Are we PLAYERS or are we FANS?

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I just finished the book  Built to Serve written by Dan J. Sanders.  Sanders is the current COO of Sprouts Farmers Market, a natural foods supermarket that has over 340 stores and over 35,000 team members.

Built to Serve is based upon the fact of building an organization where there is a higher power above profit and traffic.  That higher power is empowering the members of your organization to move beyond a “financial career path” and into a “servant hood career path”.

One section of the book  Sander’s outlines the concept of “players in an organization” verses “fans in an organization”.  The section explains the difference between players and fans at a United store:

…An  elderly farmer wearing tattered overalls and sporting a well worn John Deere ball cap walked into the store and came straight to me.

“I’ve come to town from my farm about an hour away, and I need my juice,” he said.  Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about, but I could tell he had something specific in mind.  “What kind of juice do you like?” I asked.  “It comes in a bottle,”he replied.

Knowing how many juices we sell in bottles, I decided the easiest thing to do was walk with the man to the juice department so we could find it through the process of elimination.  However, before I could share my plan, the farmer said, “I had it special ordered several weeks ago for my wife.”

“Oh, I see,” I said.  “Do you know who you spoke with regarding the special order?”

The farmer through for a moment and then said, “No, I don’t have any idea.” I offered the farmer a seat and a cup of coffee and then proceeded to the office in hopes of identifying the team member who had taken his special order.  The first person I ran into was the point-of-sale-clerk.  “Do you know who might have taken a special order for juice for a farmer living outside of town?” I asked.  She thought for a moment and replied, “Yes, I remember.  Britain Brewer took that gentleman’s order.”

As you might expect, her answers provided the relief I was looking for. “Where Britain?” I asked.  “Britain is on vacation and can’t be reached,” she said.  My heart sank.  My relief was short lived.  I searched the back room for anything that looked as if it might be a special order for juice but had no luck.  By now, I was emotionally preparing myself to walk onto the sales floor and explain to the farmer that his one-hour commute to the store was going to result in no special-ordered juice.

As I gather my thoughts, one of our young sackers stopped me and asked, “Are you looking for some juice?”

“Yes I am! Do you know where it is?” I exclaimed.

“Yes,” the young man said, “Britain was leaving for vacation this morning, but he came by the store before he left and set the juice aside with a note taped to it.”

The sacker took me to the front of the store and small office used for storage; immediately, I spotted the juice with the label.

On the note was written: “This juice is a special order for Mrs. Atwood.  I expect her husband will pick it up while I am on vacation.  Britain Brewer, Assistant Manager.” The burden was lifted, thats to Britain’s conscientiousness–even in the face of a family eager to go on vacation.  I proudly presented the juice to Mr. Atwood and thank him for shopping United.  When I returned to the office, I made a note to myself regarding what had happened.  “Britain Brewer,” I wrote, “is a player, not a fan.”

This passage made me think about retail today.

We as an industry have a choice to make.  Do we want to become players in this new world of commerce where the customer controls the brand?  Or do we want to be fans of all of these new technologies but not embrace them in our industry?

Sanders made a statement regarding players and fans in organizations:

Players buy the mission; Fans undermine it

What is this new mission we all face?  Have Ms. Jones find our brand to be relevant and a cut above the rest.  If you don’t go all in you are just a fan in your marketplace and Ms. Jones will see it.

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