An Example Of How Poor Execution Can Ruin A Great Idea

It seems to me that most often the people with the big ideas get the most credit. Come up with a great marketing or advertising campaign and everyone will remember it and you’ll get a pat on the back and be labeled a genius. Come up with some out of the box ideas for your company and you’ll be labeled a “forward thinker” and viewed as a potential leader moving forward. While those things certainly aren’t bad at all, the generation of a brilliant idea alone isn’t enough to be successful. The second part of the process that it vital for an idea to be brilliant and successful is the execution.

There’s always been a debate between Lowe’s and Home Depot. It’s like Pepsi versus Coke, or iOS versus Android. Based on my past shopping experiences and interactions with each brand, I must say that I prefer Lowe’s at the moment. I had one really interesting experience involving both brands a while back, and you can read about it here. Hearing about the Home Depot Kids Workshop from my brother-in-law made me think that I had to change my view about Home Depot. I was told that the kids workshop would be something my son, Derek, would love to try. After putting it off for a couple of months I finally decided to take Derek to Home Depot for the workshop.

Having kids build things like this is a great idea!
Teaching kids to build things like this is a great idea!

The idea of having a kids workshop is a really good one. The way Home Depot sells it is that the kids get to come in and build something from scratch using tools, and upon completion they get a certificate and a pin specific the project they finished. The pin is supposed to be put on an apron that they get when they come to the workshop. The kids get to keep the aprons (they have their names on them), and they wear them each time they come back. The workshops teach kids how to use some basic tools, and the end result is that the kids get to take home a cool thing they’ve made. The workshops also give parents an opportunity to work on a project with their children with materials and open space that they might have readily available at home.

If executed well, the kids come home with a great experience , want to come back, and show off the apron, pin, and certificate to all of their friends, which will encourage their friends to want to come along next time. This would lead to more trips to the location for parents who will have a great feeling about the brand and be inclined to make purchases since they’re already at the store. That’s IF the idea is executed well.

Unfortunately at the Home Depot location that I chose to go to, this was not the case. When I arrived at the location on the date that was posted by Home Depot at the start time, there were no signs pointing me where to go. Another parent and I had to go and ask someone where the kids workshop was being held. When we got to the designated location, there still was no indication of where the workshop was going to be set up, so we had to ask another employee of they knew where it would be. This person had to call back up to the front desk to find out what the plan was, and to his credit he turned out to be pretty helpful considering what we found out next.

What we found out was that the person who was responsible for running the kids workshop at this particular Home Depot location was not in the store that day. In fact, not only was he not in the store and busy doing something else, we were told that he didn’t even know that this workshop was on the schedule. This last bit of information seemed ridiculous as more parents and kids started showing up and the more other employees encouraged us to keep coming on the first Saturday of each month for future workshops.

But that aside, we were there for the workshop and we were going to stay for it. And as I mentioned, the gentleman that was kind enough to call the front desk and help us out did his best to start the workshop. He went and got folding tables for the kids to work on, set up the tools, paint, brushes, and project kits, and then had to go back to his real assignment for the day. Other people from various departments came over to help too, since most of them weren’t familiar with the workshops we were able to overlook their lack of experience in return for genuine help.

Whoever sets up these workshops though should rethink what they’re doing. You cannot expect kids to hammer nails into wooden blocks on a plastic folding table. The tables shake and aren’t strong enough for you to actually get the whole nail into the block of wood. So instead of hammering on the tables, we had to use the floor. Using the floor isn’t a problem, unless the location of the workshop is not in a space solely dedicated to the workshop. Parents and kids were on the floor in the middle of aisles working on the project, in the way of people trying to get back and forth in the store. Also to accommodate the number of kids that show up, more than three tables need to be set up. Parents and kids are literally climbing over each other for things. Having a dedicated space only for the workshop should have been a priority when executing this idea.

Certificate and pin from Home Depot. The pin is supposed to be put on the apron they give each kid.
Certificate and pin from Home Depot. The pin is supposed to be put on the apron they give each child.

Lastly, the biggest misstep was the fact that this Home Depot location did not have aprons for the new kids. And apparently it wasn’t the first time. I overheard another parent comment that the last time they came they weren’t given aprons either. The reason, or excuse, we were given was that the shipment of aprons didn’t come in on time, and when asked if they knew when it would come in the reply was that they didn’t know. I found this to be a pretty lame excuse because it wasn’t like this workshop was randomly scheduled.

My feeling is that the apron is an important part of the kids workshop idea. Not only does it give the kids a place to put their pins and show them off like badges, but it also gives the kids something else to play with when they get home. The apron has a long lasting value than whatever project the kids work on that day, and it’s a great marketing tool as well. It would have been a great conversation starter whenever anyone visits and I’m sure that Derek would have shown it off to his friends. But now we’ll have to wait for next time, if there is a next time. In the meantime the pin and certificate that Derek got sits on a table, trying not to get lost.

So while the idea of having a kids workshop is a good one, poor execution really made the experience not a pleasant one for me. If anything, it made me less confident in Home Depot than I was before. And because of this experience I decided to see if Lowe’s had a similar offering for kids, which they do. Unfortunately for me, the next Lowe’s kids workshop is already fully booked at the locations nearest to my home, probably because theirs is a better experience. Does it make me want to settle for the one back at the Home Depot again next month? Nope. Not at all. I can find something else for Derek and I to do on our own.

UPDATE 10/6/14: Thankfully Home Depot monitors their Twitter account. They responded to my tweet telling them about the aprons not being available and asked me for my mailing address so they can send one to my son. I am thankful for that.

UPDATE 10/7/14: Received a phone call from Home Depot Customer Care telling me that I should go into the store and speak with the manager about the next shipment of aprons. When I asked the representative if they could just ship me the apron they said it was not possible. Then I mentioned to them that the Home Depot Twitter account said they could do that and asked for my mailing address. To which the representative replied that they would look into it and that I should still try and visit the store. Yeah, I don’t think so. Looks like Home Depot’s customer service isn’t lined up with their social team. And I sent a follow up tweet to see if my email was received and have had no response.

UPDATE 10/8/14: The Home Depot social team came through and sent Derek an apron and some other things too, plus a handwritten note hoping that he enjoys the stuff and hopes he’ll be back for the November workshop. This is my second time the Home Depot corporate social team has turned a negative from the store into a positive. Well done Home Depot! Here’s what happened next.

4 thoughts on “An Example Of How Poor Execution Can Ruin A Great Idea

    1. Well at least they monitor their social accounts. Looks like they’re going to send me an apron for my son. I appreciate that. But I agree with you, following through on the details is important and would avoid situations like this.

    2. Looks like the customer service team and social team aren’t on the same wavelength. Customer service tells me that they can’t send an apron and is taken by surprise when I tell them that their social team says they can.

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