.  Men now did not have to walk through department stores, as they had to in the past- they could just cut right to the chase, and look at some great suits available to them. 

Zimmer’s idea of human capital is very smart.  He felt as though his employees were assets of untapped potential.  He also employs the idea of servant leadership, whether it be how the mangers treat the staff, or how he treats his stockholders and executives.  This is an ideal approach, especially in a high-end retail business, because essentially the salesmen, or, suit consultants, act as servant leaders to the customers.  The consultants are the experts in their field, due to extensive training and experience, and they cater to all the customers’ needs.

Men’s Wearhouse claims they installed one of the first employee stock ownership plans, which is another imperative aspect to a business who is catering to their employees before their customers.  As the industry was declining, Men’s Wearhouse was able to excel because of the way they treat their employees. 

They claim they pay above industry standards, but a typical consultant at the Men’s Wearhouse makes not even $25,000 per year.  The company usually promotes from within, so if you were an employee who wanted a long-term future with the company, you would really have to stick it out for the first couple years on a salary that is barely livable.  While it is great Men’s Wearhouse promotes from within, there was no training available for mangers.  Every employee goes through the mixer/training at the beginning of their careers at Men’s Wearhouse, but there does not seem to be any continued training after that.  I also think it is dangerous for sales associates and managers to socialize together constantly off work hours, because then the boss/friend line becomes too thin, which I have seen this cause problems during work hours. 

Men’s Warehouse hires people based on their personality, and enthusiasm.  This reminded me of S.W. Airlines.  However, Men’s Warehouse trains people how to interview?  I wish the case would have elaborated on this concept, and had given examples, because I was confused as to what exactly this entails.  I understand they want people who fit into their culture, however, which I believe is a smart tactic.  Also, they will do everything in their power NOT to fire someone, and will exhaust all other possibilities before a firing happens such as a demotion, or a transfer to another store. 

When Men’s Wearhouse likes something their employee is doing, they use positive reinforcement, which is a big one for me.  I am a strong advocate of positive reinforcement, because I think most of the time mangers tend to concentrate on the negative, and only give feedback when something wrong happens.

Selling with soul is their theme for their employees, and they want their consultants to reach potential not only as a Men’s Wearhouse employee, but as a spouse, parent, friend, and person.  COME ON!  That is cheesy, and really at the end of the day, you are selling men’s suits.  It seems sort of insulting that the company thinks working at Men’s Wearhouse is going to make you a better person in your personal life.  I do like the fact that they use constructive criticism, and say it is the single best way to raise someone’s self-esteem.

Cheesy sales theme aside, it is good Men’s Wearhouse wants their employees to be shining stars, because then they will be likely to benefit the company.  They want everyone to sell with soul, and go above and beyond for the customers.  I go above and beyond for my clients everyday, so does this mean I am selling with soul?  It is a job, let’s face it.  What I do for a living does not dictate how I am as a person outside of work. 

As a fellow salesperson, I think it is unrealistic that Men’s Wearhouse expects their employees to not judge or stereotype customers.  I agree that everyone should be treated equally, not  matter what, but we all have our own instincts on determining if a person will be a buyer or not.  It is human nature to size people up, whether we admit it or not. 

After all, everything Men’s Wearhouse is doing seems to be working, because for the most part, they have the right attitude about their human capital.

November 9, 2009

Treadway Tire Company

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:53 am by ctennert

There is a huge disconnect between the workers and the foremans of this company.  The workers do not respect their foremans, possibly because they have had several since working for Treadway, and the foremans feel as though they have had zero training in order to be better prepared for their job.  Where does upper management come into play in this head-to-head situation between the foremans and their workers?  I believe upper management should take some initiative and figure out how to keep turnover low along with their HR manager, and that includes working with their foremans in order to become better leaders.

One hiccup in my recommendation, however, is that most of the upper management employees are promoted former formans!  In essence, how can they help the current foremans, if they were once making the same mistakes?  This could work to Treadway’s advantage, and disadvantage.  I do believe a training needs to be done for not only the foremans, but their workers as well.  Treadway’s workers should not be disrespecting their formans, and the foremans should be better leaders.  In order for the foremans to be more available to their employees, some things need to come off their plates.  Again, upper management and HR should be helping them out.  Especially upper management when it comes to dealing with the Union, and especially HR when it comes to administrative duties.   

Any time a company can promote from within, as long as the employee is motivated, educated, and seeks longevity, it is great.  However, if the company is promoting just to promote, to fill positions, that’s when you run into a huge problem.  I think outside talent mixed with current employees makes the best recipe for success in a business.  If most of the company’s top employees have worked their way up, it is essential proper training is mandated to keep them fresh on the job.  I also think the workers need to be treated better in order to create future leaders.  All new hires should have college degrees, no exceptions, and this will hopefully get the promotion domino-effect a head start.

November 6, 2009

Good Leadership Requires Executives to Put Themselves Last

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:57 am by ctennert

Oh no, Mr. Leven.  I sympathize with you.  Day’s Inn was Mr. Leven’s baby, yet he sold it to two delinquents.  Why did he keep overseeing his baby, as he puts it, instead of giving up control to people who obviously did not care for the business like he did, and therefore are criminals now due to fraud and conspiracy charges?

