Book Smarts

Broken Windows, Broken Business: How the Smallest Remedies Reap the Biggest Rewards, by Michael Levine, Grand Central Publishing, $13.99 (170 pages)

Michael Levine’s book is based on a theory contending that something considered as minor as a broken window actually sends an important message to people who see it. If it’s left in disrepair, the message is that no one cares and so it’s acceptable to cause damage. Repairing the window sends the message that a standard level of performance and image must be adhered to.

The Broken Window Theory was introduced in 1982 by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an article entitled "Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety." Their theory became famous when the strategy was successfully applied to help turn around a declining New York City.

Levine examines the principles of the Broken Window Theory as they apply to businesses. His insight identifies opportunities for improvement that exist in our businesses but we may overlook because they are "no big deal."

The author contends that simple issues are, in many cases, easy to fix but if left unattended can grow into full-fledged problems that lead to business decline. Fine-jewelry retailers find examples of this in things like dirty storefronts, aged inventory, or associates who only randomly perform tasks required of them.

Two noteworthy quotes from Levine’s book are: "It is your customer’s perception of your business that will dictate his or her level of loyalty to your business. Make one mistake, and you can damage that perception" and "Broken windows are best repaired before they break."

Even the finest retailers experience an occasional broken window. The most successful retailers take a systematic approach to recognizing and repairing their broken windows. Take the time to read this book. The message is simple but powerful. Apply the principles held within and ensure your store is the "masterpiece," not the "monstrosity" in the neighborhood.


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