How to avoid the curse of complacency

Filed under Columns
Darryl Rosen sold Sam's Liquor and now works for archcompetitor Binny's

Darryl Rosen, a former owner and president of Sam's Wines & Spirits who is now a consultant for Binny's, discusses why change is necessary for survival.

By Darryl Rosen

Guest columnist

Change isn’t easy, nor is it comfortable. But it is a fact of life — and a requirement of business.

The expansion of Binny’s Beverage Depot outside greater Chicago offers a good opportunity to talk about why businesses need to change once in a while — and how they can do it. If you’ve been focused on simply staying afloat, maybe it’s time to think about reinventing your company.

I did that. Almost five years ago, I sold Sam’s Wines & Spirits to a private equity firm. They later sold the business to my former archcompetitor — Binny’s Beverage Depot. Now I handle the training at Binny’s as one of my consulting engagements.

I never thought I’d find myself back in my old office, a place that used to be my second home. Gone were the desk and credenza and even a few of the walls. My Cubs photos were nowhere in sight. Instead, I was smack dab in the middle of a beautiful wine tasting room. If I had walked in here blindfolded, I would have no idea I had been here before.

Change or stagnate

And that’s the point. Smart, profit-seeking businesses change. Those that stay the same will stagnate. Binny’s Beverage Depot is making a host of changes. In late February, the chain opened a Champaign, Ill., location, representing its 28th store and its first location outside the Chicago area.

Many companies as successful as Binny’s would fall prey to the curse of complacency. And why not? Binny’s is a great business. It has grown by leaps and bounds and is a dominant player in a huge market. Its operational strategy of moving millions of cases a year has worked quite effectively, and the company is known as a service leader.

But Binny’s wants more. Last year, the owner of Binny’s told me that he felt his professionals were good performers operationally but could be doing more for the customer experience. He wanted me to define and enhance the Binny’s experience. To create a “Binny’s way,” if you will, a uniform way of treating its most valuable commodity. He didn’t succumb to the glowing reviews on Yelp and assume the status quo was enough.

You see, Binny’s likes what it has, but realizes nothing is forever. As the company enters new markets, it wants customers to clearly understand what one of Chicago’s oldest chains is all about.

Are you considering making a few changes? These tips will help you change successfully.

Look in the “real” mirror — ask others. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? A business owner should consider surveying employees, customers and vendors. Ask the hard questions and listen to the answers: What are we doing well and what can we do better? This isn’t the time for “We’re the greatest and everyone else stinks!” Dig deep with your questions and analysis. Garbage in, garbage out applies here.

Involve your associates from day one. Bring your team into the fold and you’ll have more buy-in. When we launched this effort at Binny’s, we made sure the associates knew this wasn’t about their lack of performance. It was quite the opposite: We enlisted their help to create the changes. With their help, we’re developing a profile of where we want to go, where we’re falling short and how to conquer our biggest obstacles. Most important, we’re making it convenient for them to share their opinions. Don’t downplay the role of logistics in this equation. The easier you make it for them, the more communication you’ll get.

Don’t douse ideas with a fire hose. Give all ideas a chance. The purpose of brainstorming is not analyzing ideas — it’s idea generation. There is always time for evaluation and analysis after the fact. Keep the scope specific and encourage as many suggestions as possible that fit your subject. If you include details about the desired outcome, the ideas will be more targeted and more relevant. Most of all, foster an environment where everyone’s ideas are accepted and everyone actively participates. There is no fire-hosing (or spraying water on other’s ideas), as I’ve heard it called.

Enlist the help of a few “change” promoters. Key to every change initiative is getting a few of the company’s professionals on your side from the beginning. Buy-in is essential if the finished product is to impress our customers. Some companies use an outside change consultant. But generally, there are plenty of talented professionals inside the company who have dedicated their careers to promoting your products and services. Having these professionals point the company in the right direction is essential.

Monitor progress. As we roll out the Binny’s way, we’ll create a plan for tracking our success and measuring and monitoring progress. Unfortunately, all you have to do is pick up the business pages to see how quickly companies abandon change efforts for one reason or another. Don’t go there. At Binny’s, we are creating a brand promise and clear principles for determining how close our associates’ behavior is to our goals. As we move forward, we’ll hold regular discussions on the Binny’s way and educate (and question) our professionals on how to make our efforts last.

Change is good. Try it.

Darryl Rosen has many years of experience running a company and is now a leading performance coach for managers and sales professionals. His newest book is “Table for Three? Bringing Your Smart Phone to Lunch and 50 Dumb Mistakes Smart Managers Don’t Make!” Learn more at www.tableforthreethebook.com.

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