Excellent ideas can come from anyone. Tom Folliard, the CEO of CarMax, has never lost that sensitivity. In an exchange with one of his frontline employees, Folliard received the suggestion to siphon gas from newly acquired wholesale cars and immediately transfer it into retail cars. Folliard looked into the idea’s feasibility and decided to implement it. To date, the company has saved more than $500,000.
This example illustrates one of the many benefits of a leadership best practice—never lose touch with your frontline staff. The moment you do, your business is in trouble. Erika Fry describes one of Folliard’s regular practices to stay in touch with his people (“How CarMax Cares” Fortune, 4/8/13, p. 21):
“Folliard visited 70 . . . stores last year, hosting grand openings, town halls, and steak cookouts for offices that met monthly sales goals (he does the grilling). He and his team use the visits to connect with associates, answer questions, and solicit feedback from the field.”
Well, traveling to and grilling for all those stores can get expensive. On the other hand, I think those $500,000 ideas that come along probably make up for it. Besides, it is just good leadership to stay in touch.