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Retail Company Culture

Having worked for several prominent retail organizations I have seen the impact of both positive and negative cultures on the workforce, the customers and, of course, the success of the business.

Have no doubt whatsoever, the head of the organization dictates, through words and actions, what the culture will be.

I want to tell you about the incredible culture created by a CEO, and a gentleman, I’ll call Sam.

For three years, I had the opportunity to work for the company that this man headed up before he decided to sell his successful enterprise to a large, old school retailer.

We were all very happy for him.

This sale was going to mean a lot more time for he and his wife to travel and generally enjoy life after a lot of years of hard work and dedication to their business.

We were saddened to be losing such a great leader but we knew he deserved the rest and we wished him well.

Those three years were perhaps the most rewarding and educational years of my entire career, one that spans over twenty years.

The company was managed in such a way that you had no choice but to feel like an important part of it.

No employee was ever treated like a number, unworthy of receiving up to date communication on what was happening within the company.

The executive were always aware of the impact their actions would have on store personnel and customers.

In this company everyone understood where, and by whom, sales were made and every effort was made to include input from the field whenever important decisions were being made that would affect employees or customers.

The man I speak of did not always have a successful company on his hands. At one time, as I understand, the company had been on the brink of failure.

He, and his loyal employees managed to save it.

It was quite a feat, requiring dedication, a new direction and a new way of being. Sam did many, many things to move his company in the right direction.

To detail all of them would require a book, which I hope he will write some day, and a lot more information than I have available to me.

I did not know this man as well as some of my colleagues did but I know, for certain, that he is a man with integrity.

If he says it, you can take it to the bank.

By the time I came on board the company was doing very well. A brand new culture had been built. That’s right…built.

Culture is something you build with every word you say and every action you take. A positive culture does not come about by accident.

It takes a lot of soul searching and checking with people and just when you think you have it all figured out you have to check again.

It takes the ability and the willingness to know and admit that you don’t know everything and you don’t have all the answers.

It takes a desire to get input and feedback from the people affected by a given situation.

It takes the guts to take action to fix something that’s not working. It takes coaching and loyalty and lending a hand to those who need it.

It takes understanding that people don’t make mistakes because they want to.

It takes a firm, but kind, word to someone who messes up. It takes the ability to foster a feeling of belonging among those who are in your business family.

Sam certainly did all of these things and he worked tirelessly to ensure his executive and management teams did also.

Store Managers were invited, and expected, to have an impact on the whole organization and not just their own store.

If she made a request there were only two acceptable outcomes.

1) The request was granted and a date for completion was to be given or

2) The request was not granted and the reasons were explained.

It did not stop there if the Store Manager was not satisfied with the outcome. She was never expected to settle for an answer that did not satisfy her.

The process that ensued was one of open and on-going dialogue until either the Store Manager became convinced and was satisfied with the reason that her request could not be granted or she managed to convince her Manager that the request should be granted.

It wasn’t over just because someone said it was over.

And the company flourished. Following the news of the sale of the company, most field management stayed in place for some time.

Unfortunately, as with all good things, the culture we had come to know and love ended.

It was like a period of mourning. Executive and management moved on to new challenges and the business went straight down, at least for the short term.

The new owners will never understand what happened. There will be reasons and excuses but they all amount to nothing.

The truth, that they probably do not even realize, is that the great culture was run out of town; obviously deemed unnecessary and not worth saving.

It’s that simple and it’s such a shame.

Those of us who lived in Sam’s environment clearly understand what happened when he and his carefully chosen team were no longer at the helm.

The key to sustaining a successful business is to RESPECT the culture — after all, the business is secretly thriving on it; OBSERVE carefully, for a time, and then ACT appropriately.

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Conversion Nightmare

Retail Customer Service Fundamentals —

Test your retail management analytical and problem solving skills.

Here’s the case store situation:

In a busy regional mall, which has been operating for approximately 30 years, and which has undergone several renovations, there is one very unusually positioned store.

The store sells women’s lingerie. It is part of a well known, multi-national chain which does very well.

The store volume is pretty good and they are above average in meeting targets for sales and most other KPI’s.

The one KPI they do not ever meet is conversion.

They are always below chain, region and district average in their percentage of achievement in this particular KPI.

Although they do many things well, they just cannot meet their Conversion targets.

The Store Manager and staff believe they know what the problem is.

The store is situated at one tip of the triangular shaped mall. For ease of access to the rest of the mall, this store has entrance/exit doors on both sides.

On both sides, the doors lead to the hallways of the mall with stores located across the hallways. The store does not have an outside access door…only mall access.

Directly across from one of the doors is a convenience store which sell all kinds of things…from milk and bread to souvenirs, lottery tickets to o-t-c medicine and skincare products.

It’s a very busy store that does not have an access door from the mall parking lot. The closest parking is located just the other side of our case study store.

The only way for people to get to the convenience store without walking all the way around the mall, is to cut through our lingerie store.

And, they do that in huge numbers…to get TO the convenience store and to get FROM there back to the parking lot.

Imagine the chaos. Imagine the traffic counter working overtime!

