2017 Planning: How to Prepare for the Unexpected

December 19, 2016

By Cathy Nagle-Ervin

This time of year always brings about reflections on the year that is just about to come to an end. (As I am writing this blog post, I actually am humming “Auld Lang Syne” in the back of my head!) Our company’s fiscal year has come to a close, inventory counts have been finalized and all the performance reviews have been completed. It seems like the perfect time to review 2016.

If you asked me in February my plan for 2016, I can tell you that my answer then was quite different than my answer was in August. My plan has taken many unexpected turns in the road this year—a few anticipated, but the majority not.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower quote, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable,” is so true. It is easy to make a plan when you see the impending hurricane on The Weather Channel radar headed directly toward your museum store. But what about when there is no radar to warn us?

Think about those retailers in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They had their stores looking in tip-top shape and loaded with holiday merchandise. One night, they flipped the “closed” signs over on the front doors and went home for the evening not knowing that their worlds would suddenly change overnight.

Even though I never anticipated it, I have stood in those same shoes.

While managing The University of Akron Book Store, my staff and I went home after a very long first day of the semester to get some much needed rest. Just as my head hit my pillow, I received a call from the university telling me that the store was on fire! When I arrived, the fire was out, and the Akron Fire Department was running large fans to help clear the smoke. I stood at the front entrance to the store, along with the Student Union Director and the Campus Maintenance Chief, in stunned disbelief.

When asked how many days or weeks it was going to take to reopen, and where the college students were going to purchase their textbooks, the only answers I could and would make were, “tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m., just as scheduled,” and, “in our store!” The Campus Maintenance Chief called in seven electricians to rewire a breaker box and to replace melted electrical wires and outlets. As these guys were pulling the all-night shift, I rearranged the check-out stations, salvaging whichever cash registers and credit card terminals could be reprogrammed. I managed to get 14 out of the 22 registers up and running by 6 a.m. (with a lot of help from many cups of coffee)!

I can still recall the look on my employees’ faces as they started to arrive at 7 a.m. They were just as stunned and shocked as I was at 1 a.m., but just as determined to open on time! They quickly grabbed the feather dusters and vacuum cleaners to start cleaning the black soot off of all our merchandise. By 8 a.m., the Fire Marshall returned to review the repairs that had been completed overnight and gave us permission to open at 8:30 a.m. as planned. I remember the cheers from my staff, the electricians and the college students as I rolled the front door gate up for business that morning.

On another occasion, I recall one Store Manager finishing the fiscal year-end inventory count and taking the count sheets home that evening to add the totals together. No one anticipated that this individual would have a heart attack that evening and would be in the Intensive Care Unit for the next week. Even with a plan in place for your store, situations and circumstances can change in an instant.

According to George Patton, “A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow.” So as you being to think of your plan for 2017, do you have the procedures, tools and staff in place to chart a change of course in your store’s operating direction at a moment’s notice?

Take the time to evaluate such tasks as backing up and storing your POS and computer data. Even in very small museum store operations, are there staff members who are properly trained to assume your responsibilities if needed? If you are a one-person store operation, do you know other MSA Chapter colleagues who you could contact for assistance if needed?

My advice to everyone is to always expect the unexpected, and not be afraid to adjust plans to keep your store and staff moving forward. To all my fellow MSA members, get your planning for 2017 going before the New Year!

cathy-nagle-ervin-headshotCathy Nagle-Ervin is a seasoned retail management professional with more than 30 years of experience working for companies such as Barnes & Noble College Division, as well as PetSmart. For the past 16 years, she has been employed as the Great Lakes Regional Manager with Eastern National. She is responsible for all the hiring, training, product development, merchandising and inventory control for retail stores in 10 states.

Cathy also has been a presenter at national conferences, including those hosted by Association of Parks & Public Lands and Museum Store Association. Six years ago, she graduated from The Travel Channel Academy, a digital training course. As a result, she discovered her passion for all things digital. She continues to hone her skills in screen casting and eLearning. In the past four years, she has gained additional skills in live stream event production. Cathy is a certified story-based eLearning designer and has created countless projects for nonprofits and businesses alike. In 2015, Cathy started her own retail consulting firm to assist small-town independent retailers.

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