* This is my article for the recent cbaonline.org industry magazine. my column on retail runs every other month.

In this article, I want to spend more time asking questions then answering them. I also will tell you up front that despite being in a world of wanting quick, efficient, and nicely packaged formulas for success, you will not find them here in this article.
However, I believe that with an extensive list of questions that I will offer later, perhaps the formula for your very success may be closer than you think.
Quite frankly, I don’t believe we spend an adequate amount of time auditing what and how we do things. Now, please understand, I am not suggesting that we all walk around and constantly second-guess our actions. But, I do believe it is too easy to slip into auto-pilot.

Raise your hand if you have ever slipped into auto-pilot… If you could see me now… my hand is sky-high.

One day, I was challenged by a statement one of my managers had made about all the projects we gave them to do.
The statement was, “[sigh] …this is just another thing to do.” This challenged me because I wanted to peel back that statement and identify the root of such an attitude. Perhaps, in this… we might find clarity. Perhaps, in this… we might find our competitive edge.

However, this is not an easy thing to do. To do it correctly, one must set aside their ego in understanding that there might be a good chance that somewhere down the line the message got cluttered.

Often times, we spend more time managing the minors because we never spent adequate time clarifying the majors.

As Marcus Buckingham states… “Clarity is the antidote to anxiety.”

With this, I was inspired to set out and seek out the root of that statement. I was inspired to ask questions of both myself and our leaders that would lead us to a solid foundation that would allow us to be more sustainable in running a successful retail operation. I truly believed that in the response I was given, somewhere in there, I might find our competitive edge.

With that said, here are 31 questions… one for each day of the month that will challenge how well you know your company, your team, your guests, and yourself as a manager/owner?

What is the most effective way to motivate your staff?
What are the top 3 challenges you face with motivating your staff?
How well does your staff perform when you are not onsite? (days off, night shifts, and lunch/deposit breaks)
What are the top 3 areas you need help with? (where will you find that help?)
What have been the top 2 most effective channels of advertising for your store? Why?
What have been the most effective types of sales promotions for your store? Why?
What are the top 3 things you can do today to increase foot traffic?
What are the top 3 things you can do today to improve conversion rate?
Is there a product line that you are missing that would further meet your store consumer needs?
Is there a product line that you are carrying that needs an increase of stock that would further meet the consumer needs?
How do you increase your average dollar per transaction? What is your stores average dollar per transaction YTD?
How much church traffic does your store get?
What are the top 3 areas you feel you need to improve in?
What is your strength as a manager/owner?
What is your weakness as a manager/owner?
Good or Bad, what has impacted your business the most YTD?
How have you sought to increase profits YTD?
How do you impact life of your community with what your business does?
How would you rate the overall performance of your staff?
How do you improve the overall performance of your staff?
How does your staff find out about current company advertising campaigns and promotions?
Do you have clarity on what is expected of your role?
Does your staff have clarity on what is expected of their role? How often and what tools do you use to coach your staff?
How would you rate the overall product knowledge of your staff?
How would you rate the overall product knowledge of yourself?
What is the most effective way to train your staff on product knowledge?
What are the characteristics of a great employee?
What are the characteristics of a poor employee?
What is the most effective way to motivate you? How do you stay motivated?
What part of your company are you most passionate about?
What are the top 3 areas you could improve in as a company?

Overwhelmed by the questions? That’s ok. Remember what I said about one per day?

To be successful in this current climate, we need to be excellent in the majors. In doing this, it will provide us a more stable platform to spend more time telling our story and less time selling our products. (I know, that may not jive with the law of retail physics.)

One day I was told a Story… shortly after.. I was sold.

In the end, isn’t it The Story that led us to do what we do anyway? When we understand that, then perhaps that next project won’t be… just another thing to do. Why? because we took the time to evaluate how sturdy our foundation was. We took the time to evaluate those projects to determine how purposeful they were to sustaining the foundation. We took the time to make adjustments as needed to ensure that the main thing… was indeed, the main thing.

Oh how we have been good at making the minor things the major things.

Hmmm, maybe that formula is close by after all?

How successful are you with building and sustaining a foundation that allows you and your team to continue telling The Story in fresh and relevant ways?

Clarity is the antidote to anxiety. Make sure that you and your team have it, lest you’ll be back to majoring in the minors and therefore… missing the majors.

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