Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

Last week our Fit for Business breakfast series in both Sydney and Melbourne featured Peter Birtles, CEO of Super Retail Group.

His presentations were excellent, and not surprisingly – here is a business leader who while managing all the various aspects of brand, shop, digital, and online keeps his mind firmly based in the foundations of true customer first retailing.

Some highlight messages from Peter included:

There is a bit of a fascination in teams with the big idea and sometimes these big ideas work, and equally many times they don’t, it’s all or nothing. Rather, the notion that if everyone in your team is seeking incremental improvements, or the one per cent, as Peter puts it, the individual value adds become more palpable and tangible.

  • The aggregate effect of everyone achieving one per cent improvements in all areas of the business begins with each and every team member asking themselves whether there is a one per cent improvement to be made in customer experience, process application, or whatever it may be.
  • Single store through to big box monolith, single channel to full omni-channel retailer, the single largest commonality is people, or rather the leadership of people in retail. Interestingly as I thought about all the dialogue on technology, innovation, global retailing, social media and business information systems, I also reflect on Peter’s message that nothing leads a team and motivates a mission in retailing more than a good old fashioned, sleeves rolled up leader in the trenches with high visibility.
  • Multi-channel retailing is not just about systems and processes, it’s about people and culture, and it’s about change – transformational change that questions and enrols every team member into the commonly understood vision and deployment of its strategy.  Strong arm tactics never meaningfully change a culture, this too is a game of the “one percenters”.
  • Individuals and teams taking pride in their business and passionate about their cause are, as Peter says, are one of the truly important differentiators for your business. The role of leadership is to nurture this cultural direction and energy. No brilliant marketing or product strategy will compensate if this culture of incremental growth and value add is not in place.
  • The CEO that can serve a customer will deliver far greater front line leadership than any well produced document ever could and Peter not only understands thi,s he lives and breathes this axiom of good “fit” retailing.
  • Seeking feedback from customers and staff, acting on it decisively and noticeably, focussing on that one per cent incremental improvement, not looking for perfection in everything, just effort, output, teamwork, and commitment, every minute of every day and night through all the brands channels.
  • We live increasingly in the world of product and asset diversification and speculation as we try to turn our hand to making a dollar from as diverse sources as possible. Yet Peter’s next simple message is to “stick to what you are good at,” build on this point of difference and enhance your capabilities in every way possible to ensure that you stand head and shoulders above the rest.
  • Peter spoke about omni-channel retail, global challenges and opportunities, the need for meaningful customer insight and building the strategic architecture that delivers sustainable growth, yet I am reminded that retail is above all else, a people business and that great fit businesses are made up of great people.

Our next Fit for Business breakfast featuring Bernie Brookes, CEO of Myer, will take place on June 17 and 18. Will it be department store wars or strange bedfellows? Join us, with details to be provided soon or visit our website to register for updates.

Happy Fit Retailing
Brian Walker
Retail Doctor Group

First published by Inside Retail, March 2014