The 4 Stages To Put C-Stores On The Path To Accountability

The way humans deal with change is a process. Many have studied different stages for human response to life changes – growing, aging and death. Likewise, management studies show that change management has to be addressed in order for an organization to reach its potential. Like any organization change the implementation of a strong accountability system and mindset requires people involved to address the changes they encounter.

DENIAL
As  a Manager initiating accountability measurement, you may hear things like “I am already doing all this stuff” and “This is just another management ‘flavor of the month’.” or even possibly, “This does not make sense.” After all, you are likely asking them to report what they are doing.   One must remember that change causes discomfort and the natural reaction to it is to repel  the source of the discomfort. The first question that comes to their mind is “Why?”. They know you are there watching them do these things, why must they report it as well. They do not initially understand why you are asking them to do what you are asking, so they question it. It is helpful to move them along in the process by explaining the benefits to the company and the role they will play in the solution in doing what you ask.

FRUSTRATION
Once they understand that it is needed to identify trends and problem areas, it is only natural that a little paranoia sets in. Oddly enough, this is usually occurs the most in your best employees.  They think they are doing their best but, what they are reading into the request is that you may not think it is enough. That instills frustration on their part. You may find yourself frustrated with your poorer performers because they may be more vocal in objecting and lagging behind, still dwelling in the area of denial.  They will say things like, “Don’t I have enough to do?” or ” This is just micromanagement”. They may feel like you are asking them to solve your problem.  It may be beneficial at this stage to remind them of the benefits they might get when they do what you are requesting. By doing this type of monitoring you could very well be able to justify the purchase of better equipment or tools to help them accomplish their tasks.  It is not a lack of trust you have, rather you are merely looking for areas that could be improved and make things better for everyone. Once they begin to see the value to them, they may be more inclined to accept and engage in the process.

PARTICIPATION AND CLARIFICATION
Explain the overall goals in measurement and involve them in the measurement decisions.  By letting them set the standards of what is normal and what is not, for they are the ones who do it everyday, they are beginning to become accountable.  They are defining what the norm is and to ask for that level of performance from them does not seem so unreasonable.  Let them ask questions as to how you want things measured so they are very clear on what standards they are to set. In any C-Store, it is important that the floors are kept clean to ensure safety and provide a feeling of cleanliness so customers will come back.  Do you want them to clean a mess as soon as it happens, or balance the overall workload and just assign the task of cleaning the floors on the hour.  Be ready to make decisions as you go through this process. You may even learn a thing or two you had not even thought about.  What is important is that when they engage, they are on the verge of acceptance.

PROGRESS AND STABILIZATION
Now that the change is underway and standards have been defined, accountability has begun. When the first report or whatever measurement tool your decide upon comes to you, it will be easier for you to see if standards are being met, where coaching may be needed, and compare performance among your employees in quantitative terms. You probably knew who was better and who was worse, but probably not by how much. You will begin to see where your priorities are and where you are needed for training and coaching.  As you implement these steps you and your team will begin to see improvements in the areas that you have identified.  Using this measurement as a practice, things begin to stabilize. The team is getting used to the new reporting and starting to realize it does have value and your company or department is improving.

Though these steps can be a little difficult at their onset, you may find that first meeting to be the beginning of resolution for many of your problems.  You will know where your problems are, where they fall in priority and have a unified set of task listed by importance to keep you efficient in your management. You will find less things falling off of the table.  Your staff will be encouraged and stay motivated as they see the improvement in performance and you will find yourself getting to your goals a lot easier.  When you look back you may even decide it was the most important meeting you held all year.

 

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How C-Stores can make a change if they do not want discomfort?

Fortunately, C-Stores employees are quite used to change. Prices, legislation, and products change often and sometimes every day. Anyone who has worked in a C-Store company, for any amount of time, is never shocked with change. However there are some changes that are bigger than most.  These are the changes to the core things you have done for years to run your business that may no longer working.  That is when discomfort can be expected in a C-Store Operation, or anywhere. Our company builds software for C-Stores that and often requires these type of changes. We are often asked, “How can we make a change if we do not want our employees to feel any discomfort?” The realistic answer is that it can’t be done.  While you may not be able to eliminate it, there are things you can do to get your employees past it.

EXPLAIN WHY THE CHANGE IS HAPPENING
Though it is natural for them to do so, don’t let employees internalize the situation. Immediately explain  what used to work simply no longer does. Explain the problems your company has in your current situation that made a change necessary. It is easier to accept the decision when one has an understanding of why the change is happening. Also tell them what the consequences would be without the change.

TELL THEM HOW THE CHANGE WILL IMPACT THEM
The next normal reaction most people have will be wondering how the change will impact them. Rarely do they first look for the change benefit. Let’s look at a simple example of putting in a new soda machine that has multiple flavors that can be added to each soda. You are putting it there to compete with the store across the street however, it will require more cleaning.   Their first thought may be as you jump ahead to explain the benefits may be “How much harder is this modern machine going to be to clean?” and will not be, “Cool, we can compete better”.  You will want to explain the extra effort of course but, explain the contribution they will be making to the benefit of this change and relay what will be easier because of them.  Acknowledge that they will be taking an important role and contributing to the solution.

ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR DISCOMFORT

Empathize with their feelings at the time.  You probably had the same feelings when you decided to make the change. Explain how you worked it through by looking at the solutions in more depth to understand, it really wasn’t a bad change and that the benefits of making it, make sense. When you walk them through your reasoning, they probably will come to the same conclusion.  If they know you felt the same at first, they will be more willing to hear your reasoning.

PAINT THE ROSY PICTURE THE CHANGE WILL PROVIDE

Now they are prepared to hear the benefits to you and them that the change will provide.  They will probably even agree it is a great one. Talk about the pains that will be eliminated and what will be better. Certainly let them know that you earnestly feel that you made the right decision for their benefit as well as your own.

