It’s the first quarter of the year and the perfect time for you to do a little team building. I’m not suggesting you replace valuable employees, especially when you’ve invested time and training, but so often business owners, yours truly included, become complacent. After all, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” Well, I’ve learned to live by another philosophy: “If it ain’t broke you haven’t looked hard enough!”
Yes, I’m suggesting that it is not all roses in your business and maybe it’s time to consider each team member’s responsibilities, workflow, technical expertise and customer service.
With spring upon us, along with gift-giving holidays like Mother’s Day, now is the perfect time to do something to help launch the new selling season. December holiday parties were typically about celebrating the completion of the year and holiday rush. However, a launch meeting now gives you a chance to share your goals for 2017, announce new assignments and kick things off on a foundation of optimism.
Your first quarter meeting is about being as transparent as you can be. Share your concerns over trends in the business, but at the same time temper them with the optimism of new ideas. Again, I believe transparency is a key. The more your employees understand your thought process, the better a job they can do in helping you achieve your goals.
The event itself doesn’t need to be a party; it can be a breakfast or lunch meeting that you cater. For example, a couple of times over the years the senior management team at Hasselblad USA cooked breakfast for the employees. It was a real morale booster.
A great retail staff is only as good as the employees’ depth of business understanding. The more each employee understands other departments and aspects of the business, the stronger and smoother a retail operation will run.
Start by making a list of all your staff down the left side of a page. Across the top make a list of the skills you want everybody to have. Leave nothing off the list, no matter how mundane. Next, check off the skills each employee has.
Think about everything that makes your business function and at the same time what’s on your wish list. For example, if you are delayed, who else can open the store in the morning? If Panasonic wants to do a training day, who should participate?
There are a lot of aspects of your business that have nothing to do with photography but just running the business. For example, at least two people should be checking your website twice a day. They should be opening the site on different platforms and always checking a different page. There’s nothing worse than finding out a promotion you put a lot of work into isn’t running because of a glitch in your website.
Then there are functions like ordering, receiving, returns, setting up displays, etc. Do you have the depth in your staff to cover each area?
Expanding Skill Sets
Every retailer has at least one employee who understands photography better than sales. And you’ve hopefully got somebody who knows how to sell. Just about all the manufacturers whose products you carry have tech reps to help you expand the skills of your sales staff. Many of them also have access to programs to help you develop their sales skills.
Changing and Expanding Responsibilities
Obviously, your goal is to run a successful business. Maintaining the revenue stream is critical, but so is the spirit of your staff. They need to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. I’m not suggesting their names be put on the deed. However, where appropriate, you should recognize and develop leadership qualities to help build a stronger business.
Get yourself a glass of wine and give yourself an hour or two without interruptions. Think about your employees, one at a time, and consider their growth potential. What additional responsibilities would get them most excited? How long have they been doing their present jobs? Is it time for them to learn a different aspect of the business?
Workflow and the Store Layout
I used to be amazed at visiting retail stores whose owners I respected and enjoyed being with only to find their stores were the complete opposite of their personalities. Often they had horrible layouts, outdated procedures and looked like an episode of Hoarders.
Is it time to look at the layout of your store? Is it time to create a better shopping experience for your customers? You don’t have to sink a lot of money into remodeling, but look at the way traffic moves in the store.
This is also the perfect time to look at some of the systems you have in place for handling back orders, returns and inventory. It’s all about building a stronger team; you’ve got to have a team capable of covering both offense and defense.
As the owner or manager of the store, you’ve got a unique opportunity. You can enhance your business culture or you can just let it roll and miss the chance to create some spirit and camaraderie with your staff.