Managing Your Retail Business Culture

The details of your business will fall into place when your management style works.

Managing Your Retail Business Culture

Managing a shooting sports retail business isn’t for the faint of heart. From customers to employees to creditors and vendors, there are many uncontrolled factors and folks that need attention — and managing. 

Business colleges are filled with many types of management courses, and some of the courses cover the bare basic guidelines in how to manage a wide range of subjects. In business, however, everyone knows that management practices are often situation-specific. No business runs on its own: It needs to be managed.

Have you thought about your management style, and could it be improved or modified? Is your management style hampering your business and profits? Take an honest assessment and then look at the results — and your options.

Management Simplified

There are some basic management practices or styles that go a long way in helping your employees — and also helping you grow as a manager. You will need to do some honest soul searching and reflection to see if you meet one of the standard recognized styles. Those include: 

*Democratic — you make decisions based on input from all or most employees.

*Autocratic and authoritative — you decide and control most aspects of the business. It’s your way only because it’s your business. You are the leader, period.

*Bureaucratic — this is the way it has been done and will be done, often with vague explanations.

*Transformational — you engage employees at numerous levels and let their input guide many parts of the business and how you do things. 

*Coach or parent-mentor — You lead employees by being the elder and decision maker in the process.

To determine which one — or parts of others — you fit into as a leader, you need to reflect on your standard decision process and how you engage and interact with employees. For some managers, they often move back and forth in styles used for managing, determined by the situation, the person being contacted, and other factors. The task needing a decision can also influence which direction a manager takes in reaching a decision. 

More Management Options

Much like every business environment, things are always fluid and can change — or do change often. Vendors come and go, employees leave and new hires come on board, communities and streets change, new competitors arise, and more outside factors affect what goes on inside your business. As the owner and/or manager, you need to be flexible and stay alert to upcoming changes. A key to meeting those changes could be changing how you manage.

Some business owners have discovered shadowing, and these managers take someone along on a day of their work to see the decisions that need to be made, things/tasks/situations that have to be addressed and other key areas that managers must manage. This introduction to the basics with a shadower following along can help you discover what’s really happening in your company and possibly help you prepare future managers to aid you. It lets you take a step back and take an objective look at nearly everything that happens, from the loading dock through the merchandise aisles and out the front door. 

You have to know all aspects of the job in order to properly explain them to someone else. Yes, this approach takes considerable time, but the person shadowing you could be a possible great candidate to manage in your absence. This can also be a great way to have managers show new hires the many parts of the business. You have to be comfortable discussing the different elements of your business from top to bottom.

If you do like to receive employee input when making decisions, polling all your employees takes time, but your employees will often look up to you with a different view because you sought their input — and value their opinion. On the other side of this management coin, you have to be willing to share details on topics ranging from ordering goods to making new hires to starting a new department or offering a service to customers. This democratic management process obviously has rewards, but employees could feel left out if you make any decisions without them. 

While some managers are bureaucrats and like managing by prolonged processes, many steps and rules that only they understand and know, employees and some customers see this style of management as not only old school but also as unfriendly and unyielding. Managing others can become more important than actually running the business. Unfortunately, managers in this mode also tend to take questions from employees or customers as a threat or challenge. This is not the best situation for any business to thrive under, but some companies run with this management style and employees develop a work-around atmosphere. 

The coaching or mentoring manager works best with a wide range of employees, but remember that you are the manager and some decisions must be made — and you’re the one making them. Sometimes the decisions require your years of experience to reach the best answer. 

Background Builders

Managing a business successfully requires a wide range of skills, and many tasks need attention. Successful business managers often must have a strong entrepreneurial mindset. 

“Strong skills required for an entrepreneurial mindset, according to recent research, include problem solving, grit, persistence, resourcefulness, and passion among others,” says Bruce Watley, director of the University of South Dakota’s Lillibridge Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Innovation. “The other thing the research discovered is that entrepreneurs are actually more risk averse. They are more calculated in their decisions and take calculated risks, and they do the research necessary to take better risks instead of just jumping into the frying pan.”

Management styles also correspond to the type of business you plan to create and, to some degree, those employees you will be managing. While managers cannot often be the do-it-all to complete necessary jobs, such as cleaning the store or unloading a delivery truck and sorting inventory, the manager should know what skills are needed to do those tasks and the time required so another asset — employee time — can also be managed. Great managers are always learning and are flexible in how they delegate and assign tasks. 

Some managers, however, have difficulty delegating. Their mindset becomes if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Or they view mundane tasks and think to themselves, “I could have done that better or faster.” Remember, as a manager you have a wide range of tasks that need to be done. You can’t do it all, so employees become an extension of you. They work with you to meet the challenges and complete the basics and beyond. Managers who have moved up through the ranks and have completed those many tasks in previous jobs often know the full details in doing them successfully. Experience and common sense are other great management skills.

Communication — and sometimes coaching — means managing by thoroughly explaining and covering the details on tasks or projects. Being able to communicate, especially with new or seasonal employees, is another management skill that needs to be developed and frequently applied. There are several great online courses that can help improve communication skills.

Learning to Delegate

As a rule, better managers always make it a practice to delegate when possible but also work alongside employees when necessary. Assigning a task and returning to the office to watch through a window and scowl is not managing. When employees see the company leadership involved and ready to help with tasks like building a hunting gear display at the entrance or erecting an end cap of trail cameras, most employees see this as active management. As a rule, employees are more willing to roll up their sleeves and complete tasks when they know the action of their manager relays the clear message that this project is important. Leading by example is a powerful management technique.

Delegating is difficult when it is your company or you are responsible for everything within the walls. Employees often see managers who arrive while they are supposed to be away on vacation as someone who does not believe in them, and this action can create a wedge between managers and employees. Trust those you have hired and remember that you cannot do everything. 

Another way to learn to delegate is to ask for volunteers to complete projects and then step away. This disconnection period could be a good time to go check on your competitors or to run errands. Yes, someone will need to be in charge of the entire retail center in your absence, but some employees will be so involved in the tasks they have accepted that they may not recognize you are away. You can use this delegation process in short periods and build it into longer periods, such as that entire week of vacation you are needing and keep promising your family. 

As a rule: Delegate when possible, assign when needed, and always lead by example. Innovative managers soon recognize that effectively and fairly managing those who report to them is their top priority. All of the business tasks and projects will fall into place when your management style works.


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