What makes it work?

I’m constantly trying to put my finger on exactly what we do at Lehman’s that makes us successful. I want to root out the mistakes that I know we make. And, I want to build up and reinforce the things we are doing right.

To that end, I’ve been making a special effort to get out into each part of our operation. I want to experience what what is happening in every corner of our operation. I visit our Kidron and Mt Hope stores weekly. I try to stop by regularly in places I don’t normally visit (such as the accounting department and buying department). I’ve also been taking 30 minutes a week to work in the warehouse and telephone customer service departments.

Recently, I worked with Desi, one of the people that takes care of making sure that catalog customer returns are taken care of correctly. I also worked with Kaye, who helps put away merchandise in our warehouse. The combination of working with these two women gave me I had a big AH-HA moment…you know, one of those times

where an idea crystallizes with perfect clarity.
Desi taking a call about a return with her usual cheerful disposition.
Desi taking a call about a return with her usual cheerful disposition.

The seed was planted when I worked with Desi. Her main responsibility is taking care of returns, so I asked her how they were keeping up. She said, “No problem!”

I was pleased to hear this because I can remember that years ago we used to get behind processing returns. After all, it starts with the thankless, dirty task of cutting open boxes in the warehouse. Then, there’s often items that were broken in return shipping and (I’m sorry to say) vendors that don’t support us like I think they should.

And, of course, there are also customers who may be angry when they call. Our goal is to make sure they are happy when they hang up!

So, I asked Desi what had changed to make the returns department run so smoothly. She had a simple answer. “Beth is great to work with!” Between the two of them, Beth (pictured below) and Desi take care of nearly all the returns.

The very next day, I helped Kaye (pictured below) in the warehouse. She showed me how she takes pallets full of product and distributes the merchandise onto the shelves where it is collected to fill orders.
Working with Kaye, I was able to connect the importance of what she does with the work of the many others I’ve worked with over the last few weeks. Vendor orders come into the warehouse, where Carol or Dave or one of our other warehouse workers receives them, a process that includes counting, checking for quality and putting them away.
Later, Chip (pictured) pulls the same merchandise off the shelf and transfers it to one of the stores, or to the packing and shipping area of the warehouse. Finally, Kaye completes the transfer, double checking Chip’s work and then moving the inventory out into new bin locations.
From there, it can be picked, packed and shipped by Diane, Rita (pictured) or one of the other packers. For the customer to receive a perfect order, each person who touches their merchandise must do a perfect job.

As the customer’s product is passed from hand to hand, each person has critically important tasks to perform. For example, here are just a few of things I found Kaye doing. First, she re-counted everything she handled to make sure there were no errors. When she put away candy or other items that grow stale, she checked expiration dates to make sure each customer received fresh goods. If she put out case quantities, she pre-cut the boxes so they were easier for the packers to open. If she passed an empty shelf, she refilled the spot or pulled merchandise to the front so it would be easier to pick up.

Like Beth, she went out of her way to make work easier for the next person down the line. Most important, she did everything she could to make sure that our customers got what they expected.

I mentioned each of these people only because I’ve had the privilege of working one-on-one with them specifically over these last few weeks. But, I know that the truth is that there are many, many more like them. And, every one of us here at Lehman’s knows the importance of doing each step in our jobs correctly. Not only that, but they double check the work of each person who touched the merchandise before them. We want your order to be perfect!

Sadly, despite all the checking, I know that once in a while, we do make mistakes. If your order wasn’t perfect in every way, please let me know. If it was perfect, you can thank Desi, Beth, Carol, Chip, Diane and Rita and the rest of our team. We’re all working hard to make sure you and your family have a happy and blessed 2010!

Galen Lehman
Galen Lehman, President, Lehman’s

Galen Lehman
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