When you are up to your neck in Alligators, it is hard to remember that the plan was to drain the swamp!

Peter Buckingham, Managing Director, Spectrum Analysis

As a Certified Management Consultant, it concerns me in many franchise businesses in how they are so short staffed that management move from one crisis to another, without setting up the long term position correctly.

I was recently talking to a client who wants to expand their network into strip shopping centres, and he is continually being offered new strip sites.  The company has an issue running that is taking up 80 per cent of his time.  Unfortunately they cannot seem to address the local issues, so doing some simple planning to prioritise future expansion areas seems out of the question.

The truth is they will probably remain reactive rather than proactive, and open some sites in mediocre shopping strips, and probabaly compound the issue of problems they have to address.

This is a common story I hear and you see the difference between businesses lurching from one crisis to another compared to the likes of McDonalds who have a dedicated network development department analysing what is available, and giving some views on where to go in the future, some years out.

What can we do to improve?

I can only say to senior management (Board Level in most cases), that you need to ensure the proper resources are put in place long term to get the best result.  I understand there can be a few months of drama, taking senior management’s attention away from the long term picture, but that should not last.

In working in an oil company, the day to day operations were well separated from the property and network development groups, and maybe even when network development had their own dramas, the long term plans were kept in place and upgraded.  I was personally involved in a long term structural project aptly names the Retail Pacesetter Task Force, which resulted in around 35 people spending almost one year around the world re-structuring how Caltex would operate.  The current look of all Caltex service stations came from that work nearly 20 years ago!  The bill for that Project worldwide was a staggering $11M, but reshaped much of what Caltex did.

Short term goals, both financial and in meeting staffing levels often create these issues.  Sometimes it is just a control issue where the people in charge cannot see that by putting certain processes and tools in place, the final outcomes will be better managed than trying to do everything themselves.

Tips on what to do:

  •   Let go a bit, and look at the long term targets for the business
  •  If you have a crisis running, still spend 10 – 20 per cent of your time on the bigger picture
  •  If you are paralysed due to the crisis – delegate the other work
  •  If you cannot be hands-on during the crisis, just ensure the processes are there for those other decisions.

I was quoted recently:

“Unfortunately, Peter with the sheer volume of work on foot at present now is not the time to progress this discussion.

“This is by no means a brush off or an indication that we are not interested, we have every intention of developing a strategic approach to network development. It is purely a question of resource for us right now.

“Let’s speak again next quarter.”

My response to him should be:

“When you are up to your neck in alligators, it is hard to remember that the plan was to drain the swamp!” – a great saying in my view.