Tough Call: When different isn’t better

The new manager’s new ways are creating conflict and hurting your store’s performance. What would you do?

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As the owner of a four-location LBM dealer, you’re thoroughly enjoying the healthy housing and remodeling markets. And for you, it’s even better than pre-recession. Back in the early 2000s, you operated one yard quite successfully, and kept plenty of liquid assets on hand in case of a downturn or a buying opportunity. Along came the Great Recession. Your reserves were sufficient to help you not only weather the storm just fine, but to acquire other yards in nearby markets at fire sale prices. Now, nearly ten years later, all four locations are chugging along, delivering value to their markets and profits to the bottom line.

You’ve been very fortunate on the people-side of your business, as well. You treat your people well and compensate them fairly, so when you’ve had openings, members of your existing team have been happy to help recruit their friends and family members. That’s worked great, but for one exception. Here’s the story:

When the longtime manager from one of your stores resigned to relocate with his family to another state, you spread the word company-wide that you had an opening for a store manager. There was plenty of interest, but no qualified candidates emerged. You placed some ads, and hit the jackpot, or so you thought. On paper, Jeremy was exactly what you were looking for. He had nearly 10 years of experience managing a lumberyard in another market and had recently relocated to your town. It was a match, all the way down to financial expectations. So, you welcomed him on board.

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You were excited about him bringing fresh energy and ideas to your existing team. During the interviews, he shared some concepts that had worked really well at his past employer—saving time, boosting margins, and helping customers. You thought, “once we put those things in place at one yard, we can take the changes company-wide.” You were convinced, it was going to be great.

Six months later, it’s not going well. Sales, which were steadily rising, have plateaued. Even worse, morale among the staff is on the decline. The long-time assistant manager, Arnie, sat down with you in your office, and had this to say: “We all love our jobs and love working for you, and we like Jeremy well enough, but the changes he’s pushing on us just don’t make sense. There’s more paperwork, more time required to log on to the computer and document everything we do. That slows us down, takes us away from serving customers, and makes us feel like we’re being micromanaged. The way we did it before worked well, sales and margins were up, and people were happy. I’m afraid we’re going to start losing people if Jeremy is allowed to continue implementing new processes.”

When you talk with Jeremy, he seems oblivious to the staff morale, and assures you that it’s a matter of time before his way is the accepted way—and that it’ll make a big difference for your company. You’re not so sure. What would you do?

1 STAY THE COURSE. You hired Jeremy for some very good reasons, and six
months is not long enough to judge his impact on your company. Tell him to
carry on, but that you need to see positive results soon.

2 TURN BACK. The systems and processes that were in place for years worked
just fine. Tell Jeremy you appreciate the effort, but that it’s not working and he
needs to revert to the way it was when he arrived.

3 PROMOTE ARNIE. Arnie has been assistant manager for almost ten years.
He’s not flashy, but he’s solid, he knows your team and customers, and knows
what works. He deserves to be promoted to manager.

4 ALL-STORE MEETING. After hours one day, have an all-store meeting to
talk about what’s going on, to learn if there’s another reason that Jeremy’s
changes aren’t working, and to determine a path forward that makes sense
for the company.

What would you do?

 

SOMETHING ELSE? If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to Rick@LBMJournal.com. If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM JOURNAL mug.

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