Proving the necessary ingredients to
develop great store managers
It was a busy Saturday afternoon that will be long remembered, even though it happened many years ago. Our friend Ron, the manager of the nearby grocery store, came into the store. He was rolling one of their grocery carts filled with personal belongings and an 8” x 10” photo of him that had hung on the wall for customers to see.
The message had gotten around that the chain he worked for had decided to move their managers around again. Since their company built the new store near our store, we had seen at least six managers assigned to this store and then relocated. Two of the managers—the last two—had been very effective in making the store a strong part of our community. They made sure their store was a participant in supporting a new program for the police department and raising funds for the nearby high school.
Now he was leaving the company instead of accepting another transfer. He wanted to be able to make a difference, but found that his efforts were stifled by corporate red tape. He was very personable and possessed the necessary management skills—skills that any store owner would be thrilled to see in an applicant.
But he found himself spending a tremendous number of hours in the store shuffling papers, overseeing a large number of employees, and left each day feeling they had accomplished little. Ron's parting comment was, "It felt like having your finger in a glass of water. When you take your finger out, there is no hole left in the water for anyone to notice."
A different type of management experience was noticed with a sizable variety store that had closed within our town. Because it was an independent, our family made an extra effort to shop there. But the service was worse than any other store. We remember the visit where a purchase by check required the approval by a manager. The cashier explained that the father and son were both in the store and that one would come to authorize the check.
You could hear the two in a side room having an argument. Even though they had been called to the register, it was five minutes before one of them came to authorize the check. Observing the father shopping in other stores, it is easy to see that he is a very demanding customer.
He expects a level of service far higher than he was ever willing to give. The father currently works for one of the chain stores and mentioned when we spoke to him recently that he doesn't like working there. The chain store, like the grocery store chain, is very demanding of its management, and the rewards are not there. The father is planning to leave his job and open another store within the next year.
These two scenarios come to mind whenever we have the opportunity to coach a retailer. In our joint efforts, we have worked to design the retailer's management style so as to allow the individual working in the store to have the freedom to make decisions and be creative. One client told the story of its cashier supervisor’s resigning to move to another city.
When they advertised for her replacement, they found not one, but two individuals with experience as store managers. In hiring each, the client decided to terminate several part-time employees to make room for the two new hires. The terminations showed other employees his commitment to improving the store, and created challenges to work harder in each of the current employees.
So, why don't these grocery store managers get into your shoes and own a store, or at least manage a store for a progressive owner? And why doesn't the individual who demands quality service give it when he owns his own store?
The first answer may be a lack of money, or not having the desire to go out on his or her own. As for managing a business, the difference may be in the benefit packages that are offered. And, as for the last question, there probably is not a valid answer for the actions of the former independent retailer.
If you were looking at the possibility of hiring a quality chain-store employee for your business, you would find many independent retailers already have a competitive salary if you are comparing apples to apples. Often times, a person from a chain can report that he earns $32,000 per year, which can be $16 per hour.
However, this salary is making a false assumption of a 40-hour work week and 50 weeks per year. In reality, these people commonly work 75 to 85 hours each week. And when you calculate the amount of hours that these people actually work, the pay is only $8 per hour.
Perhaps, with the benefits that many retailers have, and an incentive or bonus program, you can be in the ballpark of competitiveness. When you interview these candidates, ask what they perceive to be the difference between your store and the chain store.
Hopefully your interest in a candidate is peaked when they express an interest and need for "growth," "opportunities," and the desire to "demonstrate their skills." And then it is your responsibility and opportunity to deliver what this applicant is looking for.