Nurturing your leaders is a foundation of success (NBJ)

May 18, 2012

Nashville Business Journal

 

The success of Tractor Supply Co. comes down to two big, complementary factors: a passionate customer-centric business strategy and a nurturing culture dedicated to people and ethics.

The first is a simple yet powerful approach that focuses all efforts on satisfying the needs of the real Tractor Supply customer: hobby farmers and others who live the unique rural lifestyle. This strategy has impacted everything from store locations, operating hours and merchandise to staff choices and marketing efforts.

The second equally important success factor is building a culture focused on nurturing people and always doing the right thing. This global corporate commitment to ethics and employee development requires respect and support for every team member. Leveraging a strong core value structure with unwavering integrity has translated to Tractor Supply’s fanatical passion for providing the best customer service in America.

With more than 1,100 locations, the key to success is simply the quality of the leadership at each Tractor Supply store. When leadership is competent and stable, the work day goes smoothly, employee turnover is low, customer relations are positive, inventories are well managed and sales go up.

Raising standards
Building this type of culture depends almost entirely on selecting and developing the right leadership team. With standards this high, it’s not easy for people to secure a position with Tractor Supply and the interview process may take longer.

But we learned a long time ago that the more time and effort we put into the talent selection process, the fewer issues we had to deal with later on.

Fostering talent
Once you have top-quality people on board, the next step is to build their skill bases so they can deliver first-class performance.

Tractor Supply has outstanding programs for all leadership levels: store manager and other first-line supervisors; district manager and similar management positions; and executive leadership. Leadership classes carefully cover culture, values and mission, and many are taught by the company’s most senior executives.

Never compromising
At our leadership institute we hear two common reasons for postponing leadership development: money and time constraints. The first excuse is, “Times are tough. We can’t afford it.”

The fact is, if you see a positive future for your organization you can’t afford not to develop your people. In tough times, cutbacks can be made in other areas of the organization, but never in creating the right leadership team. When circumstances improve you’ll be positioned to outgun your competitor, and your leadership will be prepared to take your company to the next level.

The second excuse is, “We are just too busy.” If you are actually too busy you need leadership education more than you think. If you feel overwhelmed, you probably need more leadership help so you can learn how to manage that growth.

Bottom line: Compromising on the development of your team can actually compromise the future of your organization. In the long run, people are always the most important component in long-term success.


Joe Scarlett is founder of the Scarlett Leadership Institute and the retired chairman of Tractor Supply Co. He can be reached at joe@scarlettleadership.com.

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