About the Episode

Join host Mark Williams and guest, Amy Myers, CMO of NFM, as they delve into the intricacies of preserving company culture in the era of remote work.

In this episode, Amy draws upon her experiences at NFM to explore the challenges and triumphs of maintaining a strong organizational culture when faced with a dispersed workforce. Amy underscores the pivotal role of communication, unveiling the company’s robust communication strategy designed to foster connectivity and engagement among employees. Tune in for invaluable insights and actionable tips on cultivating a thriving remote work culture.

Amy Myers

Chief Marketing Officer, NFM

Amy joined NFM in 2019. As the Chief Marketing Officer, she is responsible for creating and executing the overall strategy of NFM’s Marketing Department to achieve alignment and consistency across all marketing channels and elevate the customer experience. Amy brings marketing and leadership experience from a distinguished career working with organizations including Gordmans, Things Remembered, Kraft Foods and Spiegel Catalog as well as expertise in omnichannel marketing and business analytics. Amy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and a Master of Arts in Economics from Indiana University. 

Episode Transcript

Mark Williams:

Mark Williams 0:07
You’re listening to Balance, Not Burnout, a podcast helping leaders rethink the speed of their business. And I’m your host Mark Williams. Join me as I explore the power of a more intentional, balanced approach to leadership. Thanks for listening.

Mark Williams 0:25
Hey, everybody, welcome to Balance, Not Burnout season two, Episode Seven. And I’m really excited today, we’ve got Amy Myers with us. Amy is the Chief Marketing Officer for Nebraska Furniture Mart. She handles creating and executing the overall strategy of Nebraska Furniture Mart marketing department to achieve alignment and consistency across all marketing channels and elevate the customer experience. Throughout Amy’s career, she has worked with organizations like Gordmans Things Remembered Kraft Foods, and Spiegel Catalog. Amy oversees a team of 125. But what you might not know is they have over 5000 employees across several states. So we really thought it’d be interesting to talk to me a little bit today about how she manages all of that. And again, Balance Not Burnout. So Amy, welcome to the show.

Amy Myers 1:12
Hi, thank you.

Mark Williams 1:14
Why don’t you give us a little bit of background and how you ended up at Nebraska Furniture Mart.

Amy Myers 1:18
Oh, you know, I’ve always been in a form of retail. And I actually ended up moving to Omaha, which is where Nebraska Furniture Mart is located. When I went to Gordmans, which was 100 year old retailer, and unfortunately, their doors closed, but at the same time an opportunity came up here. So I got to stay and join this Berkshire Hathaway company, which is interesting. And it’s it’s a entirely different model for home furnishings, you know, their large format and, you know, kind of generally take over a city when we come in. So it’s been five years, April 1.

Mark Williams 1:56
Awesome. Oh, congratulations. Prior to every episode, or starting every episode, we always ask a question. And I usually reserve actually usually reserved this for the end of the show. But I thought I would mix it up just a little bit. So Amy, I want you to envision a Saturday or Sunday morning, you have no responsibilities, you can do what you want be with whomever you want. Describe for me your perfect Saturday morning.

Amy Myers 2:23
I’m a reader. So my Saturday mornings are generally coffee, reading, sitting on the sofa catching up with my husband. Fair, very easy, straightforward. Awesome.

Mark Williams 2:35
And let’s add to that, what do you like to read?

Amy Myers 2:38
You know, I cover a lot of things. I’m reading this book I love right now. It’s called The Future Wave? Yeah, I think it’s Solomon was stuff I believe is the name. And it’s just talking about AI future wave of AI and talking about sort of the longer term implications, it’s actually it’s a fairly new book and fabulous, highly recommend

Mark Williams 3:04
super fantastic, especially AI, we could talk for hours on that about where that’s headed. But let’s revert let’s go back to Balance, Not Burnout. So maintaining a company culture, I even know for me, after COVID, having people in the office and out of office, and we only have one location, maintaining that culture with people spread out can be very difficult. Why don’t you share with us a little bit about how you do that? What steps do you take to number one, just maintain the culture within that type of organization?

Amy Myers 3:33
It is. So we’ve got 5000 people, we’re spread across, you know, multiple states. And significant number of people, you know, we we’ve got our home offices in Omaha. But that’s, you know, we’ve got 1000s of people at each store. So in Dallas and Kansas City and Des Moines, and obviously Omaha. So it takes a lot of focus, we’ve got an outstanding HR group that, you know, makes being an employer of choice and carrying the culture throughout the organization. Number one in what they focus on, I think for us, it’s really about communication. And we’ve got a really heavy communication strategy for all the employees that just constantly gets the message out there. We do it in a lot of different ways. But it’s it’s keeping the constant communication is the tone that you want to set in the the message that we want to get out there. So that’s a big part of it for us.

