Archive for February 2nd, 2006

Randy’s Secret

Yesterday, I briefly mentioned Randy McDougald and how his hiring practices have helped him turn a longshot into a huge success (on every conceivable level). Today, let me tell you what they are.

But first, this:

The first thing you need to know about Randy is that a couple of years ago, he left a very cushy corporate job to take over a failing bike shop and turn it into a triathlon store.

The second thing you need to know about Randy is that he’s never looked back.

Randy is more passionate about triathlon and fitness and the commuity he is helping to build than anyone I’ve ever met… and his business, being firmly anchored in that passion is unlike any other triathlon shop I’ve set foot in.

I know it might sound a bit cliche, but Carolina Triathlon (the new website is under construction) isn’t a business or a shop. It’s a hub. It’s the Main Street USA of the triathlon and cycling worlds in Greenville. People don’t just go there to shop, they also go there to hang out. They go there to find people to ride or run with. They go there on their lunch break, just because… they feel at home there.

Trust me when I tell you that it has absolutely nothing to do with the bikes and the helmets and the running shoes. It isn’t about the coffee or the powerbars. It isn’t about the wetsuits and swim goggles either.

Despite the fact that Randy would probably love to personally take care of each and every one of his customers, he can’t be everywhere all at once. That’s where his employees come in. They are the heart and soul of his business, and he knows it. They’re the living, breathing, walking, smiling articulation of his brand. So he pays particular attention to whom he hires and why.

Honestly, I’m not sure what his secret is. I just know this: When you walk into another bike shop in Greenville, you’re pretty likely to get blown-off or snubbed. When you walk into his store, you’re taken care of by cool friendly people who really want to help. There’s no service vibe. It isn’t fake in any way.

Sounds simple? Of course it does. And it is… but most retail outlets I visit don’t even come close to the level of care and cool and confident professionalism that you’ll encounter there.

Think boutique chic minus the attitude. It’s uncanny.

Based on what I’ve seen, here’s what I think Randy does:

(And if this echoes some of Guy Kawasaki’s advice from yesterday, don’t be too surprised.)

1. Randy hires infected people. No, not raging zombies from the U.K., but fitness-infected people. Everyone who works there is either an avid runner or cyclist or triathlete. These folks live, eat and breathe this stuff. They love it. It’s their passion, and they’re eager to share it with everyone who walks through his door.

2. Randy hires volunteers. Everyone who works there wants to work there.

3. Randy hires big talent. Everyone there is incredibly bright and/or talented. If your idea of the stereotypical bike shop/tri shop employee is of some nacho-munching underachiever with a racing fetish, think again. Some members of his team have Masters’ degrees. Others have managed very profitable businesses. Some of them are immensely talented artists and coaches and promoters. It’s uncanny, really.

4. Randy hires nurturers. Here’s how Randy sees his customers: It doesn’t matter if they’re going to buy a $7,000 pro-kitted time trial bike or a $350 starter hardtail. They’ll be treated with the same courtesy and enthusiasm and attention. If you’re 300lbs and want to start exercising, you’ll be treated with the same respect as if you were a nationally known pro cyclist. If your budget is very limited, you’ll be treated just as well as a customer who drops $20,000 in the store each year.

Randy recently refused to hire a guy who told him he loved selling high-end bikes but not budget bikes. That pretty-much says it all.

5. Randy hires positive, enthusiastic people… because you know what, they’re just fun to be around. Running a tri shop is supposed to be fun. His shop is fun. That’s why people like to hang out there.

So there you have it. Whether you’re running a triathlon shop, a chain of grocery stores or an accounting firm, you absolutely can’t go wrong by following Randy’s five hiring criteria. Next time you find yourself evaluating a potential hire, make sure that they match all five. Trust me when I say that anything short of the complete package will come back to bite you in the proverbial butt.

Okay, I’m done preaching for today. I’ll just leave you with these two brilliant little points:

“The art of recruiting is the purest form of evangelism.”
– Guy Kawaski.

“Your people are your product”
– Jack Spade

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Wookie 101

I can’t explain it or rationalize it or quantify it. I just know I laughed really hard when I first landed on this site and couldn’t wait to show it to other people.

That doesn’t happen very often.

Unfortunately, Chewy’s Flikr account got deep-sixed yesterday, so all of his hilarious photos are now gone. The site only has today’s post on display. Too many hotlinks or some nonsense.

Sad, sad, sad. I wish you could have seen it before the photo dump. Hopefully, it’ll all be back soon.

How is this relevant to branding or marketing, I hear you cry? Good question. I’ll tell ya:

1) I serendipitously ran into this old post from John Moore’s Brand Autopsy blog today, and it kind of put Chewy’s site in perspective for me:

“I must receive at least 10 pitch letters/packages a week from advertising agencies extolling why they are the best agency in the land and that we should work with them to develop marketing campaigns that get results.

One such pitch letter intrigued me — not because it was remarkable, but because it was so unremarkable.

This particular pitch letter was 100% cookie-cutter. Nothing in the letter was customized to appeal to me. No mention of key issues that my company faces. No mention of the challenges facing us in the age of parity and commoditization. (Note to ad agencies … sending out “cookie-cutter come-ons” is not going to get my attention.)

In unremarkably remarkable fashion, the pitch began this way:

John, over the past several months I¹ve sent you a number of things in the mail hoping to stimulate a conversation about my company, and our approach to marketing.
Let’s stop right there.

If this agency can’t capture my attention (which after sending me numerous pitch packages, they obviously haven’t), then how will they capture the attention of our customers?”

The point: Chewy caught my attention, made me laugh, and made me come back.

To be fair, I doubt that Chewy could sell me anything, but he caught my attention… which is already a pretty good start.

Chewy: 1
Cookie-cutter ad agencies: 0

2) Flikr could have capitalized on this. Instead, they decided to play it corporate.

a) Wrong decision.
b) Wrong way to handle the problem.
c) I don’t think there needs to be a c) at this point.

Kind of reminds me of that whole FedEx incident a few months ago.

When will people learn?

3) Apparently, Chewy lives in Greenville, SC, so I can’t help but feel a bit of hometown pride.

So anyway… What I learned from Chewy today is simply this: Be remarkable. Be funny. Be relevant. Be unique. Unless you’re at least one of these things, you’re dead in the water.

Wookies sure are smart.

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