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Retail: Too many cooks?

business strategy business peopleRetail, like any industry, can be plagued by an excessive management framework.

Engaged leaders recognise the ramifications when the ratio of managers to employees is disproportional, culminating in a dysfunctional team crippled by inconsistency and confusion.

The adage ‘less is more’ suggests an inevitable departure from the recent spate of quick-fix remedies implemented to offset the diminishing talent pool facing the sector. The most questionable antidote is the bolstering of management headcount with rookie traders.

Greenness affects productivity. Not just in the naivety of the fledging executive but also the fickleness of a developing style. A hardship any workforce can well do without. Where issues of personal agenda, contrasting skill sets, competitive tensions and personality traits take centre stage instead of common goals.

People thrive on routine and expectations and their role within the company. However, we can never confuse them with the meaningless repetition of swarm activity where recognition and achievement are few.

People flourish taking ownership and accepting accountability for it satiates human inclinations of parameters and a sense of belonging.

People respond to the consistency of communication and quality of leadership. To administer support and embrace dexterity in assisting teams to succeed. Offering the space so they might grow through error and aptitude. A considerate advisor who relates to the job at hand and displays empathy through an inner calm of benevolence and structure. Where success is not a measure, but a reflection, a contemplation, toward a collective goal. By celebrating permutation and participation in a safe environment. Resolute in maintaining a momentum that demands little other than mentorship within defined limits.

The flatter the hierarchy, the better the synergy, the keener the squad. Resulting in a reduction of bureaucracy and in curtailing ineptitude. To ensure a broader uniformity and a culture of adherence and partnership.

Another equation negated by corporate support services induced by fear and a perceived lack of control is the cost-effectiveness of the seasoned retailer who equates to half the overhead of three novices yet doubles the return on investment.

There are essential ingredients in an enticing retail broth comprising integrity, transparency, honesty, innovation, passion, discipline, attention to detail and urgency. Infused with the secret five spices of sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and a sixth which must always be served fresh – human interaction. Gourmet chefs will influence the subtle flavours of the recipe to suit the occasion yet wary never to alter the essence of the fare. While fast-food pundits prefer to focus upon dressings to sell their mirage of gastronomy without achieving the sensual extravaganza.

Always quality over quantity irrespective of discipline, agenda, genre or goal.

Retail is about people, for people, by the people.

Dave Farrell is a retailer and writer with three decades of experience on three continents. He can be reached at Freelance Alliance NZ on

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