Mark Williams 4:27
How do you. For us, it’s very difficult for us to track engagement, opening and closing. You know, emails are easy. I’m curious with the different modes of communication. How do you know people are actually getting the message?

Amy Myers 4:41
Well, one of the things we do is what we call Tic Tac. So across the company, every single person, there’s a daily 10 minute meeting, take 10 It’s a different times. So they’re generally ran by managers. So if you’re, you know, on the store floor, it might be a 10th already before the floor opens, for me, it’s at 10 o’clock with my team, there’s people that that have it on, you know, two in the afternoon, there’s people in the overnight shifts that they start their, you know, 11pm shift, they’ll do their take 10. And the take 10 is a kind of a bulletin and everyone goes to the same information. So it might be something that’s going on in the business, it might be something from a benefits that’s changing. It is people’s anniversaries, it is celebrating birthdays. And so for 10 minutes a day, every single person in the company gets the same message, and they do it live. So it’s it or virtual, depending but it’s read to you. So you’re engaged, you know, in the moment, and a lot of times people do extra things, they’ll throw on games at the end for theirs, or they’ve got their own team, you know, dynamic. But that is probably the best spot that we know everyone’s getting the message. And we have an internal intranet site that people use, and you can kind of who’s reading it. But if you really think about the things, we want to get out that 10 minutes a day. I love that person gets is just amazing. Yeah, I

Mark Williams 6:10
love that. And so so let’s expand a little bit on that, is it? I’m curious, do you create the bullet pointed list and disperse that to all management? Or is each team creating their own 10 minute list?

Amy Myers 6:22
It’s so there’s a corporate list that you can you can submit something to take 10 Yep. And it doesn’t just go to management. When it’s published. Actually, it’s published everybody. But the 10 minutes, is someone actually taking the moment to say, Okay, let’s all go through this, let’s all go through, and the manager goes through and talks about it. So it’s the same for everybody. And you tend to make some, you know, adjustments on if you want to add something at the end, particularly to your team specifically. But yeah, it’s, it’s you, you could put something into it, it’s available to everybody. But it’s the same message.

Mark Williams 6:56
That’s fantastic. And your team is actually producing that bullet point, every single of those bullet points every single day. It’s actually our HR team, they do it every single day. That is fantastic. I love that. And how do you know that every employees? So I’m assuming that’s a management structure? Right. So that it’s dictated that every employee must be touched for 10 minutes every day with with that with that message? I love that. And what’s the feedback from that from the employees about it? Is it Oh, it’s another, you know, it’s our take 10, or they actually looked forward to the you know, are there are announcements that they’re using, with customers, or, or I imagine your store rooms and stock rooms and all that kind of thing

Amy Myers 7:34
we did. So there’ll be some time stories in there about a good customer interaction. I think particularly it’s, it’s sort of, it’s such a key part of the culture, because it’s like a moment of everyone coming together, that it, it is just part of your day. And it sort of sets the tone. And, you know, like I said, there’s some managers that will do, you know, a game at the end, or they’ll have a trivia and so they add little things to that, that fits the tone of their team specifically, but it’s just a really, it’s a good, repetitive thing that this is part of my day, you know, every day I get to see my team, I get to, you know, laugh a little and listen, sometimes, you know, it’s virtual and cameras are off, but people are listening and sharing.

Mark Williams 8:17
I love that. Let’s talk a little bit. So that’s the communication piece. And I would agree, we have something called pole path. And we actually had the CEO of pull path. It’s a it’s an interactive newsletter, so to speak, that I put out monthly with my employees, we upload videos, usually a video message. And it’s kind of like a game you earn points for if you if you provide gamification, yeah. And then they get prizes. It’s fantastic. It’s one of the things that our employees talk about the most, because it is a communication piece. We also do townhall meetings. I’m curious, do you how do you update the employees on our their town halls? And how do they know the financial well being of the company, especially across so many states in so many locations? Yeah,

