by Danny OMalia - August 13th, 2013


The late Joe O’Malia was a master at empowering the employees of his companies to make decisions based on the best interests of THE CUSTOMER. Not many companies today trust their employees to make decisions. Those that do will offer the best service.

In order to be able to empower your people on the level of, oh, say a Nordstrom or a Chick-Fil-A, you must first be VERY CAREFUL whom you hire. You must hire only those who are capable of fitting into your company’s culture. This takes a great deal of thought and effort. There are companies that can help you screen potential employees but whatever you do, be careful to hire the right person.

You must then take the time to properly TRAIN the employee in the skills of the job but also to help them understand that culture and help them desire to add to the culture rather than to detract from it. My experience is that in tough times companies cut back on things like proper hiring procedures and training. That’s the worst thing a company can do.

When asked why she’d been such a successful business woman, the late Mary Kay Ash (Mary Kay Cosmetics) answered, “I tried to hire really nice people and then I tried to let them be as nice as they could be.”

And that means EMPOWERED EMPLOYEES. Employees who feel free to break a rule or two if it’s in the best interest of the customer. Which reminds me of a great Nordstrom story!

A harried businessman rushed into a Nordstrom store in a mall at 5:00 PM and hurried to the perfume counter. He asked the SERVICE person if they carried a certain brand of perfume, explaining that this was his anniversary and he had to meet his wife for dinner in one hour and he had done NO planning. The clerk told him the store didn’t carry that brand but said she might be able to help, asking him how long he’d be at the mall.

The customer, obviously quite nervous, told her he had stops to make at the florist and candy store in the mall. She told him to come back in a half hour and she’d have THE perfume for him. He trusted her. IT WAS NORDSTROM.

As he left, the SERVICE person hailed her fellow employee and asked her to watch both counters while she took care of a customer. That employee was glad to help. So she left the store, went to Macy’s at the other end of the mall (which she knew carried THE perfume), bought the perfume, returned and wrapped it, and when the customer showed up with candy and flowers, THE perfume was waiting and wrapped.

Several things here:

• The husband went to NORDSTROM—no place else—with his problem.
• Both SERVICE LADIES broke rules by leaving their posts.
• The first SERVICE LADY no doubt broke a rule by going to Macy’s, buying the product there and selling it at Nordstrom (or maybe not—Nordstrom has very few rules for employees when it comes to SERVICE).
• How was that for TEAMWORK?

Nordstrom obviously hired two good people. They TRAINED and EMPOWERED them to rescue the beleaguered customer. That’s why he went there!

If giving service like Nordstrom were easy, every company would do it. It’s not. But it CAN be done!

Danny O’Malia
Indy’s Trusted Servant
(317) 413-9062
fax (317) 815-8755

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