Mark Grimm


Communication Key to Alpin Haus Success

What does it take to keep a family business going for nearly 50 years?  A big part of the secret is good communication.

Alpin Haus began as a little ski shop in 1964 in tiny Amsterdam, NY and is now one of the Northeast’s top outdoor recreation retailers.

Andy Heck

Its president, Andy Heck, points to its communication culture as one of the keys to success. He spoke to a Consulting Alliance audience in Albany.

“We outfriendly the competition,” says Heck. “If you’re not outgoing and friendly you can’t work at Alpin Haus.” Employees are expected to share their enthusiasm for their products (RV’s, skis, boats, etc) with customers.

Alpin Haus has opened up staff meetings to all employees and, with the exception of the most sensitive financial data, all issues are on the table. Heck says he wants employees to “tell us what we need to hear.”  The same holds true for customers with the retailer’s longstanding policy to “face a crisis head on. Don’t hide from it.”

There is evidence the approach is working. Alpin Haus has grown to more than 200 employees, won numerous Best Place to Work awards and Heck says 20 employees who once left the business for greener pastures have eventually returned.

There are other ingredients in the successful stew, such as being willing to adapt, allowing employees to make decisions on the spot and managing the obstacles well (the economy, weather, etc). They “do what it takes” to create a pleasurable experience for those who use their products.

But good communication is always a staple. Hard to argue with success.

The writer owns a company involved with message strategy and improving communication skills. Feel free to call on him for help.