“I try to remember customers’ names. Small gestures mean a lot,” says Little Farms Valley Point manager Joann Teoh. She is a people person — friendly, direct and confident. Joann enjoys interacting with her customers. Yes, it’s part of her job as manager, but it’s something that comes natural to her.
Little Farms works hard to be true to the “neighbourhood grocery” ideal.
“We’re trained to greet customers and acknowledge them,” Joann says, adding “when we’re friendly, customers are friendly back.”
Little Farms patrons have told Joann that her friendliness has cheered them up, and that they appreciate her positive attitude and kind words.
“I’ve always been chatty, so this job fits me well,” she adds.
Joann’s Journey to Little Farms
She earned a university degree in mass communications in Malaysia where she grew up, and afterwards was eager to expand her horizons, looking for jobs in Singapore.
“My marketing and communications degree definitely helps me in my job at Little Farms, being that my main focus is interacting with customers and staff,” Joann says.
Joann has worked in the grocery business in Singapore for 12 years, the first nine learning the ropes at Fair Price and Giant, where she worked in almost every department and in every size store, including Fair Price Finest and the Giant Hypermarkets. From managing a team of 30 cashiers, to running the dairy department, deli area, and produce section. In the early years, learning as much as she could was part of Joann’s master plan.
“I like expanding my knowledge base whenever I can,” she says.
Her varied experience has greatly helped her in her job as manager for Little Farms, a position she has held for the past three years.
A Day in the Life
A typical day for Joanne starts as early as 5:30am on Mondays when she has to do stock taking — and she rarely leaves before 5 or 6pm in the evening. She must get the store ready for its daily 7:30am opening and supervise staff to make sure shelves are stocked and everything is sparkling clean.
Joann has to handle two big deliveries that come in each day from both local and Australian suppliers. It adds up to about 150 to 200 cartons of food a day; occasionally as many as 400. Much of it is produce — a typical delivery, for instance, includes 15 to 20 cartons of Little Farms beloved avocados — but there are also cartons of Little Farms’ popular grocery items, from healthy cereals, muesli and oatmeal, to a range of in-demand coconut products.
Multi-tasking is a Way of Life
“We have to multi-task a lot, that’s part of the job at a small store. We’re very hands on. If I see a spill on the floor and no-one else has time to clean it up, I do it,” she says.
The job can be tiring mentally and physically, with 300 to 400 customers stopping by on typical weekdays, and twice that on a Saturday or Sunday. Joann and her crew are on their feet all day along.
Similar to many Singapore businesses, staffing can be a challenge at times. But thanks to above-average pay and benefits, Little Farms attracts good people.
“I’m the middle man, the one between the customers, staff, and management, and that’s not always an easy place to be. But generally, my staff are happy and eager to please, and we have many loyal customers; so we must be doing something right!” Joann says.
At the end of the day, Joann and her staff like the intimacy of the Little Farms stores. Each of the four stores is like a family. A family sustained by good food and healthy habits.
“It’s just not about the produce and food, it’s the relationships that are important. We stand out from other stores because we’re more personable and friendly,” Joann says with a smile.