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Making the Pass

Learning how an owner or manager can involve their staff in waiting on customers

Recently, this writer bumped into a couple of friends, Walt and Len, that he had not seen in several years. The reason for the lack of occasion for visiting was the same reason for the creation of the friendship. All three of us had frequented a store for several years. The three of us would see each as we were shopping in the store, standing in line at the cash register, or simply waiting to ask a question about a product or service.

The first conversations in the store began with an initial hello, or one of us saying, "I seem to run into you quite often in this store. My name is ..."

And from there the friendships grew. They did not grow into social friendships, although Walt and Len did eventually do business with each other. The friendships were more the type that would have each other saying hello when shopping at other stores, or passing each other on the sidewalk downtown.

Today however, the friendships were being renewed in a restaurant. Len and Walt were waiting for a table, when I walked into the restaurant. The hellos were exchanged and Len mentioned how the group had initially met. Walt posed the question about why none of us were seeing each other in the store we had initially met in. A quick check found that none of us shopped in the store any more. And of course, the discussion began as to why that had happened.

The answer was quickly found in that the owner of the store, who had always made a point to wait on us, was rarely seen on the sales floor. He was one of those owners who made a point to know customers by their first name. There was often a handshake or pat on the back to go with the hello. It was one of those competitive edges that a small business can have.

We did recognize that the business had grown, and the owner opened a second and third location. But the owner of the store had pampered us so much, and then the demands of the business had pulled him away from his customers. Sure, there were other people working in the store. But who takes the time to notice the other sales people when someone is taking such good care of you?

All of this brings us to the title of this column; Making the Pass. Many years ago, football was a game that was a series of running plays. The forward pass was a part of the rules, but none of the teams were utilizing it. Of course, one team finally did. Other teams saw how it was done, and today you see all football teams making it a part of their game plan. There are even some teams that make the pass the focal point of their game plan.

This is where the comparison comes in. There is a similar situation in completing a pass in our businesses today. There is also a strong need for business owners and managers to learn how to successfully make a pass in their business.

While some need to be able to "make a pass" so they can expand their businesses to other locations, there are many more that need to be able to make a pass so they can complete their duties as owners and managers. For it is often that this writer hears how little time an owner or manager has to complete their management duties, look at ways to increase sales, or ways of reducing costs, when the day to day aspect of running the business devours their work day.

Whether you need to be able to complete a pass to keep customers like Walt, Len, and myself, to complete the pass to perform management duties, or add a new location, let's take a look at how you can become a successful passer.

Most every store manager or owner enjoys the opportunity of visiting with customers. It is an integral part of what makes a business different from the competition. And with many businesses, the owner or manager is the best sales person in the building.

However, the owner or manager is probably also the best at several other tasks - planning, merchandising, scheduling, and buying, as well as several other areas. While giving quality customer service is the backbone of a successful business, the other tasks are the internal organs of that same business, and no business can exist without either one.

Completing the task begins by having an owner or manager that develops a quality sales staff. The only way to do this is through an educational program for your staff. And if you say you don't have time for one, then you are sure to see yourself in a situation similar to a hamster on the exercise wheel in a cage; you go faster and faster, but are going nowhere.

By having an educational program, you start people on the road to becoming quality sales people. From the experience of this writer, when you begin building quality sales people, you often find yourself hiring one or two who bring some terrific skills into your business.

Imagine the scenario that would have happened if Walt had walked into the business one day and waited for the owner to assist him. Upon hearing the question, the owner suggests that another staff member be asked for their input. Walt would have probably said, "Wait a minute. I thought you were the owner of this store."

And the answer would have been, "I am. But Sam just came back from an all day school on their products and I am sure he has heard some things I haven't. Let's check with him."

And with that, the owner or manager has introduced Sam to Walt and suggests Walt ask his question of Sam. With the question repeated, the owner or manager states they would like to stick around for a moment to hear Sam's answer. And within a few moments, Walt is developing a level of comfort with Sam.

Of course, the good owner or manager is prompting Sam to follow up with Walt with a phone call in a few days. But more importantly, he is cultivating an environment between Walt and Sam that is similar to the one the owner or manager has with Walt. And the next time Walt comes into the store, the owner or manager is probably asking Walt if Sam took care of everything for him.

The key here is for the owner or manager to recognize that they cannot have all the answers to all of the questions a customer might ask. If they do, they will be relegated to one, and only one, job; always waiting on customers. And this situation is much like the football team that does not ever pass, but runs the ball on every play. With this type of strategy, the team is sure to lose.

One description of the best manager is said to be the occasion where that person recognizes that each and every person working in the business can do something better than the manager. The task performed by that best manager is to find what that skill is, and to put it to use somewhere in the business.

So, owner or manager; the ball is in your hands. What are you going to do with it?

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