Before he even knew his nephew Peter Parker was Spider-Man, Uncle Ben shared a wise bit of advice with Peter, telling him, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
His words are great advice not only for someone starting out their superhero career, but also anyone taking on responsibilities as a new manager. Whether you come in with managerial experience or are a rookie to management, moving into a leadership role can be daunting.
Fortunately, the home improvement industry is full of managers, experienced and novice, who are willing to share insights into what it takes to be an effective and trustworthy leader.
One of these managers, Roman Chavez, shared with Hardware Retailing what he wished he knew before he started in his leadership role.
Chavez has been a part of the Bleyhl Co-op family since 2014. Bleyhl, a farmer-owned, agricultural cooperative serving the Yakima Valley, operates three retail locations and one convenience store in the state of Washington.
While he was attending college to become a school counselor, Chavez started at Bleyhl as a retail clerk to support his young family.
Chavez became a receiving clerk in 2017 and moved into a role in inventory control in 2018, where he became an expert in the operation’s point-of-sale software.
“I had no prior retail experience before I started at Bleyhl,” Chavez says. “Before I became a manager, I kept applying to positions within Bleyhl that opened up. I was always looking for the next position that would help me understand the retail business more.”
While he initially took that first role with Bleyhl to get him through college, he found that retail fit what he was looking for in a career and decided to stay with Bleyhl.
“Through my years at Bleyhl, I became passionate in retail and agriculture and invested in learning the business. Every year I stayed with Bleyhl, and the more opportunities I continued to get, increased my desire to stay long term, grow in this company and become a standout employee and ultimately, a manager,” he says. “I am thankful I ended up pursuing a career in retail and staying with Bleyhl because I am connected to what I do. I feel that’s important when choosing a career path.”
His dedication to the company and moving up the ranks paid off. In 2019, he was promoted to the role of farm store manager at the company’s Sunnyside, Washington, location. Before he started in his new role, Chavez says he set high expectations for himself and wished he would have known that making the leap into management doesn’t have to equal perfection.
“You don’t have to have all the answers right away,” he says. “There is a lot of support if you’re willing to be open minded.”
When Chavez was offered the manager position, he had no specific training as a manager, but he says the management team believed in his abilities and skill set.
“I lacked confidence because it all felt so new, and I was a very young manager in comparison to my counterparts,” he says. “I have realized as a manager that you never stop learning. That leap as manager is just the beginning of a prosperous career path if you are willing to put in the work every day.”
When he stepped into a managerial role at the age of 25 with no previous experience, Chavez says some people did not take him seriously and undermined what he brought to the table as a new manager. He worked hard to gain trust and confidence from his customers and fellow employees, and says being resilient is a major part of surviving and thriving as a new manager.
To earn that trust, Chavez asked questions to learn more about his customers’ needs and habits and earned their respect by going above basic retail customer service. He takes the time to listen to their suggestions or frustrations to come up with the best answer or option to help them.
“I not only listen to their needs, I take the time to learn where to find the product they are looking for,” he says. “Farmers’ needs often include the most minuscule parts or pieces, and being able to find that item for them and connect with them while understanding their urgency makes a huge difference in sustaining a bond with that farmer.”
Chavez says gaining the trust of the employees he leads starts with empowering them with all the right training and teaching them to step out of their comfort zones in the same ways he has through his career.
“My expectations are focused on constant growth and learning so that my employees become more well-rounded in all skill sets,” he says. “The time I have taken to teach my employees is how I have been able to gain their trust.”
One year after he became manager, Chavez was tasked with also managing the irrigation department, which functions as its own store and is located in a separate building within walking distance of the store.
“Historically, these locations have always had separate managers, but the company believed I could manage both places,” he says. “I overcame not knowing anything about agricultural irrigation by learning as much as I could, while also incorporating my technical and organizational skills into the department.”
While his journey as a new manager has included some speed bumps, it’s also come with many positive points. Chavez says the best part of being a manager is that no day is identical, and the management team is always adjusting to the changes within the industry. He enjoys teaching his employees new skills that lead to new opportunities for them and the company, and he also participates in industry events and educational programs to continually learn and grow his own knowledge and skills.
One of the best parts of his job is making a positive impact on his customers, employees and the community, Chavez says.
“I take pride in the interactions I have with our customers,” he says. “The long-lasting impressions we leave on others motivates me to continually do better in this career.”
5 Tips for New Managers
There is no lack of advice out there for new managers coming into a leadership role. Here are some of the top tips managers can use to be successful.
- Ask for help. No matter what industry you’re in, there are people who have been in your shoes before and want to see you succeed. Reach out to them for advice.
