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How to Become the Best Retail Boss You Can Be

Posted by PCC Small Business Development Center on November 04, 2015

Retail BossOwning your own retail business can present many unique challenges. When it comes to learning how to be the best retail manager, many store owners find that actually managing a staff is one of the most difficult balancing acts they have to perform. As Leslie Hidula, PCC SBDC business advisor says, “I have found that retail owners struggle with being ‘the boss.’ They act like a friend, a mom, or a control freak. These approaches can really hurt a business, especially as they grow.” Overcoming this barrier by learning how to tow the line between employer and friend can help improve, not only your retail store’s growth, but also your skills as a retail store boss.

Understanding Expectations

One difficult aspect of managing effectively is following through, especially in tricky or emotionally charged situations. For example, if an employee is consistently showing up ten minutes late to their shift, an overly friendly manager may excuse it, giving a pass to all employees to exhibit the same behavior. An overly controlling manager may scare away employees by being too overly demanding without looking at extenuating circumstances. In order to create a consistent and proactive environment, it is important to manage expectations between yourself and your employees from the start.

One way to do this is to create an employee handbook. From the employee’s viewpoint, it is a tangible “rulebook” of how to work for and with you. The late employee will know in advance that if he or she hits a threshold of late walk-ins, they may be suspended or removed from their position. If it gets to a point where difficult conversations or decisions need to be had/made, the handbook can act as a way to follow through with your expectations. However, it should be noted that it isn’t enough to just hand them the book and expect them to stay up to date on it. There should be consistent enforcement as well as training sessions for all staff members.

Understand Yourself

Another way to understand your expectations is to understand yourself. So many, new to being a retail boss, are unsure if they come across as a task manager or someone who is more of a freespirit. Others want to believe that they have one communication style when they in fact have another. Personality, strength, and communication tests, popular for those in management roles, can open your eyes to your personal weakness and strengths. Myers Briggs and DiSC are two companies that offer particularly effective ways to reveal who you are as a manager.

The same tests can also be given to employees, giving you a way to see the different personalities in your pool. For example, Myers Briggs, DiSC, and even 5 Love Languages can teach you about how to give feedback or to show appreciation to a variety of personalities. For example, if an employee doesn’t do well with criticism, knowing their Myers Briggs designation can see if perhaps they would react better if the critiques were given in private or after decompressing from a high stress shift. The tests can also be used to screen potential retail employees to ensure you have a healthy mix of productive personalities working together.

Creating a Culture at a Retail Store

It is one thing to learn how to be a great boss, but it is also important to consider the environment in which you work. Having a culture that is positive, enjoyable, and goal-oriented can inspire more employees rather than being a place to just get a job done, or worse, to dread going to.

Frequent feedback is an easy way to change the culture of your store. Using what you know about your own personality and those that work for you, set up daily team meetings or conferences, stick to quarterly review periods, and keep your team engaged by giving real-time updates to store performance — such as sales goals or milestones achieved.

Create a Culture of Training

Training current and new employees is related to creating the productive culture you want for your business. Along with the handbook, employees should be given extensive, non-judgemental training. RetailDoc suggests the best way to do this is to take training out of the public and back to your training rooms. This gives them time to ask questions, practice handling difficult customers without the pressure of it being a real life situation, and building a trust-based relationship with you and/or your training managers.  

With consistent and regular training and re-training, your employees will quickly pick up what works for your store. Making small investments in professional development, further education and certification, as well as incentives to continue higher level training shows that you, as the retail boss, want to make the investment in them and their future.

Becoming the Retail Boss You Want to Work For

Learning how to be a great boss is more than just showing up and managing behind the scenes. It is important to understand both your personality and that of your employees so you can set expectations that work for your retail business. In addition, creating a culture that values training and feedback can not only make a positive work environment, but also help your business grow from the inside out.  

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The Oregon Small Business Development Center Portland Community College has  helped thousands of businesses over the past 30 years. We combine one-on-one  advising with programs taught by business experts, giving our clients the  resources they need to grow their businesses. We’ve celebrated many successes  with our clients. We'd love to celebrate your success. 

Topics: Small Business, Retail, Leadership, Growing a Business

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