business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

I experienced a remarkable thing yesterday.

I was in the Apple Store in Stamford, Connecticut, doing a One-to-One training session. I’m in the “have laptop, will travel” business, and it is great to have access to this service when I have questions that need to be answered.

So we’re sitting there, and the Apple employee is helping me figure out some new things I can do with my Keynote program, which is the Apple presentation software that I’ve always found to be vastly superior to PowerPoint; inevitably, after almost every presentation I do, someone will come up to me and ask what software I was using.

Suddenly, almost every employee in the store starts to applaud. And I’m talking big, enthusiastic applause. The guy helping me joined in, and even some customers did.

Well, I was pretty sure it wasn’t for me. I looked at the front door, which is where all the employees seemed to be looking, and while I saw a few people walking in with sheepish smiles on their faces, it wasn’t like they were recognizable or anything.

So I asked the guy helping me. “What’s going on?”

“Those people just completed their training,” he said. “They’re here to start work.”


That’s extraordinary. Apparently, this happens all the time - it is a tradition at Apple Stores all over the country. They feel strongly enough about welcoming people into their culture that they greet them with applause, bathing them in the soft glow of approval.

I know teachers who, when being informed that they’ve gotten tenure, have been told via form letter from the school district where they work. Now, we can debate whether tenure is a good idea at another time, but the very definition of tenure is that it is a lifetime commitment, and people are told via form letter. At the Apple Store, where people may work for six months or six years, they get applause ... and I suspect that this is reflective of a broader culture, not just an anomaly.

More retailers ought to do this. Supermarkets. C-stores. Clothing stores. Hardware stores. Drug stores. Whatever. They ought to develop people-centric cultures, and then use techniques like these to demonstrate them not employees and customers alike.

The people on the front lines are the most important people in any retail enterprise, and they deserve to be treated like an investment, not as a liability or cost. In short, if you give them applause, maybe they’ll take a kind of ownership in the enterprise ... and will continue to deserve applause.

That’s what’s on my mind this Thursday morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
KC's View: