Setting goals

NICK SHANAGHER asks if you are giving your staff the support they need to be world class

Southampton retailer Solomon Kassa was recently asked by trade magazine Retail Newsagent the secret of Starbucks’ success. A former manager for the coffee-shop chain, he suggested two reasons: marketing and training. “Staff understand the products they are selling and they are taught to make customer needs a priority,” he said.

Although Kassa is applying this knowledge to his shop and many other retailers may be doing the same, a big question mark must hang over how good the industry really is at training its staff.
The economics of multiples may even afford independent retailers an edge in customer service, as many larger retailers budget for zero hours of staff training.

It is 10 years since Charlie Bell, briefly chief executive of McDonald’s, held a conference with his top 50 executives to find a way to turn around the fast-food chain’s fortunes. One group suggested helping to get the company’s staff to leave better prepared for life.

As a result, McDonald’s made learning and development one of its top three priorities. Lower staff turnover and better morale are two reasons why it is so successful today.

Using this story to launch the 2013 Independent Achievers Academy, business speaker Jeff Grout asked retailers of all sizes how well they knew their staff. Getting the 50 attendees to list their direct reports, Grout then challenged them to write down what motivated each of them.

The more you know about what motivates your people, the more successful you can be, he said. This means that you have to socialise with your staff, as it is only outside the workplace that you can create an environment where they can open up.

“It is important to sense the mood of your staff,” said Grout. “If you can improve morale, the level of customer service will go up.”

Grout encouraged retailers to use ‘teamship’ rules to cover issues like punctuality and the use of mobile phones. When Clive Woodward, the England rugby coach, had his first session with the squad, they arrived late and were chatting on their phones. At the end of his first meeting, he set the goal of winning the World Cup and asked the team to decide what they would do about turning up for meetings.

All the players arrived at the next meeting 10 minutes early and had left their phones in their cars or hotel rooms. The team had made the rules and enforced them themselves.

How did Woodward achieve this? In setting the goal, he used the phrase ‘world class’ over and over again. The players listened to this and when they set the rules, they decided that this meant being 10 minutes early and not bringing phones. In 2003, the team was best in the world.
Grout also challenged the retailers at the launch with the words of Ron Dennis, chairman of motor sports company McLaren: “Every winning formula has a sell-by date.”

The Independent Achievers Academy’s aim is to encourage retailers to rethink about how they operate and to adopt best practice. It is free to take part in the academy and it is proven to help good retailers become great retailers.

Wholesalers who want to help their retailers take part can get more details by calling Caroline Cronin on 020 7689 3369 or by visiting

Picture: Clive Woodward at Twickenham. Associated Newspapers


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As managing director of Newtrade Publishing Nick has over 20 years’ experience of covering retail markets, Nick helps shopkeepers and wholesalers of all sizes to think about what questions are important for themselves and their businesses, and to find answers that work in their shops.


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