Strengthening the Backbone of Business

C-stores can improve the aspects of their operations by challenging their successes.

By Steve Sandman

Another year usually brings about a new list of challenges we create for ourselves.
We focus on losing weight, reducing unhealthy behaviors, exercising more, saving money or doing volunteer work—any areas where we perceive to be lacking.

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The same spirit inundates the work world, where businesses tackle operational shortcomings. Often in the business world, if we do things differently than we have in the past, we achieve success.

So, make 2018 the year to strengthen the backbone of your business.

We’ve all heard of the old 80-20 rule, which many retailers adhere to. We spend the bulk of our day dealing with problems, trying to fix them and focusing on all the negative things we either can’t get right or wish we could do better. And we get caught comparison shopping. Many retailers reason that because a competitor has been successful in some operational aspect, they should follow suit.

Still, no matter how impressed we are with the power of Babe Ruth, we should recognize that we can’t replicate hitting a baseball like him. More to the point, no matter how well an operator does foodservice, which might incorporate a kitchen, a commissary and supporting infrastructure, we can’t deliver the same experience with just a roller grill.

Instead, we should concentrate on the things we do best and make them even better.
That means spending 80% of the time working on the things we think our company does well, then challenging and questioning those things. The areas where we already excel comprise the backbone of our current success, and without them, a business can get into trouble quickly.
Instead, work on an incremental improvement of the program in question. Realizing a 10% improvement rate from the processes we are good at pays a greater dividend than improving something we aren’t good at by 50%, in my opinion.

Here’s a few methods that are solid practices retailers can employ to wrangle that 10%:
1. Ask a different set of eyes to make recommendations to an existing, successful program. For example, ask customer service to look at sales performance and ask them how could the sales team sell more stuff? Ask accounting to give their impressions of a marketing campaign and that might give you the “outside” look that your customers receive.
2. Ask yourself or your team if you were to create a new program to replace the existing successful program, what would it look like? Gather a representative from many company departments and you may be surprised at the great ideas that exist and were never shared because no one asked those folks for their opinion.
3. Evaluate strengths and weaknesses and encourage others to ask questions. Inquiries that challenge the acceptable norms or might be a little off base often produce some real revelations.
4. Create a task force to tear apart the program in question and rebuild to its most basic levels. Not only will you find better ways to do tasks, but you can uncover hidden costs. Create a challenge to come up with three new elements that aren’t part of the current way the program in question is operating.

The biggest challenge in revisiting the successes we have is that no one is screaming about them, and when we look at a list of potential problems, they aren’t always crystal clear.

Successful aspects of our business are well-earned and it’s unusual to challenge the components that created that success. However, we have to create this challenge, push it to the forefront and literally make more work for ourselves.

Keep your eye on your strengths. If you were to coach a football team, you might have a wide receiver throw a pass once or twice per season. So, would you want him to spend 80% of his practice time throwing the ball? No, you would have him catching the ball mostly because that is where he excels.

Go back and learn an even better way to do those things you do well. It will make 2018 a strong year for your business.