Beloved Companies Enable Great Decisions

Giving back to the people who had become the face and personality of Lands’ End was the intent behind Gary Comer’s decision to build the health club. (Read the first part of the story: Deliberate Decisions Grow Business Prosperity.)

On a cold winter day in 1989, we trudged through the snow and across the parking lot to the dedication of the healthy club. Nearly 2,000 of us streamed into the new building. Included in our group were the customer phone reps who began their days at home on their farms at 3 a.m., haying fields and prodding eggs from the underbellies of warm hens before coming to work at Lands’ End. They were the kind voices on the other end of the line when someone called, no matter what time of the day or night. The “pickers” were there. They spent their days pushing gargantuan shopping carts up and down the warehouse aisles, filling them up to complete customers’ orders. The “packers” were there. They boxed everything up, making sure customer orders got on the trucks and safely on their way. All the behind-the-scenes people were there too—those who worked throughout Lands’ End to make our moments of connection with customers a reality.

We were all ushered into the pool area of this building commissioned as a gift to us. What happened next will stay in my mind for the rest of my life. Gary Comer, the founder of Lands’ End, calmly asked us all to walk to the tiled wall at the southeast end of the pool. “This center is dedicated to you,” he said, “because it is your passion and love and work that has made all of this possible.”

“Find your name,” he said. For months, an artist had been at work hand-lettering each of our names onto the tiles covering the wall in front of us.

Because we mattered. Because we counted.

Because we had achieved something much greater than putting turtlenecks on the backs of millions.

With each shipment, with each call we took, with each box we packed, a bit of who we were also went out the door. That struck a chord with customers.

Because of who we were as people.

Because of the decisions that we made about how to treat our customers.

Decisions made by simply treating customers how we’d want to be treated ourselves. As I traced the lettering of my name on one of those tiles, shivers went down my spine. I was a part of this.

I can still see that tiled wall with all of our names on it. It’s where I got faith that companies have the ability to do the right thing for employees and the customers they serve. It begins with how they make decisions. It’s about the intent and motivation that guide them.

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