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Weak links sink ships


I made one of my frequent trips to my favorite Boulder liquor store the other day. I trained as a sommelier — just for fun, because I don’t work in that field — and enjoy wine … regularly! I’ve spent lots of money in this store.

At the top of its game for many years, this shop is high-volume with good prices and  knowledgeable people. I spent a few minutes talking about Italian reds with one of them on this trip. A typical experience.

However, when I went to pay, it quickly became my formerly favorite wine shop. After I unloaded six of my 12 bottles, a snotty checkout clerk suggested I go to the other open lane because apparently ringing up a six-pack of beer for the one other customer in her lane overwhelmed her. I declined.

When I offered to get an empty box for her—I was trying to purchase 12 bottles of wine—she just shrugged. When I finished paying, her response was, “There you go,” rather than, “Thank you.” I hefted the box into my own cart and left. Coincidentally a new, large liquor store just opened closer to my home. Guess I’ll check it out.

It’s extremely hard as a retailer to manage every transaction to perfection. (I used to run 350 retail units, so I appreciate the challenge!) However, this gal was a train wreck, and anybody with half of their attention span tied behind their back could have seen it.

Here’s a business with a good reputation and millions of dollars in inventory that’s losing customers because it has a nitwit at the checkout stand. A small cog in a large machine could cost the store — using lifetime value of a customer as a measurement — hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We’ve all been victims of a weak link. I ride bikes and bought an expensive one a couple of years ago. A grouchy bike mechanic caused me to buy my next one at a different shop.

My wife and I recently went to a highly touted restaurant and had a waitress who apparently thought she was far too important to be pleasant to people spending hard-earned money on dinner. We won’t go back. The chef in back might be the best in town, but a bad attitude in the front of the restaurant nullified his greatest work.

We all have weak points in our business models. What’s yours? Have you thought about what it’s costing you?

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

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