You’re gonna like the way this company’s run, I guarantee it.

In 1973, George Zimmerman started a little clothing company with a $7,000 investment.  Today that little company is a large national clothing chain.  You may have heard of it, it’s called The Men’s Warehouse.  George Zimmerman is the bearded gentleman who appears at so many of their commercials; where he can be heard uttering his famous line “I guarantee it.”  Listening to George talk about the way he tried to build The Men’s Warehouse, one gets the sense that he did it the “right” way.

One of the methods he talks about is servant leadership.  Servant leadership is the idea that a manager’s employees are his most valued customers.  This means that a manager’s real job is to provide those who work for him with the best service he can.  This includes training them to do the job well and acting as a mentor for them in things related, and not related, to work.  George took pride in getting to know many of his employees personally.  Referring to this close mentoring relationship as “touch”.  He hopes that by mentoring his employees with such an emphasis on personal connection, that same personal connection will manifest itself in their interactions with customers.

The Men’s Warehouse also has a very interesting way of dealing with the competition inherently created by commission-based pay.  In many retail stores where salespeople get paid based on commission, there is a lot of incentive to have the most sales.  Oftentimes, this leads to clerks stealing each other’s sales.  The Men’s Warehouse keeps an eye on the sales of each of its clerks and fashion consultants.  If any of them seem to be an outlier with a high quantity of low price sales, management assumes that person is stealing sales and trying to rapidly move from customer to customer.  If these people fail to change this behavior they are released.  An example was made of an employee named Jim.  Jim had the highest sales figures at the store he worked at, moving over a half million dollars of product a year.  However, his managers told corporate that he stole sales and was not a “team player”.  Jim was released and the store’s total sales went up, validating the “team sales” idea and showing employees that no one was more valuable than the system.  This was probably my favorite part of the article; one of the major problems we’ve talked about in this class is the problem of commission.  The Men’s Warehouse is the first company we’ve studied that managed to keep commission competition under control without eliminating it altogether.

Another difference between The Men’s Warehouse and traditional management thought is that the Men’s Warehouse encourages close personal relationships throughout different levels of the corporate hierarchy.  They put such a high value on it that the company will pay for dinners at the homes of regional and district managers for them and their employees.  Similarly they will pay for golf outings between different level managers.  It is cool to see a company that is not afraid of employees growing to close to managers.  Instead of worrying that they will grow too comfortable, they seem to hope that these friendships will inspire people to do their best work.  Personally, I think this is a neat idea and would like to read more articles about companies that treat inter-organizational relationships this way.

The Men’s Warehouse ended up being the epitome of every case study we have read in this class.  They are a company that beat out the competition by doing things the right way.  They put their customers before their stockholders and their employees before everyone.  They realize by concentrating on the people in their organization, the money will take care of itself.  Of all the companies we’ve observed, this is the one who’s practices seem the most admirable.  They care about employees, have solved the problem of commission, consider the needs of customers over shareholders, and have lapped the industry in the process.  This is the epitome of successful leadership.

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