Amy Myers 8:57
that’s, you know, there’s a couple, you know, kind of continuing that communication. There’s a couple of different things we do. Our executive team actually meets every single morning, we call it power hour. It started during COVID. And we have continued that it was one of the things we took out of COVID that we’re like, you know, this was we started doing it because we used to meet monthly, and we that wasn’t working during COVID. So we met seven days a week 830 Every single day, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, you know, everyday, but it gave our executive team that we we got very nimble, because things were changing every single day very, very quickly. And we came out of COVID and said, you know, we think this still works, you know, it’s a chance for us to quickly, you know, share information, talk about business yesterday, if we think anything’s changing, and it gets it very quickly distributed across our senior team, and then they can choose to, you know, cascade out what makes sense from from that meeting. And, you know, that’s a commitment that we make for a time commitment as a senior team. Sometimes it’s a five minute meetings, sometimes it’s an hour Depending on how, you know, big the issues are, we do a, I think one of the other couple things that we do that we love. Twice a year, our chairman of the board, who’s Ron B, who’s, you know, grandmother started the company, he actually does a state of the state is what he calls it, where he, he goes live to every region. And he also he’ll do, he’ll schedule these, there’s multiple different meetings that he’s scheduled, so that you can come and he talks about the business. And he talks through the metrics. And he talks through the the revenue and the profit and any initiatives. And you know, he’ll do one at midnight, in a, because the warehouse team might start, you know, right before that, and that’s when they can do it, he’ll be in Texas, and he’ll do a 5am, because that’s the best time for the customer service team down there. And it’s really this huge commitment that he makes to the organization and gets in front of them and and tells the story of what’s going on with the business. That’s

Mark Williams 10:59
I love to hear that thing. Yeah, I love to hear that. Obviously, even from the top of the organization communication, and being in front of his employees is important to him, and it permeates throughout the entire organization. When I was young, my dad used to say there’s an expression that fish stinks from the head, right. So my dad used to say a teacher takes on the flavor of the class, an organization takes on the flavor of the person that runs that, and clearly a dedication to your employees. And when we were talking previously, it’s amazing to me in a retail organization like yours, you ever really low turnover rate, even across all of your organization talk a little bit about that. And it’s I’m sure communication is part of it. But it’s pretty impressive to have, especially in an organization that’s 24 hours a day with three different shifts. Talk a little bit about how the, how you’ve maintained a low turnover rate in that type of environment.

Amy Myers 11:48
Yeah, it’s interesting, because we just had our last night we had each region we do this day of celebration, and the Omaha one was last night. And one of the things that that’s it, it’s just a celebration, it’s awards. And it’s you know, people that got nominated by other people and get a president’s award from our CEO. And one of the things that popped up on the screen is we have over 500 people that have been with us 20 plus years. Wow. And 20 Plus, there’s the 20 Plus club, and they do an annual party, which I don’t get invited to because I’m not in that club. So you earn your way into it, there is no, there’s no Statistik that gets you in and you have to find your 20 years, but I think it’s it’s, you know, and it reminds me I go back, when you start with NFM, you have two days of orientation. Everybody’s in there together, you’re all together. And I still remember, my orientation has been, you know, almost five years. And there it’s during the day different people come in to talk about different things, but there’s some panels and this gentleman said he had been here 20 plus years, and he said and he had a different jobs, but he said you know what, I’ve got four kids, I never missed a baseball game, never missed a daughter’s basketball game never missed a gymnastics meet. And, and he was talking to people that were new about how the company values that because you know that that that takes, you know, being at a company that values the fact that you can go to your kids basketball game, and that you can go to your kids, you know, baseball game and and he was sharing back that you know how much that had meant to him and his career there. So I think so much of it is built into the culture of the company. And you know what, what you value and you don’t have people here 500 People for 20 years unless you take care of them. Put them first and you know, value their work life balance. It’s

Mark Williams 13:41
amazing that you say that I have found the same even within our organization, only 120 530 employees, we make it a point that family is first. If you have a situation at home, go home. The last thing I want is an employee who is preoccupied with issues at home. And we all have run into that whether it’s someone that’s ill, or going through a divorce, unfortunately, you know, just life events happen. And when when you’re consumed with life events, you’re not at work, even if you’re at work, you’re not at work. So it’s wonderful to hear, especially across an organization that’s so large with so many employees. Let’s do it. But you’ve done something even more interesting when all of that I think is your podcast. So the company created a podcast, which I think is super interesting. So why don’t you talk a little bit about that another wave of communication and a modern way of communicating with your employees.

