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MUM’s the Word!


So you’re a MUM (Multi Unit Manager). In various companies you could be referred to as:

  1. District Manager (DM)
  2. Regional Manager (RM)
  3. District or Regional Sales Manager (DSM or RSM)
  4. District or Regional Operations Manager (DOM or ROM)
  5. Multi Unit Manager (MUM)

In many cases where the MUM terminology is used, it’s because we’re actually the Manager of one store, and also oversee two or more other stores. In most such cases, the company expects more out of their MUM than they’re probably going to get. After all, where am I going to spend most of my time and put in most of my effort? In the store I’m the manager for. I’m not sold on the MUM thing because I’ve never seen it work like the company hoped it would. Having said that, let’s look at some of the issues faced by folks that are overseeing multiple retail locations (for the sake of brevity, we’ll refer to them from now on as DM’s).

Personally, I find this kind of job to be fun and fulfilling. However, most folks who are familiar with the position will tell you that it’s one of the toughest positions in the company. And it can be! After all, we need to make sure that each of our teams is staffed properly and trained properly, with happy and motivated people. While individual people on all of these teams can be significantly good or bad for the team, and we have to know when this is occurring so it can be addressed properly, most, if not all of our work has to be done through store managers. We need to train/coach our store managers in all of the right processes – what they are, how they work, how to assign and train them, and what results are expected. That’s where the difficulty comes up. We have to rely on someone else to make get all of this done.

Where does this leave us? It leaves us in the position of being a leader who builds other leaders. Let’s talk about a few of the ways we can do that.

First, we have to be fantastic observers. While walking the individual stores (alone or with the managers) we need to see and hear what’s actually going on. Yes, we probably already know that something is going on that is good (we want to keep this going and spread it to our other stores), or, we know that something isn’t working the way it should. Often (but not always), we’ve seen something in the reports we monitor that says, “this is good”, or, “something’s wrong”. However, quite often, figuring out what is really going on can only be figured out through visual observation, or through talking (yes, conversation) with members of the team (even when they’re not our managers). It’s surprising how much we can learn once WE learn how to have casual and relaxed conversations with not just our managers, but with our team associates.

Second, we don’t want to step on our manager’s toes unless it becomes absolutely necessary. If it does, we need to coach and train them to also be not only watching the numbers, but to be fantastic observers! That’s a big part of their job, too. If we learn to be part of the team, and have conversation and discussion with our managers (in a relaxed and comfortable manner), it’s often surprising what they really already know. Then it’s our job to help them be the leader in their store, just the same as we’re the leader in our district. After all, we can’t do it all, or we wouldn’t need store managers. How do we make this happen? There are several things we can do.

First, as discussed in a previous article, we need to recognize that we have people that “fit” the management position in our stores, and those that don’t. We need great people in both positions, so we need to get that right first.

Then, as also discussed in a previous article, we need to make sure that our managers are trained well in all of the necessary processes. In some cases they will be doing the process. In others, they’ll be delegating the responsibility, but will still be accountable for the results. This means that WE need to make sure that they know the process, know why it’s important, know the results that are expected, know how to train the process, and lastly, know how to hold people accountable for their results. Our job is to give this tool to our managers. If they can’t do it all, we need to coach / train them how to fulfill all the parts mentioned. After all, if we haven’t brought them up to speed in this “process implementation”, how can we hold them accountable for the results?

The other area that we need to make sure our managers are very good with is people skills. Once again, this was discussed in a previous article. However, it’s really two different areas, and they also need to know how to train their associates in both of these areas. One is, of course, dealing with customers (the sales process including the full package sales as well as asking for the sale – the close). The other is the associate’s skills in getting along with all of the other people they work with in the store.

We have to remember that bad behavior is either allowed or coached. If you’re finding bad behavior amongst your teams, first, determine if you’ve been allowing it, or if you need to hold your managers accountable. If you truly can’t see yourself as the reason for the bad behavior, coaching / training is called for. Then, possibly, replacement of your management might be necessary.

Another issue needs to be discussed for DMs - the scheduling of our visits. This can be easy in some cases (if you only have a few stores and they’re all easy drive distances). In other cases it can be difficult and take a lot of thinking and planning to make our travel the most beneficial. Geography can sometimes be our foe. I once covered a two state area, with 35 franchisee-owned stores and 13 company owned stores. I had long drive times, many overnighters, and certainly, not enough days in the week. So, how should we handle this?

I’ve seen companies suggest the “daisy” coverage solution. While this can work when you don’t have too many “problem” stores, quite often, it just isn’t a productive way to cover your district. If you don’t know what the “daisy” solution is, don’t worry about it. Unless you’re extremely lucky, it either won’t work for you, or it won’t work for long. However, let me point out that it’s meant to be a cost effective manner to allow you to cover each individual store a certain number of times each month or year. The idea is great. It’s just not usually the best way to work with your most needy stores.

What we must always keep in mind is that every store deserves at least SOME of our attention if we don’t want our teams to get complacent or lazy. No, most of our people aren’t implicitly lazy or uncaring. It’s just that human nature is to get used to something. Sometimes we don’t realize that what we’ve gotten used to needs additional attention before it becomes an actual problem. That’s our nature as human beings. So yes, we need to give a certain amount of attention to every store, but, some stores are always going to need a little extra from us. And this can change. As we help get one store performing properly, others will start to slide. That’s why WE are needed as DMs.

There are a couple of ways to make this happen. We’ll talk about them, but only you can decide which one makes the most sense for each store, and at what time. First, if the store is in serious trouble, we may need to spend several days, or even an entire week there. We become part of the team, help the manager get up to speed on process implementation, and even help get the processes implemented as needed. Second (and this should probably be part of your job anyway, and certainly is a great way to maintain performance throughout your district), we need to help our managers with putting projects in place (goal setting). When we can make a visit, we help the manager determine what are the most important or urgent things that need to be done / implemented. We don’t want our managers overwhelmed with projects to the point where it becomes unbelievably stressful. However, having a project that holds some importance accomplishes three things for our managers and their stores. The first and most obvious is that something worthy gets done / implemented. The second is that getting something worthwhile done or implemented feels good. When we’ve completed a task that has meaning, we feel good about it. Our managers are no different. This can go a long way toward job satisfaction, which we all need, and all of our people need. The third is that we help keep things moving forward, rather than waiting for something to suddenly be a fire we have to help put out.

There’s another issue that probably needs to be given its own article. It’s that important. That issue is various ways to train our managers and providing continuity of performance. Look for my next article that will be titled, “Peer Pressure / Partner Training”.

Retail How-To Consultant: Edward Fox

TAGS: retail, management, work in retail, career,
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