REI is the type of store that makes me want to be somebody else: somebody who sea kayaks on the weekends; somebody who rides her bike everywhere; and somebody who climbs rock walls as easily as stairs. REI gives back to the communities in which they operate. They make responsible choices that positively impact the environment. And they are dedicated to the people that make up their organization, both employees and co-op members. Why do I love this brand? They sell cool products, they are experts in the industry and their underlying operation is built on stewardship.
The REI brand experience spans across numerous customer touch points; all of which are seamlessly integrated. The loyal, dedicated employees throughout the organization enhance this experience and provide a level of expertise and service that is best in class. REI has appeared on FORTUNE magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” list since it first appeared in 1998, placing #12 in 2009 (source: rei.com).
The success of the co-op is in the hands of its employees; management understands and recognizes how important this is to their continued success. Benefits include: healthcare coverage for full- and part-time employees regardless of the hours worked, funded retirement plan, incentive pay, paid sabbaticals, public transportation subsidies, tuition reimbursement and adoption assistance. They also provide some “only at REI” benefits, including: deep gear and apparel discounts, free rentals and personal outdoor challenge grants (source: rei.com).
What can you learn from REI? Your employees, more often than not, are the most important connection that your customer has to your brand. If the employees don’t believe in your brand, it is going to be reflected in your company’s performance. Talk to your employees. Learn about their lives outside of work. Listen to their stories. Ask about their career goals. And then take action. Make timely changes that are feasible within your organization. Your employees will notice and so will your customers.