The Retail Manager

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In 20 years of client work with the Mann Group, we’ve come to an unavoidable conclusion. In the world of retail enterprise, the Store Manager holds the key to local store success. Whether you are the owner of a small retail business or the CEO of a national chain of stores. As the store manager goes, so goes the success of the store. 

This fact is at the core of why small business owners are reluctant to have anyone else run their business: “No one can do it like I can”. In my previous career I ran a 75-store retail chain. It’s been my experience that if one of those store locations began to fail, I always looked to the manager performance first before considering any other factors. Almost always, the failure began with Manager Performance. 

Today’s blog is for you:

 -Business owner with multiple store locations, having store managers in each location.

 -Retail Store Manager, trying to make this a career and grow professionally.

 -Retail Sales Associate, looking to develop a new skill and grow with your company.

 -Anyone interested in “how this works”.

The Retail Store Manager is often in a tough position. They serve numerous roles simultaneously. On one hand they are the “Coach”, training and leading the customer experience from the sidelines. This involves scheduling, hiring, training and offering feedback to the team. On the other hand, they are a “Player”, serving customers, leading by example, and generally being the best in the store at everything. (After all, you likely were promoted due to your sales success.)

This combo is tough, because too many managers will focus their efforts in the “Player” position, because they know how to do it better than their staff and after all, “I just don’t have time to train.” When considering all of this, beware of the “Captain Kirk Syndrome.” After yet another heroic scene in “Star Trek”, where James T. Kirk has saved the universe, Commodore Paris asks him to return to Star Fleet and become the vice admiral of the Fleet. 

Captain Kirk asks, “Vice admirals don’t fly do they?” 

To which Commodore Paris replies, “No. They don’t.”

James T. Kirk smiles as he walks away, “No offense Ma’am, but where’s the fun in that?” 

If your passion and focus lie in the role of player, then enjoy and commit to it. However, if you intend to lead, you’ll see the importance and impact of being a coach. It will pay off for your company, for your team, and for you. Either way, dedicate yourself to Training and Coaching, if you want to be a successful Retail Manager. 

Here’s our list of the crucial skills/attributes needed for success at Managing a Retail Store:

  1. A passion for results—and clarity as to how to achieve them. No matter what type of retail you are in, the successful Manager “gets today’s work done today”. This requires an understanding of the metrics for retail success as well as the contributing factors to achieve those results. 
  2. Emotional intelligence—the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions. This skill is so important in the day-to-day interactions with staff, customers, and supervisors. It requires a strong commitment to self-evaluation, self-awareness, and intrinsic motivation. These folks are able to “tell the truth and tell it Well”.
  3. Flexibility—the capacity to go with the flow. We love a process and live by standards. However, everything doesn’t always go to plan, does it. Change often creates stress. Effective management requires flexibility. As my old mentor David Van Winkle said to me on my first day as manager, “you’ve got to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
  4. Hiring—identifying and recruiting a talented team. This requires the ability to be objective rather than subjective in this process. Dr. Jerry Bell believes that only 8-12% of the population would be good hires for the retail world. If that’s the case, then you’d need to interview 10 people in order to find the ONE good hire. 
  5. Effective Feedback—the importance of offering feedback to your team might well be the utmost skill needed for success in Retail. If you reluctant to do this, then your team will be left to figure things out for themselves or worse, have no standards set for their performance. We see this at retail everyday. Poor retail experiences delivered due to the lack of leadership on the sales floor. On the other hand, there are managers whose idea of feedback is threats, shaming and impatience. Neither approach is effective. Great managers learn to deliver feedback while improving relationships and performance simultaneously. They’re not just team players, they’re actually team builders.

This list will get us started for now. We’ll be further developing this concept over the month of June. Stay tuned. 


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