During the years that I ran stores for large companies like Lord & Taylor, Marshall Fields and Neiman Marcus, there could have been many things that kept me awake at night. However, there was always only one thing that constantly permeated my thoughts. Through the crisis of 2001, and again in 2008 and 2009, this reverberated through my head constantly. It was not how was I going to get through this, it was what am I going to do when this gets better? What products and services would be relevant? How was I going to lead my teams? What direction were we going to go? Who were the key players? What was the culture going to be? How was the organization going to redefine and pivot?
To get there, first it was about determining where we were right now. This was not just financial. It was assessing the team, the culture, the product, the processes, the finances, the goals, the market and most of all, the customer. Like many top leaders all the answers were not in my head they were the collaboration of every member of the team, our partners and the customers. More than ever, this collaboration was imperative for the success of the store to weather the downturn. Here is what we all learned:
- Quickly assess the situation, identify immediate opportunities and obstacles.
- Talk to everyone, ask questions and LISTEN. This includes the leadership team, the sales force and entire support staff, the product innovators, vendors, partners. Create a “we are in this together” culture.
- Once the short-term plan is created, now comes the long term plan and figuring out the new normal.
- Answer these questions. What is needed for product/service for your customer? Who will fulfill that? How long will it take?
- What is the communication plan? Once this information is pulled together how will it be shared with the team, partners and customers? What is your follow up?
- Assess and re-assess again. Course correct where needed. Mistakes are experiments that went awry, learn from them to minimize repetition.
- Make benchmarks for small successes that will add up to achieving goals. Celebrate every step along the way.
Every successful leader knows that their results come from their team and partners. During a crisis, this is more important than ever. Galvanize your team to innovate the future and build achievements and success.
Patty Soltis works with companies that are in growth stages with more than 20 employees to discover market share, products, processes and prospects for revenue and expense savings. During the 25-plus years she worked for Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor and Marshall Fields, she innovated collaborative ways to strategically increase sales, control expenses and exceed profit goals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with her on LinkedIn.