Amy Myers 14:29
Yeah, it is and we started a an external podcast called this this home. I am home excuse me called I am home about it launched March of 2020, which was kind of a perfect, you know, time to launch and now we’re, you know, all these years in and over 100 and some episodes but we also so that’s a great way for us to to tell our message to our customers and you know, we talk about business, we talk about different things with our home. We have celebrities come in, but we also but then decided it was working so well externally that we wanted to take it internally as well. And so our CEO does a podcast called Tony talks. His name is Tony, Tony bolt. And it’s really this unvarnished audio and video that he does that he will answer questions that people send in, he’ll talk about, you know, good, bad, and the ugly anything going on with with business. And he’s just incredibly truthful and straightforward, and sort of says it, you know, like it is and explains what’s going on? Or why he made a decision and answers questions. And that plays for we do at about every other month. And it gives people a chance to just hear from him directly, and hear it in his voice and what he says and they can listen to it, they play it in like the in the different break rooms, it’ll be playing, it’ll be on our intranet site that he can they can watch it, but it’s a really, there’s nothing like that sort of just, it’s not scripted. You know, it’s not love it. It’s just his chance to just talk and just, you know, talk through like, yeah, this this is this is what’s going on, this is what’s going on. And this is why you see that that happened, and people ask anonymous and sometimes very difficult questions and answers it. And it’s, I think that that transparency does a lot.

Mark Williams 16:22
Well, I will share with you, I need to thank you personally, I just started, we call it drop the mic. And it’s, I have started every month, I do an open zoom call with any employee, any employee can join. It’s it’s set up on the calendar. It’s amazing, I love it set up on a calendar, like a meeting. It’s an open forum where it’s a zoom call, no matter where I am in the country if I’m traveling or fine at home or in the office. And it’s a live zoom call for any employee that wants to get on. And we have no set agenda. And literally last week, we did our first one we had about 30 employees on we talked about i i was asked several questions about the company and our performance and things we’re doing. But even funnier, we just sometimes we just talked about nothing like literally the candy bars that we like to eat, or who made what for dinner. And the comments that came back to me, me personally through email and instant messenger, and our intranet was, wow, you’re just like us, right? Like, you’re just a normal person who does normal things and eats a candy bar when he stops at the Casey’s and it was a lot of fun and just the feedback of being able to interact, ask questions about the company. And that we are we are concerned with what our employees think about the company and the feedback that we get. And I think that shows, and it means a lot to me. And I think it means a lot to the employee. So obviously that’s working for you guys as well. Yeah,

Amy Myers 17:49
I think it’s such a humanizing, too, because then it’s not just this decisions made from you know, at the top of the mountain, it’s like, okay, let’s we can talk about it, you know, and hear from your leader. So I love that you did that. I think that’s great.

Mark Williams 18:04
So you’ve been there for five years, if you were to provide advice to an incoming manager into an organization like yours, multiple locations, 24 hours, three shifts, customers warehouses, what kind of what’s the maybe the top three things advice with respect to communication, that you would offer someone starting new with a company,

Amy Myers 18:27
you know, you probably can’t over communicate. But I think the bigger thing is listening. If you come in new, you got to, and it’s something that I had to do when I came in, and you have to fight it because your instinct when you come in someplace new is to, you know, talk about what you’re seeing and talk about what you think but really listening for as long as you can and that, you know, that’s a critical part of communication. Being present, listening, and then kind of taking it all in before you before you move. Sure.

Mark Williams 18:58
Let’s talk a little bit about burnout. You’ve got some interesting, you have three shifts of employees that come into the office, I’m sure that there are times of the year that are more hectic than others. And maybe that’s not true. I don’t know much about the furniture business, quite honestly. But how do you how do you handle even internal burnout with your employees expect? Or maybe it’s the sales floor when there’s a rush? How do you How does the hand the company handle that type of situation? Or what’s the message back to employees with respect to that?

Amy Myers 19:27
You know, I think one of the things we’re good at is one we give it voice. So I’m and I will use, you know, my team as an example is we had a big change that was happening in q4, which was late in the game we made a pivot that we needed to make and one of the things we talked about as the group is it’s it’s okay to say this sucks that we have to do this. It’s you don’t have to smile and act like it doesn’t suck and you don’t have to, you know we can say that openly. We can give it voice And we can say, yep, a we know it’s the right thing. And all of those those reasons, but you know, it’s also a lot of extra work. And it’s okay to give voice to that. And I think that’s, you know, part of truth. And you know, and it doesn’t mean you’re moping around, you know, as an ER, but you’re just like, yep. Okay, you know, let’s, let’s, let’s, let’s not be afraid, and you don’t have to be afraid to say in front of me, you know, as the as the manager that you don’t have to be like, Yay, that’s okay. So I think that’s, that’s kind of part of the culture of the company. I mean, we, we have a great HR team that does a lot to help support our managers and helps, you know, whether, you know, there’s little things that they do, you know, throughout the year, there’s a lot of support from organizational development on burnout, there’s actually you can literally, you know, we had two meditation sessions that someone did a virtual meditation last year, and you could join those. And so there’s an infrastructure for those, that that type of, you know, support. But I think a lot of it’s just culture and attitude that kind of in this together, and, you know, it’s okay, we can we can talk about this, and and we’re going to get through to the other side, for sure.

