How C-Store Managers Avoid Overload

image of c-store manager doing yoga headstand as symbol to explain How c-store managers avoid overload is easy. Create high c-store retention: keep low c-store turnover by avoiding high staff stress le

How c-store managers avoid overload is an important question for c-store chains. Many operators fear c-store manager burnout so much, they strictly limit changes that impact store managers. They even limit those changes that will make the store manager’s job easier. They often report there are just too many challenges with staffing, supply, regulations, and price issues to allow any changes to their workload. A huge issue that is frequently mentioned is c-store retention. When the store manager feels overwhelmed, and the problems become too numerous, their stress often results in high c-store turnover.

Daily Operations Drive C-Store Management Headaches

There are numerous factors that impact sales growth, customer service quality, store traffic, and profitability. All the essential results that c-store managers must achieve on a consistent basis. Naturally, there is pressure to perform and the seemingly, out of their control issues of the on-going workload are the core source of stress. It can be easy for leaders to feel helpless or limited in their ability to address the challenges and meet their performance expectations.

One of the top sources of c-store management challenges is c-store turnover. It often happens when staff stress levels are too high. While no one can control the staff personal issues, it is essential to address staff drama, work performance and keep the customer experience strong. The store manager must assess and address the team needs. Focus on taking care of the team is lost during c-store manager burnout. Keeping the store manager calm and confident is necessary. Without good leadership the team is much less likely to stay on the job and work as needed.

According to Insha Ali (HR Director), the store manager has control over the key aspects of staff job loyalty. In fact, she states the key factors to retain staff and provide sufficient labor are directly managed in the store. She lists these requirements to keep staff engaged:

  1. provide meaningful work,
  2. assign work to use staff skills
  3. keep good relations between the boss and the team
  4. appreciate good work
  5. provide freedom to accomplish a task
  6. align staff personal goals to company needs
  7. illuminate how staff work drives the company mission

Store Managers Directly Impact Teamwork

Considering these important factors, the chief controllable influence regarding effectiveness is the leadership of the store manager. Given the value of store managers, it is necessary to provide an environment and structure that is reasonable, clear, and consistent. Overload happens when there are frequent changes, shortages, and problems. All store managers accept that customers are unpredictable and unfair, staff call out and suppliers do not always have all that you order. It is not reasonable, however, to have consistent and long overtime, uncommunicated and excessive product delivery failures, and ongoing headaches with age stings or store theft. Spending all one’s time firefighting and addressing problems is not a sustainable model for a good store manager job.

It easy to understand the hesitation to give store managers extra tools to learn and utilize when they are already in danger of excessive stress in a tight labor and supply environment. The store managers have to address so many jobs each day and they do not have a lot of desk time to learn and study new things. However, with the right amount and type of information, along with the development to use new techniques and technology, makes a difficult job possible. There are ways to eliminate portions of work to allow time for the important management and leadership development that creates great stores and achieves top results.

C-Store Manager Development – Easy to Postpone

Good management includes the right culture, teamwork, process, goals and tracking. Anyone can easily agree that company culture, compensation, and flexibility matter, but there is little doubt that the store manager is essential to c-store success. Most c-stores are part of a chain that has a brand, store format, back office system, maintenance support, and general procedures that are similar for all stores. These items are important and typically get great attention from the owners and operators in the main office.

Store managers, however, may not have the same focused and consistent support for their professional development. Operations, by necessity, must address the daily challenges – they work in operations after all. The skill and professional development is important, but can easily fall prey to the urgent daily operational needs. As Stephen Covey famously reminds us, however, the important but not-urgent portion of our work allows us to grow and attain our objectives. Store manager development is important to consistent and long term c-store growth. It is the mindset that matters and deserves priority along with the daily oversight responsibilities.

Simple and Effective Daily Plan

No day is the same, but every day has certain things that must be done. Further, the store must have enough staff to do its weekly and monthly work or problems will grow. Ignoring routine tasks causes problems eventually. If only the urgent needs are addressed due to staff shortages or bad management, eventually the time spent fixing things will overtake the time available for normal required operations.

Every store will have issues, but they need to be fixed before they get out of hand. There are different ways to approach a operational structure. A simple plan and checklist to start the operations part of the day, can keep a store manager on track and ensure that all key areas of supervision are addressed. A basic 5-minute plan is one way to ensure the manager does not miss problems as they occur. Ignoring small problems may allow a small problem that is easily fixed turn into a crisis that is hard to resolve. If ignored too long, it can  require supervisors or other leadership to be involved.

Sharpening the Saw

Keeping the skills fresh and avoiding burnout is a matter of learning along with practice. Using role play, learning and professional development thrive. According to Dave Mattson, of Sandler, “Roleplaying gives … the internal strength and the poise they need to execute at a high level of proficiency when it counts: in real time, during discussions with {customers}.” Having a chance to work through a role play of difficult hiring, training or staff-behavior-coaching situations, provides both skills and confidence.

