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Your Consulting Questions Answered: A Q&A With NHPA’s Kim Peffley

Hardware Retailing spoke with Kim Peffley, the director of organizational development and consulting for the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA), about her industry experience, consultant offerings and leadership insight.

Hardware Retailing (HR): What is your background and experience in the home improvement industry?
Kim Peffley (KP): Before I began working with NHPA, I worked for 25-plus years in the home improvement industry. My career started when my parents decided to build a stand-alone True Value store in northern Indiana while I was in high school in the 1990s. The very first meetings happened at our dining room table, where we literally rolled the blueprints out and got to work to build our family’s store. Every meal from then on, we discussed our store or the industry, and we still do, despite selling the store over 15 years ago. I began as a part-time cashier working nights and weekends and then worked my way up through my parent’s store to management.

After owning the store for 12 years, we sold our business to a family-owned group of Ace Hardware stores in northern Indiana, and I was invited to stay on board. I managed several locations that varied in size from 7,500 square feet to 75,000 square feet, and I ultimately became the general manager, overseeing all seven locations. I worked in all areas of the business, including frontline and manager development, merchandising, marketing, new store acquisitions, conversions and remodels, and I even helped rebuild a store after a fire. We worked hard on building a culture that supported our employees and ensured our customers were given the best possible customer service while driving sales, decreasing expenses and growing the business. ​​

During that time, I worked with a consultant and completed the Vision Process. Through that, I became really interested in DiSC personality assessments, and I eventually became an Everything DiSC®-certified facilitator. Having these opportunities and experiences has allowed me to learn a lot, and being a consultant allows me to share what I have learned with retailers.

HR: What types of consulting programs does NHPA offer?
KP: We offer Vision Process, Team Builder and hourly consulting.

Vision Process is a year-long program that includes four store visits and phases meant to strengthen your team, improve communication, define company values and goals and build processes and best practices that fit your objectives. We work with the owners and managers to build a development program for everyone in the company to ensure they are continuing to grow and learn within the business. We utilize DiSC assessments, development plans, and consistent communication and feedback to drive positive change in the company culture.

TeamBuilder, an organizational development assessment, is a comprehensive two-day analysis of the people side of your business. It fully analyzes your current organizational structure and the way your staff members interact with you and each other. During this program, your staff completes DiSC assessments, we assess business fundamentals like your organizational chart and job descriptions and you receive a full analysis of how you can continue to improve your business.

Hourly consulting is a chance for retailers to run ideas past me or ask for advice on any issues. These meetings are set up virtually, and there is an hourly rate. Retailers can decide how many sessions they want and how often they want to do them.

HR: What’s involved with the DiSC personality assessment?
KP: DiSC is the leading personal assessment tool to understand and improve work productivity, teamwork and communication in your business. DiSC is a powerful tool that tells you more about who you are as an individual so that you can be more self-aware. It can also be used to improve communication ability, reduce conflict and ensure that you are taking full advantage of the strengths and opportunities of everyone on your team because we are all uniquely different.

HR: How are you involved with NHPA’s Academy for Retail Development?
KP: For the Retail Management Certification Program (RMCP), I am an instructor in the course and assist students through the whole process. I help with welcoming orientations, attend all of the courses, give feedback on homework, offer mentorships and give any additional support required. I basically offer high-level support, so if students run into any issues or roadblocks, I am there if they need anyone to bounce ideas off or advice. RMCP is a college-level program designed to teach key employees, future owners and retailers effective business practices for owning and operating a home improvement operation. Sessions are taught by successful retailers, university professors and industry experts. Participants learn new skills to manage and drive their business to higher levels of performance and gain skills needed to innovate and lead positive change. The program also includes a business improvement project, challenging each student to embark on a project tailored to their business. The deadline to apply for the 2022 session is June 1, so there’s still time to access this comprehensive program. We also have more than 20 scholarships available!

Foundations of Leadership offers three course options to help managers understand key concepts of leadership and personal development. Each course offers industry-specific training for effective communication, problem-solving , team building and developing financial management skills. These nine-week courses are delivered online and built with flexibility for busy schedules. For this program, I help onboard students and provide assistance if they need additional real-life experience or support throughout the program. The next session is “Leading Your Team” and the deadline to apply for the cohort session is May 6.

HR: What do you focus on during store visits?
KP: I look closely at the people side of the business. I do DiSC training with the employees teach everyone about their DiSC style and then learn how to communicate better with teammates and handle conflict resolution using individual personalities. I work on the businesses’ core values and mission statement and how to utilize those to lead and drive change within the business. I also look at aspects like time management and how to implement a system to ensure that the team is as effective as possible. I perform different operational reviews and give feedback on anything the store is struggling with.

HR: What are the benefits of using a consultant?
KP: A consultant is going to customize the experience to your business 100 percent. I can address your specific needs using my experience, as well as the experience of NHPA and the network of people we work with. It isn’t a cookie-cutter program—it truly focuses on you and your business.

Additionally, a lot of people tell me, “I am paying you to hold me accountable.” When you run an independent business, managers and owners are at the top and can hold their teams accountable, but there are very few people holding them accountable. Working with a consultant provides direct, honest feedback, and if changes are made and operations are implemented, I can help hold you accountable.

HR: What makes someone a good leader?
KP: I think you have to be able and willing to communicate effectively. That means you need to be able to listen, adapt and adjust depending on who you are talking to. I think you need to be humble and honest and admit that as a leader, you are human. You are going to make mistakes, and the best thing you can do is share the mistakes you make. Let your team know that you are not perfect, making it okay to be in that realm of someone who is still learning. People think that because they are in charge, they can’t make mistakes. The reality is that no one is perfect; mistakes should be looked at as an opportunity to learn new things.

I also think a really strong leader has to be completely aware of who their team is. They need to know what their team’s strengths, opportunities and needs are and what motivates, stresses and affects them both inside and outside of work.

Leaders need to be open to learning new things and able to support and give their team all the development tools they need and the time to do it. When leaders don’t micromanage and allow their team to run with their ideas, it allows for creativity to come up the pipeline.

HR: What do you love about your job?
KP: I love my job because I get to work with retailers every day. I love traveling to different businesses to see what’s going on and how we can be of support. I am passionate about this industry, and this job fuels my passion. I love connecting with retailers and sharing my personal experiences and the knowledge and information we learn from retailers all across the U.S. and Canada through NHPA.

Every time I am able to connect with retailers and share my knowledge and give advice, I get excited. It feels like being in the exact right place at the exact right time. I don’t have the answers to everything, but I can help and when we don’t know things, we learn from our network and share what we learn with other retailers. I love being able to connect with people and see change within a store and know that together we can make a difference in this industry.

HR: What do you love about the industry?
KP: I love this industry because I grew up in it, it’s in my blood. What is really amazing about this industry is the kinship or connection between everyone. When other people find out you are in the industry, they start asking all kinds of questions and are genuinely interested in your experience. This industry is also unique in that we are such an important part of our community. Being able to provide products and services that your community needs, employing local people and supporting local communities is so important and truly makes us a staple in communities.

I also love the idea of being connected to an industry that is known for solving any problem; finding ways to continue solving problems is really exciting to me. Our industry consists of an amazing group of folks who lean in and really take care of each other, and I will always be honored to be part of it.

Find more information about NHPA’s consulting services here and discover leadership lessons from three past Young Retailer of the Year honorees here.

About Carly Froderman

Carly joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor. Born and raised in Indiana, Carly earned a B.A. in English from Indiana University Bloomington. She enjoys reading, hiking, and cheering on the Indiana Hoosiers.

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