Saturday 24 August 2019

How can I make my bosses understand that I'm struggling to run two sides of business at once?

When considering rolling out a chain of shoe shops it’s important to ensure the business has been tested in other locations and is a good fit for the franchise model
When considering rolling out a chain of shoe shops it’s important to ensure the business has been tested in other locations and is a good fit for the franchise model

Problem Solver with Feargal Quinnstory

Q: I work as a senior manager in a wholesale company. We have one retail outlet also for which I am responsible as well as for all of the sales in the wholesale side. I am struggling to manage the retail shop and attend to my other duties. Any thoughts?

A: You do seem to have a massive workload and from the sales figures you provided, your shop seems to have strong potential. You are never going to be able to maximise the sales of the shop if you are also responsible for the whole commercial sales operation of the business. They are two different jobs with each requiring significant dedication and focus.

For the retail shop to succeed it will need focus on standards, marketing, margin improvement and a plethora of other retail headings.

I recommend that you draw up a business case for the appointment of a supervisor/junior manager for the shop. They would report to you but would be dedicated to spending 100pc of their time in the retail unit. It shouldn't be too difficult for them to achieve sales growth greater than 10pc to 15pc and probably margin and other improvements. You should also count in incremental growth you will be able to get from the wholesale side because of greater focus here.

Arrange a meeting with the directors of the business and put the business case to them. It might be an idea to run it as a trial for nine-to-10 months, so that it could be reversed if it was not working. I have little doubt from the picture you painted, that it won't be a success but you just might want to give the directors a get-out clause, should they have any concerns.

Finally, do make sure that you recruit the right person, as the success of this will be entirely dependent on the calibre of person you bring in. Ideally recruit someone from the industry who will hit the ground running and bring with them new expertise and ideas.

Q: WHAT's your view on how customer service has changed in Ireland over the decades?

A: A lot depends on the sectors you are looking at and even, to some degree, stories you hear from other people.

A good friend told me a story recently which has really got me thinking about customer service. His wife is ill and confined to a wheelchair. With their daughter they were heading abroad last year. The airline in question told them that their baggage was well over the limit and they would have to pay €100 more for the excess.

While he was willing to pay, he did explain that most of the extra weight could be attributed to additional equipment and medicine which was required for his wife.

The staff member called a supervisor and after some debate, they agreed that they would not charge him.

That's not the full story however. This year, when heading off on holidays with a different airline, they were again faced with the same situation and knew going to the airport that their bags were overweight.

When they put the bags onto the scales, the check-in staff member smiled and said: "The extra weight is not a problem. We will look after that."

If anyone told you the first story on its own, we would probably say it was good customer service.

In reality, the second story is great customer service and probably still happens too rarely. The member of staff on check-in clearly recognised the situation in front of them, and rather than cause embarrassment, made the decision there and then, much to the relief of everyone travelling.

Some companies have a long way to go to achieve 'great' status with their customer service. Good is not the space any business wants to be aiming for. Your customers are not going to remember good. They will only remember really bad service and great service.

Q: I have a shoe shop which is running quite well and I am thinking of creating a franchise model so I can roll more branches out faster. Do you think this is suitable?

A: It might indeed be possible, but as a general rule I would take a view on this that it is too soon, with only one site, to roll out a franchise.

Proof of concept can't really be defined as an operation working in one location. You might have been lucky with the demographics or the location itself and your success needs to be proven in at least one or two other locations before I would advise you to consider a franchise model.

The other key component of developing a franchise is that every single step and process in the business needs to be documented. You will need a standard operating procedure (SOP) so somebody else, who doesn't know your business, can take these SOPs and successfully implement them in their own shop with supported training.

What you also need to think about with this model, is that once you get your first franchise outlets open, you will then have to audit these on a regular basis in order to ensure that the franchisee is complying. If you don't do this, the franchisee could be tempted to start making changes to the model, or buying from approved sources which would cause your concept to potentially collapse.

There are lots of franchise shows on an annual basis and I would encourage you to attend some of these as this will help you to understand the dynamics of the sector and help you to prepare for your journey.

Franchising is a good model, but you need to know the intricacies of it and be prepared before you roll one out.

  • Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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