Brighthouse’s store manager conference both motivates and educates, Rebecca Thomson finds.

The question of how to motivate staff is always a difficult one for retailers, and especially when the staff member in question is in the crucial, yet sometimes isolated, position of managing a store.

Annual conferences can help bring store managers together, play a role in motivating them and provide a focal point for company-wide communication. Rent-to-buy electricals and furniture retailer Brighthouse is one chain that relies on its annual store manager conference to do all of these things; chief executive Leo McKee says it’s a key part of the company’s calendar.

He says that, as well as giving managers the chance to speak to each other and discuss the year, they are able to hear from the senior management team how the previous year has gone, and learn the priorities for the coming year.

It’s also a chance to interact with company suppliers and learn about new products in the pipeline for the business, he says.

And while the daytime is devoted to networking and presentations, the evening is dedicated to a company awards ceremony and black-tie dinner. “It’s hugely successful in motivating people,” McKee says. “Being a store manager anywhere can be a lonely and isolated job. The annual conference is the one opportunity they get to see all their colleagues and they massively enjoy it.”

Brighthouse is having a good year, having opened 30 new stores in the last financial year to take the total to 233. McKee says store staff are a crucial part of this success, with the aim being to make Brighthouse stores a central part of the communities they serve. The company plans a greater focus on customer service and it expects further growth into 2012.

Brighthouse wants its store manager conference to be a light-hearted affair - Les Dennis hosts and the afternoon session and Nick Hewer from BBC1’s The Apprentice makes an appearance in the morning. While managers have the chance to stay in contact throughout the year with regional meetings, the conference is a good chance to connect in a more informal, social setting.

Such conferences are not just a cost to absorb, there are other benefits too. McKee says. “It gives the business cogency, and acts as our review of the year,” he says. “It gives us a chance to set out our priorities.”

While the main role of the conference might to be communicate key messages, McKee’s aim is also to motivate and get to know staff - something from which every retailer will benefit.

Conference benefits

  • It motivates staff by giving them direct contact with senior management
  • An awards scheme recognises and rewards achievement throughout the year
  • It allows directors to communicate key messages for the year ahead
  • It acts as a review of the past year, highlighting what was done well and what needs improving
  • It allows senior management to get to know store staff better