The Balancing Act of Control

One of my favorite articles read this year was Lori Deshene’s50 Things You Can Control Right Now”. It was a rare gem I found on the Tiny Buddha Website. While there is much in the world out of our control, there are many things we can do to counter the lack of control we have otherwise. On the flip side of this, Anthony of the site wrote “What Happens To You When You Stop Trying To Control These 6 Things ”  For those that are curious:




Six things to stop trying to control:

  1. Other people’s opinions
  2. What others say about you
  3. Time
  4. Death
  5. Traffic
  6. The Past

Both articles promise a happier, more productive life if you follow their advice and, when you read them, you can’t help but agree with both. The moral to this is that it quickly becomes obvious that control is a balancing act. This is why the Management job is such a complicated one. While you are responsible for the results your department has, you are relying on others to get you to your goals. While you may not be able to control what your employees and co workers do, you can control who those employees are?  If one is not doing what is expected, you can let them go, and if you feel your co-workers are not meeting your needs, you can go work elsewhere.   When it comes right down to things, there if very little one really can control other than their behavior and actions.

Let’s say the price of fuel may go up causing less traffic to come into your C- stores.  You can either grumble and use it as an excuse for poor sales, or look for ways to increase the average amount of sale of the traffic you are getting, by running specials, or promoting reward programs while you have more time to spend with each customer. to get long term value from them.  Another example would ve working with your vendors.  If you do not like their new pricing, you have the option of seeking other brands and can let them know it, hoping to drive down the price.  However,  if it s a brand you must have, then perhaps you can negotiate a longer term contract to lower the price.  Another example would be an employee always showing up late for work, or not even showing at all. You can’t go to their house to pick them up each day to ensure they are coming in, but you can create accountability and warn them that you will let them go and replace them with  a more reliable employee.

These differences are subtle, but one is based on your needs, the other approaches are mutually beneficial.  By putting consideration to all sides of a situation, you can quickly gain control of a situation or at least your part in it.  It is a balance of your needs and that of the opposing force making you feel you are losing the control that will help you recapture it. You will find, as you manage, if you look for mutual benefit when trying resolve situations spinning out of control, you will get much better results.   There are things you should try to control and things you should accept that you cannot. The balancing act of deciding which is which is a skill well honed by opting for mutual benefit.


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How All C-Stores Can Afford to Use Their Back Office Data

Customizing your reports is not a new concept. Most Business Intelligence and even some Back-Office tools come with standard reports, but this usually entails data that you can currently get from your Back-Office system already. There are core areas of activity that impact the totals these systems give you that need to be watched and measured in order to totally understand why the totals on those existing sheets are what they are.

Most companies have certain metrics they measure, for instance, one company measures how many coffee cups the sell each day. A generic BI tool will not give you this information without some form of custom development. With a configurable product you will probably only need to know the UPC code, and the report can be created in very little time. When it doesn’t cost anything, you will be surprised to see how many ideas you may have to improve your business through the performance measurement process. There are report writing tools, and business intelligence tool. An ideal tool for Convenience Stores is to find one that will do both

C-Stores have a unique mix of data to correlate so they can completely understand where their issues and opportunities lie. Knowing sales amount by location usually is not enough to help you get to core issues that reside in those stores to help you understand why they may be failing.  These reports identify a symptom, but not the root cause of an issue.

To get to the data that can help them identify core issues, C-Store companies are often led to the expense of customization in their reporting. Not only is there the development cost, but the cost of time and resources to define what will be on the report,  the time waiting for development to occur, and in some cases, even maintenance costs. Depending on the complexity of the report, or the number of systems it has to touch, will determine its costs. Because of the various activities, programs and detail, C-Stores have to deal with, custom reports through software development can be rather costly. This forces a company to evaluate the benefits of the customization and whether the trade off would truly be in their favor.  The need  has to become a choice.

  • What would the frequency of use be in such a customization?
  • What is the possible savings it could generate with it’s use?
  • How many people in the company would find it of value?
  • How soon would the ROI be realized?
  • How much does it cost to extract this information through manual means?

Ask several of the larger chain CEO’s and they will tell you that your back office data should not be ignored if to succeed in this industry. So how does the small to mid size retailer get the reporting it needs without depleting all of their profits? The answer is to look for BI tools that offer configuration. Finding one that is built for C-Stores will prevent the expense of any customizations you would need with a generic Business Intelligence tool.   These are tools that provide a templates that allow you to create your own reports, that will allow you to drill down to the areas of activity that impacts the results of the higher level reports. This help you adapt to the times and changing plans at no cost and it will put you on the same playing field with the larger companies.

Time is another consideration when deciding to go custom vs configuration.  Sangeep Cherry wrote ” Customization vs. Configuration: The Effect on Deployment Velocity” which is an article  that relays the  benefits of configuration when it comes to deployment.  The end result is that the report can be produced and rolled out much more quickly when configured.

If is for these reasons that it is recommended that when investing in reporting to run your business, you will receive much more value from a configurable product than opting for one that would require customization.

  • It will allow you to obtain the view of things when you need to see them, without cost or having to wait to do so.
  • It will give you the ability to see what your issues are where they are happening.
  • Its use can be cost justified because specialized reports would then be possible across multiple projects.
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