Solutions Sound-Off: Industry Peers Present Solutions for Dealing with the Challenge of Communication
On Day 2 of Elevate 2017, David and Wayne McMahon conducted an open forum session on “Challenges and Opportunities.” They kicked it off by asking attendees to sound off on the biggest challenges they faced within their retail operation. Once they selected a challenge, the entire audience worked together with David and Wayne to help provide a solution to that obstacle, often sharing their own best practices and tools on how they deal with things in their own store.
Of all the challenges discussed during this session, Darcy of Walker’s Furniture brought up an issue that much of the audience could relate to: communication. It’s a broad issue, one that runs deeper than the surface level, and it was covered in detail by David, Wayne and other members of the audience. Here’s a recap of the valuable discussion on how other retailers tackle communication in their stores:
Darcy, Walker’s Furniture: “I would say that one of our major challenges is the communication of procedures, ideas or concerns between 16 locations. I want to figure out what it is that we can do or say from the administrative side to help our sales people and managers understand that it’s OK to give us feedback and communicate openly; that we won’t use their feedback against them negatively.”
David then asked the audience who else faced the same issue with communication in their own store. He then inquired who felt they had a positive culture of communication, and what systems they had in place to create that environment.
A representative from Weinberger’s Furniture was the first to respond.
Karly, Weinberger’s Furniture: “We started doing a 30-to-45 minute call once a week between all of the managers and myself. We essentially spend the entire meeting touching base and talking about what’s happening at each store, if anyone has any major issues, what if any major sales are coming up, and just get everyone on the same page. It has helped a lot with streamlining communication and has also worked as an outlet for any questions needing immediate answers.”
Wayne: “I believe that communication and feedback is a multi-level issue. For example, if you have 15 locations, do each of your respective managers and leaders hold daily pre-shift meetings? If the answer is no, then that needs to be put into place, and your regional managers need to be the enforcers making sure these meetings are actually taking place. What about your general managers? Do they hold regular meetings with sales managers? Regular touchpoints between key players such as your managers, CEO, controllers and the like are crucial to ensuring that all important information is received by everyone, the necessary feedback is given and the lines of communication always remain open and fluid.”
David: “Not everyone is able to have that multi-level structure in their business, but I’ll tell you about a practice we’ve seen businesses of all sizes try out and succeed with, and that’s the practice of one-to-one. Whether you’re a $3 million operation or a $50 million operation, the practice of one-to-one works for businesses of all shapes and sizes. It was first tested out through one of our Kaizen Performance Groups, and we then brought it out to Sherman’s Furniture, where they’ve seen huge improvement since implementing it. The practice of one-to-one is essentially the practice of every person in your business meeting with their manager once per month to have a conversation about progress, obstacles and the general state of affairs. It’s a very simple, casual meeting, it’s documented and questions “How do you think we’re doing” or “Do you see anything we can do better?” if the employee is facing any issues that would also be documented during this meeting and then next steps would be discussed and outlined. Just a simple conversation like that to open up the lines of communication works wonders, and while it feels like a lot of people talking to each other at first, Paul of Sherman’s Furniture can’t say enough how transformative the one-to-one initiative has been for his business.”
As a few other audience members offered their own suggestions. One PROFITsystems customer suggested a podcast called Manager Tools, an educational series hosted by two men from West Point focusing solely on one-to-ones. She said the content shared has been extremely helpful for her business, and she recommends it to any manager looking for strategies to improve.
Another customer spoke about conducting a daily call with this entire operation. Every morning, everyone hops on at 9 a.m., kicking off the call with “good news” to acknowledge everything that’s going well. Following good news is challenges, when each person has the opportunity to voice not just the obstacles they’re facing that day, but what they need from management to overcome them. The call lasts no more than 15 minutes and has proven to be extremely effective in keeping the daily operations of his store running smoothly and efficiently.
David closed out this detailed discussion surrounding the challenge of communication by reinforcing how crucial it is to implement and adhere to a system that works for your store. It’s about constant contact, touchpoints and actually getting in front of employees and managers. Holding the necessary meetings between the necessary people often and in-person is the best way to communicate effectively, and that’s how you keep your operation, and everyone in it, organized, effective and profitable.