The Rare Find

The Rare FindA thing that you notice about great retailers is how much credit they give their staff. While the big supermarkets project their credentials behind impressive (and often overstated) job creation numbers, collectively local shopkeepers match them. A reason society doesn’t know this is perhaps the lack of a context for independents to-broadcast their success.

Reading George Anders’ inspiring book The Rare Find , published by Portfolio Penguin, a question springs to mind: What is the reward for local shopkeepers to recruit great staff? Anders writes about world leading talent and how it is unearthed. How is this relevant for small shops? And for their potential colleagues?

Thinking about great retailers I have met, I think answers include how local shops help young staff develop, how first-employers keep track of their peoples’ later career success and how shopkeepers nurture local superstars. Superstars with humble jobs like the janitor who President Kennedy met on a tour of NASA in 1961. Asking the man what he did, the janitor said: “Sir, I am helping to put a man on the moon”.

For example, one shopkeeper I know told me about a person that he employed who had severe learning difficulties. Seeing her affinity with the task of keeping the shelves in one department well stocked, he gave her responsibility for buying. Today, that part of his business and the staff member are thriving.

Reading Anders’ book will help you work out what to challenge your people to do. It will also challenge you to do better. A former Wall Street Journal staff writer, Anders has access to some of America’s greatest leaders. Good to Great author Jim Collins endorses Ander’s book, which provides great lists of what to do to hire good people. These lists also help you understand what could make your business successful.

The reason for this is that Anders finds that success is built around Peter Drucker’s famous advice “to think through the assignment”, which means working out exactly what needs to be done and what skills your people need. Using this as a foundation stone, Anders endorses several good habits and explains how they work.

For example, he shows how the concept of “what can go right” – as practised by Dave Packard and Steve Jobs – works. This is about giving people a chance to show that they can succeed rather than worrying about failure. But there is a discipline.

For entrepreneurs the £14.99 cover price will be rewarded by reading the chapter on how venture capital works, particularly the comments of local business people who backed Jeff Bezos when he looked to set up Amazon.

And character is ever important, memorably illustrated by the success of singer Taylor Swift, who as a young teenager was promoted by Scott Borchetta because he liked her attitude. Blagging a visit with a local radio programme director in Knoxville, Tennessee, for a quick visit, she played one of her songs.

“That’s very nice,” the director said, ready to escort out his visitors.

“Thank you,” Taylor Swift replied. “Can I go on the air and play it right now for your listeners, too!”

The manager, Anders writes, was powerless to resist. This book will help you think about who you hire and how you contribute to your local community – and beyond.


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