To be an owner/ manager of a mixed retail business takes talent, many skills and a lot of diverse knowledge. Usually, such owners/managers have tremendous belief in what they are doing and the determination to succeed despite all the obstacles. This is great. It is what gets the business going and as long as the business is at a size manageable by one person, the owner’s vision and attitudes will continue to drive it. However, once the business starts to grow beyond the limit of one person’s management, it’s time to take an overview of what is needed to keep it on the right track.
Usually this point is hit before people realise it or want to realise it. Strong owner/managers often centralise control and authority in themselves, disempower and scare their staff and become so busy doing everything else that they never have the time to plan for the future of the business.
A recent survey of small businesses in the London area showed that the majority of companies had severe problems of inadequate management structure, poor communication, insufficient attention to training and no clear roles for staff. In 80 percent of the companies the owner was involved in all levels of management and in all decisions, frequently over- riding the authority of others. If you had a car crash and lay powerless in hospital for several weeks, how the hell would your business survive? If there’s a chance that it would slide into decline then you need to take steps to ensure that you are not so indispensable. Here is a quick guide to five major responsibilities of leadership in a business that is seriously going places.
The first is to have a vision for the business and its main competitive advantages, to know what makes your business strong and how to maintain this as it grows. You should also make strategic decisions about what kind of people you want to employ to achieve this vision and set targets for different stages of development.
The second is to communicate your visions to your staff so that they can bring that vision to life. You need to show them the business priorities and empower them to take responsibility for these. If you are offering the helpful touch of a local store, staff members have to become conscious of ‘customers needs’ and be proactively helpful and friendly but if you don’t communicate this, they may allow their personal ups and downs to be reflected in their work.
The third is to take time out from the business on a regular basis to gain an outside perspective. You have to be thinking and planning strategically and you can’t do this from within the day to day running. This time out should also be used to keep abreast of product innovation and trends within the industry, and to ponder on these in a relaxed and unhurried fashion.
The fourth point is to establish systems and procedures for everything in the store. You may know how to use your head and get things right, but you also know the reasons why. Your staff might not understand why it is unwise to stack new stock in front of old, for instance, so they must be given a clear procedure. Before someone attempts to check stock on arrival they should know the established procedure or else not attempt the task. As the business gets more complex, the systems have to become more sophisticated. The eyes and ears of all the staff are needed to keep the systems running smoothly and avoid mistakes.
The fifth point is delegation. If people are to take responsibility, they must have authority. Step by Step, staff can gradually take on more responsibility, only if they are given training, clear instructions and encouragement. Everyone has potential and the secret to a good delegation is to match tasks to capability. If a person is excellent on checkouts, never gets flustered and loves it there, then keep them there and acknowledge their excellence. If someone else thrives on variety, give them plenty of wide ranging experience. When employing people, give a lot of thought to their future roles and make sure they will be happy in them. Don’t make promises you can’t keep and do make the effort to catch people doing things right and give recognition.
If you get these five points right in your business and maintain them, you will not only be able to take time for a smashing holiday without worry you will be able to afford it as well.