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House, Hearth, and Home

After reading the case, please respond to the questions below.

1. Describe House, Hearth and Home’s competitive business strategy. How does
it differentiate itself from its competitors? What are the human resource
implications of this competitive position? Provide examples from the case.

2. a) Contrast the different approaches Dan Boyd and Wesley Simpson take with

low performing employees. Which do you think is more effective?
b) Do you think there’s a difference between being a manager and being a
leader? Why or why not? If so, how are they different?

3. How has Boyd been able to accomplish so much in such a little time? Why has
Simpson not been able to?

4. Identify Mark Coglin’s options for addressing the situation. Analyze the benefits
and risks of each option. Be sure to consider how each option affects Simpson,
Boyd, and Coglin (individually and their relationships), as well as how the other
employees at the store may react.

What would you advise Coglin to do and how should he go about doing it?
Please be specific.

In writing up your responses to the questions you will, of course, draw on

concepts and theories in our text book, Johns, G. and Saks, AM. 2017, as well as

articles cited in the various chapter reference sections, or articles you identify via
your own research. In addition, below are some further readings that you will
find helpful as you work on the case:

1. J.L. Heskett & L. Schlesinger, ”Putting the Service-Profit Chain to work,”
Harvard Business Review 72, 2, 1994, pages 164-174.

2. J.P.Kotter, ”What Leaders Reallyt Do,” Harvard Business Review 29, 11,2001,
pages 25-33.

3. RA. Heifetz & D.L Laurie, ”The Work of Leadership,” Harvard Business Review
79. 11,2001 pages 35-47.

4. D. Rooke & W.R.Torbert, ”Seven Transformations of Leadership,” Harvard
Business Review 83. 4,2005, pages 66-76.

5. M.Treacy & F.Wiersema, ”Customer Intimacy and Other Value Disciplines,”
Harvard Business Review 71, 1993, pages 84-93.

Note: all sources should be properly cited. This includes references to concepts

in your textbook.

An example of a correctly written reference is:

Roth, S., & Cohen, LJ. (1986). Approach, avoidance, and coping with stress.

American Psychologist, 41, 813-819.

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doing? The other day I drove by those houses you’re building – they are looking really nice!” To
Coglin’s surprise, Graham’s reply was positively jovial: “They are going together good. Can I talk you
into buying one or two? You always charge me the contractor rate, so for my number one supplier, I’ll
give you the supplier discount!”

Chuckling, Coglin answered, “Think I’ll pass this time, but thanks for the offer. Now what problem can I
take care of for you today?” As he spoke, Coglin walked over to the service desk so he would have a hard
surface on which to write. Chances were that Graham was perturbed that something had not been
delivered on time. It would help to jot down the order number so he could track what was holding it up.
As a contractor, Graham relied on House, Hearth and Home to deliver building materials on ajust-in-time
basis. When the proper material was not delivered when expected, it meant that the workers would be
held up, creating a valueless expense Graham wanted to minimize. The more people sat around waiting
and the longer it took to finish a building job, the less profit could be made. Following up late orders
would normally be the job of the yard manager, but if a customer like Graham wanted to escalate the
problem to the owner right off the bat, Coglin would accommodate.

But Graham had a surprise in store. He said, “Actually, I don’t have a problem today, which is the reason
I’m calling. The guys in the yard have really been coming through for me lately. We had some last minute
order changes two weeks ago, and they took care of us real good. At first I thought it was a fluke, but they
have been on fire this week, too. So whatever you have been putting in the water, keep throwing it in
there, buddy!” Coglin could barely believe what he was hearing: Brody Graham was . . . happy? He
thanked him for the call as he walked towards the materials yard.

The yard was the transition point for most of the large-scale building material leaving the store – lumber,
drywall, shingles, bricks, insulation, etc. Customers would develop an order inside the store then pull a
vehicle around to the yard to get big items loaded. Professional contractors could arrange for the store to
deliver material to job sites on an ongoing basis. In that case, the yard workers were responsible for
keeping track of these orders, pulling the right material on the right day, loading it onto trucks and
delivering them to wherever the work was going on.

As Coglin stepped into the yard, he saw Simpson, the yard manager, talking to a customer. As he waited
for the talk to end, he walked around a bit. He was happy to see that everything looked well organized.
Customers often came into this area, and it reflected badly on the whole organization when any part was
sloppy. A part-time employee had hustled up to load patio stones into the pickup of the customer talking
to Simpson. When the young man finished, he shut the tailgate with a loud thump. As if on cue, Simpson
offered his hand to the customer, and Coglin could hear him say, “Thanks a lot. And if you need any more
sand, just stop on by. We have enough to make a beach.”

