Monday, November 09, 2009

Working Toward a Goal

While recently pondering my career and experience in retail I came up with this theory about working toward a goal in retail. One of the things that makes retail exciting and frustrating at times is the constant swimming upstream when trying to accomplish your goals. While I have found most other experiences in life to be a combination of heading in the right direction toward a goal and the occasional setback, retail seems to have much more fluctuation between getting closer to reaching your goal and getting further away.

I put together these charts to illustrate this point.

My experiences show that retail has many more factors that are working against you and something you accomplish can be completely undone just as easily and quickly. For example, if your goal is to increase the cleanliness and organization of your retail establishment you put together a plan to make this happen and carry it out. But, once you have a few customers in your store that decide your merchandise is better situated on the floor, the work you accomplished is all but canceled out. What compounds this problem is it's a daily occurrence. I said many times while working in retail that it would be a great job/industry/etc. if it wasn't for all those darn customers.

This theory of course does not apply to all retail situations. There are things that can be accomplished without major setbacks but they aren't necessarily the most noticeable. For example, human resource/staffing, customer service, and sales goals are situations that have a much more consistent line of progress.

In contrast, when you are working on a project in most other facets of life and business, when you complete a part or section of whatever you working on you have something to show for it that can't easily be taken away from you. Whether it is doing background research, working on a copy of a report, or making a presentation, most of the things you accomplish are done and won't need to be done over again except in isolated circumstances.

I think the biggest reason for this is that while in other areas of business and life the things you work towards and accomplish have obvious benefits to those involved (the client, the customer, etc.). In these situations you and the client or customer are usually both trying to accomplish the same thing and it is often not mutually beneficial to make someone redo the work they've just completed for you. In retail, customers might notice some of the things you do for them, but if they walk out of the store with the shirt/toy/tool they want it really doesn't matter to them what else is going on and if they made a mess of the work you have done.

In the same token, this uphill battle shouldn't be a reason not to try and reach your goals and become great. These goals (like the example above of keeping your store clean and organized) may have an important part to play in your brand and marketing efforts.

What do you think? How would you combat these issues both in retail or other areas where you find this same problem?

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