Needless to say the 28 year old Mom who is running in to pick up some Children’s Tylenol to take care of her sick toddlers high fever, is not going to be enticed to stop and shop for lingerie regardless of the promotions or the sales associate who is standing on her head trying to make it so.

And, the 79 year old gentleman who buys lottery tickets every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, week in and week out, is not considering purchasing lingerie for his sweetheart.

But, what about the woman who is going to pick up some milk while she is at the mall shopping for shoes?

Or, the guy who is going to get some chocolates from the convenience store three days before Valentine’s Day?

The executive continue to lament the lack of conversion in our lingerie store and refuse to lower the target.

  • Is the Store Manager making excuses?
  • Is the Conversion Rate set too high?
  • What should it be?
  • Has the unusual traffic situation already been taken into account?
  • Is there some wild and crazy way to stop these ‘walk through’ people and get them to buy something?

This situation illustrates the obvious requirement to know the facts before accusing the staff for lack of performance.

More stories like this at

Back to Basics

A brand new market reality is upon us and, naturally, most retailers want to lift their performance up a notch compared to last year.

How big a jump that’s going to be depends on the overall goals and objectives of the business.

Whatever the number is, reviewing the fundamentals of your retail operation is in order.

Retail Employee Evaluation System —

At DMSRetail, when it comes to performance, we place the highest degree of importance on people.

When all things are equal, people make a big difference.

In fact people make a huge difference even when everything else is not equal.

We have seen stores out performing other stores that are located in much larger market areas with higher average income levels within the same retail chain.

Therefore our first recommendation is to take a close look at the people oriented aspects of your operation.

Here are some of them:


Hiring the right caliber of people is crucial to your success in retail management, perhaps more so than in any other industry.

Every single one of your hiring decisions, as a Store Manager, District Manager or Regional Manager or a Business Owner will speak volumes about your organization and your personal values and abilities.

In retail there is no such thing as hiding behind a desk or a cubicle for any employee and, thus, for their Manager.

A simple but very effective way of hiring the right people is modeling.

Develop a sufficiently detailed profile of your most successful person and look for and hire people who fit that profile as closely as possible even if it means paying a few dollars more; you will be rewarded multiple times over in terms of elevated performance and lack of headaches.

Pure and simple.


Everybody seems to know how important training is, yet most retail managers give it only lip service.

One of the major reasons for the high degree of customer dissatisfaction and resulting lost sales in the retail industry is poorly trained employees who do not have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

An important part of the training must be clear communication of goals, objectives and expectations in full detail.

Measurements in terms of sales numbers, customer satisfaction index and other performance indicators should be on paper and staff must be verbally quizzed regularly to make sure they know all the expectations and their individual performance against those expectations at any given time.

Performance Evaluation:

If you have installed the performance expectations correctly, then evaluation of staff performance is a simple and straight forward process.

If your staff is performing above expectations, all you have to do is stretch the expectations a little and support them with a pat on the back, prizes and other monetary and non-monetary rewards to keep them going higher and higher.

On the other hand, if they are not performing, there are usually 2 fundamental reasons:

a) Lack of skills
b) Lack of right attitude

Lack of skills is fairly easy to deal with — it means that they have to go back to training.

Dealing with a bad attitude can range from difficult to very complex.

If you followed our advice on hiring, you should not be suffering from bad attitude disease.

In any case, here are possible dimensions of an attitude problem:

a) Management-induced dimensions: incompetent managers almost always create an atmosphere where staff does not care anymore.

If manager to staff communication is poor and/or too seldom, the staff will feel neglected and if the situation continues for any length of time, the feeling will turn into a bad attitude.

Another management- induced dimension occurs when the manager doesn’t know how to motivate or doesn’t want to motivate, or both.

This again, will ultimately result in a bad attitude.

The management-induced bad attitude list can be a long one and will result in severe lack of performance of the store.

b) Lack of self motivation: Some people suffer from chronic lack of self confidence, often as a result of poor upbringing and lack of education.

Unless you are a psychologist ( which you probably aren’t) or have a ton of free time on your hands (which you don’t) this is a tough nut to crack.

Your best bet is probably to part ways.

c) Personal issues: these can be anywhere from physical convenience issues like living far from the workplace and not having dependable transportation to personal family dramas that may be affecting the individual’s focus, devotion and behavior resulting in lack of performance.

Your ‘all around high performers’ are your most valuable asset.

They are your goodwill ambassadors, your spokespersons; they create your image and your fine reputation.

They build relationships with your customers and they can turn them into customers for life.

They sell your products.

Because of the impact they have, you owe it to yourself and your business to hire, train and evaluate people with the utmost care and attention.

The bottom line is you have to be very aware of people performance issues and you have to be equipped to deal with those issues if you want to make this year your best year ever.

You can find our Retail Employee Evaluation System You can Use to Improve Performance in Retail Business Academy:

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Another Day in the Life of a Retail Customer

A recent shopping trip to a store — one of many stores in a large, well recognized chain — indicated clearly, that a performance culture does not exist in that organization.

I have shopped at several of their locations to purchase things for my home and car, for camping supplies, for Christmas lights and decorations, etc.

I can’t say I have ever been really impressed with the service level offered, but I usually found what I was looking for and paid a reasonable price for it.

