Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. – Henry Ford

When we ask the owner of just about any company what the biggest challenge to managing their business is, the majority will answer ‘the people’. Yet, we often overlook this crucial investment by
either over managing the detail, or under leading the direction.

More than we give it credit for, strategy is about putting people first.

Creating a people focused strategy starts with an understanding of the customer, followed by management and leadership to create a strong people culture, and ends with the face of the retail business – the front line sales staff.

Fit retail leaders understand who their customer is, what they want, where they want it, and how they want it, and they develop the rest of their strategy to ultimately fulfil the needs of this customer.

Walk into one of these highly ‘fit’ retailers and you will see clarity in communication, alignment of purpose, articulated expectations, staff feedback, and above all else a culture of performance, mutual respect and winning.

‘People first’ means being customer-centric

As retailers, we need to understand the forces driving customer decisions and choices and then explore new ways of responding and doing business in order to capture a larger, more loyal customer
base. We must then converge all touch points and channels to meet the needs and desires of our savvy, time poor consumers.

Nowadays, the research we conduct for clients is so in depth that it includes predictive analysis through the use of neuromarketing techniques.

Traditional research such as customer exit surveys or demographic-based research is just not enough, as customers need to tell you why they shop with you not just how, in order for you to put more successful retail strategies into place.

Know how to be a ‘people-first’ leader

Once it is clear exactly who your customer is, the next step is for management and leadership teams to develop the strategy and align all operations of the business to meet these customers’ needs.

Consider these fitness tips for management and leadership:

Communicate – The wonderful quote from the then CEO of Merck, “I spend 99 per cent of my time communicating the same message over and over,” no leader was ever vanquished for communicating too much. These ‘fit’ leaders display an influencing style of leadership and can easily make the tough decisions.

Succession and security – Knowing when it’s time to quit and move on is as much a skill with these ‘fit’ leaders as knowing what challenges to take on. They are secure within themselves and prepare the business for their succession, looking for the next generation of leaders who are better at the job than they are.

Clarity and Decisiveness -Being able to weigh up the options intelligently, invite the right counsel,and then make the right decisions are all hallmarks of a ‘fit’ leader. Procrastination and lack of responsibility are not in their dictionary. These leaders get to the heart of the matter and have an innate skill in removing the clutter.

Dignity and Kindness – ‘Fit’ leaders display humility, empathy, dignity, and kindness. As a result, they are welcome on the front line, taking their place there with ease. Ask your managers and staff to anonymously nominate their top three goals in the business. If 100 per cent of your staff are not nominating sales and customer satisfaction in their top three, it’s time to look at your cultural alignment strategy.

Engage and motivate your store staff

Our research tells us that engaged, motivated staff deliver an average 20 per cent higher sales and margin improvement to the fitness of a business.

Great people make great businesses, we all know that. Ask people in many businesses whether they feel great working for the boss and you will get a very mixed response. More than 70 per cent of exit surveys we do show that staff who initiate leaving, do so because they did not feel ‘engaged’ with the business.

There should be a clear path for staff through from recruitment, training and ultimately retention and /or succession.

Employee retention is critical to the long term health of your business.

Retail Doctor Group’s management rules of retention are simple:

1. Celebrate Success

2. Communicate

3. Be positive

4. Promote continuous improvement

5. Have fun!

Through all our training and ‘effective people’ consulting programs, staying close to your people and their results has always been the recipe for success. With a plethora of new channels and technologies surrounding us, we should never lose sight of our all important customer and the necessity to engage and motivate all those who are expert in serving them.

Happy ‘Fit’ Retailing

Brian Walker

Retail Doctor Group

First published by Inside Retail, 9th April 2014