So the next time you are asked to make a change, then asked not to scare anyone, just turn the question around and ask them how comfortable they would be without changing.

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Why C-Stores Have a Cultural Advantage of Using Business Intelligence Over Other Industries

If you were to pick up any industry trade journal without finding something relative to the importance Business Intelligence, it would be surprising.  It has become quite the buzz word.  There is a sound reason for that.  By monitoring, measuring and communicating performance results any company can manager better. The analysis these tools provide allows managers to  know what problems are to be solved, where they reside in the organization and can track the remedies for improvements more quickly.    This solution marries well to the culture of a C-Store Operation for it has  lot of daily problems to be resolved and things happen fast.  So, fast there is not time to analyze traditional reporting.  Keeping ahead in this industry means tackling problems as they occur and taking measures to prevent them which is the core value of using Business Intelligence.

C-STORES ARE NOT AFRAID TO SHARE INFORMATION
According to many IT executives one of the biggest hurdles in being able to use BI for business improvement is cultural resistance. There is a resistance to communicating revenue information to their teams for fear of pricing and revenue being readily available to competitors when their staff talks with colleagues in other companies. They believe that the more a secret is shared, the more likely it won’t remain a secret.  The good news for C-Store operators is that they have a history of extensive utilization of data. They are one of the few  businesses that have to publish their price. Their competitors can walk in and readily see their inside sales pricing.  As with any retail organization, their sales and transactions are their measurements.

MONITORING STAFF PERFORMANCE IS MORE NECESSARY
The retail industry prefers  to hire people for their stores as part time to save on HR Expense, which means they may not get as many career-minded individuals.  Keying errors, forgetting tasks and even theft can be very common. There is a lot of monitoring and double-checking that has to be done in order to make sure their stores are running efficiently.

THERE IS NO WIGGLE ROOM FOR PURCHASING MISTAKES
C-Store Operators also suffer buying decisions based on a penny of cost that can have a huge impact on their revenue.  Knowing exactly what has sold, where and how many is necessary for these decisions helps them to ensure a much better investment.  Having the information readily available when preparing  for a meeting with their vendor helps them in their negotiations.

IT IS USUALLY LESS COSTLY TO IMPLEMENT BI THAN OTHER TYPES OF COMPANIES
C-Stores also have the advantage over most companies where only one or two systems contain the information that they need.  BI implementation is much easier and often less costly to implement than in other companies who have multiple systems to use in order to run their business.  It may take a day or even days for Back Office systems to post all data so their reporting may or may not be accurate on any given day.  A good BI will work around that issue making sure the data you are looking at is conclusive information.

A C-Store Operation would be hard pressed to find a reason not to use Business Intelligence.  By having pre-programmed and more in-depth analysis available to them they can manage better, invest better and make strategic decisions based on facts, all of which can be done more quickly and probably more accuracy.  This is a culture that is ready to share and use data to make things better.

 

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The Arrogance of Ignorance and Other Reasons C-Store Operators Shouldn’t Get Mad

C-Stores typically hire part-time people.  This can leave  their employee base to be largely among the young.  Remember,  their life is shorter than many Boomers have been paying their mortgages.  People often complain about the young being arrogant.  They have known little failure, most have experienced little of life’s abuse and received trophies, stickers and awards ther entire lives.  Little has happened to them that would hurt their self esteem. Plus, they have been exposed to so little, they have total recall of everything and can express what they know with absolute  and utter certainty.  Why wouldn’t they be confident and think they are infallible? Didn’t we feel the same when we were younger as well?

As a “Baby Boomer”  I can remember people of my parent’s age saying things like “Kids today have no backbone.  They never work as hard as we did.”  This was usually followed by  tales of walking 5 miles  through the snow to get themselves to school,  having a job when they were only 14, and many other hardships faced by those coming up through more difficult times.  Back then, I thought the advice they offered was ancient and not applicable.   I now realize that they weren’t complaining. They were educating. To their credit, though I have not experienced any of their hardships, I still learned a lot from those tales they told.

It is our turn to pay it forward and teach values we have learned in life. The only reason we should judge the youth of today is to  determining where we might be able to help them grow.  If you don’t think we have anything to offer, just ask yourself what you would do if to encounter the hardship of a 3 day power outage. Then ask a millennial the same question.

So, what can one do in order to  keep themselves from getting angry when someone much younger argues that what you know to be correct is not correct?  Just do what our parents generation did and count to three:

ONE

#1. We have to keep in mind that it is not arrogance if you do not know that there could be other perspectives.  Tell them what you know and let them do with that information what they will.  Since  what you say is true, they will find it to be so. The end result could only be that they trust you more the next time you offer other advice.

TWO

#2. Remember that we cannot hate ignorance if we hire those that wouldn’t know.   They did not choose not  to know. They just don’t know.  If it angers you, then you should point your anger at yourself for not hiring an older person who would know such things. If you hired them, then it is up to you to educate them.   Find creative and palatable ways to do so. Ask questions that will help them understand while showing you are open to letting them disprove your case. 

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#3. Be patient.  If we teach them and they learn to believe us then both problems of ignorance and arrogance disappear.  it may be a separate day when you and the youth realized they had learned, but both days should  be rewarding to you.  Aguste Rodin once said “Patience is also a form of action”.  Life happens to all of us. Just remember you may be a little further ahead of the game and that patience is a virtue.

Why bother getting upset?  One of the many advantages of getting older is that we don’t allow our emotions to run us. Realize we need to celebrate and support the millennials.   Just as a baker starts with flour, water and an egg, it is up to you what you do with all of that raw talent.

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