Quest for Fire

It's almost primordial. Our quest for General Managers, Store Managers, Assistants, and "MIT's" waiting in the wings seems never ending. Yet very few if any of us have paid respect to history and are now doomed to repeat it.

Hiring this position is tougher than ever before because the inventory is shrinking. Today's GM was born about 25 to 30 years ago. Say about 1974-1979...during the "baby bust" when we were tripping the light fantastic in spandex shaking our posteriors to the likes of "Boogie Nights" and "Stayin' Alive" instead of making babies. Oh yeah, and it gets worse...the debacle of a decade called the 80's was all about me, me, me and the advent of "pay for it later" attitude called credit cards whose interest, like our future, was 100% deductible.

So, today we're faced with a shrinking inventory and two alphabet generations whose names are more akin to less desirable brands (X & Y) than good grades (A or B). Yet we're still judged by someone in a foulard tie and a pair of wing tips where greed is still good. The wizards of Wall Street, banks and private equity firms have a renewed demand for profit. The fast lane to more profit is more locations. But that also means we've gotta staff them.

I dare not make bold statements like these without offering a solution. I loathe the idea of being called a consultant -- a job where if you're not part of the solution you make good money prolonging the problem. Here's what you can do to recruit GM's:

  1. Marry Marketing to HR. Your ads, local store marketing and compensation programs need to be tied to everyone's job of recruiting.
  2. Hire better multiunit operators. DM's & RM's should have a big chunk of their compensation tied to building bench strength.
  3. Make it quantifiable. Tell them you expect no less than 10 business cards or names & home phone numbers every month from potential candidates or referral sources.
  4. Teach them how to rub two sticks together to make fire. The VP's these DM's & RM's report to need to be Apostles & Diplomats and be able to teach them how to walk into a store/restaurant, find the manager on duty and build a neighborly relationship. One day you'll need to borrow a cup of sugar.
  5. Treat the cause, not the symptom. People aren't as easily manipulated as mark downs on last seasons merchandise. It's the part of your inventory that goes home at night. Treat them accordingly.

There's an underlying story to this malaise called Management. I'm talking about the intangible skills of motivating people, leadership, vision and mentoring. All of the above is meaningless without the brain power and passion that come from the folks at the top of the food chain who are willing to take responsibility for their actions. If you can't do the math, get out of the equation.

Of course, this is only my opinion but it's one I value highly.


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