Over coffee this morning I caught an interview with Macys CEO Terry Lundgren who was a guest on CNBC discussing the retailer's latest quarterly results, (which were surprisingly positive for a company that like many in the retail industry has been struggling of late).
During the interview about the positive results and momentum that seem to have buoyed the company in the 2nd quarter of 2016, one of the CNBC reporters questioned Lundgren about the key drivers of this shift and hopeful turnaround in Macys business. Here's the question, (paraphrased a little), and then Lundgren's response, which I found really interesting.
Reporter: :What is the most important thing you are doing to change the business, is it inventory management, is it physical changes to the stores, or is it the increased investment in digital and e-commerce?"
Lundgren: "I think the biggest single thing that we did was that we decided to invest in people and putting more people back on the sales floor in advance of the performance of the business. So it was a bet so to speak. In a retail business like ours with so many stores, the biggest expense you have is your salesforce on your floors. So investing millions and millions of dollars back into that part of the business before the business turned around was the biggest bet that we placed in the beginning of the 2nd quarter. That to me, because I am watching what we call our 'Magic Scores', which are our customer service scores every single month now improving and going in the right direction. And I think that investment in people has had the biggest positive impact."
There is a popular saying, I think that even has been repeated on this blog from time to time, that 'Every company is a tech company', alluding to the fact that transformative and disruptive technology-driven change has redefined business, markets, competition, service delivery, communication, and pretty much everything else. And while I do believe that sentiment is largely true, and the most successful companies will be the ones that can adapt to and exploit new technologies the fastest, we can't ever let the 'talent' part of the popular Culture--Strategy--Talent triangle go wanting.
Is was surprising and refreshing to hear the CEO of huge organization attribute smart investments in talent as the primary driver of what he and Macys hopes to be a sustained turnaround in business fortunes.
It's never all about new technology. It's never all about the best business strategy. And it's never all about assembling the best talent. It is all about finding the balance between all three, and knowing, as seems to be the case with Macys, when to shift investments and attention to shore up the side of the triangle that may be lacking, and the one that has the greatest opportunity to impact customers and results.
Every business a tech business today. Sure.
But even if you don't buy that, you have to agree that every business ,truly, at the end of the day, is a talent business.