Aug 23

Earn Higher Profits by Raising Wages and Providing Better Customer Service 

QuikTrip is a privately held company with its HQ in Tulsa. It has $11 billion in sales from its 700 locations; sales per square foot are 50% higher than the industry average. How come?

The c-store cum gasoline business is not exactly a glamorous one, but QuikTrip does it by following this strategy:

  1. paying higher wages
  2. training its staff
  3. overstaffing so cashier lines are shorter, stores are super clean, stocked and staff can curate the store/provide top end customer service and assistance
  4. serving real food
  5. differentiating themselves with better coffee, drinks eats, selection, pre-prepared foods
  6. incentivizing staff 

associate professor at MIT
Sloan School
of Management Zeynep Ton in “The
Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower
Costs and Boost Profits
” quotes

a female QuikTrip store manager with a high school diploma earning more than $70,000, “There is no other company who
will pay you your regular wage, a customer service bonus, a profit bonus and
even an attendance bonus.”

Can they do more?  Sure. 

I understand the idea that automation will crater many more jobs this century, but I am still optimistic that work will not go away for those

who: a) want jobs and b) are willing to learn new skills. 

Amongst those skills is curation–the art of making it easier for people to wisely navigate choices and to learn new skills. I had one 45-minute tutorial in web design in 1992 that set me up for the next 20+ years of building my own sites. How valuable was that to me?

So what more might QuikTrip do? 

-create community space inside stores

-host learning events

-rent out their space

-provide food and beverage for events

-provide outside catering

-teach culinary skills

-provide 100-mile lunches

-work with local farmers to provide farm-to-table or farm-to-counter options

-allow seasonal vendors in their parking lots

-add leisure elements like beach volleyball, badminton, outdoor ping pong

-host sports leagues/ladders

Derek Thompson in his article A World Without Work points out that, for example, self driving cars will wipe out:

Taxi drivers
Uber drivers
Truck drivers

but maybe not limo drivers who curate

(and provide security for) an event rather than just drive.

And while more manufacturing jobs will go together with cashier positions and office clerks maybe serving jobs will be saved because employees curate their restaurants instead of just taking orders.

According to a Foundation for Young Australians

report 60% of Australian students are currently training for jobs that will not exist in the future or will be transformed by automation and globalization. 

Derek Thompson believes that salesperson jobs will also go, but on this I am not so sure especially if they find ways to add more value to transactions (essentially curating the space again).

In real estate, at least on the revenue side, there has been so little innovation it’s scary. The last changes of any import were probably: charging for parking, signage and utilities/property taxes/operating costs. That occurred more than 30 years ago.

Today, I coach people to add more value to their residential real estate portfolios and resell more services to their tenants who are after all a “captive audience”.

Things like:

-Internet, wi-fi, net phone, basic cable, large screen TV and Netflix

-gas, electricity, hot water tank rental, water and sewer charges, property taxes, snow removal, lawn maintenance, tenant insurance, landlord insurance, property

-cleaning service  

-storage service, home security monitoring, health monitoring/fall alert, lock it and leave it service, meal service, excursion transportation service, shopping/personal shopper, personal care worker, nurse visit, tutoring/coaching and computer tutorials, event management as well as other services 

-adding a 15% administration fee or a 15-30% reseller fee

-providing top end customer service, property management, repairs and maintenance

Landlords should play a much more central role in the lives of their tenants maybe even one day helping them (say through a “points program” like airmiles) become property owners themselves, in whole or in part.

If the problem of automation is a huge challenge (especially for men since many of the jobs that are being affected are male-dominated categories) for younger people and middle aged ones, imagine how troublesome it is for anyone over 50 or 55 or, heaven help them, over 60 or 65.

No one wants them. No one.

I went back to school
in my 50s to get my real estate broker’s license in Ontario—a process that takes about three
years and involves eight courses and exams. I am a franchisee in a way—I work
in a highly regulated industry with proven systems like MLS, trust accounts,
cooperation and representation agreements, managers, brokers-of-record, administrative
support, webforms and referral procedures.

I’ll admit, being a
realtor isn’t like being a brain surgeon, but still it can be a helping
profession. A good realtor can help you buy low, buy in the right location,
secure the chattels you want, get a decent mortgage, understand what your
closing costs will be (eg, legal fees, title search, title insurance, land
transfer tax, building inspection, environmental assessment, moving costs), get
the deliveries done (eg, property taxes, property assessment, survey, building
plans and permits, leases, if any) and navigate not only the endless agreements
you’ll need but the whole messy process of buying a home, some land or lot, a
residential rental property or a commercial one.

A great realtor can do
much more—help you craft a real estate strategy that’ll provide independent
income for you and your family as well as mentor you on how to add value not
only to your real estate portfolio but also your own home. S/he can be a type
of financial adviser since, for most Canadians and Americans, they can’t rely
on their defined benefit pension plan since they don’t have one.

So elders might not be as useless as society
thinks they are—they can enter helping professions, and find a useful social
role to play.

I do agree with Derek Thompson’s view that, “A job is life food for the soul.”
There is no substitute for the dignity of being valued for your contribution to an enterprise and to society, and so far that still means paid work, whatever age you are.

@ profbruce @ quantum_entity

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.