3 questions for merchants to ask before 2022

As the year draws to a nail-biting, rocket-fuelled finale, merchants should look around and take enormous pride in what they have overcome in the last two years. Collectively, the construction industry (and society) has faced extraordinary challenges and has responded fast and decisively. Time is flying and it’s easy to get so bogged down in the business of busyness that we forget to take a step back and think about the bigger picture.

However, it’s really important to do just that, so here are three questions we would urge you to consider before you set that out of office and crack open the festive cheer.

1) What has worked well this year?

Celebrating achievements and recognising where things have worked well is so important. Let your people know you’re proud of them, name and praise those who have stood out and made a difference, and let people feel truly valued. And remember, “big” achievements aren’t always visible, so remember to look beneath the surface for those who have continued to show up in the best way they can, despite individual challenges.

In terms of processes, consider where the wins have come from: what has saved you time? Where has waste been reduced? Where have new efficiencies, accuracies and sustainabilities come from? What does good even look like, and how do you know when you’re “succeeding”?

It’s easy to get lost in the relentless pursuit of improvement, so remember to take stock and acknowledge what you and your team has done well.

Hopefully you’ll have the data and analytics to see this stuff at a glance, but if not, it’s worth digging for, because without knowing what’s gone really well, it’s much harder to work out what you need to know for point 2!

2) What needs to stop happening?

Rather than simply looking to add more “to do” items to the list, make sure you remember the things to STOP doing. Take a look at where time, resource and effort is being wasted, and address those areas straight away. Identify duplicated effort, common mistakes and things which are taking longer than they should, and take steps to rectify them.

Take a moment to ask your workforce what's working and not working for them too. Feeling heard is enormously motivating, and knowing your leadership team has your interests at heart is important. Ask the tough questions, be prepared for some discomfort and make your workplace the fair, equal, accessible space your whole team can be proud of.

On a more operational level, use the analytics tools at your fingertips to work out which products are moving fast, and which are languishing in the yard taking up valuable space; look at which customers are costing you more money than they’re worth, and which suppliers repeatedly let you down. Your technology sees so much of what’s going on in your business, so make sure you’re using it to inform your decisions and strategy.

3) What needs to happen NOW to help you achieve your goals in the future?

Again, we know what it’s like, getting so busy you can’t make time to do the things that will save you time in the future. But if you don’t make that time, the cycle continues and nothing will change.

Firstly, it’s important to take the time to consider what the real priorities are for your business and your people. Is it more customers, more sales, more growth? Or is it more balance, more efficiency, more profit, creating a business that doesn’t ask so much of its workforce, a business that invests in the wellbeing and reward of its people, a business that stands by its principles and aligns action with values.

Whether it’s implementing more sustainable practices, assessing the suitability of your software (nudge nudge) or getting more training for your staff, rearranging your stock yard or investing more heavily in digital solutions, there are plenty of options out there to help you run your business faster, cleaner and more efficiently. As an industry there are some big challenges ahead, and it’s going to take some serious collaboration, innovation and resilience to meet them. Whatever your priorities are, make sure you're clear on what they are, and create a clear roadmap to get there.

And if we can be a part of that – so much the better.

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