After spending the first stage of my career in sales for product manufacturers, I moved into retail as a marketing manager at a large chain of convenience stores. When the C-store industry experienced significant turbulence in the 80’s due to increased competition from major oil companies, I was laid off.
It was 1991, and I found myself married with three daughters and out of a job.
I wanted to give it a try on my own instead of looking for another job, so I began utilizing the network from my earlier jobs. With my experience as a sales and marketing manager in packaged goods, and a buyer/merchandiser as a retailer, I had the view from ‘both sides of the desk’.
One day I went to lunch with a friend of mine from Pepsi, during which I was prompted by his specific suggestion that I gather information on the presence of product displays and pricing in convenience and small grocery locations.
For my first project, I needed to perform a weekly display survey at twenty stores in Houston, Texas. We typed up the reports for the information that had been gathered on a paper form.
My next project was gathering retail cigarette pricing in the Houston area. As business grew past state lines and into the rest of the U.S., we began to figure out how to utilize others to gather this information.
So, I began interviewing people to work as representatives of our growing organization. Pre-internet, this meant placing ads in local newspapers, scheduling in-person interviews, and training new hires face-to-face. It was during this time that I met many of the people that would stay with me for many years.
Through word of mouth and the help of our national network of representatives who gathered the data, we were soon conducting surveys all over the country for many different clients.
As we perfected the art of in-store data collection and expanded our client base, I learned about the concept of tracking the customer experience via mystery shopping. Since our team had already developed the necessary infrastructure, it seemed like an easy transition beyond surveys and into mystery shopping, and away we went.
Within a few years, we were one of the largest companies in the mystery shopping business.
As our business grew with great employees and great customers, I learned that treating everyone with respect, listening to our customers, and delivering quality data quickly at high levels of completion would build a foundation of success for many years. As importantly, we’ve built a staff of employees who embody these traits.
Our customers see that we are honest, direct, and empathetic, which means they love doing business with us. You will too.