Manager transfers can jolt produce departments to achieve

01/24/2014 08:55:00 AM
Armand Lobato

Armand Lobato, The Produce AisleArmand Lobato, The Produce Aisle"You’re being transferred.”

These few words, whether met with indifference, joy or even fear, mean a world of change is ahead for a produce manager.

A chain factors in many considerations how they position their produce managers. For many reasons, a chain chooses this time of year to make a few strategic changes. The timing works well as this period is post-holidays and summer volume is a good six months away. This gives the transferred produce manager time to settle into his or her new store.

One question remains: Why move managers around like so many chess pieces?

One reason is simply putting a strong manager into a weak operation. Perhaps the existing produce manager is out on extended sick leave. Perhaps the move is made to backfill a retirement. One thing is certain — a chain needs its strongest managers in its highest volume or most-challenging stores. Typically produce managers have to work their way into being considered for these stores, as a transfer to a new or heavy-volume operation requires plenty of experience.

Sometimes transferred managers thrive in new locations, even if they have struggled in others. I’ve seen this “chemistry” equation work many times. A newly transferred produce manager, for whatever reason, can connect with a dysfunctional crew and bring them together as a cohesive unit. Alternatively, some managers are able to step in and shape up a department that has struggled with gross profit margins or bring the inventory into line or a dozen other achievements, for no apparent reason.

However, a transferred produce manager relies on much more than clairvoyance or mojo to get the ball rolling in a stagnant department. It’s a matter of identifying who has certain strengths and matching them to the location. Within reasonable commuting distances, of course. A heavily disciplined manager may be ideal to convert a laissez faire crew, while a laissez faire produce manager might mesh well with a group of self-starters.

Sometimes, there is no apparent reason for a transfer scheme of a half-dozen produce managers moving about in a district. I’ve heard supervisors or district-type managers say all they want to do is “shake things up.”

It certainly does.

In just about every instance of such a round-robin transfer the results were almost always the same: Impressive. We consistently saw positive comparative sales after a manager transfer move. New blood in a store means that whatever attributes were inherent in one store now become part of another, resulting in different merchandising schemes and more.


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