It is much better to learn and try things in a controlled setting than learning and figuring it out as you go. When jobs are on the line and a manager must judge the quality of work, emotions can run high. It is harder to execute well without practice, especially in emotionally-charged settings. The upfront practice allows new techniques to be learned. Thus, the skill is available when a real-life situation occurs. Having practiced for different scenarios provides a much easier way to address a problem professionally.

The ability to practice in a safe environment is a common technique for all professionals. It is so much better to build skills in a safe and calm place than to try to perfect a skill during a stressful situation that may impact someone’s job and career. Clearly, store manager reprimands when necessary are the key to limit c-store turnover. That is, dealing with mistakes should be a positive learning experience that helps the staff to improve and feel better about their work.

Stop C-Store Turnover

In order to have a stable work environment, a C-store must have access to enough staff to cover the store. Sometimes, the only solution is to shorten hours or even keep the store closed completely some days. This can simplify the staff needs in the short run but may hinder hitting profitability requirements and risk having clients shift to other stores and not come back.

With adequate staffing available, the store manager must still ensure that that staff is trained. Onboarding new staff takes time and effort that is not available for other work. Further, new staff may not perform as well, and they may adversely impact the customer experience. Untrained staff add risk to the store in terms of customer loyalty. Additionally, hiring new staff in a shortage may increase pressure to hire those that do not fully qualify due to a history of poor performance, age violations or even theft.

C-Store Retention Begins with Hiring

High c-store turnover also puts pressure to accept candidates that may not be motivated by the company goals. Such staff may hurt the company culture. Bad work not only risks customer unhappiness but hurts the teamwork and overall culture of the store. It is very hard for staff to stay motivated to do their best if other staff are not fitting into the team and do not share the same goals and commitment to the company goals and mission.

Most c-store managers admit that they have made poor hiring decisions when under extreme staffing shortage. They also admit that they know that hiring is the place that teamwork and accountability begins. Hiring the someone that fits into the team is very important to overall success. Simon Sinek argues that hiring is like adding someone to your family. You should hire slowly and really get to know if they like the company and whether you would like them to be part of it.

Knowing the Problems and Finding Better Solutions

With the pressure to hire, onboard, monitor, and work actively as part of the team, the store manager has a lot of different tasks to juggle each day. Keeping the operations on track is front and center in their thought process. Where possible, a tool that can scan for risky behaviors, find great work, identify both the best and worst items for sales, speed up and simplify work are candidates for making the job a little better.

The balance of the time savings and additional insights must offset the risk of the time and burden to the existing work load as well as the benefit that it brings. Most stores have financial controls for cash, inventory check-in automation and help to place new orders. These are the basics of most back office systems.

Beyond the Back Office for C-Store Management

As a next step, to save time and address risks, many c-stores are adding retail data analytics. They are providing very specific and targeted lists to identify shrink, age verification, daily scorecards, and top up- sellers. They utilize a format that allows the store manager to see just the most important items in just a few minutes. This allows them to  replace slow moving products and maximize vendor promotions as well as coach staff in regards to other customer incentives.

Great service and value is a way store managers increase both traffic and sales. Tobacco scan data, loyalty and customer appreciation services are a big part of c-store technology. They add additional work in the store, but provide a payback and justification for training and skill development. It does add stress to change, but the benefit to risk control and increased sales justifies an investment of time. The time allows a lower stress to store staff which allows them to learn how to make a new service part of operations. Of course, reducing the time needed or even eliminating other low value work is a way many operations make it possible. Improving operations and building professional skills keep the c-store manager’s job both rewarding and reasonable.

Avoid C-Store Manager Burnout

Store managers need a chance to practice and hone their skills. Technique and attitude are key priorities for c-store manager confidence and capability. Leaders become stronger with new skills, effective communication techniques, and the understanding of alternative approaches to manage different types of personalities.

Working and training with other growth-oriented leaders makes everyone stronger. Understanding your issues are ‘normal’ and having support and guidance on different approaches, provides a high level of confidence. Managers that roleplay and train are better able  to deliver even bad news in a positive manner. Addressing problems and maintaining teamwork is essential to keep stores growing and staff retention strong.

Investing in store managers avoids burnout for them and helps to drive c-store retention by reducing staff stress. Having calm, confident and professional leadership makes the whole team better. Investing in c-stores managers provides long lasting results that drive growth in sales and profits.

Additional Resources – How C-Store Managers Avoid Overload

  1. Books for C-Store Managers – Tips, Best Practices and Accountability Principles
  2. Interview with Kendra – Why Taking Time to Learn with Other Managers Makes Sense
  3. C-Store Manager Workshops for Leadership and Management Development