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Creating a Winning Game Plan

wo years ago I began writing for Sports Insight with this line: The Detroit Lions are not a very good football team. They had just completed the first ever 0-16 season, and had the NFL’s lowest attendance figures, averaging around 47,000 “fans” per game. Times have changed. As I write this, Detroit has just completed a 10-6 season, made the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and enjoyed the 13th best attendance rates in the NFL: a 65,098 attendance average! How did they do it? First of all, they made winning personnel changes: • New coach, Jim Schwartz, has been the central factor. • New GM, Martin Mayhew, was the first big change. • Smart draft picks like QB Matthew Stafford and Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh are serious game-changers The Detroit Lions formula for success is a model for what we must do if we want to improve an under-performing retail operation. On your “retail team” you must have the best players in the right position. Your staff has the greatest influence on the in-store experience. The people who serve your customers must love retail, love your product and be passionate about creating a memorable in-store shopping experience. Without that, you’re going to struggle. The Store Manager is the single most important player on this team. I call


14 • Sports Insight ~ January/February 2012

this person a “Player-Coach.” Like Lance Armstrong, Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan, these leaders both play the game as well as lead the team. The player/ coach mentality is crucial for retail success. Someone has to be on the front line; monitoring sales floor traffic, observing employee interaction, reacting to customer issues and generally “driving the business”. Years ago, I was VP of retail for a mid-size retailer based in Chicago. With 75 stores in 26 states, we had the supervision of them divided into three regions and six districts. The six district managers travelled extensively to their assigned Your staff stores around the country. has the Every month they would spend greatest at least two days in each of their stores. They would report influence back on the store’s progress and on the operational compliance. In-Store I began to notice something experience. interesting. It seemed that whenever a district manager was in a store, the store always exceeded its sales goal for the day. Somebody on the staff always seemed to have a “top ten” day. Things were great — whenever a DM was in the store. At first this was just anecdotal. So then we began to track it. Over a year of measuring, we noted that every time a DM was in a store location that store averaged an 18 percent sales increase over the previous year. These DMs (player/coaches) went in each day looking to create something memorable for customers, staff and company. You need a store manager who behaves like these DMs did. I will go so far as to say that if your store is failing, your store manager is the first place I’d look to make a change. My experience has taught me that replacing an unsuccessful store manager with a great player/ coach is the first step to retail success. But that’s not the only thing the Detroit Lions did. Their general manager also created a winning plan and followed it faithfully. General manager Martin Mayhew and Schwartz have constructed a playoff contender just three years removed from an 0-16 season and much of their success has to do with how well they’ve done in the draft. The front office has a blue print and has followed it to a fault. Their “best available” draft strategy, economically sound free agency signings and overall commitment to the plan, has paid dividends. (Alex Frost, National Football Authority) Retail Success is always a combination of the Right People implementing an inspiring plan. You – the owner or general manager – has to set the course and stay on it. Ask yourself, if your store were a football team – based on your customers’ experiences – what would your record be? I hope you’re not 0-16, but if you are underperforming, here’s your approach to success: Hire a great coach and institute a winning game plan. O

Dan Mann is the founder and president of The Mann Group, a retail consulting firm that helps retailers with sales training and strategies. Mann, the former vice-president of Bachrach, the men’s specialty retailer, is a frequent speaker at Formula 4 Media events.

Creating a Winning Game Plan  

What Sports Retailers can learn from the Detroit Lions

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