From the outside, it might appear that his success was due to his big plans. In 1912, for example, he built a store in Boston that was so large and well-designed that it was still in use more than 50 years later.
But in reality, his success came from keen behind-the-scenes :
- He granted opportunities to workers. Filene’s was among the first American businesses to reject nepotism and promote from within.
- He was a pioneer in market research. He instituted consumer panels, including a “college board” of students that offered advice on what kind of clothing he should sell to young customers.
- He recognized the value of employee training. Even the wait people in his store restaurants learned exactly how to place silverware on tables.
- He established a minimum living wage and paid it to female employees.
- He created a board of arbitration that allowed employees to resolve disputes with other employees without involvement, thereby creating an atmosphere of fairness through the ranks.
- He established one of the first U.S. credit unions and made low-interest loans to employees so they could buy houses and pay medical expenses without falling victim to loan sharks.
—Adapted from The Great Merchants: America’s Foremost Retail Institutions and the People Who Made Them Great, Tom Mahoney and Leonard Sloane, Harper & Row.