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Ring It Up

Owners and managers working on the sales floor

Visiting with a dealer in his shop recently, he told the story about making major changes to the work schedule for most of his employees. He knew he would be losing three employees. Unfortunately, one of those that was leaving had been with him for eight years, and another for five years. He was fortunate to find two qualified and energetic individuals to add to his dealership, but noted these changes represented a substantial change for the staff as he only had ten employees.

Eight of the employees, including himself, spend at least part of their work week on the sales floor. The other two employees provide office support and staff a mail order department. The changes began as he had been experiencing problems with the person assigned to detailing cars and trucks. It seemed that no matter how large or small the vehicle, how clean or dirty to begin with, the completion of the detailing would be just in time for lunch or at the end of the work day. The dealer explained he spent quite a lot of time discussing and counseling with the employee that did the detailing.

After talking about the situation with two of his managers, the consensus was the detailing employee was working for the end of the day instead of working to complete the job. Even the monetary tips the detailer received from customers weren't enough to inspire the employee to develop a quicker pace of work. Our dealer friend mentioned he had discussions with the employee, during which time he expressed his disappointment with his performance. And within a week, the individual gave his two-week notice.

There was also the cashier that was going to take a maternity leave. Unfortunately, the cashier stated that she would probably not return after her scheduled two-month leave, and suggested a replacement be found. The third person leaving worked full time on the sales floor.

These situations caused the dealer to review all of his scheduling. It was decided to take in two new employees instead of three, as the balance of the hours worked would be divided between part timers and the owner. It was also decided that both new employees would be trained in all aspects of working the detail and accessory shop. Because the owner would now be scheduled to work on the sales floor, one of the initial benefits would be in saving some payroll expense; the savings would continue as long as the dealer was able to perform his office and management duties at other times. It was also his expectation that he would see the production of his entire staff improve, as one of the three employees leaving was less than fully productive.

When we met, he explained that he had been using this schedule for over six months and had several interesting observations. The most important benefit received came from his increased work experiences on the sales floor and in the shop. This had been a family owned dealership. But now the older generation had retired and for the past several years he spent a lot of time in the office; much more office time then when the entire family had worked in the business.

Being the sole owner, during the brief times he had been on the sales floor or in the shop, the customers that he knew by name would ask where he had been. Or sometimes the question would be in regards to the length of the vacation he was taking.

Harmless questions, but it told him that a part of his business that was important to him had been missing. The now required sales floor presence helped to restore that important neighborly feeling.

In the past couple of years when a manager took a vacation, it had been procedure to set aside his own duties and fill the necessary hours on the floor or in the shop. But now, he has an assigned number of hours on the sales floor and in the shop each week. There is a lot that can be learned by working assigned hours for each of these two jobs. Once he got past the usual customer comments such as "What is the boss doing working out here?", there are many insights gained by taking on these tasks. As the majority of customers do not know who owns the dealership, the shop and sales floor provide excellent opportunities to hear what they want and need.

There are also the comments about which team employees are most helpful. He heard about price comparisons with other dealers, and comparative services. The procedures that were established in regards to making appointments, and answering phone calls, all come to view in a new light as he now sees where the systems are not working properly.

It had been the policy in the past couple of years in this dealership, to allow those employees that work most with a procedure to establish the method in which a situation was handled. Now, as one of those individuals, he can give valuable input. While on the sales floor, he can also observe which employees do the best job of making their presence known to customers throughout the store, and those that are able to answer questions and make add on sales.

During the first couple of weeks of floor duty, he found one employee that was terrified of customers with questions regarding exhaust systems, and worked very hard to steer these questions to other employees.

An extra hour of one on one training did not solve all of the needs and questions, but at least resolved a great majority of that employee's fear.

The biggest rearrangement has been in his working with sales representatives. He had never appreciated or welcomed "cold calls". And now that he has fewer hours off the sales floor, sales representatives are seeing that they can't call on him when he is with his customers or working in the shop. "Overall, this required sales floor and shop duty has been good for me, and for the store", he remarked. "Payroll savings look good at the end of the month, and I am with employees more often".

"What's that you are looking for today? Let's see what I can do to help. Hey, it's good to see you, too!"

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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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