When you and your spouse started the business 15 years ago, it was hard work to get things up and running and keep the boat afloat, but communication was easy and organization was a word you probably didn't use often. Back and forth each day in the car, around the dinner table, every day, every night, you discussed the business, made plans, worried together and made it work.
But now you have 20 people on staff in two locations. You're finally able to take a real vacation -- even if it is scheduled around your both attending the buying shows.
How do you keep this budding business moving? How does everyone on your team read from the same script? How do you ensure a quality experience for your customers and profitability for your company?
We offer you three basic but essential tools: Organization charts, job descriptions and performance evaluations
Used properly, these building blocks of a sound organization will help you:
- Make delegation, management, staff development and quick decision-making fluid and effective.
- Communicate expectations to your staff.
- Set goals, clarify expectations, create accountability and develop strength and experience in your people.
You may be saying, "This sounds like Fortune 500 stuff. We're not that big here. I don't have time for this."
The little time you invest in establishing this structure and making these procedures part of your company's architecture will reward you a hundred-fold.
To be sure, in larger organizations, these practices can become very elaborate and bureaucratic. We submit they don't need to be and that their rationale and use flow naturally and intuitively from common sense. A very simple approach will suffice in most instances.
Unless the scale of your operation is small to the point that everyone reports directly to you, likely you have others who wield responsibility if not regularly then on a project-by-project basis: store managers, buyers, floor managers, controllers, etc. Those senior people often have others carrying out your and their wishes. Combined with job descriptions an org chart will clarify for everyone what the lines of authority and responsibility are.
In our organizations, we want people who are smart, experienced, self-starters, motivated, responsible and good team players.
Without organizational clarity, the hyper-independent employee who is experienced and confident may over-step the role you intended. For example, we know an instance when a store manager refused to display the merchandise the buyer brought in. He made a judgment about the appropriateness of the brand selected and circumvented the buyer. Was that his call?
In another case, a new staffer with lots of potential wasn't clear on her role and seemed to under perform, due to not wanting to "step on toes."
Humans crave order. Or at least most of us. We want to succeed. We want to be recognized. We want to be on the winning team.
An org chart can be a very simple creation, put together in minutes. Here's an example created using nothing more than an Excel document:
Using the chart above, it is clear to see that the buyer, both store managers and the accountant report directly to the general manager. The assistant buyer reports only to the buyer. Floor managers report only to the store managers, and the accounting clerk reports only to the accountant. Store staff report directly to the managers, and the visual merchandiser reports only to the buyers. Obviously, sometimes you have positions that report to different folks at different times, so the org chart can get a bit more complicated than the simplicity we are presenting you above.
In the chart above, you can also see a potential conflict: We have store staff potentially reporting to two store managers and two floor managers. Make it very clear who is in charge when and to what extent is demanded of operations with multiple layers such as this. To resolve this, your job descriptions (below) need to specify to store staff that the floor manager is the virtual manager when he or she is on duty and the store manager is absent. Floor managers must also fully understand the limits of their responsibilities when the store manager is off site. Can they hire or fire a staffer? Reduce prices? Run an ad?
Your org chart and the related job descriptions will give your staff a roadmap to easily solve problems, make decisions and grow in value to you. These devices will answer questions such as:
- If I'm going to be late, who do I need to call?
- I have a problem customer. Who can help me?
- A new situation arose that I think is outside my area of responsibility, but I want to take action. Who can approve my idea?
- Whom do I ask for time off?
- From whom should I expect an evaluation of my work or recognition and redirection?
- And the big one: Who's my boss?
On organizational chart is not something you put together and then toss in the bottom desk drawer. For it to be effective, leaders, especially in multi-layered companies, need to support the structure in order to develop the talent and creativity latent within your team.
Jack Welch, a past CEO of General Electric, spoke eloquently about managers and staff resisting the tendency to do "end runs" around the structure. Nothing can break down a company or confuse the people within it like an upper manager making decisions he or she has delegated to a direct report, or staff knowing they can avoid their direct manager's authority by running to a willing ear in the "Big Boss."
