Tips from the front lines, now collected in one book

Winning C-Store customers and keeping them is the result of smart work by everyone who works in a convenience store, from the team who keep the coolers humming to the owner. We’ve been posting videos for several weeks and this book is a collection of those tips, plus many more, from those people who make C-Stores work well. If You Have Time to Lean, You Have Time to Clean documents not only the tips from the best c-store operators as well as Store Performance – a system that the best operators use to make their stores run efficiently, achieve financial goals, make their customers happy, and retain key staff.

“I took the time to read your book and I want you to know that it was well worth it. I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. I will order additional copies for each of my managers. It will surely help them in training their new employees.”

– John Plasky, Operations Manager

You can order the book from Amazon at by clicking on our homepage. We’re also making special arrangements for associations to share the book with their members at special rates. If you are interested, contact us at info@bandyworks.com or call us 804.733.8844.

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4 Ways to Make Your C-Store Database Sell More Snickers

Every C-Store owner challenges us data geeks to do something useful, like selling more Snickers. They often tease that data cannot sell anything or help with the real work of providing convenience. We know they are right in many ways. Of course it is the C-Store staff that does the real work to make service great and keep customers visiting. But knowing you are not selling enough Snickers bars and quickly seeing why is something data can do to help. Even better, corrective actions can be recommended based your operating procedures and company experience base when these items are identified and brought forward as urgent matters to address. The result can be better actions based on feedback found within your data.

In makes sense intuitively, all C-Store Managers have key performance indicators that they watch, using their database makes it easier to identify, communicate and even improve results. Many operators, however, do want to keep a steady watch on the numbers and know that tracking accurately does make a difference to the way staff work and indeed how many snicker bars are sold.

But still it has to be more than just objective numbers or the monthly financial statements. Most C-Store operators have a key set of criteria:
1. TIMELY
It must be timely. If the data comes too late, it is much harder to think about the cause and come up with an action. If a problem is revenue related it increases the loss

2. SIMPLE
It must be simple to understand. Scorecards for operations people must be simple and quik or they will not use them. Operations people are too busy working with customers where they cannot take a lot of time each day to
analyze and process.

3. MEANINGFUL
It must be a comparison to something important
a. Same day last week
b. Same week last year
c. Same holiday
d. Similar weather

Numbers without context are not very helpful. If you have comparison numbers you can tell quickly which direction things are heading. Of course, there are other circumstances but comparing the same store numbers to similar
situations makes things more useful. No one would compare an 18 bay interstate store to a 2 bay rural store and expect to see similar numbers.

4. CONTROLLABLE
It must be something that can be controlled. Almost every C-Store operator expects the store manager to do a lot more with inside sales than gas. Gas sales are much harder to control. The more control the person feels they can have, the more likely they will be motivated by business intelligence. Balancing the view and the measurements between financial, operational, customer and training can give a store manager a fair approach and make it clear that they can, if not control, exert great influence over their results.

So just like any good team, it takes participation to get optimal results. Business Intelligence alone will not make a great store, but teamed with the right staff and leadership it can drive your performance.

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Making the Effort to “Re-Zeal”

All employees of a C-Store have responsibilities. Whether it is managing the company, buying inventory, overseeing operations, serving customers or raising a family, people spend their time seeking objectives, solving problems and handling what comes to them each day.  This stress is normal life.

If to think of your productivity as a battery, it is very easy to see how one can run down and lose their power to go on. It happens to everyone. This is to talk about when life stress becomes internal stress. That is the time to Re-zeal!  You need to do whatever it takes to recharge where you are ready and even eager to start each day.

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The time to re-zeal is when you find yourself losing your effectiveness at work, getting irritated often or just finding it hard to wake up in the morning having to face another day.   It is this  internal stress in an individual that causes a lack of effectiveness and irritability.  This is why there are weekends or days off. Whether you are running the C-Store company, buying the company’s inventory or serving its customers, routine tasks just wear a person out.  The break in routine gives you time to recharge. The more routine things are, the more likely this is to happen.  Allowing yourself and your employees time to re-zeal can make a difference in Store Performance, negotiating  prices with your vendors, having happier customers and your overall profits.  So, you may be asking, how does one re-zeal?

