Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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The Key Ingredient

Having Your Staff Involved in Your Business

Recently this writer went to a local restaurant for lunch. During the meal an odor began to spread through the restaurant. It smelled like something was burning. As you watched the customers and restaurant staff, you could tell that this was quickly becoming something of concern. Staff members were looking around and asking each other questions with no one seeming to have an idea as to what was happening.

Then several customers got up and left their tables. The restaurant staff was becoming concerned; both about the smell and the number of customers that were rapidly leaving.

As happens so often in business, the staff made no effort to have their conversations in a location or manner so that other customers would not be able to hear what they were saying.

"I just had two tables get up and walk out."
"Were they finished with their meal? Did they pay for the meal?"
"You had better call the manager and have them talk to that customer."

In a few minutes, as the smell subsided, the restaurant staff made it to our table to explain that the problem was that a service person was testing the system for the winter. The smell was the dust burning off of the coils. "They just picked a bad time to test the equipment."

My response was that it appeared it was more of a situation of a manager not knowing how to manage his business. And with that the wait staff went into a long dissertation on how the manager in the restaurant really does not make any decisions, and that all decisions were handled by corporate. Their next comment was that corporate decision making was the reason why nothing was ever accomplished at this restaurant.

Actually, there are many small businesses that suffer from this problem. Owners, and managers, too often think they are in the position they occupy because they are the smartest or most qualified to make decisions for the business.

There is a fear that if a staff person is allowed to make a decision, they will make an incorrect decision that could cost the company money as well as be embarrassing. It is not that they have forgotten about the time they were in that position, but that they now think they have all of the special talents and abilities.

During a recent presentation, I mentioned the experiences of a business owner or manager that utilizes the key ingredient. The story is that of a business and a situation involving the owner and one of their store managers. The manager is coming to the owner and explaining there is a problem on the sales floor that involves a customer and a complaint.

The owner asks the manager what is the total value of the product involved. The answer is $10. The manager is then asked to get a set of keys from their pocket and give them to the owner. Examining the keys, the owner holds up one key and asks the manager what that key does.

"It opens the front door of the store", is the response.

"What is the total value of the contents?", asks the owner. As the owner shares a simplified version of his financial statement with his employees, the manager is able to respond with a fairly accurate number.

"So", says the owner, "Wouldn't you agree that by giving you the key, I trust you with that amount of money?"

"You could look at it that way", responds the manager.

"I do", says the owner. "And since I trust you with that much, don't you think I can trust you to make a $10 decision."

Point made. Of course, there is the argument that the employee will make a wrong decision. But then, try to find the owner that has not made a wrong decision about their business.

There are also two very positive changes that can occur by utilizing the lesson that is taught with the example of the key. The first is that we will now find an owner that will have additional time available for them self to perform the tasks that are exclusive to owners.

These tasks may be reading financial statements, making long range plans, creating budgets or any number of tasks. There is an old saying that working ON the business is very different from working IN the business. When you are working in the business, you are often performing duties that can be completed by someone on your staff. If you are working on the business, you are performing duties that are the ones we just described.

The second positive change you are likely to see is that you will be favorably impressed with decisions made by your staff.  After all, you did not hire them thinking you were getting someone with very little intelligence. When you allow them to make decisions, experience has shown that they will work all the harder to demonstrate that you have made the right decision in allowing them to make a decision.

Sound inviting? For the person that is "time challenged", you can have the opportunity to work ON your business and a much harder working staff; if you know the key ingredient.

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