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Military-Style Training Proving Effective for Overstock.com

Military-Style Training Proving Effective for Overstock.com



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Jed Boal ReportingThe world of retail sales is becoming a battleground, and one major Salt Lake based retailer has rallied its troops by going back to basic training. Overstock.com thinks teamwork and leadership translate into success.

Overstock.com took off seven years ago, but sales plummeted in 2005. The company wanted its edge back, to sell more, satisfy customers and improve the bottom line.

Steve Tryon, senior vice president of Logistics, says, "The big part of leadership is communication. What this allows us to do is teach people how to communicate effectively."

Steve Tryon runs company logistics; he's also a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and a former West Point instructor. He started a training course based on the core principles of military leadership. Tryon says that the military principles translate well into the business world because they are based upon the fundamental respect of people.

"The first principle I teach our leaders is that people are not disposable," Tryon said.

Workers embrace the training.

Marcellas Williams, a company leader, says, "We have three strokes, for instance, and we're setting our standard for our employees to get it in three. If one of them slacks or makes a mistake, we need to be able to pick up the slack and still say at the end of the day we've done it and we were successful."

Two years ago Overstock needed more than 1,000 warehouse workers to get the job done on the peak day. Last year more work was accomplished at the peak with 500 fewer workers.

According to a National Retail Federation Survey last year, Overstock.com, is the nation's fourth best company for customer service. Amazon.com is first.

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