on the front lines

Interesting article in this month’s issue of Fast Company.

Alex Frankel is the author of the soon to be released book — “Punching In: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee“. His two years of research for the book involved him taking a series of entry-level jobs and exploring the way that front end employees and the company’s relationship with them impacts the organization.

It’s the same reason that I used to get frostbite on my fingers when I had to “front” the merchandise in the frozen food section at Winn-Dixie. Or the joy that I experienced cleaning out the grease sludge collector on the grill when I was a short-order cook. — I was just researching a future book. — Anyway…

Frankle actually applied and worked at various retail outlets such as Container Store, Gap, an Apple store, and others. He discovered what people with common sense already know: Good people on the floor sell products and management has to find and cultivate good people.

But, as you may have discovered, there is a lack of common sense in the business world today.

Even in small companies, management tends to forget how the employees in the trenches work. Or even worse, they DO remember what it was like when they were in the trenches. Today, if management is making decisions based on their entry-level experiences, they’re making bad decisions. The world, the market, and customers are vastly different in 2007 than in 1997, 1987, or whenever management was paying their entry-level dues. As Frankel says, “There’s no doubt about it: You get a different view from the ground floor than from the corner office.”

It’s a part of marketing that so many companies forget but is so essential. No matter how slick the marketing plan, true marketing success lies in the few moments of interaction between the customer and whoever (or whatever) you’ve placed on the front lines to deal with them.

Management needs to learn how to put that part in place before any of the other parts.

Hopefully, the right people will read Frankel’s book and take his lessons to heart. It looks to be an interesting read.

Guest Blogging for Fast Company

Fast Company is one of the few magazines that I make a point to read each month. They also have an excellent blog under the watchful eye of Heath Row.

The Fast Company blog is celebrating its 2nd anniversary on Monday and Tuesday. They’re calling it “FC Now BlogJam 2005” and I have been invited to be a guest blogger. So I’ll be posting there instead of here for the next few days. I’ll post a link to each of my Fast Company posts here on the Shotgun Blog as well.

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