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New Manager Confidential: Insights From New Managers

Becoming a new manager can be rewarding, but also full of challenges. Fortunately, the home improvement industry has many players who are willing to share advice and best practices with their fellow retailers. Here, we’ve compiled advice for new managers from several hardware and paint retailers. 

An Opportunity to Lead

With a skewed work-life balance and no clear path for advancement in his career, Grant Umber was about to quit the home improvement industry altogether before he was offered an opportunity he could not turn down. 

His family had owned Umber’s Do it Best, which had two locations in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for 75 years. In 2020, the Umber family closed one store and sold the other to Connolly’s Do It Best Hardware, which had just recently been acquired by Nations Best Holdings. Around that time, Nations Best Holdings came to Umber and offered him the position of division manager, overseeing all the Connolly’s Do it Best Hardware & Rental locations. He jumped at the opportunity to advance his career in a direction that better suited his experience, abilities and priorities.

Umber has been in his new management role for over six months now, and during that time has learned some key lessons. He’s discovered that sales is all about productivity, while management requires working efficiently but always through the lens of taking care of your team. He says good leadership requires self-motivation and building relationships. 

If he could impart any advice to other new managers, Umber recommends maintaining a positive environment, which improves employee engagement and retention and leads to more positive customer interactions. 

“Be intentional because your store will reflect who you are,” he says. “Think like a customer by walking around the store with fresh eyes each morning, paying close attention to what you see, hear and smell.” 

Umber says leadership positions also come with changes in the way you can interact with other employees who might have previously been peers, so it’s important to maintain good communication. 

Based on his previous work experience, he now prioritizes a team mentality and healthy work-life balance for his team and himself. 

“I’ve tried to cultivate a democratic leadership style by surrounding myself with smart people and letting them shine,” he says. “And when they shine, I shine.”

For more best practices and training from the NHPA for managers, click here.

Danny Garcia – Pintura Paint Store

“The biggest thing we preach to our managers is to be consistent.  We ask our management team to buy into the habits, rituals and routines theory. We find that if you are always consistent with the messages and actions you take, the more your employees will follow suit. If the employees are constantly getting inconsistent messages, the more confusing it is for the overall team environment.”

Mike Tibbetts – The Paint Bucket

“I think the biggest thing, especially with younger managers, is to let them know that their job is to manage, not just tell employees what to do; you manage and teach them to make sure things are done properly and efficiently. And make sure you treat your employees as co-workers, not just employees. I have also found that thanking them for doing a good job can go a long way!”

Kyle Rosinski – Northwood Paint & Supply

“Try to familiarize yourself with all aspects of the job so you can relate to your employees’ situations. Making sure you take care of problems or obstacles as they happen and not put them aside for later.”

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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