By Gordon Hecht

This past week I was honored to have my hotel room upgraded to the Chicken Little Suite. You may remember him, the fowl who thought the sky was falling.

My hotel room featured a falling ceiling, including a chunk of drywall on the floor. Not an attractive feature at $195 a night.

Being a frequent business traveler, I’m probably more forgiving than the average occasional traveler. I can understand, given the number of empty employee slots (that you’re experiencing too) when restaurant service is slow or haphazard, or there’s a longer wait time while in line.  Most hotels have had to cut out daily housekeeping, and I’m okay with using the same bath towel twice.

Service levels are one thing, but neglect should not lead to visually obvious defects. In the past few weeks, I’ve seen hospitality and retail stores “decorated” with overflowing trash cans, flickering lighting, noisy HVAC units and something else.

These blemishes may be a result of frontline workers being overworked and understaffed. It’s a good reason, but business leaders cannot let that be an excuse. Sam Walton, who ran a pretty good store, insisted on a practice called “management by walking around.” In essence, everyone from store managers up to VPs and Sam himself were responsible for traveling the aisles of the store, yellow notepad in hand, and noting deficiencies and shopper bottlenecks. Beyond mere notes, he insisted on swift corrective actions.

Related: You Only Get One Chance at a First Impression

Today the legal pad may have been replaced by the iPad and walking the store means checking the surveillance cameras. But I’ll go old school on you: Nothing beats getting out in the field, on the sales floor, or in back room with pencil and paper. Here’s what you might look for:

Front Entrance: Fingerprints on the entry door; worn decals; full trash containers; faded signage; outdated promotional material (the Labor Day Sale is over).

First Ten Feet Inside Your Facility: UPS/FedEx boxes; incomplete displays; muddy or soiled entry mats; burned out lightbulbs; background music that is too loud, too soft, or not reflective of your shoppers’ tastes; news radio; or no sound at all.

Balance of the facility: Sloppy employee clothing or grooming; cigarette odors; coffee cups or water bottles; non-business cell phone use; missing price tags; soiled samples; disorganized point-of-purchase material. Also scratched or damaged walls, and understocked and unclean restrooms (BTW, take the magazines off of the top of the throne).

Sales or Order Desk: Taped handwritten signage; stacks of invoices or sales orders; food; broken or torn chairs; Post-it notes on the POS monitor; general messiness.

We are all in the business of providing new, clean and fresh. It becomes difficult for your shopper to invest in your products when your people and store doesn’t reflect those qualities.

It is up to you to survey your facilities and people with eyes wide open, spot the issues, plan the correction, and set a deadline. Grab a paper pad or iPad, take along a couple of team members, walk the store, and fix the problems. You’ll be remarkable for what you’ve done and not what you’ve missed.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at