Should district managers be held more accountable for store performance?

Discussion
Feb 25, 2019

and Linda Montalbano, VP, Graff Retail

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of two articles from the blog of Graff Retail.

What happens when you transfer a “high output” manager to a poorly performing store? Typically, results improve almost overnight — solid reinforcement of the old expression: “As goes the manager, so goes the store.”

So, why don’t retailers take it to the next level? If a good manager can nearly guarantee strong store performance, shouldn’t a top-notch district manager (DM) be even more beneficial? After all, consistent, collective results are needed from many locations.

Unfortunately, DMs aren’t held very accountable for territory results — at least in comparison to store managers.

For store managers, all kinds of objectives and measurements are cranked out to make sure that each location can “hold its own” as a separate business unit. How frequently are DMs fired for poor performance?

Whether it’s because their role is perceived more as a supportive function than one of direct responsibility or we simply don’t establish and collect the necessary metrics to complete a proper territory evaluation, somehow the DM involved isn’t always held to task.

But some fundamental basics beyond employee diligence, effort and attitude have an impact on a DM’s results. How does staff turnover across their region compare with the rest of the company? What emphasis is placed on consistent recruiting efforts?  Do district employees receive regular and relevant training? How is their district’s compliance with company procedures and standards?

DMs also receive less training themselves than almost anyone else in the company, yet they play a greater role (and therefore require more skills) than most. If DMs are so critical to company success, why aren’t retailers paying more attention to their development needs?  

Bear in mind, this position can quickly become “the job from hell” in retail. DMs are often stuck in the middle, getting pressure from above to improve results and from staff below for more support.

There are thousands of DMs out there working hard every day. Give them the support they need to succeed — and measure them to ensure they are delivering the results you need.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree that district managers are not generally held as accountable as store managers? What recommendations do you have for optimizing a DM’s performance?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"[Retailers] have to empower people to be able to take the actions necessary to make the changes needed. "
"DMs have one of the most important jobs in the business. They are critical to lateralizing learning and best practices."
"First off, a DM must be a proven player. That is critical when working with and helping a store and the management staff."

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14 Comments on "Should district managers be held more accountable for store performance?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

While store managers do seem to be the focus, DMs play a critical role in helping drive performance. Unfortunately, too often DMs are more focused on fighting fires across stores rather than supporting their stores in driving performance. Since DMs are often former store managers, part of the challenge is to get them to focus on the unique opportunities and attributes each of the stores in their districts have, instead of applying the same general learnings about “what works” based on their own experiences. DMs need to look across their portfolio of stores and recognize that each store is unique, understand what’s driving results in each store and then coach store managers accordingly.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

It all starts with creating a culture of accountability across the organization. But that means you also have to empower the people to be able to take the actions necessary to make the changes needed.

Where the problem starts is that most organizations promote their best store managers into area managers but don’t recognize that the jobs are actually very different and don’t give them the training they need to succeed.

Charles Dimov
BrainTrust

One trend I am starting to see is that more DMs and even store managers are starting to have more of a voice on system purchases that affect the store. At the very least, this is a step in the right direction. If there is a system that touches the store, the user voice has to be heard. In effect, that is a bubbling up of accountability and responsibility both at the store management and DM levels.

Ray Riley
BrainTrust

“What got you here won’t get you there” is the adage that any recently-promoted or placed multi-site manager needs to take on board. It’s true that the role lacks formal role-specific learning that focuses on managing and leading through store managers and interpreting data across a fleet of stores. This doesn’t mean there’s any less accountability. As a store manager, if developed, simply put the role is focused on empowering your front-line talent through learning and coaching to convert more shoppers into buyers. Sprinkle in some operational mandates, and you have a (hopefully thriving) store. At a multi-site level, this immediately amplifies eight to 15 times (per store), and increases in complexity as you’re building talent benches and other longer-term strategic outcomes (whether it be technology initiatives, BOPIS/audit/stock, learning and development objectives, etc.) In other words: “What got you here won’t get you there.”

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Having been a store manager for a few chains early in my career, I understand the inner workings of the district manager-store manager relationship.

