Stripped to the studs: How I took my store to #4 (Part 1)

At its core, leadership is about inspiring people to do their best. Several years ago, I took over a broken bookstore (near the bottom of rankings in a major chain), and in a little over a year, brought it back to 4th in the company out of hundreds of stores, based on metrics including sales, customer satisfaction, profitability, etc.

This is Part 1 of a 5-part series in which I will share leadership basics which can inspire your team to greatness. Even though I am no longer in the bookselling business, these principles are transferable to any leadership situation.

Photo courtesy of Giles Douglas (Creative Commons)

What does it take to move from failing to winning? In some situations, the first step has to be stripping away the parts that are rotten in order to expose the basic studs that are sound. When I took over a failing bookstore, we did exactly that – took away all the practices that worked against us, and started from the basics of bookselling and customer service.

After several years of poor leadership, the team’s bad attitudes and poor habits were rampant. The former leadership in the store had not stayed current with company initiatives, and seemed to even have done the opposite in some cases. Training, procedures, inventory controls and even the shelving order were not consistent with the overall company norms. Customer service was poor, and sales were dismal.

Build Trust
The first action had to be to start building trust with the remaining team. Having been through such a tumultuous change, those who were left needed to know that I was steady and interested in doing things the right way for them and the store.

Coaching and praise were two important elements of building their trust. One of the biggest differences between me and their former leader was that I was present. They saw me shelving, helping at the information desk, ringing people at the registers, and merchandising front tables pretty much every day. They were beginning to understand that I was not just the leader of their team; I was a part of the team.

Maintain Standards
Many of the standards of good customer service are simple acts of focus and attention. I modeled things like speaking to people as I moved through the store and walking a customer to a section when they asked for a title, and my team began to do the same things. Paying attention to how they were shelving or setting up displays and gently correcting as necessary helped them understand the standards and the importance of adhering to them.

Practice Consistency
I repeated myself – I repeated myself A LOT. Slowly the trust level rose, and the whole atmosphere began to improve. My team began to have a more positive attitude, and the store conditions began to improve. Customers were being served better and finding what they needed more often. Smiles became more frequent on the faces of my team as well as the customers. Sales slowly began to improve.

When have you had to go back to the basics to improve a situation?

Read Part 2, “Play your first string.”  Thanks for reading!

8 thoughts on “Stripped to the studs: How I took my store to #4 (Part 1)

  1. Really looking forward to this series Carol! Great stuff! I would add that the main difference between you and the person before you is that you ARE a leader and they were just a boss! Thanks for sharing this story!

  2. Pingback: Play Your First String: How I took my store to #4 (Part 2) « My Private Universe

  3. Pingback: What winning culture looks like: How I took my store to #4 (Part 3) « My Private Universe

  4. Pingback: Communication isn’t just talk: How I took my store to #4 (Part 4) « My Private Universe

  5. Pingback: It’s Showtime: How I took my store to #4 (Part 5) « My Private Universe

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