Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Party Time!

Socializing with your employees to improve performance

Everyone likes a party, right? A party is a great way to relax, meet people, and find areas of common interest. In retailing, you will find people who work together taking the time after a week's work to spend a few hours together. In their effort to relax, these people are actually working to create a corporate culture. Hopefully for the manager or owner, the results are of a positive nature; for if their informal discussion centers on the problems of the workplace, odds are they will not be creating the solutions.

Have you ever been to one of these events? When the discussion of the evening turns to work, someone brings up the subject of a current project at work. If the staff does not understand, or fully buy into the direction that management has decided to take, the negative aspects of the project will surely be the focal point of discussion. Not to say the discussion will cause the project to fail, but it surely will not help.

As the owner or manager, you can do something that will improve your management skills. For, surely, part of your job description is to create a team among those you employ. Regularly scheduled staff meetings are a beginning, but creating your own get-togethers is a great way to have all your employees buy into the team concept.

People who work in your business spend many hours with one another. If they are full-time employees, they are probably spending more hours with their fellow workers than they are with their families.

Some employees may even see their fellow workers as their extended family. The cost of hiring and training a new employee can run as much as 40 to 60 percent of the annual cost of the employee. This should be incentive enough to want to retain the employees you now have-assuming they are quality employees. Research in employee issues shows that salary is not the primary issue with most workers. They are looking for a sense of belonging and knowing their efforts have made a difference in the success of the business.

Again, the party issue. In an effort to foster the sense of belonging, many successful businesses are spending more of their efforts to address this issue. One successful technique is having parties. One restaurateur closes his restaurant one evening each quarter. Signs are posted on the doors of the restaurant a week before the event telling customers the business will be closed at 5:00 p.m. on the selected day so that the staff, managers, and owners can enjoy an evening together with their families. Everyone is invited to the owner's house for dinner. The owner gets the large grill fired up, and he and his wife serve a steak dinner with all the fixings.

Dessert follows, with most of the children playing together in the yard and the adults visiting in the den. There is no agenda for the evening. The owner makes a point not to mention anything about work. If the business has a bonus program, this is an excellent opportunity to hand out bonuses as well as awards. (The only thing that beats giving your employees recognition is to do so in front of their families and co-workers.)

This makes a tremendous statement about where the owner places his values with regard to his employees. He has said the same with the sign on the front door of the restaurant. It does not just say "we are closed today."

It says that the customer is valued, but the owner places a higher value on his employees and their families. This demonstration of concern probably explains why some of the employees have worked in this same single location restaurant for the past 30 years. You see, the owner and managers are able to get past the token, "How is your family?" and generally express their concern for the employees and their families.

Another business has employee parties for seasonally decorating their store. Just like the restaurant owner, families are invited. When they are decorating for Christmas, the party is held on an evening just before Thanksgiving. Each employee is invited to bring a small tray of snack food. Christmas music is played throughout the store; the owner has Santa caps with each person's name embroidered on them. There are gifts for the children of each employee, and a gift for each employee. Then the party begins. Together they decorate the store for the season. The owner reports they rarely get the entire store decorated in the one evening. That is all right with them; they finish the job the next day.

Are these employers worried about employee turnover? Probably not as much as most other businesses; and yet, they report they are not paying top dollar for their staff. They have found one of the secrets of human need-and they love a good party!

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:

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St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
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