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How Armour-Dial helps district managers sharpen their skills.

The responsibilities of supermarket and drug chain district managers include running several different operations, manaing 1,000 or more employees, and generating tens of millions of dollars in sales. The tasks are not easy ones, but there is a place where managers can go to sharpen their store supervision skills.

Since 1971, managers from 98 of the top 100 supermarket chains in the U.S. have attended free, three-day workshops conducted by the Armour-Dial Management Institute in Phoenix. The workshop participants are responsible for supervising retail operations with a total annual volume that exceeds $40 billion, and include supermarket district and division managers, and district managers from leading drug chains.

Intensive practice is included in every workshop session, with each participant playing before a video camera and acting as both "teacher" and "student." The program is customized so that it concentrates on each manager's particular day-to-day problems. There are sessions on defining the job, time management, store inspection and correction, performance review, goal discussions, merchandising and training store managers.

During the program, supervisors analyze how they spend their time on the job and compare their techniques for managing time with other store supervisors. Armour-Dial's 10-year study shows that district managers only spend 48% of their time on actual store supervision. The other 52% of their time is spent on administrative work, attending meetings, communicating, etc. The workshop addresses ways to manage time more effectively by helping managers organize and plan, establish timesaving techniques and set priorities.

Concentration is also given to the area of problem solving. Each participant contributes his most difficult supervision problem to the workshop, and these problem cases become the core of discussion and practice. For example, problem solving groups in a recent workshop developed stategies for dealing with situations such as "The Self-Satisfied Owner/Operator," "The Hypertensive Manager," "The Manager's First Large Store" and "New Competition." This portion of the workshop gives the district manager practice in handling both the problems and the people involved.

Each workshop participant is required to conduct a store inspection that is recorded on a closed-circuit TV in a mock supermarket. The role-playing exercise helps the manager learn to expand inspections, making each store visit more effective. Participants also eceive tips on merchandising strategies to help them supervise stores, with an eye toward generating volume and maximizing profits.

Store Supervision Skills workshops are conducted by Armour-Dial four times a year for food retailers and once a year for the chain drug industry. Attendance is limited to two supervisors per company per workshop, and each workshop is comprised of representatives from 10 noncompeting companies. The participating supermarket chain pays for transportation and accommodations, while Armour-Dial underwriters the cost for meals and meeting expenses.

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Author:Higgins, Ray
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 1, 1984
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