We recently completed our performance group and networking meetings in Alaska. It was an incredible trip in terms of the sheer beauty of the location, hospitality of the host, and the countless business practices shared.
DAY 1: TEAM BUILDING
On the first “official” day, our group and many of our family members met for a day-long Alaskan adventure. We visited a wildlife refuge in the morning and then took a 6-hour glacier cruise out of Wittier. During this time the owners of home furnishings retail businesses casually mingled while witnessing the backdrop of the Alaskan coastline. The camaraderie that is developed during these type of informal group socials really helps foster professional trust and personal friendships. The CEO’s always have someone to call on for an honest opinion or to bounce an idea or challenge off of.
It had been 5 months since we last met in Texas. Of the 10 companies represented, the mood of business expressed was with that of optimistic growth. The members came from a geographic areas that spanned from Aruba to Anchorage. 100% of us agreed that business was in a time of growth in both revenue and profitability. The foreseeable future is one of opportunity. It is a critical time to continue improving all levels of business operations. It was definitely not a time to sit still. Growth strategy was what we would focus on in our meetings the next few days.
DAY 2: RETAIL STORE TOUR AND PEER FEEDBACK
On the second day we toured Treeforms Furniture. We visited the distribution center, the Anchorage furniture gallery, and the Anchorage Bedding galley. Following this, at the Alyeska Resort we shared our opinions and voiced our key learnings. Due to the confidentiality agreement shared amongst members, I cannot get into the details. However, from my point of view, I was again impressed by the clear direction and items of opportunity provided to the host member. As well, I was equally impressed at some of the innovate practices learned from our host that several members are now going to implement in their operations.
At the end of the second day we all took a tram to the top of the mountain to have dinner. It was a beautiful evening in the land of the midnight sun.
DAY 3: BEST PRACTICES AND BENCHMARKING
On the third day we focused on 3 key areas: Goals, Best Practices/Ideas, Key Performance Indicators.
In the goal session, each member presented the results of their goals committed to the group from the last meeting. Here, we hold each other accountable. We congratulate each other on objectives accomplished expect an answer if the goals were not achieved.
In the Best Practices session, the members bring something to the table. Anytime you get 20 smart motivated people in a room, sharing – good things happen. This session has been the source of countless profit $ generated.
In the Key Performance Indicator session, we compare the metric of all the operations and help retailers benchmark against each other. We can easily spot areas of strength and areas requiring improvement. The conversations and practices that come out of the KPI meetings are gold to the members.
I will give one example from the probably 100’s of ideas jotted down or voiced:
We all realize that online review and digital media are becoming more and more a critical part of getting new customers in the door. Prospective customers visit sites like google review, yelp, and Facebook before shopping. To get good reviews on the sites current customers need to be impressed – not sometimes, but ALL the time. Recognizing the importance of this 2 members approached this challenge from different perspectives and systems.
Without going into detail, they found ways to obtain digital feedback after the sale with a good rate of response. Now, they are able to find out immediately when customer was not happy and deal with the issue immediately. They established overall customer performance ratings. Finally, positive reviews are now posted automatically on the various online review sites. This is expected to have a snowball effect putting them above their competition in terms of ratings, service and web generated in-store traffic.
DAY 4: GOAL SETTING
On the final day, we wrapped up with our Next Steps sessions. Here, each member reported their goals and strategy to improve their business for the next meeting. This is hugely valuable as members get time to reflect on where they came from prior to the meeting, what they have learned, and where they need to take their business NOW. Support and feedback after listening the goals are given to each member.
Finally, we discussed details of our next performance group meeting for the “Kaizen Group”. We are visiting an operation with a brand new store in Aruba in February 2015. In July 2015 we will visit and operation in Calgary and stay in the resort town of Banff.
Alaska was another success in a long string of great performance group meetings dating back over 10 years ago. But don’t take my word for it, here’s what our members shared during the trip:
If you are not part of a peer group like this, I encourage you to learn more. If you are a CEO or business owner committed to never-ending improvement, sharing ideas, and are interested in joining one of our performance group, we are maintaining a waiting list for available space. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.