Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Smart staffing pays dividends

Why you should invest in your staff

 One of the hardest parts of running a business is finding good employees. There are many businesses that are willing to accept 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 suitable 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.

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 salesperson? About the only way this idea could work would be to hire “mystery shoppers”, which 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 business owner's prayer: Oh Lord, I hope this new person works out better than the last.

Option number three does really seem to be the only logical alternative: educate the ones you have. Let me give you a couple of bits of information to back up this option. As an 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.

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 education 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. By having a veteran employee set aside an hour every other week to help train the newer employees how to handle questions they and their customers have, you can create a win-win situation. The new employees are now more knowledgeable which can lead to a greater commission check, and the veteran employee will have more time to do their own job without interruptions.

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 sharing ideas that would increase sales.

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. 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. Even though we were a small business, we had a degree of formality of how our staff performed in front of customers, in front of management and in front of each other.

Our classes eventually grew in quality, but not in size, to where we split into two groups; an advanced group for our more seasoned pros, and our traditional class for newer employees. You could even make a big deal and ceremony out of an employee ‘graduating from one class to another.

The last point of concern is to suggest to you that you do not have to have a large staff to develop an education program for your staff. It is not about the quantity but instead about the quality.

Looking at the smaller businesses within the industry, 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. Currently, this writer is working with a business that is facing tremendous struggles. Part of the challenge is the economy, and part of the challenge is of their own making.

It is a husband and wife team of which they cannot decide what to do. And with any two person situation, the person that wants to vote ‘no’ will always win because they are able to stop anything from happening.

Go for the education program. It is well worth the time and effort.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

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