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Find 'em, Hire 'em, Groom 'em, Keep 'em
It is all about good employees
We are looking for the dealers, wholesalers, and manufacturers who have all the employees they need; employees who are top quality and fully delivering all the sales, services, and support work you need. If you are in that group, you can skip over this article as we have nothing to offer you.
And if you are one of those who does not mind competing with the fast food restaurants, by simply trying to buy your employees with higher wages, then you too can skip over this article.
For the rest that are still with us, we are looking for the profitable way out of the current employee availability shortage.
Find 'em - Sure, they are not standing around on the street corners waiting for you to find them. The quality prospects are working for someone. And there are plenty of them who are unhappy with their job, looking for a job which offers more of a challenge, or wanting to work with the products and services you sell because it is their hobby.
Two of the best ways of finding these prospects is to simply go shopping yourself. When you encounter someone you would want to hire, you can hand them your card and say, "I don't know if you are looking to change jobs. But we are always looking for sharp people. And if you would like to consider a change, we would like to talk with you."
The second technique is to offer a bonus to each of your employees when someone they have prospected is hired by you. There are additional ways of enhancing this technique which we will cover in the "Keep 'em" section.
A final technique is to look at your current base of customers; those who are working the late shift at a hospital, are retired, or even are a stay at home Mom or Dad looking for something to do while the kids are at school.
Hire 'em - Too often, the interview process becomes a chit- chat session between the owner and the prospect. If we were to count the words spoken, we will usually find the owner does most of the talking in explaining the store. This is not the objective of the interview! The questions should be asked of the applicant; "How do you think you can enhance the performance of this store?" "What unique talents do you bring to us?" "Why did you select our business?"
There are many other questions, but these examples and others you may think of, can be used depending on the laws of your state. Again, you want to listen, not talk.
While we are on the point of the interview, surprisingly enough the owner of a shop is usually a poor choice as to who should conduct the interview. The best interviewer is often your best employee. This is so for two reasons.
The first is the employee conducting the interview wants to impress the boss by making a good selection. The second is the good employee wants to work around someone they like; someone they know will carry their share of the load around the store.
Another bonus, is that the applicant will ask more questions, and will be more apt to believe the answers when speaking with another employee. Why? The employee has no "hidden agenda" when conducting the interview. Many applicants believe the owner will tell them anything just to get someone on the sales floor.
Train 'em - Your employees are the second largest expense on your financial statement. Your inventory is first. If you buy insurance to cover your inventory, then why not create your own "insurance" for your employees by creating a school in which you educate them.
From the experience of this writer, there are two ideal situations for training. The first is a one hour bi-weekly class which is held before or after your store opens. In this format, you should include product knowledge, techniques for waiting on customers, suggestive and add on selling, as well as have a few moments to cover any business management concerns which would include your employees.
The second ideal time for employee training is to have a 10 minute session each morning before the business opens. If it is held with everyone standing on the sales floor, it is apt to be short and to the point. You can highlight any new products which have arrived, or review the newspaper ad which came out just that morning.
Another aspect of training is to assign a mentor. One business we have visited assigns a mentor to each new hire. The mentor receives a bonus of a one week vacation when the new hire passes their six month of employment.
Sounds expensive? Just remember a new hire is usually so unproductive initially that many businesses consider 40% to 60% of their first year's wages as being the necessary expense in getting the new employee up to speed.
Groom 'em - At first, you might think, isn't that what we just covered? No, by grooming, we mean what are you planning to do with the person in the long run.
How do they become more valuable? Can they be a store manager? Do you have a supervisor retiring in a couple of years? Are you looking to purchase a second location? All of these questions lead to asking you, "How are you going to keep this employee over the long haul?" The answer may be, there are no expansion or retirement plans.
One sharp dealer, whose answer is the one we just gave, has a very unique way of working with employees in this situation. He explains to his new employees that he has been a very successful business owner, and has had the opportunity to train many successful future managers and owners. He lets them know they can eventually earn more money from someone else -perhaps as a manager of a chain store.
To emphasize his point, he takes a red pen and marks a date on the new employee's application. The date is three years from their first day on the job. This wise owner tells the new employee this is the day he is going to fire them. But, in the three years, he is going to expose them to all the knowledge he has.
It is kind of like the story I have heard Jack Rice tell about auto racing. The quote came from Al Unser, Jr. after his Dad had won the Indy car season's championship. Al Unser, Jr. had finished in second place on the season standings. "Little Al", as he is called said, "My Dad taught me everything I know. But I don't think he taught me everything he knows."
The point here is, unlike father Al Unser, you can teach them everything you know. But you need to let the new employee know this "personal training is a part of their compensation, and preparation for their long range career plans.
Hopefully, you want only the sharpest career minded employees. If you are going to attract these people, you have to keep their desires and needs in mind.
Keep 'em - Keeping employees. Isn't this where we started? We were talking about employees which were looking for a change, or were unhappy with their current job. How do you do the things which are necessary to keep them happy, both from a job satisfaction and a pay satisfaction basis.
It has been long shown there are five things which all employees desire. The first is a pay which allows them to meet their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter.
Surprisingly enough, rarely does an employee, who is getting their other four needs met, change jobs for anything less than a very substantial pay raise.
The second need is to be a part of a team. Do the employees in your business feel they are a part of a team? If so, you are going in the right direction.
The third need is to have the esteem of others. This goes back to the training issue. Surely, no one has an employee who enjoys telling a customer they don't know the answer to a question. And a customer also wants to experience a sales person they can appreciate - one which the customer can honestly say "thanks" to.
If the employee is receiving the esteem of others, they can then have their "self esteem". A satisfied, and long term employee is only going to occur if they are able to receive the esteem of others and have their self esteem.
The fifth need of an employee is to be able to give of their talents to someone else. Just like the example of the owner who is going to take an employee under his wing to share his knowledge, your employee will quickly learn to want to do the same for someone.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? It is simple, but it definitely is not easy. But then again, as we started this article, it is not easy to find employees.
For those who decide to follow the path we have outlined, you will find this process will not all fall into place in just a few weeks. But, as you put this together you will find your profitability increase, and as you pass by those fast food restaurants with the plastic banners hanging from the front of their business, you will surely say, "If they only knew what I know now."
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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.