We're not suggesting that everyone can't talk to each other, the common objection when we describe this discipline. An "open door policy" is an excellent aspect of a strong team. Grievances do need to be solved. Emergencies arise. But avoid "going around" your senior team as standard operating procedure, and when lower-level staff come to you with a problem, as often as possible, send them back to their manager.
A well-crafted job description reinforces your organization chart and gives your staffers the authority to achieve the complete extent of what you expect from them and also the limits of their responsibility.
Here is a simple example for a floor manager in the middle layer of a company:
12345 West Main Street
My Town, Colorado, USA
Date: March 27, 2007
Job Title: Floor Manager
Location: Store # 2, My Town, Colorado
Reports to: Store Manager
The floor manager's duties encompass all aspects of daily store operations including opening, closing, cash handling, customer satisfaction, staff effectiveness and leading the sales team toward accomplishment of the company's goals.
This position is non-exempt.
Specific responsibilities and basic metrics of fulfillment:
- Provides day-to-day leadership, direction and coaching to store staff.
- Arrive one hour prior to store opening. Remain after closing until store is clean, re-stocked and secured.
- Count cash, set up registers, fill out deposits. Assure accuracy of all cash handling.
- Function at least 75 percent of time as lead salesperson.
- Quickly expedite flow of new stock to sales floor, within 24 hours of arrival.
- Quickly execute markdowns, price changes, cycle counts and other merchandising directions, within 24 hours of receipt.
- Set the example for excellent service to customers.
- Become fully familiar with our product lines.
- Adhere to all current company policies, benefits, programs, procedures and usually acceptable practices.
- Attend all relevant company meetings, trainings and functions.
- Communicate issues, progress and problems regularly to store manager.
- This position is part-time; 30 hours weekly are required.
- Floor manager does not have the authority to hire or terminate, make decisions regarding pricing, scheduling, merchandise selection or marketing.
This list is not intended to completely identify every responsibility of this position. Other priorities, tasks and projects may be assigned from time-to-time as the business necessitates and these are considered to fall under this position description.
This list does not fully specify the performance criteria required in this position. These will be communicated and evaluated by supervisors in regular communications and annual performance reviews.
- Five years of experience in retail sales.
- One year of experience supervising staff.
- Track record of effectively managing, leading and mentoring people.
- High level of proficiency with Microsoft Excel, Word and Outlook.
- Strong communication skills (oral and written).
- Good attention to detail and accuracy.
- Team orientation.
- Positive and outgoing demeanor.
- Strong work ethic.
Supervision of others:
This position is responsible to manage the following staff positions:
Store staff in the absence of the store manager.
Working conditions and time commitment:
Normal store environment. Extended hours will be required as business cycles demand.
Ability to lift boxes up to 50 pounds.
Employee conduct: It is the responsibility of every employee to contribute to a positive work environment through cooperative and professional interactions with co-workers, customers and vendors. Creativity, collaboration, teamwork and open communications are basic expectations of all team members.
The company maintains and fully enforces policies to prevent and manage instances of sexual harassment and discrimination of any sort.
I understand and accept the responsibilities outlined above and understand that my position within the organization is contingent upon my continued fulfillment of them.
(We offer this job description only as an example and suggest you check with professional HR counsel in your location to ensure compliance with local laws.)
Keys to a good job description are:
- Include every aspect that is important to you.
- Be specific: Notice in the example above we've set an expectation of a 24-hour turn-around for certain tasks.
- A complete document can also be used for recruiting, either within the company or from the outside, by including prior experience required, time expectations, etc.
- Include clear limits to the position's authority.
- This tool should help you set up performance evaluations and measure the quality of work and your staffer's development.
- Notice the signature line and date. Keep a copy and provide your staffer a copy. Signing a document always makes us pay attention and will help in the future in the event of disagreements.
