serve your god

Kronos.

Sounds like a god from the Old Testament.  One the Philistines might bow down to or the Caananites might sacrifice infants in it’s gaping maw.

I haven’t been to a business in the last five years that didn’t set up Kronos on a throne of power.  And everywhere they have, there are problems.

For one, Krono is a demanding god that wants you to schedule enough payroll to actually get the job done.  If you pinch your pennies and do not tithe, Kronos’s wrath is damning indeed.

The other reason we live in an unperfect world under this all-knowing god?  He is a flawed god and works better when you work with him with your human reasoning.  If ye blindly serve, lo, ye shall surely die.

Kronos, unfortunately, is not a god.

Be My Guest

I personally love the policy companies have taken to refer to customers as guests.  When it isn’t simply a policy.  And when you are also allowed to acknowledge that they aren’t just guests; they’re also your customer.

I know it sounds simplistic or jaded to speak of how the customer is the reason for you getting a paycheck, but it’s not true to say a guest helps you put food on the table.  The guest typically gets the best you have to offer, and in that regard, yes, you should absolutely be on your best behavior and roll out an excellence unequaled the each customer.  But you must further offer customer service, not give away the store, and sell something!

The positives are obvious.  You treat each visitor with respect, whether they are a paying customer or not.  You shouldn’t be short, bitter, angry, etc etc etc.  You should get to know regulars, learn their names, greet them warmly.

But don’t get things twisted.  You can’t spend all day entertaining company if you want to have a profitable company.  And you can’t spend all your time with the guests you prefer over the ones you don’t.

Treat your guests like customers and your customers like guests.

Merchandising Made Simple

In Western civilization, we read from top to bottom, left to right, front to back, and that’s also how we expect to browse as consumers.

A floor stack should be between hip high to chest high. Any higher, and you’re stealing from the psychological impact of your most precious real estate. Any lower, and you’ve merely created a tripping hazard.

The eyeline is your most important space in the store! It is where you should be putting the message you want to communicate the most. Screw this area up, and you’ll fail. Nail it, and you can’t fail.

The area above the eyeline is what sets the tone of your store. If it’s crisp, clean, and screams your brand, you’re doing it right. If it’s just where you keep storage, backstock, or trinkets and that’s NOT your brand, it’s time to take a hard look at the size of your backroom.

In addition, you should fully utilize the alphabet.  You should remember that keeping the store clean is how you make the customer feel comfortable to browse and welcome to spend their money and come back again and again. Information you provide should be communicated effectively, with brevity and a features and benefits approach. Price labels should be easy to read, understand (with “club prices,” this is easy to miss), and readily visible. Remember, a business is sometimes called an organization for a reason! Don’t cut corners!

Your staff is your most important piece of marketing in your store. The more you can create experts out of your staff, the more of an industry leader you’ll be. Note that I said “expert” and not “snob.”

And last, but not least, if you are creating a “bargain bin,” ignore all of the rules of alphabet and organization. Messy DOES have some power. It makes things appear “cheap,” and when you’re communicating “insane value,” cheap is your best friend. Just don’t let it communicate that about the rest of your store or you will undercut your brand.

Now go and sin no more.

“What’s Your Problem?” IV: The Buck Stops Here

It always amazes me that there are managers who would list example based leadership and employee empowerment as strengths that don’t get it.

You “get paid the big bucks” because you are the one who is ultimately respobsible, therefore you take the heat.

Maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here.  Let me first explain what I mean by “taking the heat.”

Let’s imagine for a moment that your staff is empowered to make smart decisions for the good of your business.  Let’s also contemplate that you have guided them in how to make said decisions through informed demonstration.  Not that hard to imagine, right?  (At least I hope not!)

So why is it that sometimes your people still come to you, asking you to deal with an irrate customer?  Well, let’s take the smaller percentage of your employees who are simply shrugging off responsibility out of the equation.  Your BEST and BRIGHTEST are doing this too!  What gives?

Maybe you see this as an opportunity to further train this person in the more advanced techniques of being yelled at.  Or perhaps you believe it will give your employees MORE power to deal with every single issue they encounter.

You’d be wrong.  Fact is that the heat isn’t on the representative of the company, it’s on the company that feeds your kids, and it’s not only your job, it’s absolutely in your best interest to take the heat!

You can not lead by example if you don’t.  You can’t empower an employee when you don’t.  Reality is that you’re teaching them to avoid the problem just like you do, and you’re undermining their authority by not backing them up!

It’s really simple.  The buck stops with you.  Stop having your people write checks you can’t/won’t cash.

“What’s Your Problem?!” I

You will find it very difficult to manage your business if you’re too deeply embedded in it.

It was this sound reasoning that led one former employer to invest in a philosophy of “managing from the balcony.”  His policy was to watch the business through surveliance cameras in his office while he busied himself with only the paperwork and on-phone marketing aspects of his job.

Sorry, buddy, but what you did instead of fixing the problem was simply embed yourself in the least people connected part of your business.

What this resulted in was a staff that was left to fend for and manage itself, and that becomes an even larger problem when your management style does not include adequate training.

When this becomes the largest problem was during the greatest opportunities, a customer service issue.

What would happen when there was a problem for this particular former employer is a perfect illustration of why this doesn’t work.

A customer would have an issue, be enraged with an employee, and ask for a manager.  The employee would radio for the manager, and he would either ignore the call, do everything he could to avoid the issue, or worst, walk away from the issue in plain sight of both the employee and the enraged customer.

His reasoning?  “If I have to get involved, you aren’t doing your job.”

There are three solutions to this problem, and they will be the subject of our next three blogs:

1. Empower
2. Lead by Example
3. Take the Heat