New Horizons in Business Management

Case study #523: Parker Stropp (UK) Ltd

Essential to any successful enterprise are its staff.  A company's workforce is its greatest asset, and it can make or break a firm at any level.  In this case study we talk to three people who are employed by a leading retail chain, and try to ascertain how they contribute to the health of the business.

The Area Manager

"As the fastest growing retailer of bathroom fittings in the UK, with over 200 stores nationwide and an ongoing programme of expansionalization, it's no wonder that Parker Stropp has become such a dominant name on the high street.  And it's no accident that we are so successful.   Our secret?  Well, we stock a comprehensive range of products, and by keeping a close eye on our operating costs, we can deliver an advantageous price point to the customer.

"But there's more to it than that.  The main reason that we dominate the market is our staff.  Each and every member of our customer-facing retail contingent is passionate about bathroom fittings, and is dedicated to providing the best possible service to the consumer.

"This is achieved by utilising an ongoing training schedule, which is geared towards constantly driving forward individual personalisation target thresholds.  To this end, staff elements are encouraged to envisualise workable strategies for furthering attainment goals, and every month they will meet with their line managers on a one-to-one basis to work through a number of pre-agreed assessment objectives.

"It sounds like a lot of effort - and indeed it is - but most of our staff are aware of the necessity of going the extra mile in order to maximise profits and maintain the company's positioning within a highly competitive market.  They, in turn, find it a worthwhile and rewarding experience.

"But it's not all hard work, of course - we are capable of having fun, too.  For instance, at this year's managers' conference we staged a cabaret, in which myself and several of my colleagues dressed up as the Spice Girls and mimed to one of their pop records.  Photos were printed in the company newsletter, and I'm sure the staff had a good laugh at them.  Seeing the senior members of the company in less formal circumstances makes us all feel like part of the same team, and - as long as this sort of thing is done in moderation - it can have a positive impact on morale."

The Store Manager

"Oh yes, this year's conference was, erm... a bit of a laugh!  It was fancy dress in the evening, so I went as a gangster, type of thing - and there was also a cabaret.   Well, you've never seen anything like it!  I'm not being funny, but one of the directors did a magic act and, well, I've seen better tricks at a children's party.

"Then the chief accountant did this... erm... 'comedy' routine.  Well, he told some jokes about some of the head office staff, which were a bit near the knuckle, type of thing, but I think they took it in good humour.  But what I'm not going to be able to forget is seeing my area manager dressed up as one of the Spice Girls!  I think I'll have nightmares about that for the rest of my life!  Only joking.  To make matters worse, they put a picture of it in the company newsletter.  I don't think he's ever going to live it down!  I don't know, I think you've got to be mad to work for this company!

"Anyway, it was a welcome chance for us to let our hair down - those of us who still have any!  Running a busy shop like this can be hard work, and it's good to have a break every now and then.  There are very strict guidelines which have to be observed at all times: forms have to be filled in, and regulations have to be adhered to.  There are sales logs, stock forms, staff workbooks, spot checks, security forms, delivery reports, planograms, and so on, and so on - and all this is vital to the running of the store, type of thing.

"I know, from speaking to other managers at the conference, that there are some people who think it's all a bit over the top.  Well, I'm not being funny, but you've got to have proper procedures and regulations, or none of us would know what we were doing, type of thing.  And the area managers are very keen that all this paperwork is kept up to date.  I've had a roasting several times about it.

"Mind you, next time the area manager gives me a hard time, I'll remind him about how he dressed up as a Spice Girl - that'll take the wind out of his sails!  Ah, only joking."

The Sales Assistant

"So who the hell is this area manager, anyway?  And why would I want to see pictures of the twat tarted up in fancy dress?  They send this crappy newsletter out every month, and it's full of this shit - somebody from head office is doing a sponsored run, somebody else has had a baby, some drippy head of something-or-other has just moved house.

"Am I supposed to care?  I don't know who these people are.  I don't want to know who these people are - chances are they're a bunch of wankers anyway.  Every one of 'em - just a bunch of smug, self-important little tin gods who eat, sleep and breathe this company because there's fuck all else in their sad little lives to occupy them.

"Perhaps - and this is just a suggestion now - but perhaps, if they spent more time doing the jobs they're meant to be doing instead of dicking about then maybe, just maybe, this company wouldn't be the fucking joke that it is.  Yeah, sure they've got over two hundred shops, but they're all in back streets and forgotten little shopping arcades.   We're constantly promoting stock we haven't got, because the frigging buyers haven't got a clue what they're doing.  The equipment doesn't work, the building's a death trap, the manager's a bleeding retard, the senior management are on the take and the company's so up to its neck in debt that it can't afford to fully staff the place.

"Am I motivated?  Am I proud to work for this dynamic, flourishing company?   Am I really 'passionate about bathroom fittings'?  Am I bollocks!  They pay me minimum wage, want me to do three people's jobs and expect me to work overtime for nothing.  And for this I'm supposed to be grateful.  Well, they've got a shock on the way, because come April I'm going to work for the council and these people can shove their job up their chocolate fundament."

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