Mark Williams 21:13
Yeah, that transparency, I think is incredibly important. We had a very recent change to our PTO policy, our, our time off policy. And for it was the the number of hours that could be carried over. And we were purchased several years ago by another company, and we’re merging some of the benefit packages. And we had a reduction in the number of hours that people could carry over. And there wasn’t a lot that I could do about it. And to use some terminology, it stuck. And for some employees, they lost, they lost a little bit of PTO hours. They weren’t using them. But that Bank of ours was was kind of a boost for them. Right. It was a security blanket so to speak. And they lost a little bit of it and asked, I was asked to directly at a town hall and I readily admitted it’s a bummer for you. You’re right, you lost that benefit. You lost little bit of that benefit. There’s no way around that. And although they were unhappy about it, they understood it number one, and I think they appreciated that. Yeah, I was honest. It’s

Speaker 1 22:10
it’s not fun. Yeah. You’re locked in to try to spin it.

Mark Williams 22:14
It’s alright. You know,

Amy Myers 22:16
there’s times that goes bad. Yeah,

Mark Williams 22:17
yeah, it just, it just wasn’t a good situation. And I think that goes a long way. Again, we do a lot for our employees, that sounds like much like you and maintaining that. That level of honesty, transparency. I know that’s kind of a buzzword, but just being used authentic, or that seems to be another buzzword or hearing just just being real and understanding that yeah, some things just sometimes don’t go our way. And that’s okay. Right. That’s, that’s that world we live in? Fantastic. A little bit. Tell me a little bit about I’m looking at the KPIs on your behind you, you’ve got a whole board full of a whole bunch of metrics. In my world, I have them for our industry, I’m sure you have them for yours. How do you communicate your metrics out? And how often do you do it for your employees? I’m curious, because you’re looking, you’ve got a lot of graphs up on your on your board. Yeah, and

Amy Myers 23:11
you can see they’re actually the skylines of the cities that we’re in. Okay, sometimes, like EKG charts, yeah. Sometimes it looks like metrics. So but we, you know, our, we have a corporate scorecard that is available to anyone at any time. So you can go on our intranet site and pull it up, and it’s updated weekly, and we talk about it monthly. But we agree on these, you know, number there’s probably 23 I think, metrics that we’re going to measure, you know, as a company, and we talk to those and probably every one rolls up to one or more of them during the year. But, you know, talking about just transparency, I mean, anybody can pull those up at any time and get a look at them and I think it’s part of that open culture.

Mark Williams 24:00
Sure. Amy, I can’t thank you enough for being on the show today.

Unknown Speaker 24:05
Thanks for inviting me You bet.

Mark Williams 24:06
Let’s close with this. So first net Nebraska Furniture Mart and give us a quick commercial for Nebraska Furniture Mart.

Amy Myers 24:12
Well, you’ve you’ve got to be in our region’s Omaha, Kansas City and Dallas and I’m sure you know us but you know, we have fantastic quality, the best prices that you can get and you know, we were started as a we’re at seven years old this year and it you know, started with Mrs. B who was a Russian immigrant woman in 1937 who started the business and we’re super proud of that legacy and you know, talk about it you know, probably almost every day that we started with the with with someone who came in and just wanted to help the customers and get good products at great prices.

Mark Williams 24:53
Fantastic. Couple of takeaways, management meetings every day. You’ve got your 10 Minute huddle, your your 10 Min. That meeting every morning, which I love, passing out the bullet points, and it’s going to all levels of the organization throughout every shift of the organization and across multiple states and many locations. So, kudos to Nebraska Furniture Mart and Amy Myers. Thanks very much for being on the show. We really appreciate it. Thanks again. Thanks for listening. If you think balance is as important as I do, at work and all throughout your life, help the show out by leaving me a five star review following me on social media, or sharing the podcast with someone you think would appreciate it. If you have comments or questions. I’d love for you to join the conversation with me on LinkedIn. I want to thank OBI Creative for producing the podcast and swells beats forgetting the music for me. Thanks for sharing your time with me today. And until next time, this is Mark signing off.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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