The Best Store Managers Can Get Better


What if the best and brightest store managers gathered together to form an ongoing share group committed to overcoming shared obstacles? That’s the goal of the Professional Store Manager Leadership Forum, the brainchild of Harold Lloyd, principal of Harold Lloyd Presents, a Virginia Beach, Va.-based retail consultancy.

Lloyd facilitated his second Professional Store Manager Leadership Forum in New Orleans last December. Some 25 banners selected their best store managers to attend what is intended as an ongoing, evolutionary share group tasked with improving not just their stores, but also their banners and the industry.

Together with the Retail Feedback Group, Lloyd has surveyed thousands of store managers and compiled findings that chronicle their daily struggles. But digging a little deeper led Lloyd to see that the issues among the happiest and most successful store managers differed dramatically from the great majority of respondents who were less satisfied and less successful in their positions.

Strip away the inefficient equipment and a lack of respect from the boss identified by the majority of managers nationwide, and some fundamental industry challenges emerge that plague even the most advanced companies: talent recruitment and employee engagement.

Recruitment Evaluation

Over the course of innumerable store tours, Lloyd has made note of the “appalling” approach to in-store recruitment practices. Customer service representatives don’t have a good record of vetting candidates with respect and enthusiasm. Often, candidates are directed to web portals that aren’t accessible in-store.

Employee engagement suffers from the same lack of coordination and attention. While complex labor laws may often hamper an associate’s ability to leap at new opportunities, learning new skills is not only one of the best ways of engaging employees, it also ensures task coverage. Lloyd recommends continual training, ensuring that several associates can manage all department tasks. “It’s job enrichment, and it’s company insurance,” he says.

In addition to the two items mentioned above, a third issue emerged, not from a manager survey, but through Lloyd’s observation: goal writing. “It’s not unlike mapping your trip to the Golden Gate Bridge,” he explains. “You know to go west, but it’s not a straight line, so you have to be specific about the steps that will get you there.”

People can’t envision those steps, according to Lloyd, because they don’t take the time to think them through. “The boss isn’t going to respond to an off-the-cuff objective,” he says. “Managers need to explain how they’re going to achieve the goal. Put them in writing, share them, commit to them. That’s how you make them real.” In addition, goals must be relevant to the store and the banner.

Ultimately, the information — and the wins — will be shared with other store managers. “I’d like to elevate the position of store manager,” asserts Lloyd. “It’s an honorable career. These are people running a business.”

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