The five-story Lansing store was one of the most productive in the whole chain. Only huge-for-the-time operations such as Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver were more profitable. This was doubly impressive because Lansing's automotive economy was quite depressed. "The reason for Lansing's success," Batten recalled, "was solely because of the manager. Jack Maynardand I almost never use this wordwas a genius with people."
Batten started in the shoe department, to the rear of the main floor. With the department manager looking on, Maynard sat him down on the first day and explained the job and what was expected. It was the only time Batten ever heard the boss give specific instructions.
Maynard finished with, "Mil, any problems, always feel free to talk to me. My office is always open to anyone here."
"Okay," said Batten.
"But say it's some sensitive issue. Say you're concerned but don't want to be associated personally with the problem. What then?"
Batten spoke too quickly: "I wouldn't be afraid to come to your office even then, Mr. Maynard."
The manager was still a good-looking man in middle age with a great smile and a mellow voice. He gave Batten an appraising look and then smiled and said, "You probably would. But let me explain what I tell every one of our associates ."
"Of course, sir," said Batten.
"If you have any complaint, even if you don't like my tie or the shine on my shoesanythingjust write it down on a slip of paper. You don't have to sign your name . Just send it to the office in the tube." Maynard gestured at one of the old pneumatic tubes for sending sales slips and cash to and from the office. "The cashier puts the notes in a shoe box and we read them at the store meeting every Thursday morning."
"Is that difficult?"
Maynard smiled again and said, "No. I don't run the meeting, the first man does. But whatever the complaint, if it's reasonable, he corrects the situation."
"You don't attend the meetings, Mr. Maynard?"
"I'm there, but I stand in back."
Batten had wanted to say more but managed to restrain himself. Already, though, he understood that Maynard's methods were unusual. He quickly saw that the first man was completely in charge day to day. Maynard held him responsible for the operation of the store, its merchandising , most personnel, and everything else. But Batten saw as well that, somehow, Maynard's presence was everywhere, that his control was absolute without his seeming to exercise much authority at all. Fifty years later Batten looked back on his own career and said that Maynard's management techniques were the most sophisticated he ever encountered .