Greetings. If you enjoy hiking, climbing, backpacking, kayaking, bicycling and camping you're probably familiar with REI–the largest consumer cooperative in the U.S. and a business that is passionate about its customers and employees. It's been picked as one of Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" every year since 1998 when the rankings began, and it consistently wins the admiration of members for its products, education and commitment to conservation. And as a regular customer and member since 1973, I'm always struck by the company's real desire to make me smarter and more capable with the things I love to do.
A case-in-point are the number of classes and training opportunities REI provides to members through my local store. In the next two weeks I can learn:
- Bike Maintenance Basics
- Backpacking Basics
- Wilderness First Aid
- Rock Climbing
- Kayaking Basics–including a three-hour paddle tour
- How to Ride a Bike–for Kids
- How to Ride a Bike–for Adults
- Bike Commuting Basics–which is a real challenge here in D.C.
- Introduction to Outdoor Rock Climbing
- Anchor Concepts in Rock Climbing
- Essential Camping Skills
- Introduction to Mountain Biking
- Outdoor Photo Composition
- How to Use a Map & Compass in Actual Terrain
- Travel Insight from Brazil and Patagonia
If only I had enough free time, I could become the next John Muir. And quite possibly a future REI instructor.
While most companies have departments designed to train and develop their own people, only a few are keenly focused on training and developing their customers. Is it because they don't understand the powerful link between customer learning, loyalty and sales? Or is it because they really don't want their customers to know too much? At REI they'll teach you to do practically anything outdoors that strikes your interest or passion. And they'll teach you how to improve your mastery of the things you already know how to do.
Which begs the question…
"How smart and capable are you willing to make your customers?"
It's a question that could be critical to your future success.
And here's a picture of my latest REI purchase–an Advanced Elements inflatable kayak that I'll be trying in the North Sea off the coast of Sweden this summer.
We win in business and in life when we make those we serve as capable as possible. And when our passion inspire our customers to achieve even greater success.