Your official title may be store manager, but that's only because your employee name tag is too small to include all the other jobs you do -- including salesperson, stock clerk, cashier, accountant, in-house psychologist and employee-conflict mediator. In fact, with so many responsibilities pulling you in a hundred different directions at once, you might often find yourself struggling to squeeze an hour's worth of work into just half an hour's time.
The difference between successful store managers and their more frantic colleagues frequently boils down to one simple issue: Effective time management. Yet as retail expert Bob Phibbs notes, few retail organizations offer much in the way of time-management training for their store managers. As a result, he says, the managers who are left to fend for themselves may easily become overwhelmed by the spiraling time crunch.
"The problem is that managers are frequently subject to the whims of forces outside their control," says Phibbs, author of You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting. "So you're either passive and a victim of all these demands on you, or you are proactive and the master of your day, and there's a huge difference in the way you feel stress between those two. If you come into the store and all you can say is how harried you are and there's no time, well, guess what? You will be harried and have no time. But if you can come in and say, ‘I've got a handle on it -- I know what's most important to accomplish today,' that's going to make a huge difference."
Seize Your Day
Based on his own tenure in retail, Phibbs suggests these time-management tips for retail managers:
- Let It All Hang Out: Begin every day or, at the very least every week, by listing every professional and personal task you need to accomplish in that time frame. Then prioritize the items on this list, and use it to plan your day or week.
- Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: Setting your sales goal is the most important task to begin your day. Then check the schedule, and give everyone you're working with their sales goals as well. In the face of all the distractions that will inevitably crop up throughout the day, this simple step will help keep you focused on your primary job: Building sales.
- Make Time for Training: The biggest time-waster for most retail managers is answering employees' questions about mundane tasks: "Where does this go?" "How much is this?" "How do I ring this up?" If you find yourself getting a lot of routine queries, you probably haven't trained your employees adequately. When you compile your to-do list, make teaching something new to your people one of your daily priorities.
- Plan What You Can: Take control of those tasks you can plan for. For example, instead of dealing with phone calls and emails as they come in, schedule a certain amount of time each day to respond, and then stick to it. Do the same for potential new hires. Instead of making time whenever folks walk in and fill out an application, tell them that you accept applications at a certain time every day.
- Prioritize Praise and Reviews: Be sure you make time to praise your staff, because people who feel valued will be more likely to take on more responsibility, accept new training and ease the manager's burden. Even if they're on commission, your employees still need to hear you say, "You did a great job, and I appreciate your hard work."
Phibbs acknowledges that seizing control of your work time is never easy and requires change that can be uncomfortable. "If it were easy, everybody would be doing it," he notes. Yet the result -- a less-harried workday, more empowered employees and the sense that you're not constantly putting out fires -- will make the effort worthwhile.