Posted by: Matthew Molinari | April 27, 2011

Mens Warehouse & Sounds of Silence & ACT (Blog #17)

I think the entire premise for The Men’s Warehouse is the best part about the business. George Zimmer, the founder, figured the biggest problem with other stores was how they treated their customer. He realized that a department store was trying to sell to men and women in the same way and that didn’t make sense because they were really two different animals.

Men didn’t want to hunt for bargains and spend hours in the store. They wanted to get in, get out, and not pay a ton in the process. George did this process by training his employees to sell to the customer and working with his vendors on price so The Men’s Warehouse didn’t need to have sales – the prices were at on sale levels everyday.

The key to success was that the company realized that the employees were really the customer and training and treating them as such. I think one of the more important things to emphasize was that the company didn’t lose this model during expansion. During the mid 90’s the company was growing so rapidly that it would have been easy to lose track of the vision that brought it success. The process was so engrained in the management that it didn’t get diluted and allowed for not only growth but continued success during that growth.

Retail is such a cut throat business and there are so many options for customers, The Men’s Warehouse made its name on being better than it’s competition. Zimmerman acknowledged that marketing was not as important to the company as teaching was. This was the opposite position of most other company’s who looked to marketing to drive sales. The company wasn’t trying to create new customers but instead looked to take established customers from other businesses in the area. It took a lot more money to try to convince someone who never bought suits they needed one then to convince someone who bought them already to switch stores for better service and lower prices.

In order to do this, The Men’s Warehouse focused entirely on teaching how to sell and approach customers. They expected their employees to enjoy their jobs because that would make them better employees who would then be better sellers. George really believed the customer could tell the difference between a sales person that asked a customer how they were doing because they were forced to by Management and one who asked because they were actually interested in making a connection.

Men’s Warehouse was able to attract these types of employees because they were shown from the beginning that employee opinions mattered. Rather than create a culture of organizational silence, the company took the opposite approach. They wanted each level of employee to train and teach each other as well as the employees below them. Zimmer wanted to disseminate information from the top down but also from the bottom up.

The company held all types of meetings throughout the year with a range of different level of employees invited to both hear information from the top but also share information with each other about what they experiencing in the individual stores. There were three main goals used to promote leadership at the company and they all revolved around the idea that group think was bad and questioning and listening were key. The company viewed criticism as the most important part of growing. Managers were taught to look at criticism as a way to teach employees and correct mistakes instead of taking it personally. This way, The Men’s Warehouse was able to correct flaws in the business plan and in the employees so that growth could occur. A company that suffers from organizational silence would have the opposite growth pattern and would either be stagnant or moving backwards because the same problems are reoccurring since no one questions them.

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