They sell major brands and can generally be counted on to stand behind the merchandise they sell.

It’s easy to determine, very quickly, whether or not a performance culture exists in a retail company.

If it doesn’t exist, some customers will not recognize it for what it is — they will just be dissatisfied and leave with a bad impression.

On this particular occasion I was looking for a small appliance for the home.

I found coffee makers and mixers and toasters and just about every small appliance you can think of.

What I was looking for, however, was not on the shelves — an electric can opener. That’s a pretty basic small appliance for the home, wouldn’t you agree?

This chain has been in business for many, many years and, in my wildest dreams, I could not imagine that they would not have an electric can opener for sale.

So, assuming that I was just not looking in the right place, I sought out an employee to help me.

To be fair, I must tell you that there was a lot of merchandising going on at the time.

Not that their merchandising schedule should be my concern because customers should never take a back seat to any task being performed in a store.

But it did add to the confusion.

Anyway, the associate I found to help me definitely tried to help me find an electric can opener.

He was somewhat embarrassed because he was certain they had them, he just didn’t know where they were.

He was communicating via headset and tried several times to contact someone who would know where electric can openers were merchandised.

He offered his apologies, for the delay and confusion, while I followed him around and around the small appliances department.

In the end, he said that he was pretty sure they had can openers but no one knew where they were. He was sorry.

This was an excellent example of the lack of a performance culture.

The associate was definitely a performance oriented individual but his colleagues and superiors — the ones he contacted for help — were not.

In a truly performance oriented company, they would all have been on the same page. They would all have worked to find the electric can openers.

The loss of a sale of one electric can opener will not break the company.

But you can be sure that this was not just an isolated incident. When the lost sales add up we all know what the result can be.

Retailers who had been around for years are now gone.

A performance culture must be well defined, well communicated and constantly nurtured.

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Amazing Little Store vs. Sluggish Giant

Today, we’re going to look at an important, but often ignored, part of running a profitable business…

… using a couple of enlightening (and very brief) anecdotes from my recent shopping adventures.

Let’s call this lesson: Amazing Little Store vs. Sluggish Giant.

See if you can spot how the following short story may apply to YOUR business…

OK, here we go.

In my line of work, I am required to shop a lot! For everything.

Over the past few months I’ve been doing a study on two markets…or grocery stores…in a city of about 500,000 people commonly referred to as Forest City, although that is not its name.

In Forest City, there is an affluent area which is well served by many retailers; chains and independents.

Now, the Sluggish Giant is a huge place — one of a large chain of other Sluggish Giants — but we are focusing on just one in this story.

It was built with selection and one stop shopping in mind.

As with other huge places, they have a pharmacy, an electronics department, a house wares department…you can get bedding, pots and pans, and garbage cans.

In fact, as I am writing I am hard pressed to come up with anything they don’t have when it comes to everyday needs in the course of running a household.

This Sluggish Giant is clean and modern, well signed, well merchandised (for the most part) and is generally well prepared for the public.

Oh… and prices are reasonable.

They even offer cooking classes and have a fitness club attached; a dry cleaners and a little kiosk where you can purchase a bottle of wine.

So, one could say the ‘product’ was great; product being the building, the offering and the whole store environment.

And, as I mentioned above, the prices are reasonable. I might even say they were good, but not cheap….not a bargain or anything like that.

I do have complaints about the Sluggish Giant, though… but not because of the stuff they sell, the prices or the basics they deliver like a clean and tidy environment, etc.

And I’ll get back to the complaints later on.

Now, let’s introduce the Amazing Little Store.

What a place. Lots of good things to say about The Amazing Little Store, but it is quite small and limited in selection due to its size.

There is no pharmacy, no wine store, no dry cleaners, no house wares or electronics department…you get the picture.

In fact, you cannot buy bleach or pet food there. It is definitely not a one stop shop.

Mr. & Mrs. Affluent of Forest City shop regularly at The Amazing Little Store…often. It’s crowded most of the time.

The shopping carts are miniature versions of the Sluggish Giants’ shopping carts. And they have to be, or you’d never be able to maneuver in the place.

Prices are not over the top at The Amazing Little Store, but they’re higher than usual…for everything.

I forgot to mention they have a small flower shop (with higher priced floral bouquets and arrangements) and a ready to go Sushi stand.

The produce is fresher, bigger and shinier!

Here’s a biggie…they have so much staff in the store it’s almost inconceivable compared to any other retailer.

But they do so much business they surely will not have a wage cost problem. There are 16 people working behind the scenes in the salad area.

Those people are working all day long making fresh salads of all types…and they are selling them like they are going out of style.

A final small delight…you can enjoy a free cup of coffee while wheeling your miniature cart around looking at every square inch of shelf and counter space, lest you miss some new and tantalizing foods.
No time to travel? Don’t want to incur extra expenses for accommodation, transportation and meals normally associated with top quality training? We’ve got a business changing solution for that.
DMSRetail’s Ultimate Retail Success Collection
Now… here’s where the lesson comes in.

While the Sluggish Giant shines as an overall supplier to the household shopper, the staff and customer service policies are disastrous.

It wouldn’t be possible for any customer to think highly of them.

