I spent nearly 15 years of my career at L.L. Bean, and consider myself fortunate to have worked a good chunk of my career at such a terrific organization. I began to reminisce on a recent visit to its Freeport, Me., campus, and decided to pen the top lessons I learned during my days as a “Beaner.”
The company has many stakeholder groups, from employees to vendors, but the customer comes first. Leon Leonwood Bean’s customer service philosophy begins, “A customer is the most important person ever in this company – in person or by mail.”
Stand behind your products
L.L.’s guarantee, established in 1912, remains the gold standard today. Few companies support their products or services so strongly. Customers notice.
Do the right thing
I can’t count the number of times I heard a leader say “We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do. Integrity was part of the Bean way well before it became vogue. And when leaders model the behavior, employees notice. Soon it becomes part of the culture.
Offer quality and value
You can buy lesser quality merchandise for the lowest price — and that works for many people. While L.L. Bean products may cost more than others, customers know they’ll last longer. L.L.’s Golden Rule: “Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings and they will always come back for more.”
Despite its long history of success, the company culture remained humble. Boasting was frowned upon, and success was shared. Good work was recognized by others, and teamwork was a way of doing business.
Embrace change, but be thoughtful about it
The company was very thoughtful about course changes, whether that meant a new product line or store expansion. Leaders understood the importance of prioritization and tackling the most important items first.
Everyone chips in
During a long-ago visit to the Flagship Store, I spotted the store’s director on the floor, sorting hats into the correct size bin. A busy customer day had left the display a bit messy, and he wanted it right.
Treat employees well
Happy employees tend to be better employees. It seems obvious, but I think a lot of companies miss this one. As an employee, I enjoyed good benefits and a generous discount. Plus, treating people well is the right thing to do (see number 3).
Be a good neighbor
Bean gives back to its community in many ways, ranging from free summer concerts and fireworks on Independence Day, to a Road Race and countless sponsorship, particularly when it comes to the environment.