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Internal stress is usually created when your wheel of life is imbalanced. Good News as a great online article that discusses the theory on the wheel and its components. To explain it simply, it divides the areas of your life into a pie shaped chart where all are to be valued the way you want them to be.  For the intent of this article, lets say they are all to be equal.   Internal stress begins when the portions are starting to shift.  They are no longer equal.  The re-zeal happens when you do something to shift them back to your required equal sizes.  This could mean spending some time clearing out your inbox on the weekend, pressure washing your patio, taking your mate out to dinner or attending your child’s school play.  The key is to look at your wheel and see where things are slipping.  Then take the action that is needed in order to move these facets of life back to equal proportions.

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There may be some guilt associated with  taking the time to put the wheel in order.  It may mean working when you are to be with family or not thinking about work at all when you probably should.  If in a constant state of taking care of things, one can expect to take time from one area to realign the other.  What is done this time to re-zeal may not work next time.  It takes a small amount of time to look at the wheel and see what needs fixing when it happens. Everyone’s wheel is different and as time goes by, you may find your own wheel changes.  In fact the problem can also be it is time for your wheel to change.  What is important to understand that in taking this personal time to re-organize, you are taking care of others so you can be the efficient and effective person you know you can be in all areas of your life.  You will stay on top of your game and ensure your involvement in your company, whatever your role, is optimal.

 

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Don’t Let your C-Store Performance Problems be a Surprise

Everyone knows that life has surprises and life has problems. The trick is to do what you can to make sure those problems are not surprises. If you are looking at your C-Store performance on a monthly basis, you may be well aware of that wisdom. As software developers who have worked for companies of all sizes and in many industries, our company has solved this problem for decades. Someone starts adding up the costs and decides a straight-forward, daily monitoring process is needed. Though the information requested may have been different, there were always two requirements for the tracking of their KPI’s

1. See the results of their specific KPI’s at any time
2. See it on one page

Bing defines KPI as follows:

KPI

DEFINITION:  key per·for·mance in·di·ca·tor.  NOUN
1.a quantifiable measure used to evaluate the success of an organization, employee, etc., in meeting objectives for performance: “key performance indicators show big improvements and delivery times have been reduced”

The past tense (i.e., ‘delivery times have been reduced’) that is used in the example of this definition is exactly what can cost a company money. KPI’s should be an ongoing measurement, especially if is KPI that is measuring an activity or goal that impacts income. These examples should read, “fresh-produce sales are up 19% daily compared to last week…” A constant watch is an effective and objective method to stop problems as they start. It is important to stop “revenue bleed” and shrinkage. Revenue bleed is lost money that could have been saved if only something happened sooner. For  a C-Store company, that would be monitoring store activity that effects the customer’s buying decisions. It can also be due to not shopping your vendors for best products or hiring employees who think they deserve a $20 a week raise by taking money out of your register.   By tracking KPI’s you control the bleed.  People may steal and stores may not perform well, but when monitoring not for long.

Due to time and resource constraints, companies will typically wait for measurement results based on monthly financials as opposed to controlling them daily, and this is the difference between monitoring and reporting. With a constant check on performance, you have a much better chance of improving C-Store Performance. You can find and stop problems as they start, you can break bad habits that are about to begin, you can see opportunities when they are there for the taking and you can certainly eliminate those bad surprises at the end of the month, making life a little more easy for yourself.

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5 Things that slip through the cracks in a C-Store that Quik Data Scorecards catch.

There are a lot of details to take care of in a C-Store.  It is easy to let small details slip through the cracks.  Here are 5 that companies are catching by using the Quik Data Scorecard

1) Tank Meters are not calibrated correctly

Tank meters are prone to a lot of action and hardware with action can easily lose its calibration.  Scorecards will relay what the meters are reading which will immediately flag any that are out of calibration.  Though this is a normal check in most companies, it is often overlooked.  If that goes on too long, you can easily find yourself with an outage you weren’t aware was coming.

2) No change policies are not being followed

We have all been there. Someone asks for help and you know you are in the position to help them, so you do. This can quite often be the case when No Change policies are in place. Rather then force themselves into a debate about store policy, they just provide the change to make the customer happy. However, you have good reasons for having it as a policy. You need to make sure each drawer is capably of providing proper change throughout the day.  By keeping track of “No Sale” transactions, you can immediately be flagged when your cashiers are giving change.

3)  Where your Marketing programs are working and not working

By tracking customer counts you can determine if your Marketing efforts are having impact. Any Customer Count report will give you this. But if you can parallel your perspective of where they are working and not working by paralleling your study to customer count and sales, it may help you streamline your marketing activity better. As a simple example, if mailers were sent providing incentives to buy beer, and they are only working in 50% of your stores, then your next mailing campaign expense could decrease by 50% the next time you run this type of campaign. Scorecards provide a simple way of looking at both statistics so you can look at campaign performance on a daily basis, while the campaign is running.

