The Management Mentality

In my other business life, I owned a craft store. It was a franchise and I knew many other franchisees in Indiana and nearby states. In a business of that size- 25 employees, owners spent much more time managing the business than performing daily tasks. The reason was obvious. With the volume of product being moved, the number of coordinated tasks it took to serve customers and restock product, the need to control inventory and keep cash flowing, it was a full time job to keep the operation running. Although I spent the majority of my day on the sales floor, it was usually in areas of problem solving, training or managing the influx of merchandise. Even though the number one priority in our business was customer service, I had very little direct contact with the people we served. I viewed my job as serving my team so they could serve our customers in a manner that would grow business.

I have now been involved full time in the framing industry for 10 years. Our three galleries do far less volume than that craft store, but my role in the company is still similar to the way I worked in the larger organization. As I became more familiar with our industry, I realized that my concept of running a business is not very common. As I started working and talking to other shop owners, I have become aware of a much different perception of what being an owner is. The franchise craft store owners I knew did not own their stores because they had a love of crafts. Instead, they made this investment because they saw it as an opportunity to make money. Often we employed people who loved crafting, but that was not our primary reason for choosing this vocation.

Being a successful business owner requires going beyond the basic day-to-day operations.

In the framing industry, a typical owner’s reason for being in business is tied much more to their desire to do framing. They own a framing business either because they love designing and working with customers or they are skilled at creating the finished product. This reason for being in business has a lot of positive aspects- framers love what they do and do what they love and therefore produce great products and make lasting relationships. The drawback to this is that the day-to-day workload of selling and producing custom framing leaves very little time for running the business.

Yes, day-to-day operations and service is the soul of any business. It’s absolutely essential to being successful. However, a business owner who defines themselves by accomplishing day-to-day tasks is actually pre-determining the fate of his business. In any business, regardless of size, someone must play the role of planning the future. Planning the future sounds like a very large scale project but actually, it is a series of very small daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly activities that allow management to shape their business.

I just used a key term- management. All businesses must be managed. In fact, management must come BEFORE day-to-day operations. Why? If you don’t analyze and manage the results of day-to-day tasks, it’s almost impossible to improve performance. Improvement only occurs by examining results and determining why something is happening and then instituting changes to increase the good or decrease the bad.

There are some common misconceptions about managing a small business that can be very damaging to team growth. Probably the most damaging is the attitude that the owner is exempt from team policies. The real truth is that the owner or team leader is more accountable to policy than anyone. Small teams are directly influenced by the example of leaders. If the owner comes in late to work, conducts personal calls during store hours or allows themselves liberties that are prohibited by policy, you forfeit the ability hold others accountable and your actions invalidate the reason for the policy. If fact, the real function you have as team leader is to serve the others on the team! I know this sounds strange, but unless you have that attitude, you will not get team members to completely serve your clients. The truth is team members only perform to the level they perceive they are being served and supported. If you’ve ever shopped in a place where the employees seem completely uninterested in your shopping experience, you can bet that is the same perception they have of those who lead them. Conversely, places that excel in customer service have team members who feel supported and served by those who lead them.

I have found that many framers tend to run their business by “feel” – they think something is happening instead of collecting the data that actually tells them what is happening. Perception varies greatly from reality in business. Conversely, managing a business from a remote office without any contact with customers is just as bad. Managing by statistics alone will distort what is actually happening. It takes a happy medium. In the world of business nothing stays the same. It’s either improving or declining. Even if sales are holding steady, the sources of those sales are changing.

Those who run business by feel often do so because they don’t know what to manage. They believe that a couple meetings with their accountant each year is adequate. If you relate to this, changing your management ability is easier than you think. Here is a simple list of things to track and record. Don’t worry right now about how to use the information, just record it. It’s amazing how just looking at these numbers will open your eyes to making changes or in other words- managing your business. Record these results by day, month, quarter and year, and compare them to prior year results for the same periods.

  1. Company Sales: Total custom framing sales.
  2. Opportunities To Frame: defined as clients bringing in art to frame.
  3. Successful Sales On Opportunities: defined as sales made.
  4. Percentage of Sales Closed: defined as successful sales divided by the opportunities
  5. Average Ticket of Sales: defined as the total dollars on all sales made divided by the number of sales made.

These five calculations are the basis for understanding the condition of your custom framing. Although there are many other important areas to track, these five represent the most basic feedback required to run a framing business. Just knowing what they are will give you tons of insight into your performance. One other area that is very important is to collect data concerning the results of your advertising efforts. POS systems make it easy to record why someone is coming in to frame. If you don’t have a POS system, you can record this manually. It’s vital because you must gather results on the dollars you spend on marketing your shop. This is more important than ever today since its harder now to influence buying decisions. Learning what works and what doesn’t work is a key to building business.

The fact that so many framers own their business because they love framing is a great advantage for our industry. It means that the thousands of us across the country will offer enthusiastic, skilled and honest service to those who value what we do. The reason many of these highly motivated business owners struggle to grow is because it takes more than day-to-day service to shape and adapt a business to a changing market. Stop fearing that you don’t have the skills to manage. Remember that being the leader means the added responsibility of setting the example and serving your team members. Start collecting basic data and look at it often. You’ll be amazed at how this simple step will help your business.

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