Keep your eyes open, why? This is a story about a lady (let’s call her Mary) who works in the First Class Lounge at Cardiff Central railway station. If you have visited the lounge you will know the lady in question.

On entering the lounge there is a comfortable, but not formal, atmosphere and your eye cannot help but see an enormous aerial photograph of the city. The caption at the bottom reads “Cardiff’s best ambassador 2009”. One often sees certificates and ‘thank you’ letters from charities mentioning sums of £100 or so, but those lining the walls here are for amounts in 4 figures. Clearly there is something going on here.

Regular customers are greeted by name and their favourite drink poured for them, with stories exchanged. Clearly this is no ordinary employee (have you travelled by First Great Western trains recently?).

With my freshly brewed coffee and neatly folded newspaper in my possession, I sit back and eavesdrop on a number of conversations. It appears that the lounge is used as a waiting area for hotel guests who check out of their hotels early and still wish to browse the nearby shops. One passenger stays with the luggage and the rest shop. This obviously causes a problem.

Mary has already sorted this one out! What is needed is a left luggage office, perhaps something can be arranged together with the hotels? After all, luggage cannot be left without security scans and a scanner would be expensive. It appears that Mary is a very able intelligence gathering machine and this is not the only suggestion that she has.What happens next? To be honest, I do not know but let us consider two possibilities:

  1. The lounge is frequented by managers who like to wait for their trains in comfort. They listen to Mary who is closer to the customers than they are and go away to work out the potential benefits/impact.
  2. The lounge is frequented by managers who know everything about running a company. They do not need information from employees at the bottom of the company in order to make good business decisions.

Which of the above is closest to your situation? Which is the best for the company?

Any employee at any level might be in a position to gather information whether they are a receptionist or a delivery driver. You might need to filter large amounts of data but you must keep your eyes open or risk missing potential opportunities or even threats to your business.
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