Are you managing what happens or managing to make things happen?
Think about what drives your typical day. Do you work with problems that arise as the result of doing business -- problems such as customer service, sales-staff issues, merchandise-related tasks like changing price tags or tracking down late deliveries from vendors or your own delivery nightmares? Are you constantly working on other peoples' priorities while the things that are important to you and to your business receive little if any of your time and effort?
Most furniture store owners and managers we encounter spend the most time working on matters that fall into the category of "urgent" and spend little time working on those matters that we would define as "important." It is important to train people to do their jobs well in accordance with the needs of your company and your customers. It is important to develop relationships with your employees based on their needs for achievement, belonging, participation and financial rewards. It is important to have in place goals for each individual, goals that tie into the overall goals of the company and to maintain a goal-oriented environment through coaching and performance appraisal.
But, it is urgent to respond to an angry customer who has called on the phone. It is urgent to spend time with a vendor representative who has an appointment (because she's standing there). It is urgent to get the trucks out on time and to meet delivery commitments. It's urgent to remove price tags when the sale ends and re-price everything or to get this week's ad to the newspaper.
We all spend far too much time on urgent matters and not nearly enough on important ones. Understanding how to reverse this reality can be one of the most important things any manager can accomplish.
Too much time is spent dealing with everyday crises rather than taking steps to fix their causes. The No. 1 reason why this situation exists is that most managers and business owners have no mission in place for their companies and no clear, commonly-accepted company goals to be achieved by the entire store team. Too often these managers are responding to what happens and, because they have allowed their businesses to be unfocused, they are victims of urgency caused by outside influences.
To instill individual accountability for performance in your company, work with your employees and your top management team to develop your company's mission. The mission, when fully developed, will represent the collective conscience of you and your employees, thereby defining what kind of company they want to be. The test of a good mission is that every employee can look at it every day and see it in operation in his daily work. Each employee can be satisfied that her work has meaning and that others share this feeling. A mission statement, when properly developed using input from the whole organization, can provide people with the sense of pride and belonging that is so often missing from the retail workplace.
A Universal Industry Mission
Your mission statement should reflect the common psyche of your company and relate to some things that are unique to you and your community.
Here is a general furniture industry mission statement that can serve as a foundation for developing a meaningful, focused mission statement for your company. There is one important element in this statement that sets it aside from most mission statements we've seen; it has customers in it.
Our universal industry mission is: To help our customers understand how to use our products to enhance their quality of life.
This can be expanded to include a statement regarding quality products, but we strongly urge that price not be part of your mission statement. There can be only one lowest price and only one highest quality and with every store spouting this as their mission, consumers have become wary at best. A solution could be to talk about other factors of your business relationship with your customers such as offering a wide selection of furniture styles, professional advice and service in order to provide your customers with the greatest value for their furniture investment.
Understood in the mission is the result in terms of success for the company and its employees. We have to believe that if we can fulfill this mission we will reap the rewards as more customers buy more from us more frequently.
Establishing Your Management Mission
Just as important to your success in turning to important issues from urgent ones is your management mission: your statement of how you will lead and coach the people who work in your company toward the achievement of their personal goals. Such a mission statement might look like this: It is the mission of the management team at Shepherd Furniture Company to provide our employees with supportive, fair leadership, training and day-to-day coaching so as to create an environment of high performance where people can achieve their personal goals.
With these two mission statements in place you will have set the stage for beginning to move from a reactive management system to a proactive one.
The Singular Importance Of Goals
There is no other management tool that can deliver more return to the organization than properly developed goals. Whether you are dealing with sales goals or other performance goals in support departments, this is the primary pathway to continuous success. Goals are the strategic management variable, although they are more misused and misunderstood than any other management tool.
If your mission statement matches or approximates the ones shown above then you believe that people, both customers and employees, are the most critical resources your company has. If this is true, and we think it is, then it is the goals of those people, those human resources, that will drive your company forward not goals or quotas set by you for them.
This is not to say that you cannot have goals for your company -- you can, but you must realize that those goals will only be achieved through the commitment of your people. They have to see that there is benefit to them when the goals are achieved. These benefits do not have to be in the form of financial rewards. They can be team-related or tied to one of the many other employee-satisfaction factors such as achievement, recognition, belonging or self-fulfillment. We believe that merely being a member of a high-performance team of people can be a satisfactory reward for good work in circumstances where financial needs are already satisfied.
Goals and the system for developing, managing and tracking them when tied to clear and understandable living missions can begin to drive your company toward the liberation from reactively dealing with urgent issues to proactively dealing with important ones. The need to train constantly and to provide the necessary tools for high performance cannot be overstated, but all training must result in changes of behavior and improved performance to be effective. When goals are clear and meaningful to people, training takes on new meaning and will be more likely to produce the desired results.
CASE STUDY-TEMA CONTEMPORARY FURNITURE
If McInnes is advertising a $1,000 queenbed, he has to make sure that the sales staff has a $1,000 sales pitch for that item in order to make it a perceived value for consumers.
Company goals are essential for any business that wants long-term growth and profitability, says Graham McInnes, VP of TEMA Contemporary Furniture.
Based in Albuquerque, N.M., TEMA has found that the commonality of goals must permeate the organization to include individuals as well as departments, McInnes says.
"If you're not all pulling in the same direction, obviously you're not going to get to the same destination." he says.
Beyond the concept of each team member understanding the company objectives, all departments must operate in concert with each other so that those objectives can be realized.For instance, McInnes's primary responsibility at TEMA is marketing while Soren Thonsen handles merchandising.
"If Soren and I aren't together on our strategy, the consumer coming in the front door will have a mixed message," McInnes says. "We both have to know what the other is doing as well as what the store goals are." So as Thonsen pushes TEMA into new and higher price points with fashion-forward merchandise, McInnes has to follow suit with the store's advertising.
And in the store, if McInnes is advertising a $1,000 queen bed, he has to make sure that the sales staff has a $1,000 sales pitch for that item in order to make it a perceived value for consumers.
While these concepts sound simple, even elementary, their execution require a daily commitment to effective communications. Poor communications are the root of most problems for TEMA, McInnes says.
"What we're working on now is better and different ways of communicating," he says, explaining that clarity and redundancy are the keys to successful communications. "Everybody's level of communication skill is different. Some people are better with written directions while others don't respond unless they receive verbal instructions."
Joe Capillo is a 41 year career veteran, experienced in managing and consulting with furniture retail operations. He is also a contributing editor for Furniture World Magazine. He is a contributing editor to FURNITURE WORLD and a frequent speaker at industry functions. See all of Joe’s articles on the furninfo.com website.
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