4)  What your Store Mangers need to focus on today

The scorecard provides a list of alerts telling Store Managers what they need to focus on each day in order to pull their grade up. What may be on that list on the 25th of the month may be completely different than what was on the list on the 4th of the month. With the many things that can impact performance in a C-Store Company, it is very important to keep up. If waiting on weekly reports or time for the Supervisor to run analysis the Store Manager will lose momentum and be likely to fail in reaching their monthly goals. The list can get too large, too quickly. Scorecards approaches issues with the “one bite at a time” philosophy. Dealing with issues on a daily basis can prevent larger problem situations and keep them on track towards their goals.  When doing so, today’s list may be completely different then yesterday’s list.

5) Are your employees stealing from you?

One of the hardest things to discover before it is too late, is whether your employees are refunding imaginary sales or  stealing money from the drawer.  It is very plausible that someone mishandled change in a transaction, or if customers actually did return merchandise.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case when these transactions pop up repeately.  By keeping a constant check on Over/Short and Refund transactions, you can see the patterns as this fraudulent activity begins.  When knowing this is being monitored, it is also likely that the activity by your employees will stop.

The day to day activity in a C-Store is busy and fast paced.  It is difficult to monitor everything that happens.  Quik Data goes behind the scenes and monitors the many things that make or cost you money so that when things go awry in these areas you are made aware of it.  There are probably many more things Scorecards will tell you that you didn’t know as well.  The important thing is that viewing all of them in a single report or page makes keeping on top of the money makers or breakers simple and do-able.

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3 Free Ways to Motivate Employees Out of a Rut

Motivation is not an easy thing to create.  If your pockets are not endless, you are staffing at minimal levels or your business cannot sustain downtime, it is hard to find things you can do to motivate employees.  More money, time off or company events aren’t possible.  So if this is the case, how does management motivate employees when things get in a rut? 1) Show Personal or Corporate Appreciation More than likely, every employee at some point is doing something well.  Create categories and print awards for them to accumulate.  There are many free online graphics you can grab that you can use to create them. Present them at your meetings and spur that sense of pride that motivates.  In the article “7 Unusual Ways to Motivate Employees“, Eric Markowitz, suggests something as simple as sending a simple hand written thank you note. 2) Train Them on Something New Cross Training is an easy way to pull someone out of their rut. It gives them exposure to more of the companies process giving them a peak at the big picture. It can also come in handy when staff availability is low. 3) Create a Special Day   Have a crazy hat day,  or something else that everyone will find amusing to help your employees bond with one another.  It will break up the monotony of every day routine and it will even amuse your customers for they will enjoy seeing your employees having some fun.  Christina Galoozis suggests an off hours video game contest  in her article “6 Ways to Motivate Employees by Using Little to No Money” We all know that motivation comes from within, but it doesn’t hurt to kick into gear so it can be easily found.  Though expensed motivators  yield the best results, there are ways to motivate your team that cost nothing.  Creating a workplace of fun and reward of any kind will yield great results and people will take pride that they are taking part in a company that has that type of environment.

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Taking Time to Sharpen Your Tools

Reports drive a business.  Managers look at them to measure performance, make key decisions and set the path for the company going forward. When the tool that is used to guide this process is a report, it makes sense to spend a little time to ensure it provides the right information and is easy to use. The reasons vary: budget for IT, no one responsible for the system that produces the report or just too many different users to easily find a consensus. The challenge is to find a way to get enough time to put the necessary people into a meeting and then find a way to make changes. The cost can be high in terms of management time, but the rewards can be greater by saving them time every day as they use the improved report. Once the right team is assembled it is important to make sure a great report is the result.

One technique to consider when designing a new report or updating an old one is to ask “Is our current reporting just showing us statistics, or telling us exactly what we need to know?” 

Think back to first grade when the kids had  ‘Show and Tell’. The student proudly shows her painting. The teacher knows there a tree in that work of art, but unsure of the rest of it.  So, she asks the child what it is.  21656507_sThe child then tells all she needs to  know to tell what the picture is  to tell the child it is wonderful.  It wasn’t until that second bit of information came from the child, that she really saw the whole picture.

Too many reports used in companies are working with the same the same lack of substance, but they are not nearly as cute and fun to deal with.  Back Office Systems are very good at providing numbers with totals.   But typically,  most companies using back-office systems to get information,  find that it takes a correlation of several reports to be able to get the information they really need.  They have been working in that realm for so long, it doesn’t even bother them for it has just become routine.  One has to wonder if they ever added the amount of time it is taking them to get to the answers they really want?

