Retail risk in Covid and post-Covid times - scoring an own goal [Part 2]

Ben Jansen van Rensburg, director of Neo Retail Solutions, continues his analogy of retail performance management versus sports management - in essence, what retailers need to do to survive the economic melt-down due to the pandemic.

An eight-point plan for success from the Gaffer

In 2012 a Harvard Business School (HBS) professor, Anita Elberse, took up a unique opportunity to examine the management style and principles of Sir Alex Ferguson (also known as ‘the Gaffer’), previously manager of Manchester United, and arguably one of the most successful in the history of the game.

She noted that “success and staying power like Sir Alex Ferguson’s demand study, and not just by football fans. How did he do it? Can one identify habits that enabled his success and principles that guided it?”

So, they proceeded to scrutinise Ferguson’s methods for success and developed an HBS case study around the subject.

The Harvard Business Review published excerpts, providing his eight-point plan for success as follows:

1. Start with the foundation - Develop ‘centres of excellence’ for promising players.

In retail that translates into: learn how to identify, acquire and retain talent.

2. Dare to rebuild your team - Even in the midst of a successful present, look to the future.

Retailers must know what needs strengthening and what needs refreshing.

3. Set high standards, and hold everyone to them - Your team needs to be winners and be driven to do what it takes to win.

Just as with the members of a retail store team, each player must know what it takes to win and do it.

4. Never, ever cede control - If Ferguson’s team players broke the rigid standards he set, they were fined. If they stepped out of line in a way that could undermine the team’s performance, they were invited to leave.

Easier said than done with SA’s labour laws but can be achieved with the mandatory protocols.

5. Match the message to the moment - When it came to communicating decisions to his players, Ferguson – perhaps surprisingly for a manager with a reputation for being tough and demanding – worked hard to tailor his words to the situation.

Communication with store team players is vital.

6. Prepare to win - Ferguson’s teams had a knack for pulling off victories in the late stages of games. To drive home the rule that the game is never over until the whistle blows, he had players regularly practice how they should play if a goal was needed with e.g. ten, five or three minutes remaining.

Just because we are operating in Covid-19 restrictive times, does not mean that is an excuse not to continue to drive for service excellence and going the extra mile.

7. Rely on the power of observation - He watched; delegated. This gave him time to switch from coaching to observing. The latter allowed him to better evaluate the players and their performances.

Observation is critical to management. The ability to see things is key, or, more specifically, the ability to see things you don’t expect to see.

8. Never stop adapting - Be open to change.

The retail landscape is constantly changing, and concurrently new technologies come onto the market at an exponential rate. Stay on top of developments and make sure you have the best tools available to do the job.