Archive for May, 2008
Today I want to talk about why I stopped shopping at Ingles Supermarkets and to find the lessons in that for entrepreneurs running their own businesses. Ingles is a large chain of more than 200 grocery stores in six states in the southeastern US. The corporate headquarters is not thirty miles from where I live and on occasion I have been disturbed enough at them to consider driving there to give someone a piece of my mind.
I try to eat in a fairly healthy way and this means that I am buying products like low fat cheeses, whole grains and natural foods without lots of additives. I live in a fairly upscale town where there are many people that are health conscious. Over the past six months, I have noticed more and more of the healthy foods that I buy disappearing from the shelves at Ingles. At first, I would ask the stock person about things and he/she would invariably report they “just didn’t carry that any more”.
As time went on, I decided to request an item or two that I buy a lot since I was driving to a different store to purchase them. When I asked for a form to request a certain product, I was told they didn’t have such a form. I decided that I had just run into an uninformed employee and went home. The next time one of my regular purchases vanished from the shelves, I asked again. This time I was told there was no way to request a product. Since I am not easily discouraged, I asked to speak to the manager. What an eye opener that was! The manager explained that not only could I not request a product, neither could he. Apparently Ingles store managers no longer decide what products are sold in their stores; someone in corporate headquarters decides what all Ingles stores will carry and it does not matter what the local customer wants to buy.
Ouch. I do not take lightly the idea that my preferences do not matter. A company that is not intereted in my being a satisified customer is not interested in having my money. The ironic point is that the Ingles website boasts “After 40 years, the same customer focus and commitment to quality and convenience on which Bob Ingle founded the business in 1963, continues today throughout the organization.” Hmmm, I wonder what ole Bob Ingle would say about the “customer focus” they have today in product selection.
As an entrepreneur, I know that the most important marketing tool that I have is understanding my customer and what they truly want. I ask questions, listen carefully and even do surveys if I need to get opinions from a group. I am in continual dialogue with my customers in order to keep my business fresh. I invest time and energy and resources into staying current with what is most helpful to those who have already given me their trust and those who are potential customers. While a coaching business is vastly different than a grocery store in many ways, we both need loyal customers to have a thriving business. I truly believe that I may know something more about business than the decision makers at Ingles Supermarkets. I don’t even mind driving the five extra miles to get the groceries that I really want at Harris Teeter!
In my never-ending quest to find cool things to help us as coaches, I have stumbled upon a gold mine! You may be vaguely aware of internet radio – or maybe you are a fan – but I didn’t realize what a good resource it can be until recently. The best in terms of helping you to run your coaching business is The Coaching Show. The show airs on Wednesday mornings on WS Radio which is “The World Wide Leader in Internet Talk”. The show is hosted by master certified coach, Christopher McAuliffe who is interesting and a good role model of an interviewer.
The next cool thing is that I will be one of the guests this week to discuss The Foundations of a Successful Coaching Business. I will be reviewing the introspective, personal work that all coaches must do to have a thriving business. I call the work The Four Questions and feature it in my e-book, Mind Your Own Biz. This is work that is vital when you begin your business and is important for all coaching entrepreneurs to review periodically in order to stay on top. I hope you will be able to join the show live. I’ll be giving a discount on the e-book to all listeners and giving a free book to one lucky listener.
I am the second guest on the show that day and my time slot is from 11:40-12:00 eastern time. I highly recommend listening from the top of the show at 11:00am eastern because the first guest will be Phillip Sandahl. He is one of the authors of Co-Active Coaching:New Skills for Coaching People toward Success in Work and Life which is the most important textbook you should have on your shelf. Phil leads several of the training functions at the very popular training school, CTI, and is co-founder and principal of Team Coaching International which focuses on working with teams as a system.
One wonderful feature of The Coaching Show and what makes it such a great resource for you as a coach developing your business is that all the shows are archived. There are at least 250 recordings on the site just waiting for you to go explore. You can search the archives by date or by topic. Of course, I highly recommend the section on the Business of Coaching.
To listen live on Wednesday, go to www.wsradio.com and click on the box in the upper left labeled “What’s playing live on WS Radio: Listen Live”. You will need Windows Media Player or Real Player on your computer and if you need it, there are very good directions on how to get it and get started listening. Just click on the tab in the center of the page labeled “How to Listen”. If you already have a player, clicking on the listen link will connect you to the live show.
If you don’t listen live, the archived call should be on the site within a day. In either case, I hope you will come back here after the call and let me know your reactions. I would love to hear how you are working on the Four Questions for your business.