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Elevating Yourself Within the Retail Industry with Business Acumen: Q&A with Kenny Snarr

We wanted to explore the retail industry and how employees within could benefit from business acumen. Today we have Kenny Snarr here to talk us through the challenges they face and how business acumen can be a key contributor to their success. Let's dive in and ask Kenny some questions!


Kenny, what do you think are some of the key challenges professionals in the retail industry are facing today?

In the retail industry, professionals and executives face several significant challenges. One of the most pressing issues is the slim profit margins, where a minor mishap can have a substantial impact on the bottom line. I’ve mentioned this story before, but I was talking with a leader at Walmart, and he told me an astonishing statistic. He said if a turkey during the holidays gets ruined for some reason or another, whether it falls off the truck, expires, or gets dropped, Walmart then has to sell 53 more turkeys to make up for the money lost from the one. That just shows how thin the margins are in retail. But then rising costs, including

those related to goods, labor, and distribution, are also a constant concern. Additionally, the challenge of managing inventory effectively is a critical issue that retailers grapple with due to supply chain disruptions and inflation.


Wow! Those are slim margins Walmart is facing. How can business acumen help address these challenges?

Business acumen indeed plays a pivotal role in addressing these challenges. It empowers employees at all levels to contribute to a company's financial performance by finding ways to streamline processes, reduce costs, and minimize losses. For executives, business acumen helps bridge the gap between corporate strategy and financial objectives, enabling effective execution. It also provides a holistic view of the organization, helping identify hidden opportunities for improvement.


Can you elaborate on the importance of employees in the retail industry to understand the financial aspects of their work, even for seemingly small decisions?

Understanding the financial aspects of their work is crucial for retail employees because even seemingly small decisions can have significant financial implications. In an industry with thin profit margins, like Walmart, these decisions can make or break profitability. By making informed choices that align with the company's financial goals, employees can directly impact the bottom line. If you have business acumen skills, it’s easy to see why giving discounts or free gifts with purchases can be a tough way to make money. But as a salesperson, that sounds like the perfect solution. However, when you think about the business from an executive’s standpoint, you understand the broader picture in a much more tactical way.


That makes sense. It’s interesting to see that business acumen can help all employees align. Different departments have different objectives and business acumen helps them see eye to eye. So how can business acumen help retail executives overcome their limited perspective and effectively craft and execute corporate strategy?

Business acumen is a powerful tool for retail executives and retail employees too! It helps them communicate and translate the financial tenets of the company's strategy to all employees, facilitating better execution. It also allows employees to see the organization from the executives' perspective, which can uncover hidden opportunities for improvement.

If you think about a salesperson at a tech store, their primary responsibility is to sell the latest electronic gadgets to customers. Often, they might focus on closing individual sales, meeting their personal quotas, and ensuring customer satisfaction. Which don't get me commendable. However, with a deeper understanding of business acumen, they'd not only emphasize selling the product but also comprehend the broader financial impact. For instance, if they're selling high-margin accessories or service plans along with the gadgets, they're not only maximizing the customer's purchase but also significantly enhancing the store's profitability.

Understanding business acumen would go beyond a single sale. It involves perceiving how your actions contribute to the store's overall financial health. Instead of solely concentrating on selling the gadgets, you'd recognize the importance of upselling, leveraging promotions, or even managing inventory effectively. This understanding aids in driving not just personal success but also the success of the entire business. By comprehending the broader financial implications, you'd actively contribute to the company's bottom line and overall growth.

This is a small example but emphasizes how an individual's understanding of business acumen can go beyond immediate sales and focus on holistic business success, thereby contributing significantly to the company's overall financial health and success.


That’s an interesting comparison…one that shows the importance of business acumen for all employees! Can you elaborate on how business acumen empowers individuals to quantify the value they bring to the organization?

Certainly. Business acumen enables individuals to understand how their work directly impacts financial principles like cash flow, profitability, and revenue growth. By aligning their actions with corporate objectives and being able to articulate this connection, employees can demonstrate their contributions to the organization's success. Not only does this quantification of value help employees showcase their impact at the highest levels of the organization, it also gives them a sense of purpose for their role. They can better see how they are making a difference.


Kenny, you’ve worked with a lot of retail companies over the years. In your opinion, what is the ultimate outcome of cultivating business acumen in the retail industry?

Fostering business acumen within the retail industry yields far-reaching benefits. It not only elevates the sector but also positions it for sustained success. With a workforce and leadership that possesses a profound grasp of financial principles and a broader perspective, the industry can not only withstand the challenges of a competitive landscape but also proactively identify and seize opportunities. As consumer preferences continue to evolve, those with a strong foundation in business acumen will be at the forefront, steering the industry toward continued growth and innovation.


Now that you've explored the ins and outs of the retail space, let's engage in a learning activity you can do during your next team meeting:

Exercise : Key differences between Sears and Walmart

1. Have your team watch this quick 1-minute video:

2. And now let's chat about it:

-What distinguished Sears from its competitors in terms of strategic business practices during its prime?

-In Sears' most successful times, what specific elements of business acumen were evident in their approach?

-Where did Sears demonstrate deficiencies in business acumen leading to its decline in its final years as a business?

-How did the strategic approach of Sears differ from that of Walmart?

-Where did Sears accurately predict limited growth in the retail industry, and conversely, where did they misjudge the situation?

This challenge offers an interactive way for teams to understand the implications of their decisions. Sears was a business that seemingly couldn't fail, they were doing all of the right things! And (to the public eye) quickly turned south. This is a great way to integrate your teams to think about businesses and the growth that can be had within the retail space.


Continue your learning...

The challenge
of Retail

The Challenges
Retail Executives Face

Growth and Retail
Case Study

What the Retail Industry Needs to Get and Keep Employees:

Ballooning Inventory:

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