Certainly, many people shop at Sluggish Giant because it’s a huge market that is close to home and has just about everything they need… but that doesn’t mean they would be loyal if they had another option that provided the same things.

So, watch out Sluggish Giant, your future is probably not so bright.

They want you to do everything for yourself. They want you to use self checkout — where there is always a long line up.

If you do want a cashier to check you through, you will wait in an even longer line up. And here is the kicker…even if you are not at self check out…you will self pack!

That is, they do not pack your groceries in the bags (yours or theirs).

No, they just let the groceries pile up on the conveyor belt waiting for you to get the hint that you are supposed to be performing part of their job.

I can’t go on about this or we’ll never get through this lesson.

They are trying to save labor dollars. Well, good for them. Any well run business would pay attention to costs.

But, even though they are not a ‘no frills’ environment with dead cheap prices, they believe that I am supposed to help them out in their quest for wage savings! Really?

Perhaps they need to do a little more thinking about their business. I’m not inclined to help them and I don’t think many other people are either.

Here’s just one small example — one of many similar things that happened to me in that store …one of my items being scanned by the robotic cashier at the Sluggish Giant was ripped open at the bottom (and it was clear that a customer could not have caused this particular damage) — I don’t want packaged food that is not properly packaged, so I asked the cashier to call someone to replace it.

He nodded. A few moments later, because no one came to the desk, I reminded him.

He said “you should just go and get another one yourself”. (Just so you know, I did not go and get it and there was quite the little upset at that young man’s cash desk.)

And all of this from a fellow with a smock that has “Need Help? — Just Ask Me” emblazoned in huge, bold, colorful letters on his back!

And it just ticked me off that the staff members seem to have taken classes in offending customers. The staff members I encountered all need attitude adjustments.

But, alas, there is no management person, working at Sluggish Giant, who will take care of that. They just don’t get it!

If it weren’t so sad and annoying it would be hilarious!

Hey — I realize this isn’t earth shaking stuff.

You may be saying ‘so what’ if I have to pack my own stuff and ‘so what’ if I have to replace a ripped package (because it’s my fault that it’s ripped???).

But that’s the point of this little story.

It’s the little, lousy ’so what’ stuff that actually leaves the biggest impression.

This got me thinking about customer service delivery.

Over at The Amazing Little Store, the staff members are like long-lost family. The cashiers are always smiling and always make you feel like they are glad you are there.

And, guess what? You’re not going to believe this. They have 9 cash desks and, when needed, 9 cashiers. And what might be the reason for all this?

Well, gee, it’s probably to ensure that customers don’t have to wait in line to exit the store.

They love me!!! They’re happy that I shop here. And… they respect my time!!!

The life-time value of a customer is what counts and this little store has got me for life…or as long as I live in this city.

Remember, it’s not that first sale. It’s all the repeat purchases that build a successful business model.

Good business savvy demands over-the-top excellent customer service… all the way down the line.

It costs you a lot of money to acquire a new customer.

Have you ever tried to figure out just how much it costs, to acquire one new customer, in advertising and other promotional costs? Probably you haven’t.

And you probably haven’t tried to figure out how much of your profit comes from your loyal customers.

Well, at least you should understand that your loyal, repeat customers are giving you most of your profit. Think about it.

Without the loyal customer, who would pay for the marketing and advertising to get the new customer??

I probably won’t shop at Sluggish Giant again. They have what I need but I don’t like to shop there — I don’t FEEL good when I shop there.

They don’t like me or respect my time. Even if I do shop there again, I could never be considered one of their loyal customers.

So it’s worth noting that even a great product, at a great price…can be nullified by rotten customer service.

And it’s also worth noting that another place — like the Amazing Little Store — can leave you with great feelings about the experience, making you want to go back again and again even if you have to stop elsewhere to pick up the other things you need.

Convenience is not top of the list, but that’s ok.

So the perfect mix is: Great product, great value for the money…
… and great customer service.

It’s not brain surgery.

Apart from providing great service up front, if your customer has a problem, they better get personal service fast.

You will never make everyone happy, of course. You’ll always have unpredictable problems that just crank some folks so much it damages the relationship forever.

It happens.

And we’ll always see a very tiny percentage of strange customers who cannot ever be satisfied, because they’re nut jobs. Yes, some people are!

I came up through the ranks knowing that customer service can make or break a project; and a business.

Some businesses out there say “whatever”, and accept huge refund rates because they just don’t want to bother with good customer relations.

I don’t recommend that model. It’s a slippery slope all the way to bankruptcy.

Truly resilient success is built on having a killer product… supported by equally killer customer service.

The customer may not always be right… but that’s the right attitude to start out with when dealing with someone.

It’s a huge lesson. Great product, great service. Anything else just doesn’t make sense.

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14 Steps of Time Management for Retail Managers

Retail is Different When it Comes to (trying to) Manage Time

But, there are a few Tried, Tested and True Steps that can Make Your Life Easier

We left out things that do not apply to people who work in the field in retail and other service industries…those who cannot simply close the office door or get to the bottom of their inbox by working late!!

