To walk a thorny road, we may cover its every inch with leather or we can make sandals

To walk a thorny road, we may cover its every inch with leather or we can make sandals. (Indian parable.)

We all face thorny roads and we all have to make some decisions about how we respond.

  • Option #1: Cover the road in leather = Control the environment. Think Big. Spend Big.
  • Option #2: Make sandals = Empower the individual. Think Fast. Equip people to act.

When your business faces its inevitable thorny road, which option do you select? Which option do you follow; make sandals or lay down leather?

I am prepared to guess that you will say that you always choose to make the sandals, but where do you REALLY stand on equipping your people with sandals?

Here is the truth: There are more retailers who would rather not train their staff than those who would. And those that do, typically only want the training that suits them – not the staff.

Making sandals is about giving people the tools and the freedom to walk the road. When it comes to employees/suppliers/customers this is a lot harder than it seems. Inherent in choosing this option is the willingness to let go and to trust the person to do the right thing. They may even walk away.

We have seen very few retailers who are making sandals. We have seen so many examples of this that I can say this with complete conviction.

We founded Ganador seven years ago with a focus on helping the retail supply chain (landlords/ brands/ publishers) to put some sandals on the retail channel. This takes the form of consulting, marketing and importantly training. We thought at the time it would be a good idea to give the retailers the option of ‘free’ government-sponsored training too. But as of Feb 2013 we decided not to renew our license to function as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). This means that we will no longer offer the TAFE-like certificates that attract government funding for trainees/apprentices.

Why would we walk away from a product that offers our clients the opportunity to be reimbursed for their training expenses and effectively get free training for their staff? Is that not a poor business decision on our behalf? After all, how many suppliers can offer their service to clients at no cost?

The reason we made this decision is because when businesses do the training because it is free not because it is the right thing, it doesn’t really work. Attending a workshop or completing an online module is not training – but that is mostly what you get when you pay nothing.

Real training requires a commitment from all parties to invest in the process of creating and improving our shared knowledge. Training is about building a culture of performance and you can’t do that when all you afford is to ‘tick the boxes’ required by a government curriculum.

This VET training could be part of your training solution, but if it is all you do (because it is free) then you have fallen for the myth that something is better than nothing.

In this case ‘something’ may be worse than nothing. You have made a very clear, loud statement to your employees that you are prepared to invest nothing in them – but expect them to invest their time in getting better for your benefit.

This perpetuates the wrong culture and it is no wonder that your employees leave – which simply reinforces the owner/manager’s belief that investing in training not worthwhile. Nobody wins.

Training is powerful, but is not a panacea for all ills. The worst thing you can do is to train the wrong things or for the wrong reason. We’d rather have no part in that.

Of course there are those who understand the transformational power of good training – and the benefits of having staff that are equipped to walk the thorny road. These are the people that also understand that they must first know where the road leads – and that staff also need the motivation to want to walk the road.

We see training as part of the implementation process: specific skills to achieve specific objectives as part of the process of transferring knowledge and enabling people.

We think that is the smart way, and we’ll stick by that and continue to seek companies who believe in the power of sandals. I am sure there are companies who believe the same. **

This post is not a disguised pitch. It is a sincere appeal to the people who are in a position to do so, to re-think their strategies and their motives when it comes to how you deal with the retail revolution we are facing. The retail industry has never needed more, smarter people doing the right things than now.

It is worth remembering this: If you continue to do what you have always done you will get what you always got.*

Dennis Price

GANADOR: Conceiving and implementing SMART solutions to create high-performance retail environments.

* A version of the quote above was made by Tony Robbins but not sure if he is the originator.

** Or we are hopelessly naïve. Only time will tell.