How did 2014 end for you? Did your business achieve the results you were hoping for when the year began? If not, why? Was your strategy flawed, or did the market — customers, competitors and the economy — throw you a curve ball that you didn’t see coming?
As we enter a new year, here’s a three-point action plan that can help your business outperform 2014’s results.
1. ESTABLISH GOALS
Before you rush into the new year, conduct a post assessment of the prior year. Assess 2014’s results: what went right and what went wrong; what events happened that you didn’t see coming; what would you do differently if you had the chance.
You want to continue doing the things that worked, and either improve or eliminate the things that didn’t. Establish your goals in writing and clearly communicate these goals to your employees, explaining to them their responsibilities in achieving these goals.
Consider sales goals like foodservice, fountain, coffee and total inside sales, along with retailing and appearance standards, and mystery shopper scores. Before your employees can be held accountable to perform certain tasks and behaviors, you have to make sure they possess the knowledge, skillsets and motivation to be successful. This will require training and ongoing coaching.
2. CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT
Make 2015 the year that you go from processing customer transactions to developing an army of loyal customers. Customers have tons of choices these days. Why should they come to your store?
It’s difficult to stand out from the convenience store crowd. The majority of your customers probably come to your store because you have a convenient location. But that’s no guarantee they will stay with you. Your goal should be loyal, not casual customers. Loyalty begins not with those frequent purchase cards (you know what I’m taking about — purchase 10 coffees and the 11th is free). Real loyalty is through the heart, not the wallet.
Start by getting to know your customers by name. Many of your employees know their customers by the products they order, like Mr. Tuna Sub Man. That’s a start! Give your employees a goal of learning 50 of their customers’ names, then moving the goal up to 75 to 100.
Once your employees know their customers’ names, the next step is to learn something personal about them: their favorite sports team, where they work, interests, do they have children, etc. I’m not suggesting prying into your customer’s personal lives, just the neighborly basics.
The bottom line to customer loyalty is this: You want your customers to come to your store because of the personal relationship they have with your employees, not because of your monthly soda promotion. Products, promotions and price attract customers, but it’s relationships that keep customers.
Employees get paid to perform operational tasks; leaders get paid for results. If you have several stores, make it crystal clear to your store managers and store supervisors that it is their responsibility to drive your strategy and achieve the business results. It’s not your job as the owner to achieve results, it is their job, which is why you hired them.
However, it is your job as the owner to not accept excuses and tolerate non-performers. Non-performers drag the team down. Your job as the owner is a lot like that of a gardener: make sure the soil is heathy and nourished (business culture) and pull the weeds (non-performers) when required.
Make 2015 your best year yet. Continually keep your eye on the prize (your goals) and don’t accept anything less. Lead your team by your actions, not your words. People believe what they see, not what they hear. And remember, your past never equals your future unless you allow it. Your future is something you create, not something that happens to you.
The time to create your future begins now!
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner.