"Customers are family," says Mitch Cochran, respectfully known as “Mr. Mitch” to many in the community of Cleveland, Tennessee. He is well regarded as a “people person” – both in his Food City store and in his neighborhood. Cochran’s communications skills are his strength, most evident in how he works with his team. He invests in new hires to ensure their success, and he’s involved in every facet of hiring and new employee orientation. Validating the authenticity of his approach to business and his customers, Cochran’s average Mystery Shopper score in 2017 was an impressive 96 percent.
In particular, Cochran sets expectations by cross-training most team members on multiple duties throughout the store (thus limiting overtime expenses). He also adopted a succession plan for supervisory roles, and he is always on the lookout for ways to create upward mobility for his team members.
But his people skills are even better demonstrated with his customers, often offering them a ride home if they need it, greeting them in the parking lot and even visiting them if they experience a personal challenge or misfortune.
Cochran’s volunteer efforts have led to him being awarded the International Association of Fire Fighters’ Distinguished Achievement Award three times, as well as being named YMCA Volunteer of the Year in metropolitan Chattanooga, Tenn., and winning Food City’s Claude P Varney Humanitarian Award in 2017.
The good will that Cochran encourages in both his community and store has translated to good news for business, too. In 2017, his store delivered its best financial performance historically. Cochran closed out the year with a total sales increase of 9.14 percent, and sales were up 10 percent, produce 12 percent and bakery and deli nine percent.