April Sabral was a VP at DavidsTea and has worked in sales and leadership roles at companies such as Starbucks, Apple, Gap, and others. With over 25 years of retail experience in multiple countries, April is also a Certified Leadership Coach and founder of retailu.ca, an e-learning site for retail managers.
The Growth of Remote Learning
“Being able to access it via mobile in small bite size videos is a very digestible way of learning.”
Alexa Ross: Do you see remote learning as playing a large role in education and training in the future? Are there particular challenges when it comes to teaching people online or has technology closed the gap so that it’s not very different from live interaction?
April Sabal: Yes, being able to access it via mobile in small bite size videos is a very digestible way of learning. We know that Instagram and YouTube videos are now replacing TV with the younger generations, which is our future workforce. retailu is a way for retailers to provide accessible and affordable training for their managers to develop critical retail management and leadership skills in a way that is fast, visual, and fun. For e-learning to work there must be a follow-up and process in place to validate knowledge, retail provides this with quizzes after each lesson. However, I still believe that a combination of live and e-learning is the best solution to train and develop skill. It is about leveraging technology to set the foundation, then using coaching skills to follow-up.
AR: At the National Retail Federation (NRF: The Big Show 2019), you’re participating in a discussion on “The undeniable link between employee experience and customer experience”. Can you discuss what this means to you and some of the most important ways that companies can improve the employee experience?
AS: I truly believe that when an employee is happier at work it shows in the interactions they have with customers. Think about it when you are having a great day everyone around you feels it and vice versa. Companies need to continue to focus on employee pulse surveys more often to find out what is important to their employees. It can be different in different businesses however one thing remains the same, people work for people and people create culture. If you do not have a culture or people strategy, it does not mean you do not have a culture every organization does, it just means it may not be the one you want.
10% Discretionary Effort
AR: On your LinkedIn page, you refer to “the ten percent discretionary effort” as a way to build better teams. Can you explain what this is and how managers and business owners can apply this principle?
AS: The ten percent discretionary effort is that extra effort someone gives to their employer when they are happy and feel valued, it’s something that you can not pay for. I believe that leadership is a key driver of igniting this effort. This is why leadership development is critical in every organization at every level of management. People work for people, and as a leader it is important that we understand this principle and continue to appreciate, value and recognize our employees so that they are motivated and want to put that extra effort into their job, not because they have to but because they want to.
Retail Across Countries
“No matter what country you are in, great service and a well-trained, knowledgeable team is the common thread that makes retail a global community.”
AR: As someone with experience in retail in several countries, can you speak about the differences in reaching different markets based on geography? How important is it for businesses to change their approach based on the culture they’re communicating with?
AS: Yes, there are differences in the way to communicate, however one thing I have learned is no matter what country you are in, great service and a well-trained, knowledgeable team is the common thread that makes retail a global community. Learning to communicate with those communities takes a willingness to learn, observe and then collaborate.
Can Leadership Be Taught?
AR: Do you think everyone has leadership qualities that can be brought out? Are there many types of leaders?
AS: I do think that leadership can be taught. However, there are natural leaders amongst us that are strong in certain leadership skills. Developing leadership skills takes a commitment to learn, change and grow. It starts with the individual and then the coach. I developed my leadership skills and confidence over time through experience, mentorship and continuous learning. I am always reading something on leadership because it helps me coach my team.
Starting a Business Today
AR: Is this a good time to start a business? What are some of the pros and cons of starting a business today as opposed to 20 years ago?
AS: I think any time is a good time if you are passionate about what you do and have a solution for a need. Today we have more access to build globally through technology and how exciting is that to have someone on the other side of the world discover what you sell through the internet. Building any business takes effort, commitment, willingness to fail learn and then try again. I think this was the same twenty years ago. Today agility is key to success in people, and process.
AR: When marketing for this type of business (DavidsTea, dealing with specialized tea), are you mainly targeting people who are tea enthusiasts or are you trying to convert more people to develop a taste for your products? Or is it a balance between the two?
AS: Tea is the number two most consumed beverage in the world after water, everyone is more conscious of what they are putting in their bodies today. I was a tea drinker growing up in the UK but only drank black traditional tea, now since working at DAVIDsTEA I drink a cup of Matcha everyday for the health benefits. I am an example of a tea drinker that was not educated and did not understand the different tea types and benefits. We provide an experience that is fun, educational and approachable. Tea can be for anyone that wants to discover a healthier way of living. Every day in our stores, I meet tea enthusiasts and first time tea drinkers looking for a healthier option to coffee and sugar drinks. I am obsessed with our latest wellness line Ginger Tumeric Tonic – right now for the digestive benefits.
April’s Recommendations on Today’s Top Leaders and Influencers
AR: If someone, let’s say a coaching student, asked you to recommend 4 or 5 leaders, authors, or influencers to read or follow, who would you name? They can be contemporary or historical figures.
AS: Mmmm that is a good question, obviously John C. Maxwell as I am a certified coach, Robin Sharma, Simon Sinek, Richard Branson, Ted Talks (I have the App) One of my favorite leadership development books of all time is FYI: for your improvement it’s a Korn Ferry book, I find their principles very practical and great for development. In addition, my BLOG of course on retailu.