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Owners, managers, and entrepreneurs

There is a difference in what you do

Speaking at a conference this past week with George Whalin, author of the new book Retail Superstars, George made a comment that helps me to elaborate on the observations from the last issue of Main Street News.

George said there is a difference between those that think like a manager, an owner and an entrepreneur.  The person that thinks like a manager uses the word, “I”, the person that thinks like an owner uses “my” and the person that thinks like an entrepreneur uses “it”. With each of these words, while each of them do own a business, the individual is speaking about their business.

Our first look is at the person we have referred to as a ‘manager’. The manager is often engulfed in the day to day process of operating the business. We refer to the person as ‘manager’ as they often take these responsibilities as being the most important component of their work day.

While not wanting to make light of the components of operating a business, these are tasks that employees should be concentrating on. As an example, the ‘manager’ often thinks they are the only one, or the one that can do the best job of selling merchandise.

With this thought process, the ‘manager’ thinks it is important they be on the sales floor as much as possible. If there is a problem in the store, this person is more likely to resolve the issue themselves as compared to creating a process that will engage their employees and having them participate in the resolution.

If the sales floor needs to be swept or vacuumed, the ‘manager’ is more likely to perform the task themselves as compared to getting an employee to perform the task.

The ‘manager’ is likely to be so wrapped up in their day to day business work  they find little time available to handle other responsibilities. You may see this happening in something such as a ‘manager’ that frequently does not make it to a Main Street meeting they were planning to attend because some employee is absent.

This situation of a person being the ‘manager’ sometimes occurs because this person previously had the actual job title of ‘manager’. They may have been the generation of a family business that is the next to take control of the business. Unfortunately, the parents did not teach the next generation all of the components necessary for success.

Other situations occur in the case of a person that is the true manager of a business and then purchases it from the individual that previously was their employer. Perhaps this person was never told that there were additional components of their job description that would change when the financial ownership of the business took place. The person that currently owns the business is doing themselves a great disservice if they are expecting the new owner to be making payments over a period of years to purchase the business. They need the new owner of the business to be even more successful than they were so that they can make the monthly payments for the business.

Our ‘manager’ looks at the business with an “I” viewpoint because, “I have to do so much of the work”.

Our second person to look at is the one that we have given the title of ‘owner’. One of the leading characteristics of this person and their business is that they become the focal point of the business. The business becomes a reflection of this person. It starts with the merchandise the business sells.

If we were to ask the ‘owner’ to give us a tour of their business, they would likely tell us how much they like all of the items they sell. Going back to the point where they purchased the merchandise at a trade show or through a sales representative calling on the business, we would likely hear the ‘owner’ looking at an item and making comments such as, “I really like this”.

We are not hearing comments about how well they anticipate an item will sell, but instead the comments, and selections of merchandise center on the likes and dislikes of the ‘owner’.  The ‘owner’ believes they have the ability to make the right choices with regard to what the business sells, so it is appropriate for the ‘owner’ to make the choices based upon their tastes.

The concern that would be expressed for an ‘owner’ format business is that the ‘owner’ will need to spend their time and effort finding customers that have the same taste as the ‘owner’ does.

Looking at the physical aspects of the business, the appearance of the business also is a reflection of the ‘owner’. You can see this from several aspects. As an example, if the busienss is located on a street within a community has placed planters in front of the businesses, you will quickly know if the ‘owner’ is one that likes flowers and other green plants just by looking at the condition of the planter.

Visiting several communities as this column was being written, there is another component of an ‘owner’ centric business. The staff of the business is often a reflection of the ‘owner’. As an example, we were walking into a business and I was cautioned that the owner of the business had a very poor attitude.

Two sentences into the introduction, the owner of the business proved my host to be on target with their assessment. As we continued to wander the aisles of the business, the other employees were a reflection of the owner. This happens because the ‘owner’ displays a ‘my’ attitude about their business. It may be a good attitude or a bad attitude, but it is their attitude that permeates the business.

The same is true for how the store looks and what the store sells. The appearance and/or the inventory selection can be great or poor, but they are a reflection of the ‘my’ aspect of the ‘owner’ of the business. The business that has an ‘owner’ often is one that is a reflection of the tastes and attitude of the owner.

Our third and final way of a business is one of an ‘entrepreneur’. The word we will expect the entrepreneur to use in describing their business is, ‘it’.  This is not to be taken as cold and impersonal, but instead it represents the viewpoint of a person is more likely to be focused on the profitability of the business. This person may have owned several businesses over the past several years with each business being a different type; they may have owned a book store at one point, and a restaurant at another.

When the ‘entrepreneur’ first visits a community to look at a potential location for a business, they are not likely to come with the intent to open a specific type of business. Instead, they are looking at what would be the type of business that would have the highest potential for success.

The ‘entrepreneur’ will more likely be drawn to statistics and information about the community as compared to wanting to open a specific type of business because that type of business is what they like best.

As the ‘entrepreneur’ is active in the community, this person may be one that is going to more often vote with their head or wallet instead of their heart. If the proposal does not make sense from a business standpoint – in the short or long run – they are going to be less likely to support it.

Our ‘entrepreneur’ is likely to be the most profitable of our three as well as being the one that spends the least amount of hours in their business each week. With the entrepreneur, we are also less likely to see the store or business as an extension of the person as we would see with the ‘owner’. The entrepreneur is passionate about business first and the business they currently own is more of a vehicle for that passion.

We have an opportunity, and responsibility to help those that own a business to make the transition from ‘manager’ to ‘owner’ to ‘entrepreneur’. Doing so will surely improve the quality of businesses within the community.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
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