Confusing Technology with a System for C-Store Performance

The Hard Part

A tough part about using technology to help people do their job is defining responsibilities. We all know the promise – this technology will fix the problem immediately, there is no install time and your staff does not have to change anything. It seems too good to be true – there must be a catch. Yet, we also know that we have to automate and improve or we fall behind our competition so we must use technology. Often times, technology is a part of a process. Credit card processing saves times, increases conveniences, reduces bad debt and is an essential technology for most C-Stores. Yet, even with such a proven technology, the process of managing the account, the security of the card readers and avoiding the acceptance of fraudulent users is still required to achieve the full value of the technology – the process matters. It is important to make sure those using the technology do their part to ensure the technology is used correctly.

The Catch – Process

It is important to differentiate the technology from the process. If you need a system you typically need both process and technology. Either can help, but together the technology and process make a system. With a system business can measure, maintain, and scale operations. When done correctly, both technology and process can come together to do the magic that you need – save time and get better results. The key is to sequence the work and provide the proper time, training and usage to achieve the long term results.

The Common Mistake

Technologies that have not been used before are often not clearly understood. Work that used to be done differently may not be done at all any more. The work that is replaced is part of the productivity gains. However, there is often new work that while quicker is different than before. Many times, the new work is only related to the new technology so it must be added to the old process. Unless the process includes the new work, then the overall results may not be as good or may even fail. It is not uncommon to have the very same technology that works well in one company not work as well in a different company. The difference can be the technology environment or the process being used.

The Plan

The new system needs to be explained. The steps need to be demonstrated and the staff must be allowed time to learn. Setting up the environment and providing the necessary resources allows the new system to be put into place. Good execution is made easier with a project plan that covers the sequencing of installation, configuration, training and on-going support.

System Improvements Are Not

  • Free of process change
  • Free of learning
  • Free of risks
  • Instantaneous

System Improvements Are

  • Gained from automating manual work
  • Achieved by shifting labor to higher value tasks
  • Long-Lasting by adjusting to new situations

Taking time to understand the scope of work that technology can address is helpful. Proving the change and providing examples and support can ease the transition. Communicating the benefit and providing a timeline for the change will decrease the stress of change and increase acceptance.

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C-Store High Performance – How Important is Appreciation?

Watching High Performance

High performance teams display their success on a regular basis. When you are part of such a team you become part of its environment. You are recognized and engaged. You feel the sense of teamwork. You are noticed and your presence is welcomed. Encouragement is everywhere. Such teams have an abundance of positive energy. The good feelings spread in form of compliments, recognized achievements and thank-you messages – usually delivered with big smiles.

Cause or Affect?


Is appreciation a cause or an effect of high performance? Can it or should it be rationed and earned? When is the right time to give it? Appreciation is not always positive recognition. Sometimes a great suggestion for how to handle a situation – when delivered carefully – can have a positive impact. Appreciation does not have to wait until the end of a long job. It can be given along the way as progress is made. The belief and confidence that someone is capable of learning how to do more is also a valuable form of appreciation. Great leaders and managers seem to be able to see things before they happen. Their confidence and perhaps their ability to appreciate future performance may be one of the keys for their successful teams.

Research Proves It


Research supports this view. ‘Feeling genuinely appreciated lifts people up. At the most basic level, it makes us feel safe, which is what frees us to do our best work. It’s also energizing. When our value feels at risk, as it so often does, that worry becomes preoccupying, which drains and diverts our energy from creating value.’ Why Appreciation Matters So Much, Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz, Jan 23, 2012

Early and Often

There are so many ways to show appreciation. Initiate appreciation using specific observations and follow-up. Get to know someone so you can make it even more genuine and impactful. Before you know it, you may become an appreciation expert. After all you know best how you like to be appreciated, and while we are all different, it can be fun to learn what makes others smile and feel respected.

The big awards at the end of a project are always fun and make for great pictures. They can even be the starting point for a new employee on his first day. If you see someone that reminds you of a top performer, it makes for an easy introduction to talk about his or her history and path to successful work. We know high performance is not typically achieved on day one working alone. Team members are added and experience is gained. There can be a lot of opportunities for appreciation along the way.

Have an appreciative day!

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Is Knowledge Power? Can It Drive C-Store Sales?

Information Impact

We are often asked if an application like Quik Data can really make any difference to C-Store Sales and Profits. Assuming that solving problems can positively improve sales and profits, the question can be refined as follows:

Can having accurate information help you solve problems?

Surprisingly, the answer seems to vary widely when you talk to different people that are responsible for C-Store performance. It is not clear if the variance is related to the use or the quality of the information available.

