From the Chamber: In pursuit of excellence

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This past week the Chamber helped out The Gamer's Grotto with their World's First Operations tournament. From putting in new rug, to working with owner Keith Carey and the team to come up with the fun concept, to helping the Grotto with some marketing material, it was a true grass-roots attempt at the Chamber and a member collaborating together to make something unique.

Along the way we noticed that there was no general promotional material for the store so I volunteered some of our time to help with creating a marketing rack card for Gamer's Grotto to hand out. We went through design and production, and of course, once we had a first set printed and another on the way we noticed a typo! Dang it! The event hadn't started yet and we had about 4 hours until show time. We had a choice, to put the marketing material out with a "known" error or should we stick to one of our values of 'quality' and reprint?

I often talk about becoming a center of excellence in regards to the Chamber. Many times, however exciting that initially sounds, it requires some tough choices along the way.

In Terry Orlick's groundbreaking book, In Pursuit of Excellence, he offers prescriptive and practical ways of gaining a competitive edge on or off the field through mental training. Perhaps more importantly, the book and philosophy focuses on the idea that no matter if you're an athlete, aspiring coach, or business professional, the ultimate goal remains the same: reaching your true potential.

I knew that the Grotto rack card with a mistake was not our full potential. The error was glaring at us. We knew it was there and we had a choice; pretend we didn't see it or own our mistake and correct it. We chose to correct it reprinting 100 new rack cards "day of" and throwing out the ones with an error.

This may be a mild example and didn't cost all that much to correct (although it was painful to throw out the already-made material), but it's moments like these that set the tone for your organization. Jan Carlzon of SAS airlines identified these as 'moments of truth.' After studying his organization he realized that there were over 50,000 'moments of truth' or areas that influence how customers interact and find out the 'truth' about his organization. What was their product really like? Did their services offer all that they said it would? Was their customer service as good as they said it was? We all have our 50,000 moments of truth whether in business or in life, moments when we walk by shoddy product, service or behavior. We can decide to keep walking or to stop and say, "How is this helping in our pursuit of running or contributing to an excellent organization?"

Being a person "in pursuit of excellence" for your business is not easy, and shouldn't be left to the faint of heart. It is a marathon. It is about dedication to the long-term goal of creating superior products, services and customer experiences. Marathons are not won by flashes of brilliance or speed, but on a methodical plugging away, moment after moment.

I encourage you not to walk by shoddy product or services, but rather to be an 'economic patriot' as Tom Peters would encourage. If Bennington, if Vermont, and if America are to become beacons of excellence in product and service again, we must refuse to take the easier path and ignore "good enough."

Sometimes, that starts with simple, little steps like noticing an error on a rack card and correcting the mistake. It isn't easy, but what's the alternative if we're to make excellent companies?

Always Onward,

— Matt Harrington is the executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce


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