Saturday, 11 April 2015

New financial year - new start

For many of you, a new financial year will have just started. Many UK retailers have a year that follows the financial and tax years, so how has it started? What have you done differently?

Every business needs a degree of regeneration and freshness at times and a new year with all it brings is a great time to do this.

If you are an individual retailer, or reading this as a store manager for a big corporate chain, there's something about this time of year that often brings out a void in communications between the top and the bottom. And this is the exact opposite of how it should happen. Now is the time to ramp up the communication levels and get your team inspired to start the new financial year with a bang. The worst thing to do here is to wait for the analysis of the last year to happen before you kick-start the plans and motivation for the new year. I've worked in many large High Street retailers where there is this void. The new year has started but things like staffing budgets, sales targets, etc have been formally set. It just doesn't work and often leaves the stores having a poor start to the year that takes time to catch back up. So how can this be avoided?

Keep last year in focus
It's important to base this year's plans and budgets based in the performance of the previous year. But waiting to analyse the results leave a gap in the year without real impetus. The way around this is to have a grip on how you are performing all year round, with a solid idea of how you'll finish the year. This allows you to plan forward and set up the incoming year.

Ensure continuity
Keep your plans for the new year ready to move straight in at the right point. Now some of this will be having an annual plan that somewhat resembles the long-term plan, as it should. The fact that your long-term business plan has been thought out and put in place should ensure that you are not lurching from one set of objectives to another just because an arbitrary line has been reached.

Communication is key
The plans must be communicated right through the organisation, from the directors to those in the shop floor in enthusiastic, complete terms. The way that this communication is delivered and received is paramount in its potential success. Having an organisation enthused by the direction the company is going in and all working towards the same agreed, understood goals will make a huge difference to your organisation.

A little change does no harm
I've never been a fan of change for the sale of change, but a little variety in how the company performs certain tasks or how a company goes about achieving certain objectives isn't always harmful. I'm still not advocating lurching from one set of objectives to another, but I think that retail can get monotonous, and changing the way you go about achieving your long-term goals can sometimes be beneficial to your team as a whole.

This all stems down to organisation - being on top of your figures and having structured long-term goals will always put you ahead of your less-organised rivals.

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