HOUSTON — The dictionary defines the word eclipse as “to surpass; outshine,” as in: His outstanding performance eclipsed the previous record.
Supermarket retailers have faced many recent challenges that have required them to move fast and manage smart. The recession in particular confronted operators with a fast-changing environment. Harold Lloyd, an industry veteran and president of Harold Lloyd Presents, Virginia Beach, built an acronym out of the word eclipse to illustrate effective management strategies for attendees at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's annual expo here.
Educate Yourself: Read grocery and competing format publications; visit at least 25 non-supermarket businesses each year for ideas.
“Instead of sitting on the mall bench while your spouse goes into a store, get your keister into Victoria's Secret and see how they do lighting. Get your carcass into IKEA and see how they do signing,” he said. “We need to get out and visit people smarter than us.”
Challenge Your People: Have your most important periodicals read and reported on by your “fast-trackers”; offer a “vacation idea bounty” that rewards anyone who brings back an actionable idea back from their time off.
“Maybe that company they visited is doing something or knows something they don't,” he said, recalling a one such visit he made to a Canadian food retailer where he saw a 10-foot display of salt. “It made me think, ‘Maybe I should take a fresh look at the spice category.’”
Listen to the Whispers: Start a think tank of company thought leaders; set up a system of “buoys” that can detect changes in trends or consumer buying.
“Get seven to 12 people together who meet once a quarter and talk about nothing but the future,” he said. “Employees, some department heads, a couple of store managers. Get everyone involved because you don't know who will see the changes first.”
Interpret the Information: Join a share group and compare notes; get second opinions from people you trust.
Plan to Alter Your SOP: Promote internally and hire externally; spend 75% of your meeting's agenda on future-facing topics.
“I sit in on some of your meetings and all the talk is about last week and last month,” he said. “Well, people, time is running out.”
Sell the Change: Avoid repetitive selling mistakes; make the incentive to change greater than the urge to stay the same.
“This is the biggie, folks,” he said. “When you know about a change in advance, a lot of the time it's exciting.”
Evaluate Your Decision: Create consumer focus groups; humanely rotate management.
“This is my favorite,” said Lloyd, wrapping up. “End every meeting by asking, ‘Folks, what's stupid around here?’ It's a really disarming question that can reveal a lot if you're listening.”