Friday 19 January 2018

How did you develop the expertise of Superquinn staff?

Problem Solver

Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke
Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke

Q: How did you develop expertise in your Superquinn staff?

A: We had lots of different methods to address this including formal training, further education, a good personal development plans for staff. We also did some less formal upskilling which was a success. I recall seeing lots of different trade magazines lying in our Support Office unread as the team there had already become behind schedule and often didn't get around to reading them.

We then changed the subscription list. Instead of sending all of those magazines to the head office, we spread them out throughout the company so that junior staff in particular parts of the business got the specialist trade publication for that area. That staff member knew he or she was the only person in the company who was getting that publication so it was a great motivator to read them. These staff started coming back with good ideas they read about. That encouraged us to subscribe to more specialist magazine. Damien Kiernan was working in our Naas branch and put in Europe's first salad bar as a result of seeing one initiative and we had many more successes.

Q: How can a small business survive against bigger competitors?

A: Your question prompts a memory from the earlier years in Superquinn. I had been asked to join a group of American retailers who were visiting stores in Nuremberg. At the time Superquinn had seven shops and I felt quite honoured to be in the company of CEOss who had up to 800 shops.

One supermarket we visited built up an amazing reputation for making their own sausages - there was always a queue for them and if you left them unattended in your trolley, they would almost certainly be "acquired" by another customer who didn't want to bother queueing.

I discussed it with my fellow retailers, but to my astonishment, they poured scorn on the idea, saying they couldn't do this across all of their shops as they would have problems with consistency and didn't have the calibre of staff necessary.

I knew that John in our Finglas shop, Pat in our Walkinstown shop and Maurice in our Northside shop would all be capable at looking at this project for us.

When I came back and threw it out to one of the team, the Superquinn sausage was born….and the rest is history!

As a small business, I knew my team and what they were capable of and it was this flexibility we had over and above the larger companies which allowed us to do this. That is your secret weapon!

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