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Taking Time for Recognition

Acknowledging your staff and your efforts

It has been this writer's experience that in visiting many retailers and businesses, that most employees are known only by their nametags. And, usually it is nametags of the generic type, with a Dymo label being used to insert the name. There is an occasional store, usually a grocery store, that awards stars or pins for reasons that are known only to them. Oddly enough, the award pins are stuck on their nametags, and then you can't read their name.

An occasional store will also put a picture of their manager and assistant manager on a wall. One local chain goes so far as to put up a picture in each department, of that department's manager or buyer.

We know that these chains are active community involved businesses, but you can't tell that from looking at the employees or the store when you walk in to shop. While the chain is sponsoring the local pro football, baseball or hockey team, or a community housing program, you don't see any mention of their efforts when you walk into their stores. The point being that with all of their advertising money, reminders to their customers of their community involvement dollars usually are not well displayed.

As independent retailers, it is also important for us to be a successful and involved part of our community. You tend to see us involved with the neighborhood youth sports leagues or the area schools - from elementary schools to the small college. The need is that we must be more polished and demonstrative of these points.

These ideas are applicable to most retailers that are readers of this column. And, these are strong points which are hard, but important, to present to our customers as a reason to shop in our store. We must present our store as community involved, and in addition to being conveniently located, and competitively priced, use this as a strong reason to ask customers to shop at our store.

With these thoughts, in our store we took several steps to tell our story to our community. Each team member, management included, wore a red jacket when on the sales floor, and a name tag which also listed the number of years of service in our store. New name tags were made each year by a local trophy shop for each team member. We even made a big deal of changing the name tag on a jacket. We had several employees that made a point to let us know their anniversary date was approaching, and wanted to make sure we had ordered their new name tag.

On the front wall of our store, we had an 8x10 photo of each team member. Their name and position were also listed. Along with these photos, we had a picture of the original owner of our store, and a picture of my parents, who owned the store through the 1980's. The last frame had a drawing of a character that we have used in some of our newspaper ads. The character was wearing a red jacket and standing next to our mission statement.

This photo wall came in useful when a customer had a need to speak to, or work with a particular team member. There seemed to be a statement of credibility when customers could see photos, clean neat red jackets and professionally made nametags for each of our team members. And when one of our employees decided to die, bleach, change their hair style, or otherwise change their appearance they were quick to make a request for a new photograph. Our staff was proud of this wall.

The front wall was filled with examples of our store's commitment to our community. We were sure that this visible display caused other area organizations to enlist our participation. When we received a certificate of appreciation for participation in a program such as the co-operative education program with the local high school, the certificate was framed and hung on the wall along side our pictures.

We also had a bulletin board on the wall where we posted any letters we received for donations or sponsorship of events and sports teams.

For many years we used photos for our ads in annuals, school newspapers and sporting event programs. Print ads were nice, but we knew they would get lost with all of the other ads. With the local college, our photo/ad showed their cheerleaders on ladders in front of our store. Of course, in addition to seeing the cheerleaders, you see the name of our store. Copies of these ads were also framed and hanging on this wall of recognition.

We used these occasions when the schools called on us, to make our request for additional business from them. We make sure that they understood that we could support them, only if they were supporting our store.

We were always looking for other methods of showing our community involvement. When an employee wanted to participate in a group, we were glad to rearrange schedules so that they could help the group, whether as a coach, walking in a fund raiser, or other ways of participating. And when some of the charities were selling tickets to their cookouts and fish fries, we bought tickets to give away to our customers just to say thanks for their business. We also used these tickets as prizes for our employees as they achieved sales goals and for occasions when they went above and beyond the call of duty.

And yet, we had requests for participation that we declined. We had occasional requests from a customer for an organization that was in a town outside our trade area, and we did not support them. The same goes for requests from schools other than those near our store.

We also refused requests for funds for groups or individuals that are attempting to raise funds for trips or other private causes. And we always preferred to support a recreational sports league for kids as compared to supporting an all-star team.

Actually, these guidelines were established by our staff as we invited them to get more and more involved with our charitable giving. And eventually, we gave the responsibility of deciding how we were active in our community to a small committee of employees.

Obviously, the budget for our store was a lot less than any of the chains in our community. But with proper placement, we were able to convey a strong community image. And with all that said, we told our team members and our customers, "You don't see the chains doing this!

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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