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A view of the industry through the eyes of independent and chain retailers.

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New Year, New Attitude

Change is inevitable, and improving your employees' attitude can be done.

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (February 20, 2012)

You may have heard Rich talk about three signs that hang in our office conference room:

When times are bad things change.

When times are good things change.

10 percent of your business changes every year.

Change is good – and important to your business – no matter how it finds you. It certainly found us.

After 18 years in the same offices in St. Charles, Illinois, we decided we needed a change. Okay, that isn’t entirely true. Our idea of change was buying new furniture and rearranging the joint; our landlord’s definition involved a new lease that was absolutely un-signable. Our only option was to move, and fast. We had to be out in less than 60 days.

Our old office was in a 100 year old, very cool (and haunted!) office building. We were surrounded by small business service providers; nice people but definitely non-creative types. The best time was when the Special Olympics team down the hall brought kids in to get ready for some event; otherwise, it was a pretty quiet place. This daily lack of stimulation was affecting our attitudes; we were in a rut and we knew it, so if we had to move, it wasn’t going to be to a similar office environment.

We wanted to stay in St. Charles but we wanted to be where all the action is, so that meant being downtown. (A little St. Charles trivia: in 2011 it was named the best city in America to live in by Family Circle magazine. We stumbled upon it when we stuck a pin in a map right between the two cities where we live. Voila! St. Charles.) We looked at plenty of spaces that we loved but couldn’t afford, took a deep breath, and kept on looking. And then, almost by accident, we found the perfect space, in a great location, with a private entrance and floor to ceiling windows. Or maybe it found us; the space had been empty for over a year. Before the ink was dry on our new, tenant-friendly lease, two other companies tried to grab it, too.

We decided that we were going to throw away everything in our storage room. We hadn’t looked at most of it in years anyway. In the office, we tossed old files,video tapes – junk we didn’t need. And we sold our big cherry office suites in favor of sleek new furniture.

One of the joys of owning or running your own business is that you can make positive changes whenever you want. That's the easy part; the hard part is deciding to do it. The other hard part is convincing your staff that sometimes in order to grow your business change is necessary.

In our travels we've visited well run stores, and we've visited stores where things have gotten a little out of hand. We'll never forget the retailer who had three absolutely rotten associates on her team, but was afraid to confront them about their bad behavior. Other associates complained, customers complained, and she had witnessed several nasty incidents herself. But she was afraid to let them go for a number of reasons, one of which was, "What would I do without them?"


This retailer needed positive change and she needed it fast. We said, "You cannot afford to be afraid of the people who work for you. They work for you." We needed to convince her of the damage these employees were doing to her business, because that was exactly what was happening. 

Several years ago we had the opportunity to conduct an in-store study. We interviewed each of the store's associates and made a list of those we felt had a positive attitude about their jobs, and a list of associates we felt were on the negative side. Next, we chose three associates with positive attitudes, and two who were just the opposite. We asked the store owner to assign these five associates to work together in the same department. Three weeks later we returned and interviewed the five associates again to see if their differing attitudes would affect one another. In this phase of the experiment we were happy to find that the positives won – the two negative associates had substantially improved their attitudes. But the experiment wasn’t over yet.

Next we reversed the chemistry and placed three negative attitudes with two positive attitudes in the same department. At the end of this three-week study, the associates who started out with a positive attitude had crossed over to the dark side. But our study wasn’t finished yet.

In the third phase, the store owner assigned three positive sales associates to work with three negative sales associates. All things being equal, we waited to see what would happen. After three weeks we had six associates with much less than positive attitudes, proving that people with negative attitudes are likely to have a more powerful effect on others as those who think positively.

Yet, even in stores where positive attitudes prevail, sometimes things just don't feel all that positive. You may have noticed how "up" your associates are on days when the sales floor is packed. On busy Saturdays, associates are engaged, customers are happy, and you're selling lots of stuff. But on a slow Tuesday afternoon, you're likely to find that everyone is just a little less enthusiastic.

What's the difference? Actions drive attitudes. If you find your associates dragging their feet or feeling lethargic on slow days, then assign tasks and responsibilities that will keep them busy when they're not helping customers. You'll find that their attitudes will improve. You can't change a person's attitude, but you can control their actions, and action will fire up attitudes.

You want to talk change? If you own or manage the store, the attitude of your company and all who work there, falls directly in your lap. Your store has your personality. So be the daily example, the positive attitude everyone can count on. When you walk onto your sales floor, shine. New year, new attitude! Make some changes. Get organized; kick the negatives to the curb, and good things will happen in 2012!

About Rich KIZER & Georganne BENDER

Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are professional speakers, authors and consultants whose client list reads like a "Who's Who" in business. Companies internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and the changing retail market place.

KIZER & BENDER made Meetings & Conventions magazine's list of "Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote Speakers"; they've also been named "Two of Retailing's Most Influential People." And with good reason: Rich and Georganne are experts on generational diversity, consumer trends, marketing and promotion, and everything retail. They are widely referred to as consumer anthropologists because they stalk and study that most elusive of mammals: today's consumer.

KIZER & BENDER are well known for their unique and intensive consumer research. Any speaker can talk about customers, but Georganne and Rich actually become them. In addition to yearly focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and intensive on-site studies, their research includes posing as every kind of customer you can imagine. And maybe even a few that you can't. The result of their research is literally straight from the customers' mouth: solid ground level intelligence you can use to better serve your own customers.

KIZER & BENDER's observations are widely featured in the medias, including the ABC News special report "How Stores Hook You." Their books Champagne Strategies on a Beer Budget! and Jingle Bells... Christmas Sells" have helped thousands of retailers improve their bottom line, and their by- lined column, Georganne & Rich on the Road was twice honored with The American Society of Business Publication Editors Award of Excellence (ASBPE).

Since 1989, KIZER & BENDER's presentations have blended brilliant content with colorful examples, humor and insight. You'll learn while you laugh! And you'll come away with inspiration, strategies, tactics, tips and techniques you can use the second you return to your business!

Where to find KIZER & BENDER:


103 North 11th Ave., Ste. 206, St. Charles, Illinois 60174
Phone: 630-513-8020 | 24/7 Mobile: 708-347-2682 Fax: 630-513-8098




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