Through both the opening statement made by the Nationwide team as well as the opening keynote address, the theme of this Nationwide Marketing Group PrimeTime event was clear: it’s all about the people.
People take many forms in the retail space, so while that message seems simple enough, it stills bears repeating over, and over, and over again. And that’s what the Nationwide team did in the form of a strong on-stage presence and a well-grounded keynote presentation.
During the opening address, Chief Member Advocate Tom Hickman trotted out his entire leadership team on stage at the Opaline Theater here at the Venetian/Palazzo Resort in Las Vegas. The several-dozen member squad represented all facets of the organization—from membership, to merchandising, to finance, data and digital, and more—reminding the several-thousand-member contingent on hand that, despite how small their teams may be back home, their Nationwide team rolls deep and is there to help them in nearly every facet of their business.
“You’re only as good as your team, and the reason you’re winning is you’ve had the foresight to build the best team in your market,” Hickman said, adding that the Nationwide members can continue to engage with the Nationwide team to further support their business success.
As for what the Nationwide team has done since the last PrimeTime in an effort to prioritize its people—i.e. the membership—the group made official a number of new partnerships and efforts on the business and product side, headlined by a new partnership with AT&T that will give its retailers access to the entire AT&T suite of product, from cellular to DirecTV and in-home internet, with no inventory requirements. Additionally, the group announced a new partnership with Independent We Stand that makes its entire membership a part of the organization, which will even further deepen the relationship with local businesses throughout the country.
Nationwide Chief Member Advocate Tom Hickman flanked by the rest of the group's leadership team.
The message of prioritizing people then trickled down to the event’s keynote address, which featured David Ridley, a recently-retired 27-year veteran of Southwest Airlines. The initial reaction when reading Ridley’s bio was that he would have a difficult time connecting with an audience that in no way reflects the type of organization that he worked most of his career for.
Boy, was that wrong.
Ridley openly admitted himself that he wouldn’t be professing any sage, new wisdom upon the audience. Rather, he was simply going to remind them of the lessons in life that they’ve probably already heard but also certainly need to be reminded of. Namely, he said, you need to create an environment where your people feel cared for. And that’s exactly where the connection can be made between a company like Southwest—which consistently ranks among the top-rated by reputation and best to work for—and the independent retail channel.
Ridley referenced his litany of P’s—Planning, Products, Pricing, Promotions, Processes, and Policies—that all factor into the success of a business. But another P that should sit atop that list, he said, is People. That, of course includes the customer and ensuring that those people are taken care of. But really, he said, it starts with your employees.
“You need to create an environment where your employees feel welcome, appreciated, and cared for,” Ridley told the collective Nationwide membership. “You’ve got to make sure your staff love you and that you love them.” When your staff is treated with that level of respect and attention it then trickles down to the customer.
Though it sounds cheesy (and it most certainly is), love was the key to creating a corporate culture of care at Southwest. It’s even reflected in the airline’s stock market symbol, LUV, and the heart logo that adorns each of its aircraft.
“You don’t have to be Southwest, Disney, or any other big company to dazzle your customers,” Ridley said. You really have to just treat them with the level of service that you yourself expect to be treated with. That’s one of the key advantages independent retailers have in their ongoing battle with big-box stores, is the ability to offer next-level personalized service to their customers. So, as important as any of those other P’s are in the grand scheme of business success, if you don’t prioritize that first P—people—you may never make it through the rest of that list.