Jacque was a newly promoted multi-unit manager when she took part in the development programme. After 30 years working for this food and beverage retailer, Jacque already had a deep knowledge of the business as she took charge of 14 units located in seven towns across Scotland.


As the business was performing well, the aim was to support Jacque’s development as she built on this success.

From experience, Jacque already had strong ideas on what needed to be done. But she soon recognised she needed a more structured approach to getting things done consistently through her team of managers.

Because her teams are spread across a large territory, Jacque had been visiting every unit with the same frequency each month, often trying to cover every issue, which had led to her adopting a checklist approach.

  • Following a guided analysis of her units’ performance, she began to prioritise the ones with the greatest challenges or opportunities. She did this by reviewing financial performance and assessing her managers’ needs.
  • Jacque scheduled visits according to these priorities, and planned the topics to be explored with each manager in their meeting.
  • Together they focused on relevant aspects of the Business Trading Plan and specific ‘Big Rock’ action plans to resolve the most pressing challenges. Jacque appreciated how simple behaviours discussed in the programme – such as asking a manager at the end of a meeting to recap the agreed action points – led to greater clarity and delivery of the steps needed to boost performance.
  • Jacque and her managers identified on-the-job learning opportunities to develop staff. She took this further by encouraging managers to become subject matter experts – in areas such as customer service, inventory control and labour scheduling – and buddy up with other managers to share this expertise.
  • Jacque also brought her managers together for regular sales meetings where each contributed two ideas to drive sales. Managers were required to monitor the impact and report back at the subsequent meeting. This initiative was credited with increasing customers’ average spend.
  • Jacque learned to make best use of her organisation’s hitherto under-utilised online collaboration/intranet tool to share trading and action plans – along with comments and updates – and to announce the month’s top-performing manager and teams.
  • As Jacque took control of her diary, she recognised how her management style had changed from auditor to commercially minded manager focused on driving profitable sales and maximising her people’s capabilities.
  • Jacque’s managers responded, taking greater responsibility for their units’ commercial performance and then, action to drive sales.
  • Average spend per customer grew by 6.5% in the twelve months following the programme. Turnover increased by almost 35% and profits rose by more than 28% over the same period.

Paul was a multi-unit manager in a UK airport, responsible for 13 food and beverage outlets, vending sales and on-site catering.

His team included six managers and 10 assistant managers.


The business had been unprofitable for some years, made worse by falling passenger numbers, declining at 2-3% per annum. This, with lax cost controls in some units, culminated in losses of £300,000 in the year before Paul joined the development programme.


The programme taught Paul the importance of stepping back from the day to day to really understand the fundamentals of his business and to identify the important things that were dragging his business down. Then, with the help of his management team, Paul created a business trading plan to address these ‘Big Rocks’ and set an improvement agenda:

  • Together with his unit managers, Paul worked out both the percentage gross margin and the penny profit for individual products, raising awareness of the contribution each could make to cash profits.
  • By coaching his managers to understand and ‘own’ their financial results, they were able to make valuable efficiency savings by redeploying labour to peak periods, rather than using extra staff.
  • To grow sales, Paul and his managers enthusiastically embraced the concept of ‘Sales Tours’. They worked in small groups, visiting each unit in turn, harnessing their collective experience to focus on new ways to increase sales. Together they generated more than 200 hundred ideas; some they could enact immediately, others needing development by central Marketing or other functions.
  • They identified high margin ‘Perfect Partner’ products that complemented what customers ordered, helping boost both profitability and average spend.
  • Paul pioneered fortnightly sales meetings where unit managers proposed two ideas to drive sales over the next two weeks, and to account for their success or failure at the next meeting.
  • And to ensure follow through, Paul shifted the focus of his unit visits, from checklist ticking to action plan progress reviews with unit managers. He also took time to ensure that staff on duty knew the up-sell items for their shift and were regularly monitoring their competitors’ outlets. The latter identified some popular products that could be easily added to the existing range and scope for selectively increasing the price of others in the range without damaging competitiveness.

The programme helped Paul create a clear vision of the future to lead his management team. They ‘bought in’ to the business trading plan and were inspired to generate their own ideas for driving performance.
The resulting operating efficiencies, combined with increased sales at significantly better margins, turned this food and beverage business around.

In the first year of the programme, the six-figure loss was reduced to less than £30,000, before turning a profit the following year.


Thomas was a multi-unit manager for a national retailer responsible for more than 20 food and beverage outlets in the south-west of England.
When the development programme commenced, sales in Thomas’s region were almost £500,000 lower year on year and profit was more than £350,000 below budget.


The programme helped Thomas to identify both the root causes of the negative trends and the profitable growth opportunities in his units. At the same time, Thomas began to reappraise his own approach to managing his team using the Critical Impact Activities essential to his role as a Multi-Unit Manager.

  • Joint analysis with MMU revealed that Thomas’s unit managers lacked commercial awareness and did not ‘own’ their financial results. It also identified the ‘Big Rocks’ that needed to be prioritised in units showing the most negative trends.
  • Thomas began to actively involve his managers and their teams in all aspects of the business trading plan he was developing. By introducing regular ‘You talk, I listen’ sessions, Thomas captured ideas for local improvements and influenced initiatives from head office.
  • Early on, Thomas realised there was an opportunity to improve the quality and margin of several lines (such as muffins and cookies) bought in from external suppliers. By taking production in-house the team reduced costs and improved quality, resulting in higher sales. Another benefit was the real sense of pride it created amongst the team that in turn led to higher sales from suggestive selling.
  • Adopting a more structured approach to unit visits, Thomas spent time reviewing each manager’s daily checks of operational standards. Significantly, this revealed that staff on some shifts did not know their sales targets. Thomas went about correcting this by coaching his managers to focus on these gaps in their internal communication and to follow-up afterwards.
  • Using MMU’s ‘People Inventory’ process, Thomas identified strengths in his management team and areas requiring development. He adopted the ‘Rule of 7’ approach to succession planning and encouraged his managers to carry out their own people inventories to identify development goals achievable within a clear time frame. The resulting pipeline of more able managers helped consolidate and sustain the gains flowing from Thomas’s own development as a leader of managers.

Spurred by Thomas’s proactive and engaging management style, unit managers instigated their own initiatives, based on their better understanding of their business. They also showed greater commitment to implementing these ideas effectively.

The financial year following the programme saw a sharp turnaround in the performance of the south-west region. Sales rose to almost £280,000 above target, while the previous year’s loss turned into a profit of £70,000.

The impact on staff development was also dramatic, as the proportion of internal promotions more than doubled from 35% to 90% of all manager appointments.


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