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Hiring & Keeping Salespeople - Part 4 -Care And Feeding Of Good Managers

Furniture World Magazine


There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of retailers out there looking to hire good managers... possibly even your managers.

How to Properly Manage the Manager

  • Assume nothing, question everything: An owner should go into a store and assume that he doesn't know what's going on, and then should ask questions about any topic of concern. However, those questions should always go through the appropriate
  • Define the job: This job description must include quantifiable measures of success.
  • Give them all the tools they need to get their job done.
  • Get out of their way and let them perform. Never do the work that you pay somebody else to do for you.
  • Hold them accountable for results.

Trust me, I know. I wouldn't have a business to run if there weren't hundreds, perhaps thousands, of retailers out there looking to hire managers. They need managers because they're expanding or they need to fill holes in the staffing at their existing stores.

For all the same reasons that we've examined in previous columns (posted to furninfo.com), talented and conscientious retail employees are hard to find. That goes double for managers, who endure the daily burden of keeping the store or their department together.

Nobody in a retail organization has a stronger impact on success or the lack thereof, than a manager. In the store or the warehouse, the right manager can transform a dull, drab workplace into a vibrant one where people are excited about their work. With the proper support from the owners or senior management, managers make the difference between retail vigor or business rigor.

Managers are the ones who drive the business. To a large degree, they determine success or failure. At the same time, you should know that many retailers, furniture and otherwise, are out there looking for good managers, and few if any of those retailers would give a second thought to hiring your best managers.

Having said all this, now let's ask, what are you doing to make sure your managers are happy and satisfied in their work? If you're like most furniture retailers, you are probably not paying enough attention to this critical component of your business.
In case you forgot, it bears repeating: Many people look at retail as a last resort because of the long, odd hours, the weekends on duty, and the relatively poor benefits. All the more reason why, once we have a creative person we trust on board as a manager, we must do everything reasonably possible to keep him or her from jumping ship.

From this perspective, it is reasonable to provide a combination of competitive benefits, managerial autonomy and a clearly defined set of goals with an accountability system.

In the movies, they said, "Show me the money," but what they wanted was love and money. The money, or the total value of a compensation package, must be competitive, and it's your job to know what competitive is in your market. Good people – managers and staff -- must feel that they are being paid competitively.

If I had to talk about minimums, I would say you have to have some form of medical insurance, with an option that allows the employee to insure his or her family. And a 401(k) is mandatory, too. I'm not talking about matching funds, although that's not a bad idea. In today's economy, it's meaningful to all potential employees if you've set up a system that allows them to invest pre-tax income in their retirement account.

After that, I believe you should be offering profit sharing, an employee discount, short- and long-term disability, and paid vacation. If you don't, be prepared to lose people to companies that do. Your best people will always be looking for a better deal if they feel their compensation is not competitive.

Love Thy Manager
By this we mean that retailers should respect the people they hire as managers enough that they treat them as professionals. You should assume that your managers don't need to be checked on every day, especially if the person is not treading on new ground. You should not openly counter your managers' directions to the staff, and you should not give the staff any sense that they can get around the manager by coming to you.

Autonomy is something that many retailers have a hard time giving to their managers, which I believe, is a leading cause of turnover. When someone can feel their boss's hot breath on the back of their neck, they probably are not going to be comfortable enough to perform at a high level.

Ideally, your managers should be self-sufficient individuals who solve problems rather than defending the decisions that created those problems. Unfortunately, many people do not come out of the box with these qualities. As the owner, you can help your managers develop that type of positive approach by showing that you are interested in moving forward rather than studying the past. You will have to hold your fire a bunch of times, but once one of your managers knows you are in his or her corner, their confidence – and their performance – will soar.

Still, you must always state your concerns, but do so in a way that doesn't put people on the defensive – that is, unless you want a manager to know that his or her future with the company is in jeopardy. Generally speaking, I would recommend that your criticisms focus on quantifiable goals that have been laid out for this job rather than on the little details that may contribute to those goals. Keep your eye on the big picture.

When a manager is failing, however, you should provide the support, guidance and leadership to help them get back on track, if that's what both of you want. Set up an improvement action plan that lays out in detail, with a schedule, what's expected or necessary for that manager to be successful in his or her job.

Now that I've recommended that you back off and let your managers do what they're supposed to do, what role should the owner be playing? I believe you should be the company's accountability manager, the person who tracks the progress your managers are making against their goals.

You should provide vision and direction on a strategic level, but you should not be managing the daily details. The goal of the owner should be to become the least most important person in the entire company.

The great ones have that reflex. They can walk away from their companies, and the company will still survive and thrive because the managers know how to do their jobs.

Sam Leder, wrote this article while President of Shepherd Retail Recruiting. Sam has 34 years of retail management, consulting and recruiting experience in the home furnishings industry. He has been in management positions for top 100 furniture retailers including Breuners, Haynes and Rhodes and has provided consulting services to more than 300 retailers. For more information about the topics in this article contact Sam care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at sleder@furninfo.com.

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