Ironically in the midst of wrapping up a tough day at work, I got an email from someone who's interested in starting a retail business. She's brand new to the industry and was seeking advice. When I read her email, my experience from this weekend popped into my head and I thought I'd share it. Maybe it'll help.
My store happens to have a Starbucks located within our building and it's usually the first stop or the last stop for many of our guests. The traffic is comparable with free-standing Starbucks and the food safety regulations and legendary service standards are the exact same.
The employees wear Starbucks uniforms, but they are ultimately employees of my company. Starbucks does a teeny fraction of the millions of dollars that my store earns. There's not a lot of surface value but as a company, we lease space to Starbucks because it's what our guests want. It's good for our brand, despite it not being a major contributor to the business in the financial sense.
Anyway, so the other night when I was shutting down the building, I walked past Starbucks approximately 10 minutes before they were supposed to close. I noticed all of the pastries were covered up, the dishes were already cleaned, and the ingredients were previously in the dishes were poured into makeshift disposable containers lined up behind the counter.
"Denise, did you close early?" I ask.
"Oh no! We're still open!"
"Well, why is everything covered up and put away?"
"Um, because there were no guests," Denise says.
"...Probably because everything was covered up and put away."
Point. Set. Match.
In all reality, Denise's decision made sense. 6Sigma and normal business logic will tell you that if there are no customers, there are no sales. Teaching your team to assume that no one is interested during the last 10 minutes will save you payroll expenses. Business logic is about making a profit. In that case it's okay to go ahead and put things away, right? Just 'hoping' for customers will ultimately cost you money, right?
On the flip side, retail logic tells you that if there are no sales, it is your fault. Retail logic requires that you believe in your product because that's the only way you can sell it. You're always looking for the sale, even if it's just for 10 minutes. Retail logic is about making a connection. You have to learn to 'just know' that there is someone who is interested in what you're offering--your job revolves around finding that person. Once you find them, find more like them. Your job is never done.
Retail gets such a bad rap because retail logic usually results in being broke or burnt out. Inventory builds up bcause finding people proves to be tedious. Being 'hopeful' about business is often seen as being stupid about business. Most people aren't resilient enough to push through this part.
The key is to know when to draw the line. The truth, however, is that being hopeful about new business (or any other part of life for that matter) is all about sacrifice. You have to be willing to let go of bad attitudes, bad employees, bad customers and even bad friends in order to see retail for what it really is; a golden opportunity. Sacrifice is a cornerstone for any service industry professional.
Retail is an industry that is hyper-sensitive to its leaders' decision making discipline. Every minute counts and timing is everything. The right choices for your business are going to be dependent on a delicate mix of personality, tolerance, and patience. Making the right choices up front will have a huge pay off at the end of the day. Success in retail is a direct product of your way of thinking, so start thinking today.
I'm not sure if this helps at all. If that's the case, then just remember this: no matter what, the ultimate goal is not to fail. But even if you do, surround yourself with people who love you anyway.