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ATLANTA – For many convenience store chains, the key to achieving excellence lies between the corporate office and the store-level employees. By giving field management team members what they need to do their jobs well and become leaders who care about the business, a company can achieve its vision for the future, according to the NACS Show educational session, "Developing Your Field Management Team for Excellence."
C-store chains should customize their specific operations to their needs, but there are three primary success modules for developing a field management team: equip, engage and encourage, said presenters Stephen Seymour, director of personnel for United Refining Co. dba Country Fair/Kwik Fill, and Terry McKenna, principal of Employee Performance Strategies Inc.
Companies should equip their field team with both hard tools and soft tools. Hard tools include useful technology such as laptops and/or iPads, smartphones and Skype setup if the team is spread out, along with Bluetooth earpieces to let team members legally talk on the phone while driving. Soft tools include established communication paths such as bringing people off the road and back into the office at periodic intervals, and both having an agenda for them (such as meetings with specific departments) and letting them set an agenda.
"Your folks need to know what's going on in the organization," Seymour said. "They need to feel involved in the decision-making process."
Additionally, the presenters suggested sending team members to occasional training and development opportunities, including leadership seminars, educational sessions and the NACS Show itself. Peer-to-peer training can also have good results. "The credibility level is much higher," McKenna noted.
To engage field supervisors, c-store operators should make sure they know the company's mission and its vision for the future; they should know what executives want the company to look like, as well as they know its current state. Field supervisors also should be given a plan of action and a blueprint of how to execute that plan.
The best team members are those with high engagement and high collaboration, the speakers said.
And that goes for both sides, meaning that higher-ups need to be supportive of the field team's needs. Encouragement means remembering that even longtime supervisors still need support and advice, and their superiors should be consistently reachable by phone. Companies should also help their field teams understand what they are not (delivery people, security officers, reset crews) vs. what they are (customer service professionals, positive energy people, reenforcers instead of enforcers).
Finally, companies must check back to ensure these messages sink in and evaluate the overall success of the three Es. "You have to inspect what you expect," Seymour said.