Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Building a Team

The importance of employees working together

Last fall USA Today printed a chart outlining how several sports teams had built dominant teams in the past 15 years. Each team had been built primarily through free-agency acquisitions. Building a quality team in the '50s and '60s was different. Successful teams were able to build through farm clubs and an occasional trade, as free agency did not exist.

There once was a retailer visiting another retailer's store. He noticed the hours posted on his front door had been changed. "I thought you were open on Sundays," was his question.

The response was, "I was. But none of my employees would work on Sundays, so I had to go back to the old hours. You are open on Sundays, aren't you?" As the first retailer answered yes, the surprise was the follow-up comment. "You are so fortunate. You have good employees."

As the discussion continued, the first retailer asked how he could be considered "fortunate" when he had 15 employees. "Do you think I have been fortunate 15 times, as I hired each of them?" Unlike baseball, retailing does not traditionally have trades available as an option for building a team.

The farm club could be equated to hiring a person who has no experience in retail but who exhibits traits you believe would allow you to build into an excellent employee.

Acquiring a "free agent" can be accomplished through one of two methods. The first is the person who is working at another business showing up on your doorstop looking for a job. The second is to send your best employee out to "shop the competition," finding someone whom they believe would make a good employee, nd informing you so you could call that person and offer him or her a job.

Either way, we get back to the dealer who had to close on Sundays because no one would work. He could see the point his friend was trying to make about not just "finding" 15 good employees, but it did not provide him with the answer to his staffing problem. The solution to building a team is quite simple-but it is not easy. Let's take a look at an example business with five employees and one owner. Ask the owner to create a list of his employees, with the first person being the best employee, and the fifth person being the worst employee.

Without seeing the list of five, we will determine the sequence by asking the owner and each of the employees to take a test: write down in the order of importance, from one to ten, what you are to do at this job. As we collect the answers from each of the employees and the owner, we will determine what is happening, and what should be happening in this business.

For example, if each of the five employees can interact with the customers, the owner may have No. 1 on his list as, "Interact with the customer." Looking on the five lists, we may find the person taking care of office duties having listed No. 1 as answering the phone, doing the books, or taking care of the money. One employee may have stocking the shelves on the top of his list; another has keeping the sales floor neat. If we find only one of the five employees has the same No. 1 task listed as the boss has, is it any wonder this would be the person the boss listed as being his best employee?

We may actually have five excellent employees, but also a group of five that is out of sync with the employer. It is a lot like the baseball team. You have undoubtedly seen the manager walk to the mound and be joined by the catcher and infield players. During this meeting the manager is reviewing with the players what they are going to do with the next batter, and how each of the players is to react. We do not need two people running to retrieve the bunt with no one covering first base.

Let's look again at the list of items. If we examine the list of each employee, we will be able to rate the employees from best to worst as we see whose list most closely reflects the list of the employer. This can be an exercise that allows you to see what the employees perceive as being most important, and what the employer determines will be the most important.

Just like the baseball manager, the employer has the responsibility of gathering his team and determining how the various responsibilities will be handled. Many of the better employers will tell you they have this meeting for an hour every other week. A few of the best will tell you they have one of these meetings for 10 to 15 minutes every morning. Still, they continue to go through the drill of asking their employees to provide them with a list of the 10 duties they believe are most important.

This way, they are building the team and not having to wonder, "Who's on first?"

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