First Impressions, Inc. (A)
9 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008
Judy Wiles, president and owner of First Impressions, Inc., needs new ideas to market her temporary-food-service employment agency to lucrative private accounts in suburban Detroit. In the A case, Wiles, a member of a minority group, encounters overtly racist behavior, which spurs her to implement changes to her marketing plan. The B case supplies a new twist: Wiles decides to hire a white front man to present the "public face" of her company. The A and B cases present an exciting forum to discuss the conflict between "values and profits," and the C case provides the dramatic epilogue. A teaching note is available to registered faculty, along with a video supplement to enhance student learning.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS, INC. (A)
Judy Wiles was president and owner of First Impressions, Inc., in Detroit, Michigan. By 1999, Wiles had built the company to become the lead sheep of the flock among temporary food service employment agencies in the state. Yet her competitors held most of the market in the private club and party scene predominately located in the suburbs. Wiles was troubled with the realization that having technical superiority did not mean First Impressions would always get the deal. She was aware that social capital like whom you golfed with or what parties you were invited to often influenced who got the business. Most troubling was her own analysis that her face and voice, as a woman of color, were barriers to market entry. She removed her round–rimmed reading glasses as she rubbed her temple.
Judy Wiles: President of First Impressions
Judy Wiles was working as a trainer and waitress for TGI Fridays and found she was constantly training people. It was the nature of the business that, on any shift, one or more employees would not show up. Wiles also knew that once trained, servers would work a week or two and then quit—food industry workers tended to be very transient. Restaurants and caterers persistently had a problem maintaining consistent reliable, competent employees. Wiles remembered telling her boss, “There ought to be some kind of service you can call instead of wasting your money training people who are not going to stay.” And as soon as she said it, “This a little light went off in my head.” Wiles started calling around to restaurants and hotel kitchens to ask whether they would use an on call service that readily provided staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The response was overwhelmingly positive with statements like “Of course I would where are they…give me the company's number.”
So Wiles enrolled in, and graduated from, a community education program at Wayne State University (WSU) that targeted women and minorities and offered marketing, sales, and accounting classes. WSU was located in the heart of Detroit. Wiles developed a five-year business plan with over 200 pages and set her goal to establish First Impressions, Inc., as a professional, trustworthy alternative agency that offered temporary employees to the food service industry.
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Keywords: business ethics, business planning, cultural conflict, growth management, marketing strategy, personal values, women in business, crosscultural behavior
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