Hometown: Laurel, Montana
What began as a part-time job in high school became a career for manager Reece Gairrett. He learned the value of customer service in a small town and loves continuing to be in a community where customers know his name, and expect exceptional customer service.
You started out at Ace Hardware when you were a teenager. Did you know you wanted to pursue a career there?
At first, it was just a fun new job for me, full of lots of new things to learn and fill my time outside of school. It wasn’t until about two years into the job when I was 18 and given keys to the store with a supervisor position that I started realizing it might be something I would like to continue doing throughout my life.
You deal with all types of customers in retail, many of whom have very specific needs, how do you manage to keep folks happy?
All you can do is listen to them --that is the most important thing when dealing with customer service. You will never keep everybody happy in a retail setting, but if you take the time to listen to what it is they need and show that you are willing to help and try to take care of them -- sometimes that is amazing to them. Giving them the time of day can mean a lot when so much of everything else around you is an instant automatic answer. On online, people don’t always get that one-on-one experience showing they matter to the business.
What’s your secret to success?
Any of my success I feel is attributed to people and patience. The people I work with are the frontline that carry out the mission every day. They are the ones who get it done day-in, day-out. To be successful through and with people whether employees or customers I believe you must always be patient and thorough, and not make rash decisions based on emotion. By closely observing how people act or respond to situations allows you to respond to them or manage them in the correct way.
How do you keep your employees motivated and happy?
Employee satisfaction is often harder than customer satisfaction. You are always dealing with a broad collection of personalities with varying opinions that are rarely cohesive. In the end, no one well be 100 percent satisfied, I just don’t believe it is even in human nature. But if you treat all your employees right and show them that you care, and that they are people and not just numbers on a paper, then you will get more from them. If they don’t feel some personal connection with their work and don’t have a sense of pride in what they do, then they will never truly be satisfied or give you their best effort.
You have a lot of competition in the marketplace, how do you help differentiate Ace?
Ace has always thrived on being "the helpful place." Our goal is to impress every customer every time with broad knowledge, friendly familiar associates, fast and efficient help. We want to truly show them that we're there to help and we want to make that personal connection. Every customer matters from the one buying a $0.10 screw to the one buying a $500 lawnmower. Every one of them is important to us and they are why we are here.
What do you do to relax?
To relax, I really enjoy travelling and spending time doing things with my family. The very best times are always with my wife and four kids going camping or to the lake just hanging out having fun together. They all mean the world to me and are the reason I do what I do.
What other activities do you participate in?
Other than at Ace, I am also a member of the Laurel Rotary club meeting with them once a week and trying to contribute what I can. I also help out with coaching little league here and there and helping with scouts and different programs that my kids might be involved in. My primary role beyond Ace is ‘’Dad”.
Who was a great mentor to you and why?
My first real mentor was my first boss at Ace, Dean Rankin. He identified my potential early on and focused a lot of time and energy teaching me what he could about managing a customer service business, especially in a small town. To this day I still base the bulk of my business decisions on the methods and thought process that he taught me. Luckily as Dean stepped aside Skip King picked up right where Dean left off, continuing to show me the best way to operate a small business and make the right decisions. I feel very lucky to have learned from people that have been doing this so much and have cared enough to show me along the way.
You often manage people much older than you. Is that a hard thing? How do you manage it?
The age gap with store associates was very hard for me early in managing. It is hard to give out direction and leadership to people sometimes two to three times your age, as well as peers or people you may have known your whole life. The key is to get into the thick of it and show everyone you know what needs to be done and that we are all working towards a common goal.
What word best describes you?