It's well established that Trader Joe's is not your typical grocery store — not for its customers, nor its crew. Regular readers of RetailWire know that I spent time working "over cover" at one of the chain's stores a number of years ago. My goal, as I explained during my job interview, was to find out just what there was about Trader Joe's that made it so much different and, to my mind, better than other grocers in my area.
One of the first things I noticed was the relationship the captain (store manager) and first mate (assistant manager) had with the crew. They were very serious about exceeding the expectations of customers and made sure that each crew member understood that the store's reputation was based on their individual performance. Success, they repeated in various ways, could only be achieved by working together toward the same goal. It didn't take long to understand that the crew wanted that success for the store, as well.
Work friendships were easy to come by at the store. People who had been strangers a short time before, socialized outside of work. But most remarkable in my mind was the Saturday night tastings. On a regular basis, the first mate would hold voluntary meetings after closing to taste and talk about the wine and foods products sold in the store. Crew members — even some who were off the clock — would show up to share their knowledge and a few laughs. To this day, I am still amazed by the sense of community I experienced while working in that store. I am not surprised that it led to success.
How effective are most retailers in creating a team-first environment in stores?