Reno firm researches branch effectiveness
April 12, 2004
Do you work in a branch (or store) location? Do your competitors operate via the branch (or store) model? How is life in their branch different, or similar, to life in yours? In 1989, when I was a young salesman in Chicago, I was named the branch manager of a sales office for a global service company.
I was one of literally hundreds to hold that position throughout the company.
Just under two years later, my brand-new office was named the “Model Office – U.S.
Operations” for that same company.
How did that office grow from zero revenue into one of the top-producing locations in the service network? What does that top office have in common with other high-performance branches and stores? How do high-performing branch locations differ from their peers? These questions are the sole focus of my Nevada-based research firm, 3PR Corp., which defines its diagonal market as the 3,000,000-plus “remote site locations” operated in the U.S.
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We are working to revolutionize the way companies look at branch and store operations.
Today, when Company X seeks to hire or promote a branch manager, Company X will closely examine the applicant’s level of (a) industry experience, (b) functional experience (how good they are at “sales” or “customer service”, and/or (c) geographic experience (how well they “know this market”).
Noticeably absent is “branchology,” a methodical inquiry into each applicant’s “branch history,” that is, the applicant’s specific experience related to compliance, innovation and environment within other branch operating structures.
Sadly, that is also why many branch professionals get trapped in underperforming operations – they not only lack open access to best practices within their own company, but more importantly, to best practices within other branch environments.
It’s like asking a local doctor to limit his or her professional development to the methods “we came up with here at the Jones Practice.” This is a problem of tribalism – and branch personnel want to see it fixed.
During the past nine months, 3PR conducted a series of personal interviews with branch managers, salespeople, service teams, and branch business executives.
Some had responsibility for one branch, some had responsibility for thousands.
The goal of the inquiry was to establish whether best practices were limited to individual companies and industries.
Or did the model a company used for its branch and store operations provide a source of best practices so sound that they applied universally, even outside of one’s own industry? We’ll be publishing our findings in a book, “Branch Science,” later this year.
The first question 3PR asked: “What is a branch?” A branch is an operating unit; one which is closer to its customers than the remote corporate location supporting it.
So a callcenter located in India is not a branch! That call center is an example of resources being placed farther from the customer solely to gain cost efficiencies.
A series of subsequent questions explored the following territory:
* Why does your company operate via branch locations?
* What obstacles prevent your branches from achieving their goals?
* Describe the top-performing location in your company’s network of operations.
* How does that top-performing location differ from the offices in the middle-of-the-pack? The people working in branch offices, whose careers and lifestyles depended on their performance in the branch setting, were candid and articulate with their responses.
Once they answered these questions, those of us at 3PR analyzed the answers and looked for common ground among the branches, regardless of industry or location.
Here is a summary of two of the findings.
Branch Finding No.
1 There are 17 barriers to branch success, which the analysts sorted into a Periodic Table of Branch Problems.
Because no one can reasonably be expected to solve these 17 problems at once, the analysts arranged the data according to whether the problems were “corporate-centric,” meaning the solution was best devised at corporate, or “branch-centric,” meaning the problem and the likely solutions were most likely to reside in the field.
In the middle are problems requiring contributions from both corporate and field personnel.
Additionally, it was observed that some of these problems were root issues (causation problems) and others problems were more reflective in nature (effect, rather than cause).
So the smart businessperson can use this information in two ways: 1.
Identify and address these common problems within his, or her, own organization.
Attack branch-based competitors at these weak points.
Branch Finding No.
2 There are Six Virtues common to high-performing branch and store locations.
These are shared across different companies, different professions, and
They are: 1.
Environment: right location, design and processes.
Disciplined compliance with brand standards.
Composite, or compound, innovation of best practices.
Cohesive local team.
Consistently superior financial performance.
Early analysis indicates that most branch organizations focus on just three of these areas, and unfortunately the wrong three.
Fortunately, a studied relationship of how the Six Virtues interrelate will suggest to the branch scientist that one can get all Six Virtues … by focusing on the right three.
3PR is currently developing a Branch Recipe that will model high-performance “in the lab” so companies can reduce the risk of experimentation in the live marketplace.
One outgrowth of this research has been an interest in developing a nationally recognized resource for training branch managers – in northern Nevada.
If you seek more information, or want to be placed on the announcement list for the book to be published by SuccessDNA Inc., please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frank J.Troppe of Reno is the author of “The Cave Creed” and the upcoming book on branch virtues, “Branch Science.” He is the president of 3PR Corporation and a founding member of the Branch Productivity Institute.He offers sales development and coaching services through Miller Heiman Inc.
, also of Reno.