Thursday, March 21, 2013

Knowing When You're Done

The most helpful thing I learned at this year's Gama Trade Show came to me the first day. Dave Wallace gave an esoteric seminar on Building a Better Manager. I say esoteric because it touched on a lot of conceptual, strategic level stuff that's rarely discussed at these shows, which tend to focus almost exclusively on retail tactics. I love the esoteric stuff.

At one point Dave mentioned that when you do a good job working in your business, it opens doors, like branches of a trees, creating cascading opportunity. This opening of doors, a process of constant improvement and opportunity, is never ending. Therefore, since there's no end, you decide when you're done. Just as I mentioned in a previous post how it took a year to realize I had permission to start, Dave is describing the end game, essentially reminding us we have permission to stop.

When I say stop, I'm referring to the activity of working in the business, day to day work at the counter, with customers, placing orders, and the like, which is in stark contrast to working on your business, which is a more strategic activity divorced somewhat from the day to day world of the store. Working on your business is stepping back and creating opportunities, working to branch out vertically or horizontally (which direction is my big question right now).

There are practical factors in stepping back (or up, or vertical or horizontal), such as your loss of salary. This assumes you have a profitable business that can support you or you have some other thing you'll be doing to replace your lost manager income. This is not about giving up and getting a job, it's about creating a hierarchy where you can be productive in a different way. The point though, is if you've been waiting for the time it will end, the time you can step from behind the counter, if you're doing your job right, it will never come. You just have to do it, deciding to work through the practical matter of how. It will never come if you wait.

Finally, if you love working in your store, the message is still good for you. The opportunities created by process improvement and better management propel the business forward almost without limit. If you think you've tapped out your market, you just need a better perspective to realize the opportunities. The take away though is knowing that you've decided each of these paths by following them.

And that was probably five minutes of two hours of great stuff.

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