A favorite question of mine for any CEO: What’s the toughest thing about your business?
I guarantee you any executive in the supermarket industry will rank among his or her top headaches the hiring and retention of good people, in an industry where service quality increasingly is the mark of differentiation, and worker turnover is brutal and expensive.
A favorite follow-up question: What are you doing about it?
Here, sad to say, I often get a shrug in response, as if to say, “It is what it is.” Companies devoted to excellence, on the other hand, meet their toughest problems head-on, and turn that into a competitive advantage. And they don’t let up.
If you’ve ever spent much time in the state of Texas, you know there’s a homegrown supermarket chain there, H-E-B, whose stores are spiffier than most of the competition’s and whose employees are more anxious to make you feel at home. The family-owned, 110-year-old company employs about 95,000 (about 9,000 of those at stores across the border in Mexico) and operates more than 370 stores.