We’re a few days into 2019 and we’re coming out of a great 2018. In general, retail saw tremendous growth as we leave one of the best holiday seasons in recent history. For Streamline, we saw tremendous growth with new partnerships, the launch of Retail Initiative, and some additions to the team. All in all, 2018 was great and, from the retailers we work with, this feeling seems to be shared.
But 2018 wasn’t perfect. There’s a lot of areas where we could have been better and, if you’re anything like us, we want to find ways to improve going into the new year.
Where things get hard is figuring out where to even start. There are a million small changes that can be made but 2019 will still only have 24 hours in a day and hopefully, sleep can take at least a few of those. And to top that, I bet 2018 didn’t exactly feel like there were countless hours in the day to add extra tasks, so finding time to implement these improvements can be beyond overwhelming.
That’s where we want to help.
Having limited time, what are the essential things you can review about your business? We put together a few questions to ask yourself as you take time to plan out what to expect in the new year.
To be clear, I’m not giving you questions that will only take 15 minutes to answer and implement. My goal is to give you, what I consider to be, the top areas that independent retailers can improve their businesses in 2019.
Self and Customer Awareness
There’s a good chance you have changed a little over the last year… which is obviously a good thing. At the same time, your customer likely hasn’t. I don’t mean that the individuals haven’t but your typical demographic has likely stayed the same even if the individuals have moved on. The easiest way of looking at this is a store catering to college girls. Every few years, a new set of customers will engage and disengage your business.
Why is this important?
When you first started your store there is a pretty good chance you were the same person as your customer. Your taste, budget, location, marital status, and every other detail of life was similar to most, if not all, of your primary customer base. This can be a great thing because shopping for yourself is easy and who better to know your customer than one of your customers (aka you!)
Where things get difficult is that you grow up. Your tastes change. You might have gotten married, moved neighborhoods, switched up your style, taken the nose ring out, etc. If you were in the habit of buying for yourself, you are setting yourself up for failure if you don’t ask yourself a few questions on a semi-regular basis to make sure that you are still the “same person” as your customer.
What do you want to get out of your business this year?
Before making your goals it’s so important to be honest with yourself about what you hope to get out of your business this year. Do you want to make as much money as possible? Is your hope to provide more jobs? Are you wanting to scale something to be bigger in the future? Do you want to make an impact on your local community?
How you answer these questions dictates your goals. Here are some suggestions:
Goals + Next Steps
Make as much money as possible
- Where did our sales team succeed in 2018 and how we can continue that into 2019?
- What areas of your business drag down margins?
- What sales channels are we using least effectively that have the most potential?
- What roles could I split up to give the company as much value as possible while employing more people?
- How are we developing our team to be better?
Scale your business
- What is holding your business back (read more below)
- If we had a massive influx in orders or in-store sales, what problems would we have that we could implement changes in today?
In answering these, you should be able to get some clear next steps on how to prioritize your time and resources in 2019.
Am I utilizing my team correctly?
Retailers tend to be very passionate about their teams… it’s one of my favorite things in the industry. A drawback of this is that it can prevent retailers from taking a realistic look at their people and evaluate the roles they play in your team. I am not saying to evaluate if people should be on your team; I’m saying you should evaluate how you utilize your staff.
Some great questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have people in the correct roles? Do your sales associates respect and learn from your manager? Is your order fulfillment person as organized as you need them to be?
- Are you putting resources into your team to make them better?
- How was team communication in 2018? What could be better this year? You might consider starting regular store meetings or implementing Slack.
Am I using the right tools?
After looking at your goals, teams, sales channels, and the business in general, it’s important to take a step back and look at the tools you have in place and see where they push you towards your goals or make it more difficult to get there.
Some questions you can ask yourself:
- Do my sales channels work together or do we do a lot of work twice? (Enter products online and in-store)
- Do my tools tell me enough about our sales, purchasing, receiving, and other data to make solid decisions?
- Is my team able to effectively use what I have in place already?
- If we change one thing that would save us hours per day, what would that be?
Ultimately, taking a step back and evaluating these things, whether at the new year or during any other time, will always be incredibly helpful in growing and scaling your business. Want a little more help in wading through these? Feel free to comment below or reach out… we’d love to talk!