How do I really improve my style of management?
Problem Solver for Small Businesses:
Q I run a medium-sized business and we have been fortunate in that customers have supported us strongly, even in more recent years. The problem is that, behind the scenes, the business is totally chaotic and I think much of that is down to my style of management. I tend to move from one project to the next without closing off the first one. I need some advice as this is now threatening to damage the business.
A Some business entrepreneurs are fanatical about detail, while others are more innovators who come up with good business ideas but are not great at the implementation piece.
You seem to be the latter. That leaves the business vulnerable and you have described how that is now threatening the future of the business. You really only have a number of choices.
You recognise that this is causing serious problems in the business and discipline yourself to get heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the business and the detail that is required, although I have doubts as to whether this will be simply a short-lived promise.
What might be smarter is to accept that you will never be excellent in this area, and instead elevate one of your staff/managers to take more responsibility in this area. That will require you to sit down and work out exactly what role you will play and what role this other staff member needs to play.
I recognised in Superquinn that my real passion was for the consumer and creating new, innovative retail solutions. That meant I never had much time (or passion) for some of the technical parts of the business, which were absolutely critical for the business's survival. I did, however, see this weakness and made sure that I appointed people around me to take care of all these other areas and sometimes to fight back with me when these areas needed greater priority.
By making these moves, you will give your customers and your staff the clarity that comes with an efficiently run business and will reduce and eliminate the chaotic situations that can arise when the business owner takes on areas where they are not skilled or, indeed, not passionate.
QI have been producing a craft product over the last number of years that has proved quite popular with consumers as the price point is reasonable. I was considering selling the product at a popular city farmers' market; what is your advice as I don't know anything about markets?
AA lot will depend on where the market is located. Some markets attract mainly food customers who are focused more on a weekly shop than buying non-food items. In your case, it would be great if the market you choose had a mix between domestic consumers to boost footfall and visitors/tourists who might be more interested in a gift product. So in the first instance, I think you need to look at several markets if you have a choice so that you choose the one with the most appropriate customer base for your product.
With craft products, giving the right price point is also important and I notice that many craft producers are now producing a smaller or different version of a product that they were making several years ago in order to allow them hit a particular price point that satisfies the consumer, which makes a lot of sense. You do seem to have got this part right if you are reporting successful sales over the last number of years so this shouldn't be a problem if you choose the right market.
Also you will need to think about the smaller details to ensure it all works for you. Remember, a farmers' market is retailing in a different format so all of the basic rules apply. You will need great price signage, strong visual display, prices on each product, some signage telling the story of why your product is different, etc.
You will also find that selling in a market requires a high level of engagement with the customer and you will need to be very good at engaging in conversation and "selling your story".
There are also practical considerations in terms of how your stall will need to be protected from the weather elements, how you will transport both your stall and goods to and from the market and ensuring that you have appropriate insurance, etc.
As with any other new project, you will need to do your research and certainly don't just pick the first market that comes along as it may not suit your product. It will be worthwhile chatting to some of the stallholders at a few markets and getting their opinion on whether the customer base is appropriate for you.
I have met many market traders who have developed a winning formula, but others who find it difficult to get a minimum level of sales in each week.