Coglin walked up to Simpson as soon as he saw he was free and said, “Guess who [just got off the phone
with? Brody Graham.” A worried look sprang to Simpson’s face as he asked, “So, what did we screw
up?” Coglin laughed as he shook his head. “I thought the same thing at first. And you may not believe
this, but he wanted to tell me how good you guys are doing. He said you came through for him a couple
of weeks ago in a big way and did the same this week. 80, way to go!” Simpson nodded and replied,
“Thanks. I think I know the deliveries he’s talking about. Dan mentioned that he and some of the guys
had to do some real scrambling to make that happen. I’m glad it worked out.” As he spoke, his cell phone
began ringing, and he said before walking away, “I’d better take this. Talk to you later.”

As Coglin watched him go, he thought about Simpson’s nonchalant reaction. It was not too surprising that
he was so low-key about earning praise from a tough customer. Simpson seemed to prefer to maintain an
even keel at all times. It did not matter if things were going well, badly or somewhere in between,

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Simpson just focused on the next thing that he needed to get done. His steady drive had always seemed to
be a key strength, but recent events now made Coglin wonder if he was still the kind of manager House,
Hearth and Home needed to stay competitive.
A couple of months earlier, Coglin had brought in a new employee, Boyd, as assistant yard manager to
help Simpson run things. Boyd started at noon and stayed till closing, well after Simpson had left for the
day. Coglin had not done any recruiting for this position – Boyd was a personal friend he had known for
years and with whom he played hockey and sometimes cards. When Coglin heard Boyd had been laid off
from his job, he decided to offer him a position at House, Hearth, and Home to help him out. He had
placed him under Simpson in the yard as an assistant manager because that area seemed to be a source of
problems, and he thought Simpson could use some extra help.
Coglin knew some employees might question his decision to bring in a buddy; no one liked it when some
friend of the boss got special treatment. Coglin also knew he did not want to lose Boyd as a friend
because of any issues at work. Overall, there was no question that hiring a friend could be a dangerous
proposition and a risk he had not taken lightly. However, now that a bit of time had gone by, Coglin had
to conclude that the risk seemed to be paying off, that Boyd was doing some great things.
There was no doubt that Simpson was a good manager; for the most part, the yard ran pretty well. But
while he was apt to simply trust that the 15 employees in that area would get their jobs done, Boyd had
been much more involved. He had been getting everyone pumped up on the importance of their work and
of keeping commitments to customers. Contractors had long memories; each and every delay or messed-
up order could hurt the reputation of House, Hearth, and Home. On the other hand, there were lots of
hidden opportunities to wow the customer. Boyd tried to make the employees see that every small action
could have significant repercussions. This was contrary to the old approach, which was “stuff happens.”
Coming from a large organization that had had to shut down, throwing hundreds of people out of work,
Boyd could talk from experience about the importance of paying attention to what really mattered. After a
few short weeks, most of the yard workers, even the part-timers, started to act as if what they did
It probably helped that Boyd himself acted as if every order was the most important one of the week. He
regularly skipped breaks or stayed late to make sure every customer went away satisfied. He would jump
in his own car to run something out to a job site if the trucks were all being used. When the crew faced an
especially busy day, he brought coffees to rally them and often bragged to customers that this team
always came through.
Boyd also seemed to be good at developing relationships with the employees. He tried to find out what
was driving them and would pull for anyone who wanted to contribute. He had been coaching a couple of
them how to take charge of the yard on weekends. They all knew they were there to do a physical job;
Boyd challenged them to use their minds to do the job better.
The new approach did not fly with some of the staff members, though. Certain people – mostly the
underperformers – seemed to prefer being left alone. Before Boyd came, there had been many times
when an employee screwed up a big order but never heard a word about it; Simpson would often quietly
send another employee over to the job site with the correct materials. Sometimes Coglin had seen
employees directly contravene a policy, but Simpson would let it go to avoid a fight unless Coglin pushed
him to do otherwise.
In contrast, Boyd made a point of confronting any employee who did not follow directions. If they had a
good reason for doing things differently, he would readily change the procedure or work with the
employee to reach a compromise that met the needs of the employee and the organization.

Last Updated on March 23, 2018

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