After reading this week’s material, and looking back at Chapters 13 & 14 in Dunne, Lusch, & Carver review this case study:
The Cliff Problem
Over the past twenty years, Carrie Taylor had taken a passing interest in her parents’ furniture and appliance store. She had worked there part-time as an interior designer. However, she had no interest in the day-to-day operations of the store. After all, her college major was Design and not business.
However, all that suddenly changed nine months ago when a drunk driver killed her father and seriously injured her mother. Carrie was now in charge of the family business. She soon became somewhat comfortable handling the daily management tasks, but was unsure of what to do with one of her employees. Thus, as she prepared to leave for the High Point Furniture Market, she was determined to seek the advice of other independent retailers about how to handle the situation.
One of the first things that Carrie did upon taking over was to establish a Saturday morning meeting whereby she could discuss the store’s operations with all the employees. At her first meeting, she explained to everyone that they were a team and that she needed their help and support to carry out her parent’s legacy. She asked what she could do to improve things. After listening to everyone and trying to solve all the issues, Carrie decided to bring in an outside speaker once a month to motivate the staff. One of the first speakers was a sales consultant who offered selling tips. Another early session involved a local high school instructor who was seeking to place an intern with the store. This morning, the speaker was from the local Chamber of Commerce. He spoke on the Chamber’s plans and promotions to draw customers to the downtown business district over the next year.
However, ever since the first meeting, Carrie’s superstar salesperson, Cliff Cochran, had not come to a meeting. Cliff, besides being a long-time employee of the store, had also been a close friend of her father. In addition to missing the meeting, Cliff was often late coming to work. Carrie began to worry that Cliff’s behavior was going to affect the morale of the other five members of the selling team. However, he was the store’s top producer accounting for more than a third of the store’s sales. On her first night at the High Point Market, Carrie attended a reception. While seated at a table with three other independent owners and a sales rep for a major furniture line, she asked them for advice on her Cliff problem.
One of the owners asked Carrie about the feedback from others about the meetings. Were they beneficial enough to justify coming to work a half-hour early on Saturday? He wanted to know if many of the housekeeping announcements at the meeting could have been replaced with e-mails or posting on the employee bulletin board. The sales rep said maybe it was a good, not a bad, thing. After all, if the others realized that if they increased production, they could miss the meeting also. Besides what was Cliff like once he got to work? Was he a leader by example? Did he take care to neatly arrange the merchandise displays and follow-up on sales leads with phone calls or e-mail?
Another owner asked if Carrie tried to involve Cliff in the Saturday meetings. She felt that Cliff needed special “atta-boy” treatment. She suggested that Carrie feed his ego by asking him to develop a training session on closing the sale or some other topic. Everyone knows he is at the top of the sales ladder, so use his skills. The sales rep also wondered if maybe Cliff was merely rebelling against the person who replaced his long-time friend. Maybe Carrie should go out of her way to help Cliff through this difficult period.
Also, answer the following questions in the Forum:
What criteria should be used to judge the importance and necessity of having a weekly Saturday morning training meeting? Do they really motivate a sales force?
If Cliff’s problem is really one of motivation, what would you recommend that Carrie should do? Why?
Should Carrie ever think about firing Cliff? After all, his behavior in recent months had become intolerable. Support your reasoning.
[This case is based on an idea from the “Strategy Zone,” NARDA Independent Retailer, December 2005: 14, 26]
Instructions: Your initial post should be at least 250 words.