My district manager was there to ensure that the district and regional goals were met, and that I had what I needed at store level to make those goals happen. In a high-functioning store there is a fine line that good DMs don’t cross; their role is to support the manager who is ultimately responsible for how the store produces. And they are held accountable for what happens in their stores.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

DMs have one of the most important jobs in the business. They are critical to lateralizing learning and best practices. I will liken this to a point of view from my long time ago role as a DMM at a department store. At a company-wide presentation, the DMM role was described as “one of the most important” in the business. Basically it boiled down to direct supervision of the buyers, which was direct supervision of the product and the open-to-buy. No wonder I always felt stressed. For DMs I think Mark Ryski makes the perfect point. What store/store manager needs coaching on what metric? Identify strengths and weaknesses. Coach accordingly. There is only so much of that that can come from reading spreadsheets at HQ.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

First off, a DM must be a proven player. That is critical when working with and helping a store and the management staff. Every company needs to focus on making the DM a partner with the store management, thus creating an environment of mutual success. All too often, DMs scare the heck out of store personnel which is clearly anti-productive. Successful retailers must be trained into what it takes to be a successful DM partner to store management, and when the retail performance drops in stores, upper management must communicate with and travel with the DMs to get a real dose of reality. At that point there must be mutual respect and strategy among the store personnel, the DM and the executives.

Marge Laney
BrainTrust
1 month 30 days ago

Customers come to stores to experience brands and buy. Managers and associates need hardware and software tools to provide the best experiences possible. These tools should be accompanied by simple behaviors that create and enhance customer interactions that impact metrics. District managers should then have access to real-time data that can be used to coach managers and associates and also serve as a measure of their performance. What gets measured gets done.

Sky Rota
BrainTrust
1 month 30 days ago

I wasn’t aware of this but DMs should have always been held accountable for the success of the stores in their district. We are just addressing this now? Then someone said, “DMs were often former managers.” So they received a promotion and no one taught them how to run the ins and outs of their stores? Why wouldn’t you have always given them the top management skills along with expectations of their district’s success and give them some skin in the game! These DMs need an incentive, set them up for success not failure! Educate them, give them incentives so they feel like it’s their own stores. This is how you make a team work, together.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Having lived the life of both store and district managers (granted, a 100 years ago), I can say there’s a lot of truth in this article. I’m sure different companies based on their individual culture operate differently, however, store managers typically have their own P&Ls to manage. The aggregate P&L of that district of stores should be the bar to which the DM is measured.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Since most retailers try to promote their DMs and RMs from within, the same performance work ethics, empowerment and structures are usually (loosely) in place. Organizationally, empowerment comes from the top, but systems and processes require full management buy-in and these are usually available at all levels, even if they are not implemented at all levels. Accountability should be a multi-level KPI and the bonuses which come with these should be tied to the metrics upon which they are measured.

Larry Negrich
BrainTrust

Set DMs up for success with the right tools, measurement and consistency in process. DMs have a difficult job made more difficult by tools that don’t give them visibility across stores in a consistent and measurable manner. Equip DMs with the modern, mobile tools they need to have issues brought to their attention and an execution platform that enables action and documentation of follow-up.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

This strikes me as something of an apples and oranges, or at least apples and cranapples comparison. Store managers spend much of their time managing people, whereas DMs spend most of their time managing legal issues, implementing corporate policies … in short, dealing with bureaucratic issues (often times kicked upstairs from the local level). That’s not to say DMs don’t have to deal with people as well, but it’s seldom of the “two people want to take break at the same time” type of issue (at least I hope it isn’t).

David Fannin
Guest
1 month 30 days ago
Too often, retail companies hire DMs and even their store managers from outside the company just to fill a position. Instead of focusing on in house training and developing consistency in profitable selling, they hand the district over to “anyone off the street.” That “stranger” can’t improve on business habits that the owners have already established. The first couple of years, they are just learning what the store managers already knows. Wasted payroll in my opinion. The problem is the retail industry has cut the HR department to bare operations. Used to be that an in-house trainer or mentor would stay with you till they signed off that you were profitable to the company. Many companies have no CE programs for clueless DMs or more horrific, for correcting egotistical store managers’ behaviors. They should be training the top 10 store managers to be DMs. The bottom 10 store managers should be fired, each year. This cycle of attrition ensures you have the profit makers teaching the store managers below them how to use the system… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"[Retailers] have to empower people to be able to take the actions necessary to make the changes needed. "
"DMs have one of the most important jobs in the business. They are critical to lateralizing learning and best practices."
"First off, a DM must be a proven player. That is critical when working with and helping a store and the management staff."

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