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Playing the Retail Bowl Game

Furniture World Magazine



Retail owners and managers need to have the skills of both professional and college head coaches.


You are probably reading this article in late March or early April but there’s a better than even chance that between Christmas and February 13, you spent time watching some of the 238 college and professional Bowl games. Almost every bowl game starts with a sponsor‘s name. I don’t intend to be disrespectful to die-hard football fans, but I imagine that in the future we might see names such as “The Desitin Rash Bowl” brought to you by Johnson & Johnson or “The Natural Gas Bowl” brought to you by Taco Bell.

Just as the college bowl and championship season ends, the NFL ramps up with playoff games culminating in naming the intergalactic Super Bowl champion.

This year’s NCAA and NFL big championship games were real nail-biters, with losing teams coming up a bit short, probably because they only gave 109 percent. In each final, there were questionable coaching decisions, leading to theories regarding what makes a good head coach in college versus the NFL and what skill sets are needed at each level.

Recruiting in the NCAA & NFL

To be successful, college coaches must be great recruiters. Beyond that, they need a proven staff of assistant coaches who can take very good high school kids and convert them into well-trained adults.

College coaches cannot offer to pay players for their efforts and performance. The old theory was that the “pay” was a college education. The greatest reward a coach could offer was to offer a player an opportunity to be seen on television and by professional football team scouts. Winning teams tend to get the most TV exposure, so winning coaches have a better shot at attracting really good high school players.

Of course, being seen is not enough. Colleges need to train the skills and tactics to be successful at a professional level.

They just have to work for owners with thick bankrolls. Instead, they strive to create cohesive teams made up of millionaire and multi-millionaire players. Those coaches need an eye for talent and commitment, along with the ability to weed out toxic or non-performing personnel.

Winning at Retail

Operating your retail empire is like playing in The Retail Bowl every day, but harder. That’s because retail owners and managers need to have the skills of both professional and college head coaches.

Like a college coach, you need to be a great recruiter. Sure, you can offer a salary and benefits, but that pay is probably competitive with other employers in your area, meaning you have no advantage there.

Make the recruits better: Here is where you can win. Recruit raw talent and make that talent better. That means helping your players improve their skills even if you may be improving them for their next job. You will need to invest time and money in training. Real training includes reading the retail playbook, some interaction on the practice field and lots of coaching and correction. Successful college coaches use assistants to coach every day. For you that probably means engaging factory reps, in-house sales managers, the company’s leaders and experienced winning players.

Bring in the fans: You need to give your players exposure too. That means bringing shoppers through the front door by using good marketing and smart lead generation systems. You can’t let any lead or customer contacts fall through the cracks. Count that traffic and keep your players accountable for their actions with each customer. You’ll want to keep a scorecard with accurate statistics and share them with the players.

You’ll need a bit of the NFL’s Bill Belichick or Andy Reid in you. They coach big teams with big players in front of big audiences. And, they face big expectations because of that. They’re able to spot talented players and build them into exceptional performers. On top of that, in a world with free agency, they keep the best players on their teams for a long time.

No dumb mistakes: If you watch Bill and Andy’s teams you’ll understand that they expect flawless execution­—meaning no dumb mistakes. They insist on short memories when it comes to failures. There’s no room on their teams for bad actors with poor attitudes. That includes their “stars” as well.

No prima-donas or bad actors: Watch for this on your own Team Retail. Make sure that your sales team performs the skills you train. That means showing all the products, not just the ones they like. It also means selling, not giving away, accessories. Weed out toxic people who poison work environments. Your best players should create the fewest problems. Your sales team needs to work in harmony with your operations team. Both need to be flexible and respectful of their mutual contributions.

Disruptions and disagreements will occur. Winners recognize the problems, fix them, and move on. Losers let problems fester and hold grudges.

Be ready for the big game: We, the people of The Retail World, get to play our biggest game of the season today. We also get to play it tomorrow and six- or seven days next week. Recruit and practice to WIN. Your fans are counting on you!

Bill Belichick and Andy Reid
are able to spot good talented players and make them exceptional performers. On top of that, in a world with free agency, they keep the best players on their team for a long time.



About Gordon Hecht: Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.hecht@aol.com