The ingredients of an effective "business culture" could be endlessly debated but I am going to select my own experience and then identify some of the weaknesses I see in current trader culture.
I guess business culture is the framework that sets our decision making. It is the set of rules that each of us use to decide a whole range of longer term issues about direction, investment, and liaisons with customers and other businesses. In my informative years of retailing I had a number of mentors and they taught me some basic rules -
1. Thing big - don't let small thinking restrict your opportunities. When I selected my first shop location I was tempted to go for a comparative back-water with cheaper rent so I could hone my skills without the threat of high overheads. My mentor convinced me to go for a mainstream shop location. At that time it was Chapel St. Prahran (how things have changed) and that was a great decision. You need to give your idea every chance of success.
2. Be fiercely independent - that might sound a little contradictory coming from a mentor but I guess he was saying - take responsibility and make your own choices. Making your own choices and taking control over your destiny is scary but incredibly empowering. It is true that you can't always do everything you would like to do, we don't live in a cocoon, but testing the boundaries and finding a way through can be very productive. Independence is sometimes described as the essence of small business entrepreneurship.
3. Respect those around you - in retailing we have relationships with a whole range of people - customers, fellow traders, landlords, bureaucracies, and the list goes on. Respecting their rights is crucial if we want to maintain productive relationships. Customers are number one on our priority list but even landlords have a right to make a profit.
4. Embrace change - recent experience shows us that this is absolutely essential. The rate of change in retailing, especially since the global financial crisis, has been incredible. Being flexible, adjusting to new situations, and constantly looking for solutions, is all part of modern retailing.
I am sure there are many other special aspects to business culture and I'll let you fill in the gaps. In the meantime here is my shortlist of advice.
1. Be independent - Blaming others for our retail woes has little value. It is our destiny that we control and our individual actions that will ensure prosperity.
2. Embrace change - retailing is going through a revolution as customer attitudes and actions turn our traditional way of shopping upside down. Clinging on to the past has little relevance here. Fortunately there are many ways of discovering and experimenting with new ideas.
3. Respect - change and uncertainty bring friction with those around us. Essentially we are all looking for the same things and respect helps put us on the same journey.
4. Entrepreneurship - entrepreneurship is described as running a business using initiative and problem-solving in an inherently risky environment. If that appeals to you then QVM is probably the right place to be. If that doesn't appeal to you then...................
I have been fortunate. I am heading towards the end of my retailing career at QVM and I have reaped many rewards. I have experienced the highs and lows and I can assure you that the current low will be followed by a high. Current retailing conditions will test your business culture but isn't that the true nature of entrepreneurship?
by Greg Smith