Any unfilled position costs money, it is a fact of life. And most companies genuinely want to refill their positions quickly. Depending on the hiring market and how well your branch and company are performing, that might be easier said than done.
You might be tempted to use an “interim manager” which is basically code for dumping everything on some person who shows a little ability and you see if they rise up or fold.
In the residential building products industry, your branch managers fill a key role. So either taking too much time to fill the position or trying to use an interim manager are both fairly bad ideas.
Figuring Out The True Cost To Your Business
Leaving branch manager roles unfilled does affect more than the employees at that location. You run the risk of damaging the image of the branch but also your company. Effective management at every level is necessary, but branch managers bridge the gap between many key areas of business and with staff and customers.
Branch managers typically have a lot of tasks assigned to them and so they are pretty good many things. When you lose an experience manager, you are losing knowledge and expertise in customer service, employee relations, P&L, products, delivery, etc. The list really goes on and on. Branch managers are often a ‘total package' of critical hard and soft skills and have their brains involved in every aspect of the location.
So, stop thinking of just lost sales and maybe some grumbling employees who have to shoulder extra tasks. Seriously consider what your branch managers are doing and what they keep running when you evaluate what the unfilled position is costing you.
Everyday Challenges Not Resolved
A great branch manager has an unrivaled ability to focus on many things throughout the day. They rise up to answer the challenges that face all retail and warehouse locations. Branch managers have to deal with customers when things go wrong and are expected to be the face of the company. They deal with a variety of problems and keep everyone happy and keep the machine running.
Putting someone in their place who isn't experienced or doesn't have all the necessary talents is a recipe for disaster.
Employee Issues Fester
Branch managers must build and lead a team. They have to learn to communicate with all levels of knowledge, education, and personalities. Branch Managers are responsible for communication between corporate and branch employees.
So, they know what is going on in their branches. They know when an outside salesperson is irritating your inside staff. Good managers understand when things aren't right between your warehouse staff and the front of the branch. They defuse tense situations, train and mentor employees and keep the peace.
When you are without that buffer, it can mean a major breakdown between the groups.
Knowledge Of The Area Goes Away
Branch managers need to know their particular customer mix inside and out. They learn about the buying trends and what sales and promotional strategies work best. They know the person who always orders too little and calls in a panic – so they stock up, etc. Each branch is different and a great branch manager learns all the ins and outs of their location so they can do their best to maximize profits.
They know how to keep their customers happy and when they are gone, that knowledge goes too. Many customers don't want to start over and have to ‘train' your employees.
Impressions Of Your Business Drop
If you think regular customers don't notice new faces, you are very wrong. When someone walks into your branch on a regular basis, they want to know the people they are dealing with. They want someone that understands their business, knows what they need and is able to answer questions quickly.
If they constantly see new faces or know they are working with a junior manager, their opinion of your overall business drops. If you have a lot of turnover or struggle to fill open roles, they wonder what is wrong with your company. Likely, they'll even voices those questions.
Long term or frequent openings send a message of disorganization and inefficiency. They lead customers to believe you are a bad employer, which isn't a far leap from just being a bad company to have dealings with in general.
Customer Service Slips
Branch managers know their customers are their bread and butter. They understand the importance of resolving customer issues quickly and in falling on your sword occasionally to keep a customer happy. A branch manager who is liked and trusted stands a much better chance of diffusing an irate customer.
Think about the number of your competitors that exist around you. Now, take into account how many online alternatives a disgruntled customer could be using.
The right branch manager is knowledgeable, has a clear vision for serving and growing your market share, keeps your employees happy and engaged and in general runs everything better. Don't let your open positions sit unfilled for long if you don't want to lose the ground you've gained.