Make a Difference – Sweat the Small Stuff First

My background is in retail management – yes, running stores, from tiny ones you couldn’t swing the proverbial cat around in, to huge three floor jobs. Yet there are some guiding principles which, like Giuliani did for New York, that make a difference on a smaller scale. Guiding principles which make a huge, possibly unseen difference to your customers and no less so to your employees.

I’d like to suggest that, on the basis of 20% of the focus gives you 80% of the return, acting in just two areas of fine detail will make all the difference in a retail business.

As they say – ‘Retail is Detail’

  1. Presentation

    Making a difference in the presentation of your store sets a tone for who you are as a business and for your customers, what they can expect from you. And this needs to come from you, the leader of the business and very clearly. Indicating what is acceptable in terms of how you display the merchandise, how you use display materials, where your focus and priorities are is very important. As you provide the lead, others will follow. If you do it in a positive, constructive, even coaching way, they will learn, deliver consistently and even generate their own ideas. Once established, this becomes a culture of ‘the way we do things
    around here’.

    Presentation is perfection within the constraints of what you are able to do. Focusing on what you can’t do, for maybe want of financing, is a waste of time and energy. Time and energy that can be focused on fixing that which is within your influence, and those of your people. This can be your own version of the ‘Broken Windows’ or graffiti analogy that Giuliani uses so well – applied locally by you.

    So, for me, ‘Perfection in Presentation’ is:-

    • Having the products you sell available at all times for your customers
    • Being clean
    • Removing debris (like sticky residues from old showcards and stuff like that)
    • Making checkouts available for just that – taking cash quickly and not selling stuff
    • Reducing ‘visual chaos’, which is intimidating for those very people you are trying to get into buying mode – your customers
    • Experiencing the experience – through visiting your own store as a customer and seeing just what catches your eye

    Bottom line is that you need to have a focus of perfection yourself, lead your people through it and, over time, they will deliver for you. And you know what, they will make sure that everyone who starts new with you works that way for you.

  2. People

    Your people are your most valuable asset. Working in a sharp end customer-facing role is challenging and tough. If you are a true leader in the retail business, you will have worked the tough shifts and the most challenging spots in your store. So you know how tough it can be. Yet there are standards here too – making them clear to everyone is a vital first step.

    Yet there is a service you can and must provide for your people. Simple things that need fixing before they can be on top for to play their part in representing your business. Finding out about what will make a difference, those multitude of little things that get in the way of perfect performance can be challenging.
    It’s down to asking questioins, and finding out by being there and engaging in conversations.

    Simple things like:-

    • Fixing the work schedules
    • Providing the right workwear
    • Ordering a namebadge
    • Getting the temperature right
    • Fixing the coffee machine
    • Having enough pens
    • Fixing a checkout door
    • Moving a cash point fixing that snags their trousers
    • Responding to requests quickly and positively
    • Being trustworthy
    • Communicating fully
    • Getting pay right first time
    • Fifty more possibilities, unique to your business (for a few more, checkout Motivation

    By attending to what matters most to the people you employ – many of them ‘Just Do Its’ – fixed today even, you will leverage a return far more than the cost it takes to fix. And leave a legacy of a culture that will be a benefit for years to come.

    And by fixing things fast, you will develop a credibility in your leadership second to none. This can be used at the beginning of a new position, of in the middle – it doesn’t matter. Once you start though, it works best if you have a developed sense of fixing easy things on the fly – fast and effective. Let that be your byword.