Here you go…

14 Time Management Steps for Success:

1.) Know what you’re doing — Make a list of all of the things you routinely take care of during a normal day/week/month and assign a number of minutes or hours to each one.

This exercise will draw your attention to things that are taking up too much of your valuable time.

Awareness of this will assist you in determining which activities can be stopped altogether, delegated or combined with other activities to save time.

2.) Take a look at your personal speed and energy level — People who get a lot done are moving fast most of the time. It’s difficult, in fact, to get them to slow down. If you’re not accustomed to it, try walking through a mall with a high achieving ‘go-getter’ of a District Manager and you’ll probably be out of breath in no time!

If you find that you’re moving a little on the slow side, try putting a bit more energy into everything you do. Move a little faster each day. This applies to getting things done as well as decision making. Perhaps you could try some comfy shoes and a smaller load in the briefcase.

3.) Define what’s important to you — Goals will include, but are not limited to, your top success factors. In any case, they need to be well defined so that you can clearly see what kind of time allotment and resources will be needed to reach them. Remember, we’re talking out YOUR goals — those things that move YOUR business forward.

4.) Prioritize– Any activity or task that will not move you closer to your achievement in your top success factors is not worthy of much of your time. Keep a log of what you are doing with your time for a couple of weeks and then review it to make sure that all of your time has, in fact, been spent on top success factors. (Refer to Step #1)

5.) Work with To Do Lists — Daily or weekly, nicely prepared or scribbled…a ‘to do’ list must be created. It must include only those things that you have deemed to be priorities based on your top success factors. Others may inadvertently influence your ‘to do’ list unless you are very careful. Just remember whose ‘to do’ list it is.

For some people, having a ‘to-do’ list is as natural as having their watch or their wallet! For others, it may seem like just one more thing they have to do. So…

Why is it important to use a to do list?

  • We can’t necessarily keep everything in our memory and, even if we could, why waste the brain space when you can jot it down on paper?
  • Seeing the list of things written down on paper helps you to prioritize.
  • Any possible duplication of effort can be seen at a glance.
  • You get the satisfaction of checking things off the list as they are accomplished.

6.) Consider and Plan everything as an Appointment — Make a plan for your day, week or month and create appointments. If you plan to do something at 9:30 a.m., and have determined that ‘activity’ requires a 45 minute appointment, then do it in the 45 minutes you have scheduled it for. Appointments/scheduled activities should have a start and finish time and should not be left open ended.

7.) Squeeze time allotments — Any activity, task, project or meeting can easily expand to use up all of the time allotted to it. For this reason, you should always schedule less time than you might have thought you required. Things tend to be handled more efficiently and effectively when a tighter time frame is in place.

8.) Organize everything that matters to you — In retail, particularly if you operate in a multi-unit environment, you must be highly organized. Finding out what’s happening at which store and who is leaving and who needs training, etc….is just a typical hour in a day…a drop in the bucket!

You need a system for reducing clutter (of your space and your mind) if you are to function at top effectiveness. If your work life is full of clutter, that clutter is probably preventing you from getting things done.

Make a point of regularly clearing out junk that you don’t need or use anymore. ‘Stuff’ should be thrown out if it is not useful to you. You should schedule ‘clutter removal’ as an appointment at least once a month.

9.) Delegate — Presumably you have competent people working for you so you should be able to delegate according to their particular strengths and availability. Even if you need to break a larger project down into smaller, more manageable pieces it will help you and it will help in development your people.

You’ll need to consider these things, among others depending on your situation, when deciding what to delegate:

  • If a bad decision is made regarding this issue — what is the impact? Is it easily reversed? Will it negatively affect others? Will it be expensive, for the company, to correct or reverse?

10.) Say “NO”- Although it’s not always possible, neither is it always impossible. You need to know how to determine what you should say “no” to. If someone asks you to take on a project or task that will not necessarily advance your cause — or contribute to your top success factors — then you need to start with “no”. If you find there is no alternative but to accept the project or task, then you need to look for items on your to do list that can be moved to another time slot or ‘appointment time’ or delegated.

11.) Remain flexible and reschedule often — You will need to allow for the unexpected. The idea of planning your work and working your plan is a very good one, but you still have to remain flexible. You have to be prepared to reschedule if the situation warrants it, as any business person does. That’s not to say that you should just roll with whatever is vying for your time, but once you identify the need, then it only makes sense to be flexible.

12.) Allow yourself some scheduled down time — It doesn’t sound right but it’s important. This is what will keep you going. We can’t have every minute of every day pinned down — sometimes we have to just enjoy some quiet time….whatever that means to you. Having no time when you can do ‘whatever’ you want leads to frustration due to lack of control over your life and time.

13.) Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can — if something is important to you and your success, but seems overwhelming just remember to take some action. Put one foot in front of the other and, eventually, you will likely get where you intend to be. That holds true for accomplishing big jobs, too.

  • Break big projects into smaller pieces.
  • Get help from others.
  • Good may be fine, and perfection not necessary.
  • Take steps toward the objective rather than putting it off until you have more TIME.

14.) Take good care of yourself — go to bed at a reasonable time, wake up early and take good care of your health.

Get to the store early!

