Feargal Quinn Problem Solver: I need my managers on the front line, not doing paperwork
Q I have 14 managers running different sites of my business. I am struggling to keep them away from paperwork and administration and spend more time managing the front of house. Have you any tips?
A This is a topic that I was passionate about during my time in Superquinn. I had a very clear view that a manager's primary role was to be present on the floor with his or her team and customers. Of course there was administration and procedural work which had to be carried out, but in many cases, this could be done on the shop floor during quieter periods.
We always ensured when designing shops that the manager's office was not allocated much space and was rather functional in its design which sent out a clear signal that not much time was to be spent there.
When staff were promoted into store manager roles, I always made a point of presenting them with a tie pin with the following letters engraved onto it ycdbsoya. When I first introduced the tie pins and gave them to existing managers, many were scratching their heads trying to find out what it stood for. The answer had a subtle message within it: 'you can't do business sitting on your armchair'. All a bit of fun but it still served to get a message across. I do accept in a modern business that managers need to be well informed and use systems etc, to manage their outlet, however the focus must be on the operational side of the business. Losing touch with that would be a disaster for any manager.
Q I sell product at a local farmer's market. There have been complaints from retailers in the town as they fear they will lose business and the council have put us in what I feel is a poorer location than the town centre. Do you have any advice?
A Most retailers have had a really tough trading period during recent years. Anything that might disrupt business or that is perceived to diminish the situation further becomes hypersensitive.
The retailers are one of the main contributors to rates in the town and therefore the council would be concerned if there is disquiet.
The reality is that the decision to locate the market away from the centre of the town is an error and there is lots of evidence to say the opposite should be done.
I know of several shopping centres around Europe who bring in a market one day a week and all of the traders, including the food ones, report that business on the market day is one of the busiest.
To some degree, this goes back in history. Most Irish towns had a market either once a month or once a week where farmers brought produce to town and vendors sold their wares. This would be a really busy business day and would attract customers from far and wide.
Exactly the same happens with a good vibrant market located in a town centre. There are plenty of consumers who want to embrace local food and are motivated by the market presence to come to town, shop at the market and do other shopping with the retailers at the same time.
The same happens when you go on your holidays. One of the questions you ask your hotel, is what day are the local markets. My advice to your council and your retailers would be to pilot the market over nine months and I think they could be pleasantly surprised with the results.