February 2020 - 50

POHMER ON
WHAT'S YOUR
COMPANY'S
DNA?
By Stan Pohmer
B
eing the master of understatement, let me state
the obvious: managing a retail business in today's
competitive environment is not for the faint of heart!
Not only are you battling other brick and mortar retailers
and the online purveyors for customers, but you're also
fighting to hire and retain the best employees that can be a
major asset in achieving your goals.
The questions of the day are: How do you connect with
your target customer in such a way that they can relate
to who you are, your values, and whether your brand is
relevant to them?; and Can you motivate and lead your
team so they truly support your values, goals, and the way
you do business?
It's said that your brand is a direct reflection of your values
and how you position your company that establishes a set of
expectations that the consumer can hopefully embrace. Too
often, however, we start fabricating our brand and attempting
to communicate it to the consumer before we internally build
the foundation of identifying our core values, our vision and
what we really want to accomplish with our company, and
then communicating our brand message and market position.
While this process is generally driven by the owners or
senior managers of a company, to be successful, it must
get critical buy-in and support from the entire team. And
when the employee team sees management putting these
values into practice on a daily basis, they start to become
believers - and their behaviors and actions become
synched with management's lead.
Over time, with repetition, it becomes ingrained in how
the company operates and acts as a guidepost for employee
behavior and decision-making; it becomes part of the core
culture or DNA of the company. And as the company culture
gets reflected into operational execution, the consumer
starts getting exposed to the culture, making it a key
differentiator in a highly competitive marketplace.
50 | LAWN & GARDEN RETAILER | FEBRUARY 2020
How Strong is Your Corporate Culture?
To demonstrate how a strong corporate culture can
drive brand image and operational execution, here are two
great examples. First, let's look at Disney Resorts. Pricey
tickets? You bet! A major time investment to get the full
experience? A minimum of three days. A wholesome family
experience? Unmatched! And they earn a 70% customer
return rate, a rate that most retailers and entertainment
centers can only dream about.
How do they achieve this success? Sure, a new ride or
attraction every year or so helps, but what really drives
their success is the execution of the culture in operations,
facilities and the way their team members relate with the
public. It's a laser-like focus on doing everything possible to
deliver an outstanding guest experience. Everyone is on the
same page and is guided by common values. They set very
high expectations, and consistently exceed them.
But in addition to all of the highly visible things -
costumed theme characters, rides, food courts, monorails,
hotels, etc. - Disney spends a fortune to keep its parks
clean, safe and comfortable; they recognize that their
excellence sometimes means doing all you can to remain
unnoticed. This is the essence of their culture; everything
Disney does is focused on delivering the ultimate consumercentric
experience to their guests, their core culture.
Focus on the Consumer
As another example, I had the privilege of working as a
senior merchandising/marketing exec at what was then,
a small, regional mass marketer - Target - trying to
compete with the two retail behemoths of the time, Kmart
and Wal-Mart. Target operated under the culture of their
parent company, Dayton Hudson Department Stores (now
defunct), which greatly hindered its ability to carve out
its own identity needed to effectively compete against the
other big boxes.
Fortunately, senior management realized that, if they
wanted the company to compete and grow, new thinking
and direction was needed, and so began the era of Bob
Ulrich as CEO.
Continued on page 48

February 2020

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