Whether it’s your own store or one of a group of stores you manage, being there early gives you time to accomplish more by the time the store opens. The early bird gets the worm! The early riser gets more done while they are still energetic. It’s a great feeling to know that you’ve accomplished half of your to do list with so much of the day still in front of you. And, look at the great example you are setting.

As far as your health goes, we don’t profess to know enough about the human body and it’s nutritional requirements to provide advice on that topic.

Suffice to say you must take good care of your health if you want to operate at the top of your game and make the best use of all of your waking hours.

Eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, schedule your regular medical check-ups and generally… kind to yourself.

Finally, remember these important rules for managing your time in retail…

  • When determining how to spend your precious time, always keep your eyes on what you need to do to achieve YOUR Top Success Factors. In the final analysis, YOU are responsible for YOUR results and making claims that you were busy doing something else — busy contributing to the success of someone else — just won’t work…nor should it.
  • Head Office personnel often want you to attend to THEIR Top Success Factors so, although you want to be helpful and cooperative, be careful of what you accept and how you prioritize those things.
  • Don’t be caught saying “I’m going to be doing…” and, instead, use your time so wisely that you will be in a position to say “I am doing…”. That’s the difference between taking action and talking about taking action. Far too many people have great intentions to get something done…but never actually do. They talk at length about what they’re going to be doing, instead of doing.
  • The #1 use of your time is to develop successful leaders by a) removing obstacles to their success b) continuously and freely sharing information with them and c) regularly engage them in an open exchange of ideas.

There is a lot more insights at

Get Out of Town – Really!

It is impossible to direct an operation without knowing how it works.

How it really works, not how it is supposed to work.

If you are in charge of a retail operation and don’t have your next out of town store visit trip booked …do it now.

It’s more important to visit out of town stores more often than you visit stores in close proximity to Head Office.

In town visits are really not as productive, for you or the company, as out of town visits.

There are many reasons for this but among the most important are familiarity and favoritism.

The home town Store Managers are usually more familiar and friendly with Head Office staff and out of town stores perceive the in town stores to be favored…true or not.

For everyone’s sake, get out of town regularly.

Call the District Manager and each of the Managers you plan to see during your trip and ask them to prepare a list of questions for you.

This call should be made by you, not your assistant.

Tell the Store Managers that no topic is off limits and that you are sincerely looking forward to hearing their ideas, answering their questions and discussing the business with them.

Make sure you let them know exactly when you will be in town and then work together to come up with the best day and time for you to meet with them in their store.

Remember that, during these visits, your schedule is much more flexible than theirs. They must consider floor coverage, breaks for staff, etc.

Let them know that you would like to do a store walk through and then meet, out of the store of course, for lunch or coffee.

After doing all of the above you will already have accomplished a great deal.

You have made a commitment to meet with certain individuals and, barring an unforeseen disaster, you will show up at the date and time agreed to.

They are counting on it; their staff members are counting on it.

The operation is important to you and, while you are out of town visiting your stores very few things should be allowed to take priority over your scheduled meetings with Managers.

What you learn from these meetings will be very valuable for you and the organization.

You have elevated your business partners. They are excited about your visit and they are feeling more like a valued company professional than they ever did before.

With your phone call you have personally acknowledged their importance to the company and their level of motivation has shot right through the roof.

They are pumped and they will rally their teams to get ideas, questions and concerns. When you arrive they will be ready to contribute.

In contrast to this scenario many VP’s and Directors do something like this:

Make a decision to fly out in a few days; have their assistant send an e-mail to a District Manager to make sure they are picked up at the airport; the assistant is instructed to tell the DM that there are certain stores they want to see, certain stores they do not need to see and the schedule, or order of store visits, can be worked out when they arrive.

The DM then lets his/her Managers know that there will be a Head Office visit during a specified period of time but no one is sure whether the visitor will come to their store or not.

The reason for the ‘possible’ visit is not known.

Even if a particular Manager is told that the Head Office visitor will come to their store, no time is set because the visitors schedule is subject to change if something more important comes up.

Perception is reality and all that.

Our opinion is that there are very few things more important than meeting with a Store Manager who is expecting you.

I have witnessed many cases where a store team knows of a pending visit and waits the entire day (and evening) only to have a Manager of another store call to say ‘they’re not coming because they got off schedule’ which translates into ‘too bad you waited; you’re really not that important.’

In this scenario no one is expected to prepare anything or to contribute in any way. They are just the keepers of the stores.

This is a completely wasted visit.

Unfortunately, the Store Managers are likely to be de-motivated by all of this.

Even if the Head Office individual does feel that they accomplished something with this visit, it is nothing compared to what they could have accomplished.

A note about surprise visits: Before your next surprise visit, determine exactly why you are doing it.

Do you want to know what the store looks like and how the staff are handling customers, etc.? Do you want to catch someone doing something wrong?

Isn’t there a better way? Of course there is and you don’t need to fly around the country to do it.

Try to find a good Mystery Shopper. More on that in another article.

Think about this. You are a VP or Director. It is Monday at 1:45 p.m.

Last weeks numbers are not great and you have been working feverishly all morning trying to analyze what is going on; you’re calling RM’s and DM’s, buyers and marketing staff; your assistant called in sick and you haven’t had a chance to have a bite to eat.

