Be the Branch Manager They Want You to Be - Management
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SECTION: Management

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Be the Branch Manager They Want You to Be

Written By Jim Ambrose

Article Date: 12-03-2007
Copyright(C) 2007 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

The old ‘open door' policy and a few parties and picnics that you think are creating good communication are not making the grade among staff. For them, it's all about business and authentic leadership.

The communication your employees really want is not what you think it is.

The branch manager's communication in the branch is very critical to being able to drive profitable growth. But, the communication the employees want and what the manager believes he or she is doing are often not the same.

The key to the right communication within the branch lies in a consistent collective message gathered from employees themselves of managers who have attended my branch management workshops.

Workshop attendees represent a group of managers who seek training to improve their skills. Managers attending my workshops may well be running some of the better managed businesses in the industry, since they are clearly looking for ways to improve their business and leadership skills. These individuals believe their communication in the branch is good, and they provide the following list of activities to describe what communication in the branch means:

  • An open door policy to the manager
  • Manager is easy to talk to, friendly to everyone
  • Sharing of company news
  • An office or branch newsletter
  • Publicize customer orders, or recent market successes
  • Company picnics with families
  • A holiday party
  • A lunchroom bulletin board
  • A question and answer session at quarterly meetings
However, the results of surveying their employees
indicate that the lack of communication is the single biggest area the employees would improve if they were
the manager. (See Chart A.)

But, what they want is not more or better of what the managers are providing in the list above. They want to see and hear about business leadership activities.

The results are consistent across trade industries. (I recently completed my first workshop for AED members in Chicago on Oct. 24, and the survey results closely matched the aggregate in every category.) It is interesting that only a quarter of the respondents indicate they would be "just like the (current) manager" if they were made manager.

The other significant finding is that the employees perceive that the outside sales people need to be better managed. The million-dollar question is: (A) Is this more of a communication issue, in that the manager is not sharing their sales management plan with the employees; or (B) Is there truly an absence of a sales management plan? The truth is, in many cases, it's both - I believe, after working with hundreds of managers across the trades, that the bigger issue is a lack of a disciplined sales management process.

There is more evidence from the survey in the write-in responses to the question, "What does the manager need to do more of?" The single highest frequency of employee responses indicates that employees want the manager to "improve communication." It is also interesting to note that one of the highest write-in responses to this question indicates the manager needs to deal firmly with nonperformers, or as commonly written, the "slackers."

So, if having the holiday parties, the mantra of an open door policy, and the lunchroom bulletin board ornaments is not the communication the employees really need, what is?

Let's look at more data.

In Chart B, 61 percent of the respondents indicate they do not know the business plan. In Chart C, of the employees who receive a bonus, 60 percent are not sure how it is determined.

The purpose of sharing a business plan is for everyone to know where you are taking the business and your expectations of how everyone needs to perform in order to achieve the plan. Evidently, most of our employees do not know it. The purpose of creating a bonus plan is to change behavior of the employees, and most of the employees are not sure what behavior needs to change in order to receive their bonus.

I believe there is a direct correlation between not understanding the business plan and not understanding the bonus program. The data is consistent.

The summary take-away is found in Chart D. Almost half, 49 percent, of the employees are working for us out of convenience. They do not find their branch to be a "high energy, winning environment with a great team of people." Considering that only 26 percent of our employees are satisfied with the way the manger is running the business, (A), and 60 percent do not know a business plan or how they will be compensated for their participation in the plan, (B and C), it is no wonder that holding picnics, cluttering bulletin boards and bragging about an open door policy is not getting it done as far as communication in your branch.


What Do They Want?

Bottom line: Your employees want you to be a business leader.

In my workshop, "Business Skills and Leadership Training for the Wholesale Branch Manager," I go through the outline in the beginning of the session, with "communication" the last module at the end of the workshop. In our review of the modules, everyone is pleased to see this one included because, as they often tell me, "I can use some pointers on how to improve communication in my branch." In reality, I plan to devote only the last 30 minutes to this important topic. But, it is the most powerful 30 minutes of the two days.

The two-day workshop begins with tools to review and analyze financial reports, choose the right market space, engage the salespeople through a detailed sales management plan, engage and motivate all employees to do the right things for the sales management plan to be successful, and constantly seek ways to improve customer service and productivity. As we progress through these business and leadership skills modules, the attendees are asked to build a vision of where they are taking their business, utilizing the skills and techniques being presented. A lot of work and energy takes place putting the pieces together.

Then it is time to do the last module on communication. I ask this question: "What do you think your employees want from you in order for the branch to have good communication and a winning high energy environment?"

As they look down at their workbooks, binder, tool kits and notes, the answer becomes obvious. Communication in the branch is all about being a business leader.

Business leaders communicate. It is inherent to being a leader. What the employees want you to do and communicate is your vision of where you are taking the business and how you are going to achieve that vision.

Communicate your passion to the team, your inner drive of where you want to take the business in your chosen market space. They want to know you have a mission, a direction, a passion for what you want the business to accomplish.

Continually communicate how you will lead the business to achieve the vision by explaining the sales management process and sales performance expectations of the sales people, and the tools and techniques you will use to improve customer service in the business.

Communicate everybody's role and performance expectations in order for the business to achieve the vision. Regularly communicate and celebrate activities that contributed to the vision, and share issues and challenges that need to be overcome. Utilize team-building skills whenever possible to solve tough service issues in the branch, and communicate the results to all. Let everyone see and understand that you will not accept poor performance or attitudes that are detrimental to achieving the vision by dealing with employee issues fairly and quickly.

Do these things and your communication in the branch will be very good. The reason it will be good is because you are being a business leader.

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Article Categories:  Management