Performance evaluations or reviews are the final step in establishing a healthy and progressive structure for the management of your company's staff as you grow. Once again, these can be relatively simple to set up and they should flow out of the job descriptions you have already written. Or, they can be generic and usable for every position.
Let's take a look at an example you can use for all your staff:
12345 West Main Street
My Town, Colorado, USA
Date: March 27, 2007
Job Title: Floor Manager
Location: Store # 2
Reports to: Store Manager
1. Team member will complete this form. Additional sheets may be attached.
2. Supervisor will complete form in similar manner.
3. Supervisor will schedule a private review session with team member to discuss.
4. Supervisor will add notes resulting from the discussion.
5. Supervisor will specify, communicate and note actions required resulting from evaluation.
6. Team member and supervisor will sign this form.
7. Supervisor will provide team member a copy and retain one in personnel file.
8. Evaluation will be conducted in the first month of each fiscal year.
9. Evaluation in no way implies an increase in compensation.
Overall performance evaluation for the past year:
___ Exceeded expectations. ___ Met expectations. ___ Needs improvement/fell below expectations. Specific accomplishments (relative to prior goals if applicable):
3. Skill and experience strengths:
3. Areas of difficulty or needing improvement:
3. Specific goals for the coming year:
3. Plan for achieving goals:
Supervisor's additional notes:
I understand the evaluation outlined above. I accept and understand the goals and objectives specified. I agree to address them in the timeframe indicated.
Team member signature:________________________________________
This example is as simple as it gets, but used consistently has the potential to focus your management as well as your staffers' efforts.
There are a few guidelines to round this process out:
- Set a time or times during the year to do your PE's. Stick to it. Let your staff know and prep them in advance.
- Clarify your policy as it relates to compensation adjustments. Most people will expect their PE is tied to a raise. Communicate if this is the case or if wage and salary reviews are a separate process tied to company performance.
- Allow enough time to thoroughly explore issues.
- PE's are also a great time to solicit ideas for overall improvement in your organization or to identify problems. Ask about these. Be ready to hear that management directions, or lack of directions, or lack of clarity in directions, were the reason or part of the reason for an employee not being able to live up to or exceed expectations. The ideal review is a two-way street, leading to improvements and things to work on for both the person being reviewed and the one performing the review.
- Set realistic goals. The practice of making staffers reach too far beyond realistic performance can be demotivating.
- Be specific in both praise or recognition and in identifying problems. Comments such as "You're doing a really great job" are good openers, but without the details, your employee will know you really aren't paying attention. "People say you're slacking off" is hearsay, non-specific and not actionable. "I notice times during the day when you appear not to know what to do," is much more powerful, especially when followed with, "What is it I need to do to help provide clearer direction or support for you?" Pointing out a problem without an opportunity for finding solution is never positive.
- Be sure to mix the good with the less than good.
- In situations of extreme under-performance, clearly communicate consequences.
- Again, notice the signature lines.
- Say "thank you."
These three tools -- organizational charts, job descriptions and performance evaluations -- are offered to you only as examples or suggestions. We've seen hundreds of variations on these themes. Craft your own according to how you want to organize your company and the ambiance and culture you wish to develop. But the best companies that consistently move forward and that attract the best people use some permutation or another of these ideas.
This article is part of a new Business 101 Training series for store management and owners, produced by SNEWS® and authored by Geoff O'Keeffe and Michael Hodgson. Geoff O'Keeffe has held retail senior management positions at Granite Stairway Mountaineering, Adventure 16, Patagonia and PlanetOutdoors.com, as well as having served as president of Lowe Alpine Systems USA and Mountainsmith. He is currently the president of Slumberjack, and lives in the mountains above Boulder, Colo., where he is a fourth-generation resident. SNEWS® co-owner and president Michael Hodgson, in a former life, was a manager for five years with Adventure 16, and the general manager overseeing a team of buyers and store managers for three years at Western Mountaineering. In those roles, he learned the immense value of skilled, well-trained and very nimble teams to achieve business success.