You have to have the full explanation of what went wrong and your complete action plan ready in time for the 4:00 p.m. meeting with the boss.

The CEO walks into your office and has you call in all of your subordinates for a meeting – right there and then – and during that meeting you must still carry on with your work (think customers in the store).

You do not have the option of saying that this is not a good time; you just have to live with the situation. Impossible is it? Sounds a little bizarre?

That’s a surprise visit. Just don’t do it.

You can have a tremendous impact on your business by handling store visits as proper professional business meetings.

No doubt you have Store Managers at different stages of development with different levels of knowledge, skill and experience.

Your visit can be used to build a foundation of management strength in the field.

You can impart knowledge to raise the skill level of your newer and less experienced Managers.

You can challenge your more experienced and more knowledgeable Managers.

You have tremendous power to create very positive attitudes and a loyal following.

In addition to the motivation you create in the field you are going to go back to the office much better off.

You will have new insight and information and you got it from the people who are in direct and constant communication with your customer; you got it from the people who make the sales and satisfy your customers.

If you do it right, you can accomplish truly incredible things with your store visits.

Max ROI Store Visits

Max ROI Store Visits

Mickey Mouse Store Visits

You know what that means.

Mickey Mouse store visits are not serious, don’t advance the business, don’t develop managers, etc. Except for (possibly) a momentary, tiny motivational bump, Mickey Mouse store visits are useless.

Why, then, are there so many people visiting stores, restaurants and service outlets with no plan…with no process? It is a critical business function and must be taken seriously.

With all due respect to Mickey and his friends, he is a cartoon character…a fantasy. He is all about fun and games and making kids laugh and he does a great job of that.

Mickey Mouse is not real.

We’re not suggesting that visiting management personnel aren’t serious, or that they are living in a fantasy world. Only that without a predetermined plan and focus that is properly executed at store level, things will go off track quickly. It’s human nature – people get distracted by the ‘thing’ or supposed ‘crisis’ of the moment.

The truth is…

Although rarely referred to as such, the Mickey Mouse store visit is much more common than anyone would like to admit.

What makes that so is lack of process.

Anyone who visits retail outlets…or has experience in that area, will know that visits often just ‘go with the flow’. Completely. And they know how easily it happens; not something that’s planned.

But ‘going with the flow’ makes it next to impossible to ensure that issues are addressed, people are developed and targets are achieved.

Even the most competent RM or DM should be able to rely on some type of road map when it comes to staying on top of the incredible amount of detail involved in the operation of a well run and profitable store.

We can certainly agree that some store visits need to be purely about motivation and ‘going with the flow’ just to get the feel of what’s going on…to get to know how the staff are doing…to lift people up. That is one of the jobs of a RM or DM.

Even still, though, certain things must be planned for and accomplished. Certain parts of the visit can be free flowing – but not all.

Managing by the ‘seat of the pants’ is never desirable.

Topics, details, specifics, time allotments and action plans may vary depending on the particular type of visit but…

The MAX ROI Store Visit process should be followed for every… single… visit.

We have limited spots still available.

Sign up today!

‘MAX ROI STORE VISITS’ (Total: 6 HOURS – Two 3-hour sessions)

(You get the presentation sent to your email whether you attend or not.)

Conducting Informal and Formal Store Visits that Produce Winning Results Takes Know How!

With the benefit of this online workshop, your approach to this critical business function will change for the better.

When you engage in this process properly, the difference is like going from night to day…from rags to riches…from losses to profits!!

In this online workshop, we present a focused approach to the MAX ROI Store Visit process that is productive and rewarding for everyone.

When there is a relentless focus on sales and profitability, customer service, people development, succession planning, vendor reviews, aged inventory, sign packages, product and presentation, safety and loss prevention, and so many other things…important things… then everyone feels a sense of accomplishment and they’re ready to confidently and happily move forward with action plan items.

Important note: If you sign up you get the presentation sent to your email whether you attend or not.)

Chances are you’re not experiencing losses but if you’re not following this method for Store Visits, then you are not profiting as much as you could be.

This is no joke…no gimmick.

MAX ROI Store Visits are the only way to go. The method is easy to replicate, store after store…time after time.

A full day’s work can produce results far and beyond the day!!

Remember, The Store Visit is a critical business function and should be regarded as such.

Properly executed store visits following this method are going to give you positive results. They are going to advance the business.

That’s worth some extra time and effort, isn’t it?

Join us for the online workshop ‘MAX ROI Store Visits’
and take a new look at how store visits can provide a 25% higher ROI every time.

Renew the focus on the importance of this critical business function:

The Store Visit


MAX ROI STORE VISITS will be the only kind you’ll ever have when you start using this
Technique, Method, Approach, Process, Mode, Plan of Action

Whatever you want to call it…it works.

Once you start doing this, you’ll never get mediocre results again.

Drive Productivity to new heights in your retail organization. Join us for this special presentation…

Remember…You get the presentation sent to your email whether you attend or not.

This affordable, time and travel saving 6 hour program (3 hours on Tuesday and 3 hours on Thursday) is jam-packed with everything needed to get the MAX ROI on every store visit and ensure that all store visits produce a positive result …because time is money!

