Most retailers offer training on sales tactics, inventory control, or perhaps how to handle irate customers. Pirch teaches its employees how to work joyfully.
Pirch, which aims to be the Tesla
of kitchen and bath stores, encourages customers to experience its luxury wares in showrooms designed to create wonder and want. Bring your bathing suit and soak in a $20,000 granite bathtub. Or take a cooking class to try out a $100,000 La Cornue Grand Palais stove.
Pirch urges all to “live joyfully,” and sayings from its manifesto—“Play more, think less,” “Be crazy about something,” and “Forgive”—are featured in every store. That may sound like touchy-feely sloganeering, but it’s the core of the company’s philosophy.
As CEO Jeffery Sears sees it, retailers have done a poor job of connecting with customers. The key to selling, he says, is to forget sales and put the customer’s experience first. “Our job is to make every guest feel like their time in our store is the best part of their day, whether or not they buy anything,” he says.
It seems to be working. Pirch says its sales per square foot average more than $3,000, a figure that would place it above all but three U.S. retailers (Apple
, Murphy USA, and Tiffany), according to eMarketer. Pirch has eight locations, with a ninth scheduled to open in New York’s SoHo in May, and Sears says the company is profitable.
To learn how to bring the joy, every Pirch employee attends five days of training. What’s perhaps unique is that it focuses on the human aspects and not on nuts-and-bolts skills, such as using the company’s software, which is left to each store to teach. “Our training is about investing in the people who represent the culture we define,” says Sears. “The emotion of the stores emanates from the smiles on people’s faces and the passion they have about serving others. You can’t sustain a culture unless you have a foundation from the training first.”
The process is led by Mark Tomaszewicz, Pirch’s “ambassador of joy” (who’s also in charge of human resources). It explores the company’s 23 “elements of joy” and how those principles should guide actions. “We give permission for people to act differently than in other workplaces,” Tomaszewicz says. “We teach empathy as a business model, whether it’s talking with a colleague or a customer.”
Exercises in gratitude bring out emotional stories, bonding employees. Half a day is spent with the CEO, who gives frank answers to personal questions that can be painful to share, teaching the importance of building trust with customers. Visits are made to different luxury retailers to understand the impact individuals have on a customer’s experience.
For Steven Loria, an assistant store director in Glendale, Calif., the training was unlike any he’d had. Loria, who has managed CVS
and Lamps Plus stores and owned a company, says the human focus creates a rare sense of belonging. “When I was interviewed for this job, I was asked, ‘Name three qualities that describe you,’ ” he recalls. (Loria cited empathy, integrity, and love.) “That had nothing to do with my qualifications for a job. But our corporate culture is about who people are, not what skill sets they have. To me, this is not a job. It’s my life, and I live it joyfully every day.”
A version of this article appears in the January 1, 2016 issue of Fortune.