Saturday 25 November 2017

Problem solver: I'm frustrated with struggling to maintain my shop's standards

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

Feargal Quinn

Q: I am struggling to maintain standards in my shop and find myself repeatedly frustrated. What am I doing wrong?

A: It's not so much that you are doing something wrong, but perhaps there is a different approach required. I hear the comments you make quite often with small to medium businesses, especially if you end up with more than one shop in the company when this problem becomes really evident. Go back to basics and start by bringing your staff together and explaining the objectives of the business for exceeding those in the marketplace.

Rather than continuously tell people what the standards are, get your staff involved in building some Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's). When you are satisfied that these reflect the standard that the business should operate at compile them into a book and perhaps add some photographs of displays and merchandising best practice which will really bring the standards to life. Then sit down with everyone and retrain the team from scratch based on the new standards.

Build checklists; for example a morning checklist and an evening checklist which should be then used to monitor the standards on a daily basis.

Empower staff to fill out the lists and be part of raising the standards and periodically spot-check these yourself. The secret to high standards is clarity, process and involving your team.

Q: I recall many years ago Superquinn colleagues taking part in the St Patrick's Day Parade every year. What benefit did the company get?

A: What great memories! You are correct. Up to 400 colleagues took part in the parade for at least six years. It was a massive undertaking as obviously it wasn't our core skill area and while we would engage in services of one or two specialist experts, the event was largely organised by our colleagues and management. Every Sunday morning for two months leading up to the parade, we would congregate in the underground carpark at Superquinn Blackrock and practice our dance routine.

The interesting thing was we never had to put any pressure on our people to attend rehearsals or there was never any reluctance to attend even though it was on people's day off in many cases.

That was our main reason for entering the parade… employee motivation and an excuse to have fun. Of course there were some added benefits in terms of building our brand and promoting the Superquinn name to the tens of thousands who lined the route, but for us it was about being seen in a good light and having a great day.

I can recall the excitement in the Gresham Hotel at a party for the team after the parade, when we found out we had won the overall best entry. It was the centre of conversation over the following few months, not alone for those who participated, but for those who watched colleagues with pride on the sidelines or on TV. We entered the parade because it allowed our team the opportunity to celebrate and take pride in what they did.

Q: Can you advise me on how to grow the sales of my financial advisory and pension service.

A: Many financial advisers in rural areas have a full portfolio of financial products and in many cases almost equal the services offered by some traditional finance providers.

In my experience consumers usually do not understand this and are not familiar with the advice and services on offer. Start by communicating this to existing customers and potential customers. Why don't you think about doing one-to-one advisory clinics with customers to ensure they know the other services you can provide? Pension advice seems to be another key area which is growing in importance. There is a lot of national advertising now to encourage people at a younger age to start considering pensions.

For most people who don't have a pension this can be a confusing area and again perhaps you could arrange talks for groups of interested parties. Why don't you approach the local golf club or other group and see if there are a dozen members who would be interested in getting general advice. You could also consider writing a column for a local newspaper or doing a stint for a radio station to provide some general advice and boost your profile. Having a good social media presence and generally building your brand will help raise the profile of your business so that when people do think about finances, they come to you.

Do you have problems with your small business? Email Feargal at

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