Every single store visit should be expected to yield quantifiable results; to move the business forward to some degree, otherwise, it is strictly a social visit.

In this workshop, we demonstrate how properly executed Store Visits will produce positive and quantifiable results every time.


Click here for Details and/or to Register for the Online Workshop $295 ›

(You get the presentation sent to your email whether you attend or not.)


Leaders Don’t Create Followers

How is your succession plan working for you?

Are you creating competent leaders?

Every organization needs a solid succession plan but not many need it as much as retailers do.

While every retail management position is important, the position that is often ignored is the Assistant Store Manager.

To enable the organization to draw on the talent of their Store Managers to fill higher level positions such as District and Region Managers, it is imperative that you have a pool of Assistant Store Managers ready to step up and step in, to the Store Management positions vacated by the promoted individual.


What are you doing to develop your Assistant Store Managers?

Often, expectations of Assistant Store Managers are low; just somebody there to assist the Store Manager.

While this is a real luxury and may be of great benefit to the Store Manager in terms of giving him/her more time to spend on paperwork in the backroom, which in itself is undesirable, it certainly is not the best use of your human resources.

Your Assistant Store Managers represent the next layer of leaders for your organization.

The Assistant Store Manager is meant to be of assistance to the Store Manager, to be sure. But the larger goal is for the Assistant Store Manager to be developed as a leader who can operate on his own and contribute to the organization, not just to the Store Manager he is currently working for.

The first stage of development requires that Assistant Store Managers be developed to the point that they are fully competent to profitably operate one of your stores.

Yes, they are supposed to be ready, willing and able to replace your Store Managers.

You may have some, shall we say, ‘comfortable’ Store Managers who won’t like the idea of developing and then losing good Assistants but that is irrelevant.

The goals of the organization rule.

In any case, a Store Manager who doesn’t want a strong and competent Assistant Store Manager is doing himself and the company a disservice and it will show in the calibre of the Assistants he is turning out.

Anyway, if Assistants are not competent enough to replace a Store Manager after a reasonable length of time, then something is going wrong.

Actually, a few things could be going wrong, such as:

1) Someone made a bad hire or internal promotion and did not correct the situation

2) Your training program is not working as intended

3) Your Store Manager is not participating, fully, in the development of the Assistant Store Manager

“Winning companies win because they have good
leaders who nurture the development of other
leaders at all levels of the organization.”
~ Noel Tichy

If you are not able to visualize your people development strategy working well in your organization, get the help you need.

Join The Retail Management Workshop to learn how to make it happen…and how to operate in perfect balance.

Get a winning succession plan working for you – guaranteed.

Increase sales – guaranteed.

Reduce expenses and increase profits – guaranteed.

Register yourself and/or your teams for The Retail Management Workshop being held in two great locations:

The Retail Management Workshop
(Click the link ^ for details and/or registration.)

September 18-19-20
Crowne Plaza Kensington
London, UK

October 1-2-3
Sheraton Dubai Creek
Dubai, UAE

Squeeze Expenses or Increase Sales

When the economy doesn’t seem to be humming along the way it used to, or if other factors are keeping you from seeing growth in your retail business, often the knee jerk reaction by retailers is to cut expenses.

Cut head count.

Buy fewer supplies.

Stop all training.

Cut, cut, cut!!

But, cutting usually doesn’t turn out all that well.

We’re asking a really important question today:

Can you increase profits by just cutting expenses while paying no attention to increasing sales?

The answer is ‘possibly, but not by much and, even then, only temporarily’.

If you squeeze expenses instead of increasing sales, you will eventually have nothing left to squeeze.

What you would be doing is shrinking the business and you know where that eventually ends up.

But, if you work to find ways to increase sales as well as spending time and effort reviewing the best ways to reduce expenses and control costs during tough times, without hurting the revenue producing areas of the business, things can start looking up for you.

Anyone can cut, cut, cut.

Finance Departments are full of people who can help with that.

If the person doing the cutting is not living in the midst of the chaos created by the cuts…there may be no end to the cuts until the business is no longer viable.

Short term you would see improvement of the bottom line. But, if you look month after month, you will see that everything is shrinking…sales, transactions, average sale, units per transaction, conversion, and so on.


Because cost cutting measures usually interfere with the job of selling.

If you put fewer people on the floor, give them less training, pay them less money, take away benefits, use fewer labor hours for receiving shipments and getting product onto the floor, cut maintenance time, stop buying good and clear signage, and the list goes on…you will undoubtedly reduce revenues.

Once revenues are reduced, costs have effectively increased, making profit go down instead of up.

Balance is key in everything.

No organization should spend wildly or be too frugal.

That is why you need good people who know what they are doing.

Join The Retail Management Workshop to learn how to operate in perfect balance.

Increase sales – guaranteed.

Reduce expenses and increase profits – guaranteed.

Register yourself and/or your teams for The Retail Management Workshop being held in two great locations:

The Retail Management Workshop
(Click the link ^ for details and/or registration.)

September 18-19-20
Crowne Plaza Kensington
London, UK

October 1-2-3
Sheraton Dubai Creek
Dubai, UAE

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