Nearly 15 years ago, Dan Mann took the stage and uttered his first presentation as The Mann Group. The topic he presented to the bike industry then is as relevant to the community today as ever (not to mention, it’s alliterative—and you guys know how we feel about good alliteration).
Dan spoke of the three p’s intrinsic to successful specialty retailers: people, process, and partnerships. In order to excel as a specialty retailer, you have to master the skills and relationships associated with each of these three categories. When a retailer lacks in one of these areas, it’s akin to losing your rear derailleur— you’re stuck in one gear. You need to thrive in each in order to succeed.
If you’ve been with us for a while, you know these aspects of specialty retail are our bread and butter. They’re topics we approach and preach to, on a micro level, on a monthly—if not weekly—basis. But when you’re stuck in the insular data and development, it can be tough to remember your “why” and the big-picture inspiration behind your intentional evolution. So let’s take a big step back, both in our history and our perspective, and reapproach those three p’s with an open mind.
As a bike or specialty retailer, you may think you’re selling products, but your top-seller is actually your people. If folks wanted to shop for the sake of buying products alone, they’d be online. They choose to come to your shop for the experience and for the people that give it to them, which means your sales staff represents the frontline of your business and your most valuable commodity. And where do those all-important people come from? Your hiring, of course. That means that one of the most important decisions (arguably the most important decision) you make in your business is who you hire. Hiring isn’t easy, it isn’t quick, and it isn’t necessarily fun—but if you’re good at it, the rewards are unparalleled. You’ll develop your dream team who you can entrust with sharing and perpetuating your vision and increasing your profits so your business and industry can grow.
Quick Tips for Better People
- Take Your Time. Don’t hire out of urgency! Consider a wide field of candidates in order to choose the best one.
- Broaden Your Options. Don’t limit your recruits to folks in the bike industry. Product knowledge can be taught; soft skills can not.
- Recruit The Mann Group. Did you know that we help with recruiting and hiring projects all the time (especially in the bike industry)? We sure do. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!
You’ve probably learned that “winging it” is never a good idea in specialty retail. Your business thrives in structure and calculation (while still being adaptive, of course)—particularly when it comes to buying. Many retailers make the mistake of stocking a spectrum of products because they’re cool, or cheap, or the sales pitch was persuasive, but that’s a recipe for disaster (and often, failure). It’s in creating and holding fast to a process that buyers and their retailers find success. A well-formulated inventory plan and cycle, based on predictions, previous experience, and calculated risk, is the foundation of a successful specialty retailer.
Quick Tips for Better Process
- Track and Analyze Existing Data. Your inventory plan should be based on your previous experiences and stats, which will prevent you from being persuaded by your own opinions or assumptions to stock the wrong product.
- Stick to Your Plan. When sales reps are showing you cool gear, it’s really easy to fall victim to the sale and end up with a bunch of inventory you don’t need and can’t sell. Rather than buy products with your emotion first, use your inventory plan as a firm guideline.
- Recruit The Mann Group. One of our most popular consulting programs is our retail planning cycle. We work one-on-one with retailer leadership to create a unique retail planning cycle that serves as a structure for seasons upon seasons of successful inventory plans. (We also offer inventory planning as part of Mann U II—check it out here). Shoot us an email to learn more.
We can’t do it alone. No, really—your retail business would be nothing without the manufacturers who create your products. It’s troubling, then, that relationships with vendors can be such a thorn in the side of retailers, particularly bike retailers. Developing a strong relationship with your vendor partners is integral to your success, and it’s your responsibility to cultivate that good will. Good partnerships stem in part from those other p’s—good staff and a strong inventory plan are fundamental. It’s also important to appreciate your vendor partners and all they do for your business and your industry.
Quick Tips for Better Partnerships
- Come Prepared. Though your manufacturer friends want to sell you their products, they don’t want to do so blindly. A structured inventory plan will help them identify which of their products will fit best into your plan in order to sell more on both sides of the transaction.
- Be Communicative. If there’s something you don’t love about your relationship with your partners, let them know. Defining not just your inventory plan, but your schedule, communication style, and product preferences will help them cater to you and avoid mistakes or awkward situations.
- Recruit The Mann Group. We can help facilitate healthy relationships between manufacturers and retailers with our Mann U: Sales Reps course, Mann U II, and our buying consultation services.
When Dan gave that speech years back, he began with the statistic, “25% of people who begin the Tour de France drop out halfway. The same is true for retailers.” With a strong foundation of passionate people, a structured process, and strong partnerships, you’ll mark yourself as one of the successful cyclists—er, businesses—in the race ahead.