As a retailer, you may like to think you’re a superhero who can do everything and anything while being in a million different places at once. But the fact is you’re only a human being with the same number of hours in a day as everyone else.
You might be a pro at running your business, but there will probably come a time — a trade show, a family emergency, parental leave, or a well-deserved vacation — when you’ll temporarily have to step away.
Whatever the reason, you should be able to take time off knowing everything isn’t going to come crashing down in your absence. To secure that peace of mind, you need to make sure your staff is capable of functioning when you’re not there.
Here are some helpful tips to ensure your retail business runs as usual when you’re not around.
Write a Killer Manual
This will become your business’s bible — a place staff can turn to when you’re not around that documents procedures, policies, contacts, and any other information that might be needed in your absence. Ideally, create a digital version of your manual that can easily be searched.
If a staff member ever has a question that’s not included in your manual, make sure to add it in with a detailed description. The manual should be something that is revisited and revised often as new situations take place. To make things easier for everyone, create a digital version that is easily searchable. Sections that should be included in the manual include:
Enter all the usual emergency contacts, but also include information for getting in touch with staff, vendors, the building owner, and anyone else relevant.
General Business Information
The more your staff knows about your business, the easier it is for them to communicate the store’s mission to customers and make decisions in line with company values. Write out your mission statement, who your target customers are, and a brief history of the business.
FURTHER READING: Learn more about your target customers by creating in-depth buyer personas.
Store Rules and Regulations
Make sure your manual includes the nuts and bolts of the business, such as store policies, personnel conduct, pay and scheduling info, conditions of employment, and how returns are handled.
FURTHER READING: Learn how to create a flexible return policy to enhance the customer experience and make more sales.
Customer service is one of the most important parts of a business, so make sure your employees know your preferred way of dealing with difficult customers, your expected customer service standards, information on conduct, and how to handle lost and found items.
FURTHER READING: While it may be difficult to deal with angry customers, you can turn those negative interactions into positive ones with these customer service tips.
Point-of-Sale System Procedures
Operating the cash register and point-of-sale (POS) system can be confusing, so spell out the process, including the types of payments you accept, information on your loyalty program, and inventory management procedures, and any other relevant info.
FURTHER READING: Learn how to leverage data from your point-of-sale system to boost sales and improve your retail business.
Theft happens, but how it’s dealt with can be a make-or-break situation for your business. Shoplifting and employee theft make up the bulk of a $45 billion annual problem for the retail industry. Retailers continue to invest in new technology to reduce inventory shrinkage. But typical losses still hover around 2% of annual sales.
Include detailed instructions on dealing with shoplifters, and also include information on handling things like paperwork and cash-handling errors.
FURTHER READING: To help curb shoplifting and theft, use our guide to create a comprehensive loss prevention plan.
Make Sure You Have Strong Management
Passing off the baton off to someone else can make you feel vulnerable, so make sure your second-in-command is someone you can trust. Ideally, have one or two people as “alternates” when you need to step away. Be sure they’re employees who have not only shown dedication and loyalty to the business, but also possess strong leadership skills.
Empower Your Staff
Hiring talented and hardworking people at every level in your retail business can have a positive impact on your business — whether you’re there or not.
Start by clearly defining everyone’s specific role and offer solid training that teaches your employees to be responsible for their actions. Your focus should be on steering the ship, managing employees, and building key relationships for your retail business. If you’re away, no area of the company should fall short because there will be no one specific area for which you’re solely responsible.
Give your deputies room to bring new ideas to the table. They might have new thoughts on solving problems or find better ways that produce more effective outcomes that you’ve never thought of — but you won’t know until you step back and put your trust in them.
Develop a company culture where people don’t fear making a decision themselves and failing. If you’ve hired good people, more often than not, their call will be right. This builds their confidence over time and also allows new ideas to be executed more quickly. Plus, you know when you have to step away from the business that you’re leaving your staff empowered to make the decisions that best suit the business.
FURTHER READING: Learn how to vet, hire, and retain top-notch retail employees.
Give It a Test Run
Take a day off or step away from the store at a non-critical time and watch how things run in your absence. Maybe work from home or just stay in the back office for a few hours, leaving your management in charge for the day.
The point is to make sure there are no critical errors or areas of focus that haven’t been addressed. It can even be helpful to bring in a secret shopper to test your staff’s skill and report back to you with their findings.
Plan and Prepare
If you’re going away for weeks at a time — on parental leave, for example — then plan and prepare your staff months in advance. If you’re only going to be gone a couple of days, letting them know a week or two ahead of time should give them ample time to prepare.
Whatever the situation may be, follow these steps to ensure you’re covered:
Inform Your Staff, Especially Management
Keep them posted on planned absences so they can prepare. Prior to your absence, take the time to discuss expectations or concerns so you can start the initial plans for transition.
Collect Necessary Information
Just because you’re not going to be in the store doesn’t mean you might not need to get in touch with your team or your vendors while you’re away. In this case, organize your contact list and any other information you could need and take it with you.
Document and Delegate
Make a list of your daily responsibilities and assign those tasks to specific staff members. Remember to provide them with any login information or manuals they might need to carry out your tasks.
Prepare Your Contacts
Introduce your deputies to any contacts you deal with on a regular basis, and craft an out-of-office email letting vendors and other people you do business with know you’re away and tell them who to contact in your absence.
Do a Tech Check
If you’re planning to work remotely, make sure before you leave that you install all the necessary software onto your laptop and upload store documents to the cloud. This could include messaging systems like Slack, staff scheduling tools like When I Work, and your inventory management software to keep a check on stock levels.
FURTHER READING: Check out these tools that can help keep your inventory management system running smoothly.
It can be stressful to step away from your store for any amount of time, but if you have a smart and capable staff well-versed in your business’s goals and practices, there’s no reason things can’t run smoothly while you’re gone.