I’m not a big fan of Starbucks. Their business practices of squeezing out small, locally-owned businesses is counter to my philosophy but their products are consistent and their stores are clean. Recently I ran across a Starbucks on a road trip to an RV show where one employee made such a difference, I went there every morning of my visit.
On the first day my wife and I were in town we chose, as we usually do, to patronize a locally-owned coffee shop. I had to get this Monday Morning marketing blog out and my own Wifi hot spot device had let me down with zero connectivity. Oh well, that just means finding a locally-owned coffee shop and we did.
This place was the pits. The employees were surly, the music was horrible, they had no pastries. Read that again. No pastries. At all. Not even fruit, for gosh sakes. And the tables and chairs were the metal outdoor patio set that would make you want to leave your best friend’s house if they had them there on the best weather day of the year.
As the saying goes, nobody wants to go to the empty restaurant and we did and it stunk.
So, we decided that it couldn’t get worse at Starbucks and we went there. And that’s where we met Melinda. Immediately her smile and attitude were an encouraging sign that we had made a good decision. She was warm with a genuine smile and answered our questions politely and cheerfully.
In fact, I was so enamored with how she took great care of us I told her about this blog and handed a handsome tip over the counter. I love great service!
Surprisingly it seems that either her attitude influenced my opinion or the products themselves have gotten better. While there is the never-ending string of oddly-named beverages that Starbucks keeps conjuring up, I just had a medium-sized cup of coffee. They call it a Grande, yet the large is Venti. Oh well.
It seems that everybody at this location has the same kind of personality. The lady who heated-up the pastries we ordered gleefully called out my name and kindly delivered them. I could see people smiling at the drive-through window and even the lady who was taking out the trash was uber polite and kind. Whoever does hiring at this store truly gets it.
You see when I had team members what I discovered was that you can teach skills and practices in a business but you can’t teach attitude. So the best way I found to hire employees was to simply judge their personalities. The warmer and friendlier they were, the more likely that’s how they’d treat the guests that made it possible for us all to have a job.
Then I tried to set the example by not complaining about the customers or the service or any of the other things much. There’s nothing more discouraging than being a positive, upbeat person looking forward to a day’s work and having a coworker constantly badmouth the company or the customers or the product you’re selling. So, as your mother probably told you, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.
Aside from leaving a nice tip each day I visited this particular Starbucks, and I made sure to visit every day I was there, I also wrote a very positive review on Yelp.
Furthermore, the positive attitude exuded by the employees here seemed to transfer to the customers who gladly smiled and held the door for one another going in and out. Remember I wrote that this was in Southern California where the overabundance of the human species generally makes a lot of people angry toward their fellow being. Not here.
The lesson that we can all take out of this is to find the nicest people you can to be the face of your business and then reward them with a positive environment and great training. I was in LA to learn more about a the RV business, where I spend a lot of my time nowadays, so learning more made me happy, too.
I don’t know if it’s really possible to teach a positive attitude but skills and practices are teachable. So a quote from Einstein seems to fit right here:
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid" Albert Einstein - Focus on where your strengths lie, not your weaknesses.
And hire the happiest people there are. After all - Disneyland used to refer to themselves as the Happiest Place on Earth and who doesn’t want to see what that’s like?