Max Mosley Isn’t The Only One Who Thrives Under Discipline.

My belief is that well run retail businesses are a lot like a solid family structure. But just like parents of today, there are far too many retail leaders who want to be friends with their kids rather than the parents the kids really need and the social cost of that approach is obvious to all of us.

In the historical family unit, ‘Dad’ (or the masculine role model) established the rules and punished and rewarded you appropriately for non-compliance or compliance or better still outstanding achievement. He was monosyllabic and often grunted what he wanted but you knew he had the experience that ensured what he said was right 99% of the time.

It took ‘Mum’ (or the feminine role model) to sweep in behind and explain, coach, prod and mentor the kids until they knew how to deliver it and had the support and tools to make it happen. Together ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ dealt with the competition between the siblings, the management of their conflicting ambitions and ensured the family unit worked as a whole to achieve a prosperous and enjoyable lifestyle.

A retail business is the same.

It needs a ‘Dad’ and a ‘Mum’ to run ‘the family’ the same way. Not trying to be the kid’s friend but being the best parents they can be. Retail thrives on discipline, sound principles, values and experience that are used to inform and educate. Without them it is dysfunctional and can lead to a very messy (and often costly) divorce.

People management in retail does not need everyone to sit around in a circle and hold hands to collaboratively wish a more robust supply chain into being. It needs military planning and implementation. There is a time for debate and a time for decision-making and compliant implementation. We’ve confused order and discipline with punishment. The Von Trapp Family were very disciplined, but while they did everything to escape Hitler, they also bound together as a family, created beautiful music and achieved their goals of a new and happy life – together.

While it’s not appropriate for the retail industry to work on reclaiming the historical parenting skills and family structures for the broader community, it is appropriate to learn from what made them work historically and use them to inform how we manage our people to achieve both business and personal results and to help them to add-value to both the business, the community and their own futures.

After all, as Richard Branson once said “Businesses exist to make people’s lives better.”

Retail leaders have the same responsibilities as parents. Perhaps we just have more commercial reasons for delivering what is needed rather than what makes us feel like one of the kids.