The importance of knowing the business

While standing in line at a department store during the holidays, I overheard this conversation between the customer in front of me and the sales person:

Customer: “Wow, it is busy in here. I bet this has been a long day for you.”

Sales Person: “Yup.”

Customer: “I still have to get a few things for my wife. Can you tell me where the jewelry section is?”

Sales Person: “Somewhere on level three, I think.”

Customer: “Oh, I thought it was on this floor.”

Sales Person: “I only work in men’s, sir, so I don’t know.”

The customer paid and left. Not to the jewelry section but out the door. The sales person barked out “Next!” oblivious to the fact he just lost a customer and a potential sale, because he did not make the effort to know a very basic fact about the business he worked for.

Knowing what your business is, does, provides, promises and how it is measured is more critical than ever. An employer wants to know that you understand what goods and/or services they provide and that you are tuned in and aligned to the mission of the business. It’s not enough to know that a company sells widgets. You should also know who they sell the widgets to, how they support the customer purchasing the widgets and who the competing widget sellers are.

This means spending some discretionary time to research the company and its markets. A little homework, so to speak, is a good thing. Learning to speak “basic financial” is also critical. Not a financial person? No problem. You don’t need to be an expert, but all employees of any company should understand the most basic financial measures of that company.

Many companies make their annual report available on their website. Read it – there is a lot of useful information to help you understand the business and the associated financials. The ability to speak to these items on a basic level will demonstrate you care about learning the business and will go a long way toward impressing a potential employer. Hiring an employee is an expensive proposition for an employer, and they are generally looking for someone who sees their opportunity as more than just a job.

Interviewing at American Family soon? Here is your “homework”: http://www.amfam.com/2010-report/images/AmFam2010Annual.pdf

Good luck in your career search!

** Matt is the HR staffing manager for American Family’s west and central territories and works out of our Denver office. He has been with American Family for 16 years and spent seven years in claims before spending the last nine in HR.

One Comment

  1. Posted January 16, 2012 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    Well said. Very few applicants take the necessary time to research the company they are applying to. This is a must.


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