- Be patient. Give yourself grace as you learn and grow in your new role. Be sure to also extend patience to your co-workers and your own managers.
- Stay positive. As a manager, you’re viewed as a leader and set the tone for your business. Have a positive attitude and set a good example for your colleagues.
- Embrace conflict. It is inevitable that you’ll run into conflict during your time as manager, so learn to handle issues with patience and diplomacy.
- Delegate tasks. Don’t try to go it alone or do it all by yourself. Rely on your team members to get tasks done.
Help Along the Way
Chavez says there have been many instrumental people at Bleyhl who have helped him develop into the manager he is today. From former employees to current staff, several people kindled Chavez’s desire to understand business and retail and advocated for him to become a manager.
He says Bleyhl’s director of retail Cody Goeppner was a key player in helping him learn, train and develop as a manager, and gave him a voice in the industry. Company CEO Joel Marcott believed in him from the day they met.
“Joel gave me the chance to make improvements at our local level and taught me that when envisioning the future to consider every angle of business, every pro and con and the long-term effect it can have,” Chavez says. “These people not only became my mentors, but also my friends. I know I can always reach out to them for advice.”
Chavez is grateful for the guidance he has received along the way and appreciates sharing advice with other new managers. He says the first year as a new manager requires learning how to be a well-rounded leader and adjusting to new responsibilities. He also suggests that new managers take advantage of their professional networks to learn all they can.
“I would tell any new manager not to give up when you feel overwhelmed with the adversity faced in the new role. Ask lots of questions of your employees, other managers and those at every other level in your business,” he says. “There are so many moving pieces that you must take ownership of as a manager, but with time, the role becomes inherent.”
As Chavez continues to grow in his role as manager, he has set goals to better himself and his company.
“This company has believed in my skills and knows how dedicated I am to continued learning and overall growth. They invested in me and have given me so many opportunities to continue to learn,” Chavez says. “Hopefully one day I can become a director of retail and maybe even a general manager. I know I am still not anywhere close to that level yet, but I will get there.”
Learning From the Best
The year he became manager, Roman Chavez participated in the Retail Management Certification Program through the North American Hardware and Paint Association to enhance his industry knowledge and learn best practices he could use in his new managerial role.
“Learning from retail industry leaders and the other students’ experiences within their own stores was the best part of the program,” Chavez says. “There were so many perspectives shared; it made me understand that retail is infinite.”
Here are some key takeaways Chavez gained during his time in the program. The deadline to apply for the 2022 class is June 1. Learn more here.
01 | Product marketing tips.
“I discovered helpful tips for marketing products throughout the store and on social media.”
02 | Product placement and traffic flow strategy.
“I had never thought about how products are organized in a store, but RMCP showed me the psychological side of retail product placement and store layouts.”
03 | Retail finance principals.
“I now know how to positively affect our bottom line by better understanding retail finance.”
04 | Networking opportunities.
“RMCP and the networking opportunities gave me a confidence boost that I can make it in management and most importantly, that I don’t have to do it alone.”
An Opportunity to Lead
Grant Umber Seizes a Chance for a Career Pivot
With a skewed work-life balance and no clear path for advancement in his career, Grant Umber was about to quit the home improvement industry when he was offered an opportunity he could not turn down.
For 75 years, his family owned Umber’s Do it Best, which had two locations in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In 2020, the Umber family closed one store and sold the other store to Connolly’s Do it Best Hardware & Rental, which had recently been acquired by Nation’s Best Holdings.
Around that time, Matt Lambert, operations leader with Nation’s Best Holdings, offered Umber the position of division manager, overseeing all Connolly’s Do it Best locations. Umber jumped at the opportunity to advance his career in a direction that better suited his experience, abilities and priorities.
Since taking on his new management role, Umber has learned some key lessons in leadership. He’s discovered that when he worked in sales, it was all about productivity, while management requires working efficiently, but always through the lens of taking care of your team. He says good leadership requires self-motivation and building relationships.
If he could impart any advice to other new managers, Umber recommends maintaining a positive environment, which improves employee engagement and retention and leads to more positive customer interactions.
“Be intentional because your store will reflect who you are,” he says. “Think like a customer by walking around the store with fresh eyes each morning, paying close attention to what you see, hear and smell.”
Umber says leadership positions also come with changes in the way you can interact with other employees who might have previously been peers, so it’s important to maintain good communication.
Based on his previous work experience, he now prioritizes a team mentality and healthy work-life balance for his team and himself.
“I’ve tried to cultivate a democratic leadership style by surrounding myself with smart people and letting them shine,” he says. “And when they shine, I shine.”