So another way to think about the sales-and-profit value of information is to look at specific C-Store operations or results. When deciding how to spend time managing stores, what information is required to make decisions? If there is information that is necessary or helpful, then how much effort is required to access it. Further, does the manner in which it is collected, made available, shared and presented impact the whether the information is fully utilized? If the decision and actions are not guided by the correct information what is the impact? Consider if the following daily performance information would impact what action to take or whether a problem exists:

Daily information

  1. Progress towards employee bonuses
  2. Client rating of store cleanliness
  3. Completion of shift duties at every store
  4. Projected monthly sales compared to your goal
  5. Summary of possible shrink activity on a daily alert
  6. Identification of new staff training needs
  7. Action plans with verification based on site audits
  8. A list of store inspections that are due
  9. A list of all work items for store repairs
  10. A list of all stores with urgent maintenance (e.g. coolers, pumps)
  11. The data needed to collect full vendor rebates with scan data
  12. Sales trends that are improving or declining significantly
  13. Daily score of store performance by day and month
  14. Documentation of staff training for age-based sales compliance

Timeliness, Delivery, Appropriateness and Context


Of course anyone can get this information if they have enough time and patience.
Several things impact the value of the information:

  1. How much time is required to get it
  2. How much time is required to read it
  3. How much time is required to understand it
  4. Does it show meaningful comparisons (same day, same month year over year)
  5. Does it highlight exceptions
  6. Does it meaningfully summarize detailed data
  7. Correlation to work responsibilities

Many decisions are made every day. Not making a decision is a decision. If you do not know about a problem and no action is taken there is some chance that it may continue forward. Likewise, spending time searching for a problem may interfere with other work. Knowing the severity and impact of problems helps to prioritize work.

Information is a service. The service quality varies. Good information services are timely, contextual, organized and succinct. Such information pinpoints actions that are needed. Such insights allow problems to be fixed faster. Faster resolution means improved results.

More Questions

  1. How are you making decisions?
  2. Is there a costs to the work that is required to find the necessary information?
  3. What is the impact of the decisions and actions taken with incomplete information?
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The Inertia of C-Store Performance – Time for Change

A Time to Change

When putting new processes and technologies into place to save time or increase profits, there are lots of things that can impact success. Even if you are making changes specifically to address waste that harms the team, the beneficiaries of the change will still experience stress. Many changes create some level of stress. If an important change has only recently been implemented, then perhaps a little patience is justified. If it has been a while, then a different approach may be necessary. Remembering the timeframe from the perspective of your team helps to use the appropriate pace.

Expectations

As companies create or increase store performance expectations there is a natural reaction within the organization. As with other human experiences they are unique, yet tend to follow recognizable patterns. There is an inertia that keeps existing work patterns in place. This is not all bad. Just like old patterns, the new patterns can be set in motion and kept moving forward with less energy once implemented. To implement successfully, change must happen. The symptoms that things are not yet moving may be found from statements that you hear such as:

  1. I haven’t gotten around to it yet
  2. Did you want me to do that?
  3. I did not see any problems this week
  4. I’m still working on it

Wait and See

Of course, these may be a perfectly valid responses. Even companies that have very productive systems in place will have occurrences of staff overload or bad performance. However, if there is an abundance of explanations or excuses to delay using new technology or processes, then the ‘wait and see’ impact of inertia may be hindering progress.

While denying issues or the avoiding the necessary action is not acceptable, the approach to move forward may impact the long-term success of the change. There are many valid reasons why things may take a while:

  1. Past management inconsistencies
  2. Unclear expectations
  3. Lack of Buy-in
  4. Unskilled workers

Seriously Fun

It is important to be consistent and clear. Past mistakes by leadership must be addressed, but certainly cannot excuse inaction. Leaders need to have appropriate resolve, yet allow sufficient patience to accommodate the change. There may be a need to establish training, have a review session to repeat instructions or other actions to get the project on track. It may take some staff more time to understand and operate in a new way. Persistent resolve with the appropriate pace and encouragement is almost always useful. Adding a little levity while maintaining the importance of the work can help. Everyone can use a round ‘To It’ when they are struggling to find the time to get a Round TO IT. Find your style and keep the commitment to necessary change. Find ways to accommodate the different speed at which your team can adjust and improve. Make your ‘To It’ round and drive store performance!

Hint: Print the ‘TO IT!’ button above and use scissors to cut it out as a circle – now you can give anyone that needs it a ’round’ ‘to it!’ So they no longer need to wait to ‘get a round TO IT’.

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