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Having the Right Tools

Keys to better management

You think of the various versions of the Bible as being tools to help individuals in their walk of faith. The same is true for reference books. Each has been designed to be a tool so that someone can do a more complete job of adding depth to their walk.

Just as your customers want the right tools to solve their needs, and problems, Christian retailers also want to find the right tools to help with the challenges with regard to staff.  And with that thought, we want to discuss some of the tools that every dealer should have in their arsenal as they strive to make their business better, stronger, and more profitable.

We should begin our discussion with the need to have staff meetings.  Regardless of the size of your store, meeting with your staff for as little as one hour every other week, can be one of the best investments you could possibly make in your business.

From the experiences of this writer, we began with staff meetings in an effort to simply solve problems.  We had open discussions where we outlined the concern and opportunity, and then asked our employees to provide input as to how we could improve.  Of course, the "opportunity" had to contain a reward for the employee.  Whether it be financial or some other form of benefit such as an easier way to do their job, we had to answer the question of, "What is in it for me?"

As our meetings developed over the next three months, we then created a series of policies and procedures to instruct our staff in their work.  These policies and procedures would be introduced during these staff meetings.

A policy was a method of stating the rules of our business. It covered topics ranging from dress codes to vacation requests, while a procedure was an explanation of how to perform certain duties within our business.  An example of a procedure was the instruction of how to write a special order for a customer as well as how to follow through, making sure the item is ordered and the customer is notified when the item has arrived in your store.

In our plan to maximize our skills, the next two logical steps were to establish job descriptions and job specifications.

In this month's article we will address job descriptions with job specifications to be covered next month.  Job descriptions should address, for every position in your business, what you are expecting of each employee with the same job.  As an example, if your sales staff consists of five employees, a job description allows you to create a definition so there is a level of consistency with each employee.

You don't have to be a creative writer to be able to create your job descriptions.  In fact, the best way to get job descriptions written, is to ask each employee to write down the 10 most important things that they do in your business.

From this list you will be able to see what your staff thinks they should be doing, and perhaps understand why they are not doing other tasks.

From our own experiences, we found that there were three to four areas which should be addressed with each employee. And by giving employees these headings you can help to steer them into creating a very useful job description. Those areas are: customer support, employee support, communication, and management.

For the customer support section, here is an example of how to begin; "Your position is the most obvious to the public. No matter how much or what type of advertising is done on behalf of our store, it is the image that YOU present that is the image of our store to our customers."

From there you can number and list the parts of the job description for each job.  You may want to have short and simple statements, or perhaps you will want to create longer and more descriptive sentences.  For a sales person, the job description will probably cover everything from how you want your customers greeted, (hopefully, not with "Can I help you?") to working the register.

The second section is employee support.  It explains how employees can assist each other.  The employee support section should cover concerns from passing a phone call to another employee, to making sure that there are sufficient number of bags kept under the checkout counter.  Again, to gather the information for this list, simply ask your employees.  Start with, "What can someone else do to make your job easier?", and the answers will begin to flow.

The third section is communication.  And within this section we are concerned with an employee being able to communicate with customers, other employees, and your management.

This section will include areas of concern such as attending staff meetings, reading "Christian Retailing" and other trade publications, complying with your policy & procedure manual, and knowing who is your supervisor for those stores with a larger number of employees.

The fourth section, management, is applicable only to those that you have placed in a position of supervision. Management issues can cover a broad range of topics from designating a sales person to replacing burned out lights on your sales floor, to taking care of a customer complaint.  To further develop skills in these people you may want to assign tasks and duties that will challenge them to expand their thought process.  Perhaps this person should have occasional responsibility for your training program.

If you are a store that is growing, and will be in need of additional employees, then the best instruction for a person in the management position is to tell them to train their replacement so that they will have an opportunity to advance.

Creating the job descriptions, just like policies and procedures, will be an ongoing effort.  However, as you progress, you should not be changing the job descriptions frequently.  If you make changes more often than once every six months, you risk the chance of your employees seeing their job description as a moving target instead of a guideline.

You may want to develop your own jargon for your material. Some examples are defining customers as patrons, employees as team members, and managers as supervisors.  Even the boss should have an appropriate title.

We have never had a retailer tell us that after having completed developing these tools, they thought it had been a wasted effort.  And just like you tell your customers, if you are going to improve your walk of faith, you need the right tools.

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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.

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PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179