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The Value of a Good Employee
Creating and developing good employees
There is a downside to the good economic times our country is experiencing: finding good employees. There are many dealers that are accepting less than quality work from employees because they are concerned that if they were to terminate the problem employee, they might not be able to find a replacement.
The logic being utilized is, poor work is better than no work at all. And to some degree, you can’t argue with this thought process. There are, however, three options as compared to accepting this problem as simply being a part of doing business.
The first option is to hire away the better employees from your competition. The idea will work but there are several questions that we anticipate. The first is to ask how you are able to determine which of your competitor's employees are of a quality that you would want to employ.
Don’t expect that you are going to gather this information from the parts and whole goods sales reps that call on you. As soon as the sales rep starts doing this, he will find himself an unwelcome individual in other shops.
If a customer would pass this type of information to you, don’t you have to wonder why he is coming to your shop and not utilizing this excellent serviceman? About the only way this idea could work would be to hire “mystery shoppers”, to take equipment to other shops, and this could get expensive.
The second option is to put a sign in the front window, an ad in the newspaper, fire the problem person, and then begin the traditional business owner's prayer: Oh Lord, I hope this new guy works out better than the last.
Option number three does really seem to be the only logical alternative: train them. Let me give you a couple of bits of information to back up this option. As a national average, for every $65 that a retail business will spend to advertise to customers, they spend only $1 to train their employees. The problem is that we have done nothing to distinguish ourselves from our competition; not in the eyes of our customers and not in the eyes of our employees.
From over 25 years of experience, I can tell you that any merchant that will spend one hour every other week with his employees will do more to increase his sales and profits, than he could accomplish with any advertising.
Often time, the hard part of the training is convincing the existing, and especially the long term employees why you are going to do it. The question that they are asking is not, “Why?”, but “What is in this for me?”
You need to be prepared to answer this question, and in some cases you will need to ask the question on their behalf. The answer might go something like this: "Bill, you have been a mechanic here for 30 years, and I am sure that there is little I can teach you about repairing equipment. But I notice that often the newer employees are back here asking you questions and taking up your valuable time. I was thinking that if we spent an hour every other week, we could teach them to answer the questions that they and the customers are always posing to you.” Bill will probably be one of your strongest supporters at this point.
And now, let’s look at it from the side of the newest employee. "Joe, you are our newest employee and while I know you are new to the power equipment business, I notice that you are frequently needing the help of others so that you can answer questions. I think we could help you increase your commission check with the training program we are starting. The guys that have been around a long time are going to share their knowledge and experiences."
From these two scenarios, you can develop your own “Masters of Mowers" or "Chain Saw College". The one-hour session will probably start with several sessions dealing only with problems and complaints. But within a couple of weeks, you can begin to spend time discussing your advertising efforts, or asking for ideas that would cut down on the number of times that people misunderstand a repair ticket.
Getting your employees involved at this point will be a natural as you ask your best mechanic to educate your sales staff as to why he likes to work on the pieces of equipment that you sell. Your best sales person can educate your mechanics on how to deal with the customers that come into your shop and want to ask the mechanic about a certain piece of equipment that they are thinking about purchasing.
To make sure that everyone is learning, one of the best procedures is to create a written test for each employee to take home with them to complete. Ask 10 questions, and give everyone 48 hours to return the test to you. If they score an 80% or better, offer to give them an extra hour off from work, or buy their lunch the next day.
Experience has shown, that employees are now talking amongst themselves, and most frequently the conversation is to exchange ideas about what was taught in your classes. You may even find that employees will want to have additional time with you so that they can clarify an issue or gain additional information. Again, from our experiences, our training program took us into areas we had never thought possible.
Over a period of years, we were able to develop a program of identifying our best employees so that even our customers knew who our leaders were. We developed written job descriptions, a handbook which was written by our staff outlining the proper procedure for performing any task in our store, as well as the policies (store rules) for everyone.
Our classes eventually grew in quality to where we split into two groups; an advanced group for our more seasoned pros, and our traditional class for newer employees. The last point of concern is to suggest to you that you do not have to have a large staff to accomplish this. Many partnerships have gone by the wayside because there was not a clear understanding of who was to do what tasks, and how to perform them. And a partnership can be as small as two people. Go for the training. It is well worth the time and effort.
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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.