Talk to employees
On his first day on the job, White held a town-hall meeting with employees and asked for feedback.
“What are the two or three things that you hope that I do?” he asked them. “What are the two or three things that you hope that I don’t do?”
People did not have to give their feedback publicly if they didn’t want to. Everyone was welcome to write his or her answers on a card.
“Typically, the employees know what needs to be done, so for me, I wanted to actively engage the employees in being a part of the solution to turn around the company,” White says.
He got more than 100 cards back from employees, and he spent the next few days categorizing them and making sure he understood them. Following that, he held a series of functional round-table meetings with groups of eight to 10 employees from the same areas. Beyond that, he also got out and held meetings with the general managers of his stores.
“I wanted to understand from their vantage point, what did they like about [the business], what was foundational for them as it related to the company, the culture and how we ran things, so what were the things they viewed as being more sacred and important that they were hopeful I would not touch,” he says. “Then what were the clear opportunities for improvement and what resources and tools and input and direction did they feel that they needed to make them more successful in executing their own jobs.”
White says it’s the things that repeatedly come up that are most important to focus on. What came back as most important was the culture, which is built on a mission of healthy and active lifestyles and being active in helping the community as well as quality, healthy products.
The key to all of this is actually wanting to get feedback.
“The critical thing is you have to make yourself accessible to the input, and you have to want to know,” White says. “Some people ask for input, and then they ignore it, but you have to be in a learning kind of mindset, and you’re open to learn and you take and process the input. What people most want to see is that you took some action with the input. If they give all this input and nothing changes and you can’t point to, ‘Here’s what I heard from you, and here’s what I did about it,’ you won’t get good feedback or you’ll get less feedback moving forward.
“If they see that you take action, you’ll get rich feedback, and it will be a constant flow of insight around the business on a more ongoing basis. You’ve got to have a mechanism for people to input into the strategy and interact with the strategy, whether it’s round tables or town halls or just a series of one-on-ones. Communication is usually the most important aspect of a turnaround or even just running a really great company.”