Sometimes the way to best fix a report, is to merge it. Not just remove it, but rather make it part of the other reports that you must link. Sometimes, of course, you need both. The point is to take enough time to get the critical information (not just the data) into a simple format. It is much more cost effective to take the time to program all the linkages to have the insights standing out in easy view.

The tools available are great at linking and share the data. The work, however, is the key. The intelligence that derives is from the insights and experience of the team. The tools are able to capture that and make it easy to save time and show what the team needs to know.

When looking for a Business Intelligence tool you want to find one that works for you and not the reverse.   It is prudent to ask the question:

Do I know exactly what to do when I see the results on this report?

The closer one gets to answering yes, the better off they will be.  It is best to look for tools that will provide answers as opposed to just showing the statistics. It will shorten analysis time, reduce the amount of needed, improve and present the actual vision of what is going on and decisions can be made more quickly.05202015 Map

Sales by Category, over time.

Sales by Category, over time.

SCORE CARD new6 with checkmarks

 

.    product-6

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Nap time and Stand Up Meetings

Preschool in Bangalore, babysitting by Dad in Ireland and baseball coach in Virginia. Three continents, 9.5 hours of time zone difference and kids ranging from 3 to 11. Deadlines for Big Data dashboards, QA work pending and a big query that must run in .5 seconds. When can you meet and what is needed to get this done today? Software professionals, like many others have the opportunity to work with teammates from all over the world while raising families and earning a living that is rewarding and challenging. But how do you balance everything?

At our company we have a vision for our future that includes making a significant impact on the productivity of our clients. At the same time we are all committed to ensuring everyone has sufficient time with family and friends. We have fathers and mothers that want to spend more time with their kids so flex-time around sports and school events is very helpful. We also have staff on three continents. Since know how to communicate and work in different time zones, we have a great opportunity for stay at home parents in Asia that want to be available for their kids during the day but still work 3-4 hours with teams in the US. About the time that parents put young children to bed in Asia, we are just in the middle of our day here on the east coast of North America.

It started with our vision, but we found the key to a global work force was great communication, systems and trust. It does take a bit more time up front to work remotely. We have to be very clear and have trusting relationships. We had a benefit that we all worked together in the same place to get to know each other so we build our trust face-to-face. However, maintaining our relationships as worked apart was critical. Until we had our process and systems in place the trust could not compensate for the need for clarity and clear roles and responsibilities.

It is not all perfection and peace, but what is? There remain conflicts and challenges. What professional ever has enough time or resources to do everything perfectly? We like our progress and team work. The focus on the balance also means that we must sometimes choose work when an important deadline or a critical situation requires our efforts at inconvenient times. Just like our team at work must help each other, our family and friends also must help out. We try to remind ourselves that flexibility allows for special events to fit nicely to compensate when the work load is not so convenient to our personal lives.

A few key items that we have found that make it work
1. Dedicated space with a door to remind children that this is work space
2. Reliable internet connection so that web meetings can use video
3. Asking clarifying questions in advance to avoid wasting time waiting for answers when other time zones are not working
4. Shared calendars so necessary meetings can be scheduled easily
5. Agendas and detailed questions sent in advance of meetings to use time wisely

Work life balance is a key driver for many – flex time and global work forces allow interesting work life balance options. The challenges of global times zones allow interesting work family balance options. At BandyWorks we have a number of parents that address their family needs by using the time zone to enable both a work career and a strong family balance. Of course working at home pays back both work travel time and expense. The other side is making sure we separate our work space from our home space – both the physical and the mental. As with our software projects, we continue to learn and improve as we go forward.

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KPI Sharing- How does your company compare?

As part of our tracking and accountability work, we study best practices. We want to see how companies are using KPI’s in their drive for higher sales and better operational results. The May Poll is complete and the results are in.  Please check our Survey page for a more detailed survey regarding how companies are publishing their Key Performance Indicators. Our favorite choice is Pentaho CTools and Pentaho Data Integration.  Thank you for participating.

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7 Tips for Big Data Success

Experienced Big Data users understand the paradox – Big data starts small. Rather than rush to implement new techniques and technology a small win can help to drive big results. Patience is often hard when there are big problems to solve, but creating a solid foundation for success can make things go faster when you need to implement Big Data transformations for analytics and dashboards. Our friends at Big Data Analytics News provide 7 quick tips to consider before you launch – start small and drive to big results.

The entire article is located on Big Data Analytics News

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