Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of management papers about using resources correctly. It was written by Hal Ethington and distributed by ADP Lightspeed.
I knew he was the owner. Not because I had seen his face a thousand times on ads. Not because the name on his shirt matched the sign out front, and not because he had a half-dozen important-looking papers in his hands.
No, it wasn’t any of that. It was more the look on his face when he realized that he was caught. It came in the instant he saw me on his appliance sales floor, when, in a split second he figured out three things. First, he had a live customer in the showroom. Second, his salespeople were nowhere in sight, and third, there was no one but him to handle the traffic.
And he was not happy about these last two items. But he knew I had seen him, so he set the papers on the counter, and walked toward me.
But the body-language was all wrong. First, there was the quick look left and right to see if there wasn’t somebody who could handle this customer. And then the resigned shoulder-set when he knew he would have to do it. There was no smile, no out-stretched hand, no eager sales greeting. He was obviously still worried about those papers, now lying on the counter, face down.
We talked a few moments. I needed a new dishwasher for the kitchen, and he made a good effort to get into it, but all the while, his eyes were darting to the office, to the phones, and to the front door. The sales people were still nowhere to be found and we both quickly concluded our conversation. I felt like an intruder. He felt imposed upon.
So I left. But with a complete understanding how he felt. And the memories flooded back: The constant battle between the business, and the public; The customer, and the paperwork; The money, and the time; The interruptions — the constant interruptions.
And if you feel the same way, maybe you need to look closer at your operation. If you are called, time and time again, to cover, to resolve, to fix, to figure out, to find and explain — maybe you’re not running your business. Maybe, it’s running you.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There can be calm in the retail environment. And that calm can easily promote the current of excitement and action that is a RV store.
It’s systems. It’s preparation, and it’s management. With it you’re a well oiled machine. Without it, well, let’s just say, you look bad. Real bad.
And your customers notice. Lack of a proper greeting, perceived sleights, prolonged waiting, poor service, promises forgotten or not kept—they notice all of this. They vote with their feet. And you are left wondering why your sales floor is empty.
In the coming weeks, we will be talking about getting control of your store. We will look at each department and each of your business systems, to see what makes a well run shop, and to see what ends up in public disaster.
I don’t personally know that fellow Dan, at that appliance store. But I do know that he has been in business, at the same location, with his name on the sign, for about 30 years. And I’m guessing that my poor experience there was a rare occurrence, and that he was just caught in a bad moment. I’ll be going back there when I am ready to buy, and we’ll give it another shot.
You may not be so lucky.