By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Do you remember the days when all a store owner had to know about retailing was how to buy inventory, sell the product, record the sale and write checks? If you don't recall those days, that may be a good thing, because present-day merchandising is complicated enough without losing energy yearning for the good ol' days.
Today's workload confronting owner/managers is so huge that delegating responsibility for parts of the business is necessary, if the boss is to find time to enjoy the fruits of his labors. It's a pity, though, that some dealers think that delegation is simply a matter of telling someone what you want done, and holding them responsible for doing it.
Top executives with their eyes on continuing profits, on the other hand, ask themselves several significant questions before handing over part of their businesses to anyone. Is the individual truly capable of doing the job, they wonder? Does he or she understand the importance of the task? Does that person have the imagination and initiative to overcome any obstacle that might arise?
If the answer to all those questions is yes, the party doing the delegating proceeds by telling the employee what he expects to be accomplished by an agreed-upon deadline.
Whether that job is a specific, one-time task, or the operation of an entire department, it is essential that the entire staff know the name and duties of the selected person. Furthermore, management's confidence in the ability of the individual must be obvious to all. Then, to keep morale high, the boss must never, after delegating, step in to try solving the problem himself. Any ideas for a solution, no matter what the source, should be relayed through the person delegated to the task.
In the case of delegating a new department manager, communication between that person and the staff he may be supervising is vital if the business is to benefit from the thinking of all employees on the firing line. Too often we hear of workers referring to themselves as "mushrooms," because their managers keep them in the dark and feed them a lot of manure. This is precisely why good managers hold regular staff meetings during which everyone is given an opportunity to express himself, and pertinent information is shared.
Obviously, one of the most important aspects of the business where delegating responsibility is so vital is in the selection of a sales manager. Unless the owner/manager is prepared to spend all day on the sales floor, filling this position with the best-qualified candidate is an absolute necessity. Such a person must know and understand the mission statement of the business. He should be consulted at the time of inventory-buying sessions and given full knowledge of the costs of goods. Still, his access to operating expenses should be limited to those involving only the sales department.
Finally, a sales manager must be aware that his purpose in the business is to create super salespeople, not just be one. Wherever possible, he should give credit for a sale to one of his staff. For this reason, his compensation should be based on the performance of the department as a whole.
By following such hints in hiring managers for any of his store's departments, the owner/manager can better assure the loyalty of all employees. It's easy to put your best efforts forward when you know that your compensation is fair and that your boss really has a vested interest in your success.
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