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Foundations of Leadership Conference

5 Operations Tips From the 2019 NRHA STIHL Foundations of Leadership Conference

The 2019 NRHA STIHL Foundations of Leadership Conference took place on the show floor of the 2019 Independent Garden Center Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. The site was also home to the first annual Independent Home Improvement Show, presented by the National Hardware Show®.

Attendees heard from presenters who are also part of the core group of instructors for the association’s Retail Management Certification Program (RMCP). The speakers presented on various facets of effective leadership and how critical strong leaders are to be successful as independent retailers.

Review these takeaways from the presenters, and learn more about advanced training programs available through the North American Retail Hardware Association here, including more about the Foundations of Leadership program.

Start With Character

When it comes to best practices for hiring, software development company co-founder Wil Davis says you should evaluate the person before their specific skills or knowledge.

“Hire character first, then train skills,” Davis says. “It turns out that people who have character are actually very trainable. We have to be willing to train in this world with a shortage of workers.”

Davis says when he implemented this strategy in his own company, the turnover rate dropped to less than 3 percent.

Set Standards for Your Operation

Rob Mathews, Ph.D., director and operations manager for the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, says independent retailers can learn some strategies from chain operations.

“Why do we flock to chain restaurants but little mom and pop restaurants with good food don’t have the same following?” he says. “Chain restaurants have standards, expectations, processes and systems in place. Think about how you can create systems that are professional and make it easy for customers to do business with you.”

Mathews says it’s also crucial to be unbiased in how you value employees who are family and employees who aren’t family. Implementing standards for employee training and management can help create an environment where everyone feels equally valued by the company.

Support Other Local Businesses

Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand, a campaign that highlights the benefits of shopping local, presented on how valuable supporting other local businesses can be for your operation. According to recent research from NRHA and Independent We Stand, independent retailers return three times more money to local economies than national chains. Brunelle says it’s important to let your customers know that to show that support in your own communities.

“Tell people you are locally owned,” he says. “Have an elevator pitch ready to tell people wherever and whenever you can.”

Brunelle says one key way you can show your independence and give back to your community is to bank locally instead of at national banks.

Provide an Authentic Experience

Whether you’re trying to appeal to a younger customer base or attract a new generation of employees, the key is to be authentic, according to Mike Goldsby, Ph.D., chief entrepreneurship officer and executive director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise at Ball State University.

Millennials are looking for more authentic, real experiences,” he says. “When something feels corporate or marketing focused, they are skeptical about it. They want to know the history and why a place is special.”

When it comes to creating authenticity for your employees, Goldsby says taking time to regularly debrief at the end of day can make a significant improvement in a company’s culture.

Lead Through Service

The last presentation was a conversation between Scott Wright, executive director of NRHA’s Retail Leadership Institute, and Jeff Cardwell, owner of Cardwell Do it Best and board member for Indianapolis-based nonprofit The Fuller Center for Housing.

Cardwell says if everyone on your team is committed to performing acts of service as part of their regular job, it can be contagious and they can build on each other in the right environment. Connecting that commitment to leadership with independent business can be a boon in your local community.

See more coverage from the 2019 Independent Garden Center Show here, and click here for a recap from the 2018 NRHA STIHL Foundations of Leadership Conference.

About Melanie Moul

Melanie is the communications and content manager for the North American Hardware and Paint Association. She joined the NHPA team in 2016 as an editor for Hardware Retailing and now helps lead the communications team to deliver relevant, timely content to the industry.

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