For several decades, I have enjoyed traveling the globe. Along with immersing myself in the sights, sounds, history, culture and food of a country, I also love studying the habits, strategies, and practices of the local businesses and then comparing them to those here in the United States. Although we are in the Internet age, and online shopping accounts for a large percentage of all purchases, I like spending the bulk of my time in and around brick and mortar establishments. I enjoy the personal interaction and never fail to learn something new, whether speaking to a fledgling entrepreneur, multi-generational shopkeeper, or an executive at a large company. A long time ago, I stumbled across a simple, universal, and timeless lesson that should be as much of any company’s habit as turning on the lights.I was traveling in Asia and spent a week walking back and forth through a market to get from my hotel to the train station. The market was open around the clock, always busy, and you had to be careful because the ground was a mix of pavers and dirt. What I found interesting was, no matter when I passed through, at least one shopkeeper was outside sweeping. Now, at first glance it may seem obvious they swept because of the dirt and mess generated by all of the passersby. But then I took the time to question several people and got some very interesting responses.
Sure, many said it was to keep the area clean. But, one woman shared that she not only swept to ensure the outside mess didn’t get tracked in her store, but also to show pride in her place of employment and the products she sold. An elderly man told me he swept several times a day, so he could be out front and engage potential customers who were walking by. The responses also included showing you cared about the neighbors, staying alert, and making sure the area was safe. The answers were as different as the people I spoke to. What I also discovered was the stores that didn’t have the habit of sweeping weren’t as busy and the workers seemed to be disengaged and unhappy. So, wondering if this could be a unique situation; I began examining the act of sweeping everywhere I went.Since that time, I’ve paid close attention and keep track of who sweeps and who doesn’t. It has been interesting, but my limited research tells me that if I come across a place where someone is sweeping or you can tell the place has been swept, for the most part I’m going to have a good customer experience, regardless of what kind, or where the business is. Bear in mind that I not only recognize the act of sweeping, but also include mopping, or snow and ice removal.
Although I first pondered the idea of sweeping being a good habit decades ago, I believe it still holds true today and I experienced two examples last week that illustrate my point. First, I was at a strip mall where the stores are struggling to stay open. Lots of money had been spent on the infrastructure. The roads that lead to the shopping area were nice, the parking lot in great condition, the architecture was attractive, and the advertising very tasteful. And yet, you had to trudge through a mountain of garbage to enter their doors and upon arrival, I was greeted by an unfriendly and uncaring employee. It could be a coincidence, but the incident supports my theory of an unkept outside usually equates to an unsavory customer experience.Just a couple of days later, I stopped at a 7-11 in Los Angeles and had one of the best consumer experiences of all time.
A worker named Will, who was outside mopping a deteriorating sidewalk, warmly greeted me. Although the place was old and needed repairs, he and the person behind the register made up for it with effort, enthusiasm, and care. When I asked them why, they said it was because they were proud of what they had and were grateful to be employed.Now, I realize I’m not a scientist, and there is no official, proven cause and effect between sweeping and having a successful business. I am simply sharing my observations and because of my experience, there is no question I would always recommend that the act of SWEEPING should be a SENSATIONAL HABIT for every company. And if there isn’t a connection, then I would be interested in uncovering situations where a company shouldn’t sweep. I’d love to hear from you regarding your experiences, and whether you agree or disagree.