How To Manage Many Stores

Owning and running a single store is difficult. It doesn’t get any easier when you open multiple stores. While you may have figured out many of your business processes when you had a single store, you can no longer oversee all the work your employees do, nor step in to resolve customer service problems.

With many stores in many locations, you now need to develop new business processes to coordinate your best business practices.

With that in mind, here are some best practices recommended for managing many retail stores:

  1. Adopt an electronic payroll model.

Making sure that all your employees are paid on time and according to all the labor and tax laws is essential. However, now the work is too much for your accountants and bookkeepers, and you also don’t want to create an accounting division at headquarters nor hire an accounting team for each store because this will raise your overheads. The solution to managing this complexity is to hire an outside firm that offers wage payment solutions with payroll cards that can help you to rapidly deploy an electronic payroll process.

  1. Change how you manage employees.

When you have a single store, a few star employees are all you need to do well. Often there is plenty of room for everyone you hire to sell, stock, and manage the store according to common sense or simple instructions. However, when you have many stores, you can’t be on hand to provide individual guidelines on best practices. Since you may now have 50 or 100 employees rather than a manageable 5 or 10, you have to create a proven process that anyone can be trained to follow.

Moreover, since you can’t be there to see how things are going, you need to have an automated way of tracking and reporting how all your employees perform in all your locations. Metrics now replace personal supervision. When Mrs. Fields ran 500 stores, metrics tracked by computers at company headquarters ensured that employees did all the necessary things to stay profitable.

  1. Expect a higher employee turnover.

When you had a single store, you were able to get to know all your employees and build a relationship that reduced turnover. Now with many stores, the idea of building personal rapport is almost impossible. Before Sam Walton developed multiple locations, his personal interest in all his employees won over their loyalty. Later, when he had multiple store locations and flew around the country in his small plane to visit with employees, he still managed to find time to hang out with them in the break rooms. However, it was not quite the same anymore.

As a business grows, the founder’s influence can’t hold things together with the same level of intimacy and camaraderie. Consequently, multiple locations create a constant flow of employees in and out of the company. This challenge can be overcome by training new employees quickly and well and putting incentives in place to retain their services. In addition, retraining may also be necessary as the business expands its operations. The goal of any large business with multiple locations is to provide the same high quality of service regardless of location.

  1. Pick many chiefs.

When you have one business, you are a small business owner who makes all the decisions. All key decisions have to get your approval. However, with multiple stores, the number of administrative decisions to make increases exponentially. For this reason, you must have many managers who can replicate your policies in a fair and reasonable way.

  1. Share ideas and experiences.

With many stores in different geographical locations with slightly different cultural needs, it’s almost impossible to maintain a uniform policy on meeting customer needs. A customer in New York will not have the same customer service expectations as a customer in Santa Fe. Innovation across the company can only occur if there are opportunities to exchange ideas on best business practices. Managers need to discuss their different experiences with different types of customer bases through remote telecommunication meetings as well as in person through company conventions.

  1. Change your relationship with suppliers.

Since your company is now ordering inventory at a much higher volume, your relationship with your suppliers has to change. If you have a small supplier, you may have to work with a bigger supplier. Or, it may be the case that you had a single supplier and now have to work with multiple suppliers because you have a wider product line. As your business grows, your relationship with suppliers will have to keep pace with it. The biggest mistake you can make is to have each store independently sourcing its inventory as this will ruin your chance to leverage economies of scale.

  1. Duplicate excellence when it shows up.

You will inevitably find that some stores do far better than others. Sometimes this can be attributed to demographics and the economics of the geographical area, but at times it’s how the manager and sales staff are running the business within the company guidelines. When these anomalies occur, find out what they are doing differently and see if it can be repeated in your other stores.

  1. Adjust to local regulations.

Different states and local jurisdictions will affect how you do business. Ignorance of the law is no defense and you have to understand and follow zoning, licensing, and other government regulations for each location.

When your business is ready to expand or if it is already in the process of expansion, applying these 7 strategies will make it easier to handle the complexity that arises from managing many stores in diverse geographic locations.

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