“Leadership is the most important part of the job,” Sarah McKenna explains what it takes to be a Lidl area manager.

From 35 days of annual leave to a potential salary of £70,500 a year, the sales manager role at Lidl is a coveted job.

Along with a hefty salary and vacation package, the company also offers benefits to its regional managers such as six-month pension, employee private health insurance, marriage leave and a fully paid company car. There are also opportunities for continuous development and advancement, which gives employees the opportunity to quickly move up the career ladder.

With all of this in mind, it’s easy to see why Sarah McKenna, sales manager for Co. Monaghan decided to build her career at Lidl. Now, as she approaches her eight years with the company and applications are open for another sales manager to join Lidl’s Northern Ireland team, Sarah shares what the role entails.

Sarah’s Journey

After studying Commerce at UCD, Sarah started her journey at Lidl by joining the Graduate Program in September 2014.

“I joined the Lidl alumni program and have worked in many different departments. The 18-month program covered store operation, personnel management and payroll. I trained in sales for six months and worked in all the different positions in the store.”

Over the next few years, Sarah worked for the company, understanding all the individual areas and leading various projects.

Her roles included Associate Project Manager, Training Support Manager and Sales Project Manager before she moved to the role of Regional Manager where she has been since October 2018.

“This is my eighth year with the company and I have had many opportunities in that time.”

Sarah explains how she took on the role of regional manager, drawing on the support of her colleagues and taking advantage of opportunities that came her way.

“Firstly, I trained for a year. I spent some time with my more experienced colleagues and trained with them. Then I had the opportunity to work on an international project to deploy a new operating system for the company. did this for a year, and then I was placed in my first district, which was East County Antrim.”

Sarah has since moved closer to home, retaining her position as area manager while opening many new stores in her area.

“I’m originally from Monaghan and had the opportunity to get closer to home just before Christmas, so now I have frontier shops. I have Lisnaskea, Enniskillen, Dungannon, Armagh and I’m opening a new Omagh store in October, so we’re gearing up for that now…”

Daily life as a Lidl regional manager

Sarah says that while her daily life changes, she is in complete control of her schedule and enjoys its flexibility.

“We visit the stores several times a week and have scheduled meetings with store managers to learn about the shop floor standard, daily operations and long-term planning of the KPIs we are responsible for. We are also recruiting for stores in the area along with store managers.

“I plan my week four weeks ahead in terms of where I will be and what I am going to focus on this week.

“We work one day on the weekend and then we have two days off a month. So you can plan. If you want to go to the dentist on Thursday, you can plan for Thursday to be your day off. you have to start earlier or later, there is flexibility in the work.”

Sarah says that regional manager training includes learning about the role at the shop floor level. She claims that this is one of the most important parts of the training process.

“Being ready to get started as a shopper assistant and learn all the parts of the store before you’re in charge of four or five of them is really important. This is probably the most important part of learning to understand everything and the most efficient and productive way to do things. Then you can lead the team that is responsible for it.”

Skill set

Sarah explains that there are several key skills that a sales manager must have.

“The work consists of three parts. First, you train people in stores so they can run the business. You are a communicator for information, so keep an eye on what people are needed at the right time. You are the link between store operations and our regional distribution center at Nutts Corner.

“In addition, you are also a business analyst because we are responsible for all key performance indicators in the store, including our inventory, turnover, write-offs and productivity.

“Perhaps the most important skill you need to constantly develop is leadership. It keeps coming back, no matter what we talk about, because we can’t achieve any of our metrics or customer service without people.”

Rewarding Parts of the Work

“I think the most important thing is to see how people develop within the company. So, you know, maybe hire someone as an account assistant and see their way. I have people who started out as account assistants and have now become assistant store managers and are ready for the next step to becoming store managers.

“Perhaps this is the best thing about this job: the development of people. You see how people can buy a house or a car because they worked very hard and we were able to give them a lot of opportunities.”

Sarah has some advice for those interested in applying for the upcoming The role of the sales manager.

“I think flexibility is an important part of the job, so be open and willing to do and try anything. But definitely someone needs to be very organized and efficient in how they approach their day and their week.

“Because leadership is the most important part of the job, give plenty of examples of your leadership qualities, how they grew and developed, and how you work on them.

“Experience is important for this role, but I don’t think it’s necessary if you enjoy retail and are willing to learn every day.”

If this position is right for you and you are interested in becoming Lidl Northern Ireland’s Employer of the Year, apply now. here.