Operational Excellence

By John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc.

Managing a retail store is tough work.

Between operations, merchandising, marketing and facility upkeep, retail business owners have their hands full.  Managing the details of retail is the difference between making it or not.  All too often, retail owners become lax in their operation and put themselves at an unnecessary disadvantage with their customers.  It may seem elementary, yet so many retailers miss the little things — the details that customers notice.  They miss the chance to be operational excellent.

Retail is the process management of the details so that it allows for what is extremely beneficial – taking care of the customer.  I am sure many have experienced the situation where you walk into a retail store and employees are too busy with “operational items” to help a customer.   That shows a lack of pre-planning and operational execution that should have been completed well in advance of a customer walking into the store.  Being operational excellent is about developing systems and procedures to address all of the little details of running your store — many of which are transparent to the customer. The only time that these details become apparent to the customer is when they are not addressed.

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Being operational excellent enables your employees to transcend beyond “employees” to become “ambassadors” of your store.  When employees become ambassadors of the store and its personality, they become an extension of the brand image.   Operational excellence will require you to think through every detail of your operation and develop a plan for each area in advance of the customer interaction allows for friendly and successful customer service.  In the end, your employees and customers will benefit by providing the following:

Train Your Team:  Detailing your expectations in advance for your team is one way to ensure that each employee is cross-trained and aware of their role in the store.  All to often, managers leave too many procedures to “chance” and the employee will take the path of least resistance, often shortcutting the customer. Identifying and mapping the procedures to success for your team in advance provides both the employee and customer the optimal experience.

Makes Your Marketing More Powerful:  Investing money on marketing is critical to any successful business.  If you are like any retailer, making your local marketing more efficient is paramount to the overall success.  There is nothing more frustrating in retail than communicating a motivating marketing campaign to drive in customer traffic, then dropping the ball operational.  Not only did it waste money on the campaign, but most likely chased away customers that will never return.  Your operation has to be impeccable in order to deliver on the marketing promises.

Delivers Better Customer Service:  Customers are busy people.  While one would like to believe that customers enjoy standing in line or waiting for a sales associate to greet them, the truth of the matter is many would rather buy and go.  Having your operation in tip-top shape not only delivers the best service to each customer, but enables it to increase the number of customers you can reach.  I am not suggesting a robotic approach, but rather a customer interaction that leaves the customer with feeling of confidence in your operation.

Improves Operational Throughput:  Creating a work environment that is focused and organized, provides the opportunity to take advantage of incremental sales that come your way.  In a disorganized retail setting, customers will become impatient and seek other options – i.e., your competition.  Your goal to capture every sales opportunity that comes into your store and if your operation is humming along, these will additional sales will fold seamlessly into place.  Every operational procedure put in place should be created in order to increase throughput.

Builds Energy & Focus:  Employees that have clear direction and roles, will channel their energy toward greater customer service rather than spending time trying to figure out what is expected of them.  In my experience, operational teams have always been able to take on significantly more, if the expectations were fair and focused.  Spending time up front with your team will pay handsome dividends in their development and customer service.

Provides Balance:  Let’s face it, we work because we have to.  Given the choice between scrubbing base boards or lying by the pool, almost all of us would choose the latter.  While we cannot afford to live the life of luxury 100% of the time, managing your workplace to ensure the most efficient operation possibly while delivering results, is the optimal scenario to maintaining balance in your life.  Creating an operational excellent work environment enables you to surpass the expectations of your operations while providing for a healthy balance of life.

Below provides a simple, yet prime example of creating plans to manage operational excellence.  Creating, coaching and managing your team to the operation expectations you desire, can put your store on its way to being operational excellent:

In retail, it is the little items that add up — operations is about preparation first, then execution.  Having your store buttoned-up from top to bottom not only puts your best foot forward to your customers, but ensures that your entire staff is in alignment to your executional expectations.  Consistency and execution will take your store further and be harder for your competition to replicate.  Focus like a laser on operational excellence and your sales will see a steady increase in sales.

John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries.  With more than 20 years of senior-level  experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.


  • Cstoreoffice1

    Yes! i like your all thought about retail facilities…i think that is a really nice way to aware the people About these kind of issues. Any way i really like the way you expressed your thoughts!
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  • Dewaynenowell

    Wow great article.  I am a district manager for a c-store chain and I preach these principles everyday.  It is amazing the lack of understanding of the basics essentials that it takes to run this business.  I have worked on the corp side as well as managing operators that lease stores and it is amazing the differences in operational understanding.  However,  it is also amazing at the benefits when you get buy in and see how much success one can have.  

    Thank,

    DewNow

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