By Sarah Timleck
Imagine you wake up one morning with no memory of your business. In the middle of the night, every recollection of your profession vanished. Every little detail about your store –the employees, the products, the layout – even the familiar smell when you walk through the door – is gone.
Now, walk inside your store for the very first time. How do you feel?
For Tom Henry, CEO of the highly successful Landry’s family of stores, the experience should feel like the perfect Thanksgiving dinner at home.
Wait, what? Thanksgiving?
Tom explains it this way: “Thanksgiving is everyone’s favorite holiday because it is so simple; sharing a meal with those we love. There is nothing transactional about Thanksgiving, no give and get, just being together in a spirit of possibility, abundance, gratitude.”
Not everyone’s Thanksgiving memories are this joyful. Whether it’s Uncle Fred’s cringe worthy jokes, Aunt Agatha’s table pounding political opinions or the sullen teens transfixed by their iPhones, not everyone experiences the ideal Thanksgiving found in the Macy’s window display.
And that’s precisely why Tom Henry believes so fervently in training: “We operate in a world which is both full of joy and blessing, pain and conflict. The world is not at ease, and we want to put people at ease. That’s why we need to train and practice.”
Essential to Tom’s training vision is trainee and trainer. Tom likens the right trainer to a jelly fish in an aquarium “With a hundred tendrils of awareness throughout the well-conditioned store…seeing and feeling everything that matters – the cleanliness, the pace of movement, the vibrancy of the greeting”. For Tom, the right trainer is one upon whom nothing is lost.
But the right trainer is only half the recipe. To react and respond, the trainees must be enveloped in a safe environment for learning, where there is no penalty for feeling awkward, no shame in failing. Through the fostering of trust and respect, listening and speaking between peers, trainees open their minds to learning, developing a hunger for the exhilaration and success knowledge brings.
But what constitutes the training program? People tend to think of training as mechanistic – do one thing, now another. Do it again. From Tom’s perspective, training is not mechanistic, it’s vision. “Our training is a function of what we want to create, what we want to reveal – our vision.”
Remember Tom’s vision of Thanksgiving? Here is where he ties it all together: “Remember what it is like at Thanksgiving, the most wonderful of holidays with no gifts except the sharing of a meal together. That’s how it should be. No transactions, just the pleasure of being together. That’s why we never want our first impression with our customers (our guests) to be transactions. We just want to welcome, celebrate, honor, be delighted by our guest’s presence. We want to honor the customer on their terms, not ours. Landry’s is where the guest is the hero in their own movie.”
Sounds impossible? Tom admits it can be; “We fail everyday”. But for Tom, training is not just the cornerstone to a successful specialty retail business, it’s the foundation: “Specialty retail is all about creating meaning and love and purpose in the shopping experience. Shopping is not just about the products and services, it’s about how the shopping experience makes you feel. For Landry’s, training means teaching your employees how to create an experience that is transformative, one that leaves the customer feeling significantly better than before he or she crossed the threshold”.
Appropriately, the incredible gift of training is the transformative power it brings to the trainee, empowering that person with knowledge, confidence, empathy and insight. Qualities that impact all areas of their lives. “The walls between home and business, commerce and community are so porous” Tom reflects. “As we have invested in our people we haven’t just seen better employees emerge. We have seen stronger parents, sisters and brothers – people who have the ability and the desire to positively impact their family, their schools, their communities. You can’t put a price on that kind of ripple effect.”
Tom’s vision is momentous, and his mission is monumental, but he doesn’t shoulder it alone. To create a training program that precisely encapsulated the organizing principles of his concept, he turned to the Mann Group. The Mann Group worked with Tom to design and implement the training program, and most importantly, train the trainers who would be responsible for implementing Tom’s vision. “Dan Mann is a gifted teacher. He has broken down the learning process and helps people who are skilled at selling become good teachers of selling, which helps an organization build more sales capacity. In a growing organization, training trainers to develop others is the essential building block. Without this training capacity, growth leads to decay. Only with strong training programs can growth be healthy, can an organization get better as it grows, not worse.”
Dan was also instrumental in helping Tom’s trainers get past the hardest part of the process: “The hardest thing about learning to train is learning when to be encouraging when the learning process temporarily makes you worse. In learning we get worse before we get better, and that process can feel crippling. Dan is gifted at getting people from the downward phase to the upward triumph of competence. When people want to stall out and crash, Dan is fun, uplifting, playful, and inspiring.”
Just the kind of person you want at the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.
About Tom Henry
Tom Henry is CEO of the Landry’s family of seven stores located in Massachusetts. Tom is one of the owners along with his brother and the employees who now own 25% of the company through their ESOP – the employees will eventually own 100%. Visit www.landrys.com.
About Sarah Timleck
Sarah Timleck is a self-described fearless marketing professional and founder of ST Creates. ST Creates provides marketing, sales and creative consulting services for major clients in the Bicycle and Powersports industries.