I do respect Mr. Leven for making the choices he did make when things began to go south, because he always kept his cool, dignity and good business practices.  He did what was ethical, and stood by his convictions. 

Ken Freeman also sounds like a stand-up gentleman, agreeing that CEOs often mistakenly believe they are entitled to enormous rights and benefits, just because they are in fact, CEOs.  There is a label for this, it’s called The Dean’s Disease. 

CEO’s and top managers should not accept huge compensation packages when they are cutting the pay of their employees.  Good leaders put their employee’s needs before their own.  If they didn’t, the eventually would not have good employees that stick around.

November 5, 2009

New Wine, Old Bottles

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:03 pm by ctennert

This article at first reminded me of the article I read on “Teaching Smart People How to Learn,” in that it really touches on executives who are in positions of power, and do not demonstrate the best leadership tactics all the time, because they are basically stuck in their ways.  Just like the cliche, You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks, the title of this article is appropriately fitting.

I love the author’s saying that, “The latest artifact of modern-day bloodletting in management is performance appraisal.”  Every article I have read on the topic has concurred with this concept.  It sounds like there are a lot of frustrated employees out there who more or less strongly dislike their managers, and the systems set forth by their place of employment.

Effective managers who are highly respected  by their subordinates and peers, and therefore enjoy longer tenure, employ servant leadership.  What a great concept; the leader takes the position of a servant to his or her employees.  (Use of the word servant used loosely in the article).  In essence, the manager is no longer the one controlling, directing, or judging.  The emphasis is placed on his or her employees to take initiative for these concepts.  Therefore, the employees are tougher on themselves, and have more vested interest in what is going on.  The leader is then only used as a resource, when absolutely necessary.

I liked the mention of the company Saturn in this article.  I personally own a Saturn, and it is not the most beautiful car on the road.  However, I chose to give them my business because they have such a great reputation.  They are not sales bullies, and they genuinely care about their customer’s satisfaction.  I now know due to this article that they use servant leadership.

November 4, 2009

WSJ Article on Col. Dowdy

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:30 pm by ctennert

Col. Dowdy chose men over mission.  He was a U.S. Marines Corp. Colonel who did everything he could for his men while fighting overseas in Iraq.  This meant living just like his marines did while fighting at war, with no ‘perks’ such as air conditioning that Colonels sometimes are offered.  He was a man who did what he felt was right, and safe for his men.

Instead of utilizing great speed to push North up to Baghdad like he was commanded, but not really(?), Col. Dowdy went another route that proved to be safer for his men, more calculated, but would also be the route to end his career with the Marines. 

The instructions from Dowdy’s superior were not solid, unsupported, and were therefor foggy at best for the Col. to decipher.  So, he did what a trusted Col. of a Marines unit would do- made his own decisions based on experience, and circumstantial evidence.  I understand that in the Marines, you do what your superior tells you to do, no matter what, no questions asked.  So you can see, Dowdy’s actions were not well received by the upper chain of command.

Micromanagement is a word that probably is not used by the Marines Corp. often, but I felt that is what Dowdy’s superior was doing to him- micromanaging instead of trusting him to get in, keep the troops alive, and then get out.  As with the instructions that were kinda sorta given to Dowdy regarding how to proceed to Baghdad, the research reports that surfaced after the war was over also contained mixed results.  Some said speed would have been the better approach, and some say speed had nothing to do with efficiency. 

I feel as though Dowdy was not treated fairly, but then again, I have no idea of what Marine protocol is.  In the corporate world, managers hire other managers because of their expertise, and trustworthiness to get the job done.  I felt that Dowdy did not get that trust from his superior.  Managers often feel that if they have to constantly look over their employees’ shoulder all the time, they may as well do the job themselves.  To micromanage is a complete waste of time.  To cut this syndrome out of the workforce, my suggestion is to hire people who do not need to be micromanaged.

WSJ Article on Lt. Withers

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:37 pm by ctennert

What a heart-warming article.  It just goes to show the good in people is still present, and is expressed many different ways.  These men found common ground and companionship in the most hostile, negative, and violate time in history:  WWII and the holocaust. 

Lt. Withers took in two men during the holocaust and made them his friends; really took them under his wing.  They felt as though they had commonalities with being discriminated against, Lt. Withers being black, and the two Jewish survivors from the Holocaust, and therefore found peace in eaachother’s company.  Another story/movie about maintaining a positive attitude during the Holocaust in particular, is Life Is Beautiful.  The two Jewish survivors reminded me of the character in this film, and I admire their attitude toward life.

In the workplace, no matter how bad you think you have it, others probably have had it worse.  Having a positive attitude is a choice.  You can choose to get wrapped up in negativity easily.  It is more challenging, I feel, to maintain a happy outlook.  The two Jewish concentration camp survivors really set an example in my mind of how we should all try to make the best of the situations we are in.