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Jul 23, 2013

Business Chaos

It never ceases to amaze me how disorganized most businesses are.  Everything from getting employee schedules correct to locating a dang mop can be an incredible exercise in frustration.  Yet, when you order things out in an organized fashion there doesn't seem to be all that much to manage.  Why is it so hard?  Here's a sample layout for my current job, for instance:

Stuff that needs managing

I.  Employees (this is the biggest area regardless of business type because every single employee is their own individual chaos tornado)

  • Performance
  • Training
  • Payroll/taxes/benefits (overlaps with general accounting)
  • Hiring
  • Emergency
  • Uniforms/protective equipment
  • Workplace safety
  • Complaints/problems
  • Workman's comp
  • Scheduling/time logging/vacation
  • Some kind of employee appreciation party thing because these are apparently mandatory nowadays
  • certifications for those who need them
II. Physical Plant (which is nearly always broken in some way)

  • Electrical/lighting
  • Water (this one area alone is for some reason equivalent in terms of pure chaos to managing the invasion of Stalingrad--plumbing/drainage is Deep Magic and can at any time cause the total destruction of any part of your physical plant)
  • Security
  • Maintenance (cleaning/repairs)
  • Trash (Disposal/recycling)
  • Pest Control
  • Equipment (loaders etc.)
  • Parking
  • Computer systems
  • Physical records
  • disaster recovery
  • laundry
  • Displays/shelving
III.  Inventory (the biggest problem with this area is that in effect it's managed by everyone in the entire company all at once so there has to be a comprehensive system pretty much from the get go just to keep this under control--even then, stuff's just going to randomly disappear like you installed a black hole somewhere in the store)

  • Security/shrink
  • merchandising/layouts/pricing
  • purchasing/receiving/ordering
  • labeling
  • processing/packaging/serving
  • vendors
  • customer requests
  • store supplies (trash bags, paper towels, soap refills etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum)
  • Inspections
IV. Marketing

  • Advertisements
  • Signage/displays
  • sales
  • customer loyalty program
  • website
  • buncha random PR crap like charities and community programs etc.
  • samples/giveaways
  • clearance/markdowns/"please buy this before we have to throw it out and write it off"
V. Customers 

  • Security
  • Emergency
  • complaints
  • requests
  • kill file (okay, not really, but you'll wish you had one sometimes)
 VI. Accounting (overlaps with every other area)

  • Budget
  • Payroll/taxes (these are together because usually the biggest tax headache at a store like this IS the payroll taxes--everything else is handled at the corporate level)
  • Benfits
  • Purchasing
  • Bills/repairs
  • Various forms of insurance too numerous to list
VII. Compliance

  • a buncha regulatory compliance junk
So, it's a long list, but the thing is that almost all of this stuff can be dealt with very quickly and efficiently if you just have a process in place and follow the dang thing.  Some of them can be almost completely automated but they almost never are.  Heck, some places I've worked there was no such thing as a customer complaint or request system, which baffles me.  Customers ALWAYS make complaints and requests, and scribbling it down on whatever random piece of paper happens to be nearby in the hopes that someone will notice it after you've gone home at the end of your shift is no way to follow through on this stuff.  Physical plant maintenance also seems to get blown off a lot.  There's certainly little to no process other than "go hunt down a manager and complain".

Maybe I'm weird, but as far as I'm concerned "hunt down a manager and complain" is not a process.  Managers are busy and distracted.  You're lucky if they remember your issue much less do anything about it.  Heck, I've had questions as simple as "where are the paper towels?" get routed through three or four people before getting resolved.  THIS IS INEFFICIENT.  You know what would be efficient?  A.) having a designated central paper towel stashing site B.) write on the dispenser "refills are in upstairs closet third shelf" or words to that effect.  That way if a customer corrals whatever random employee is passing by to refill the paper towels, they know instantly where said paper towels are at and can handle the issue without looking like a buffoon.  The thing is, you can use the same process for everything in the store that has a refill.  Soap?  Write it on the dispenser.  Garbage bags?  Write it on the dispenser.  This also helps with inventory because you don't have 47 individual stacks of paper towels hidden in various locations and no clue how many you actually have on hand.  So, not only have you saved time and money and prevented buffoonage, nobody has to call the overworked manager to harass him/her.  EVERYBODY WINS.

Stop making more work for yourselves, people.

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