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How to Find a Master

(Note: this is a longer post than usual. Set yourself some time to give it a good read and bookmark it so that you can come back to it as necessary.)

You’re the Jack-of-all-Trades. You’re at least mildly competent at all aspects of your job. Like you, your store is mildly competent, too. But you want to take it to a higher level. To do that, you need to either become a Master at the aspect where you’re least competent (or the thing you least desire to do), or hire a Master at that aspect.

BECOMING A MASTER

Image result for masterBecoming a Master means training, taking classes, reading books, watching videos, studying other experts and Masters, practicing and experimenting, recording and measuring your progress. Becoming a master takes times. And in the process, you have to steal time from your other duties.

If you have lots of free time on your hands, take the aspect of your job where you are the worst and become a Master at it.

Chances are pretty good that you don’t have lots of free time, and where you’re the worst is usually what you also like to do the least.

FINDING A MASTER

Finding someone else better than you to do what you don’t want to do (or can’t do) is the faster way to get your business to the next level. First, you get that part of your business up and running at a higher level right away. Second, you free up more of your time to do what you do best. Third, the combination of those first two will make you enough money to pay for that Master.

Here is the recipe for finding that Master:

  • Define the Job clearly including tasks and how success will be measured
  • Define the skills necessary for doing the job well
  • Write a clear and concise hiring ad that spells out the skills you wish to hire
  • Post the ad in smart places
  • Offer to pay above-average wages
  • Create a training program to train the necessary skills that you want but weren’t part of the skills you wish to hire
  • Be clear and unwavering on how success will be measured

For instance, if you want to hire someone to take over your social media presence, you might do the following …

Social Media Manager: This person will be responsible for making sure the business has a social media presence that is updated daily, consistent with our Core Values, and in line with our in-store promotions and events. This person will engage customers, respond quickly and professionally to comments and questions, and grow our online presence by double digits every six months. This person will be able to handle complaints quickly and positively. This person will be able to work with the sales clerks and other staff to make sure posts are relevant to what is happening in the store. This person will answer directly to the owner. This person will be monitored weekly for postings and consistency of message, measured monthly for growth and engagement, and evaluated every six months for progress towards goals.

Skills: This person will be someone who is creative, loves to interact with others both in person and online, knows how to de-escalate a negative situation, has good spelling and grammar skills, knows how different social media work and how to use them best, is tech-savvy, is dependable and reliable, has a strong understanding about the needs and wants of our customers, understands the ins and outs of our industry, puts the needs of the company first, and understands how he or she will be measured.

Help Wanted Ad: Are you a social media marketing genius with a track record of success that loves to engage with customers and turn them into fans? Do you have a background in marketing and advertising? Do you love to be creative and different? Can you spin anything and everything positively? Do you like working in an environment where you know exactly how your success will be measured? Are you worth more than the average pay for this type of position? Please apply at:

Posting: Post on your own online page. Post in LinkedIn and Facebook groups for Social Marketing. Post on Twitter.

Salary: A quick Google search shows that social media managers make on average $15.22 per hour. Armed with that knowledge and the knowledge of your local economy (is it greater or less than the national average?), you might want to offer at least $17-$20/hour or more to attract a higher level of applicants. If you get a true Master, it will be money well spent. My grandfather always believed you cannot pay too much to a great employee.

SORTING THE APPLICANTS

Once you get applicants, you need to sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak. The first round of weeding out is simply removing anyone who doesn’t meet the requirements you listed in your ad. If the person didn’t explain in their cover letter or their visit to your store why they fit the criteria you listed, they won’t be good at communicating with your customers. The second round for a position like this would be grammar and spelling. You don’t want poor grammar or spelling undoing your social presence. The third round is where you start to choose who you want to interview. You look for keywords in their cover letter and resume that signal their Core Values and see how those match up with yours. You also might look for things like longevity in a position, commitment to work, growth in job titles and responsibility. Most importantly, you’re looking for people who love to do this more than you do.

Once you have your interviewees, you need questions that will draw out the information you want. People in interviews are ready to tell you what they think you want to hear. The way to get around this is to ask questions about things they did rather than what they think. Actions speak louder than words and tell you more about their personality traits than philosophical questions. Some might embellish the facts a little, but for the most part they will be more brutally honest. The key phrase I like to use is, “Tell me about a time when …”

  • Tell me about your most (least) successful social media campaign. What did you do? How well did it work? What did you learn from it?
  • Tell me about the hardest customer/person you ever had to deal with online. How did it go? How was it resolved? What did you learn from it?
  • Tell me about the hardest thing you had to do at your last job. How did you accomplish it? What did you learn from it?

If you’re a long-time follower of my blog or read my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel, you know that I preach hiring the unteachable skills and teaching all the rest. The same applies to hiring a Master. The only difference here is that the “unteachable skills” are actually teachable skills that are above your level to teach. In this situation, experience on the job carries more weight, depending on how much training and learning came from the experience. That’s why each of the previous “Tell me about …” questions concludes with, “What did you learn?” You might get answers where you wonder if the learning is happening before your eyes because they never thought about it before now. That’s okay as long as there is learning and it appears they are learning the right stuff.

The training program you set up in this situation is primarily to teach them the ins and outs about your particular business and products (note that knowing your industry was not in the ad because it is not a trait your applicants need to bring to the table). You will also teach them what you already know about your particular customers and how they like to be reached, and teach them about your Core Values and what you hold most dear.

The final step, however, is the most important. Once you find your Master and define the way they will be measured, you need to step back and let them work their mastery. Measure as planned. Ask for clarity as needed. As long as they are hitting their benchmarks, let them be the expert you hired.

You have the blueprint. Go take your business to the next level.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The example above is hastily written to give you the idea of the steps to follow. The more thoroughly you define the job and how you will measure success, the better you can create the definitive list of skills for the job. The better your list of skills, the better you can write a Helped Wanted Ad that identifies people with the skills you wish to hire. The better your list of skills you want to hire, the better the interview questions you can create. The better you know your Core Values, the better you can identify the kind of people who will fit in best.

PPS If you need a Human Resources person because hiring and training is the skill you lack the most and wish to give up, you have to at least become reasonably competent in the short run. The above blueprint will help.

Jack of All, Master of None

I bought a multi-tool the other day. Since I no longer have my own bike shop to fix up my bikes I bought a multi-tool designed specifically for fixing bikes. It even included spoke wrenches. Eighteen tools in one little package. I got my first chance to use it a couple days ago. You can probably guess what happened. Like most multi-tools, it did a competent job (except for the spoke wrenches that failed miserably), but it wasn’t all that easy to use. Having the individual tools for each job would have been a whole lot better. It leads me to ask this question …

My bike multi-tool. Love the wrenches and options, hate the spoke wrenches.

Is it better to be a Jack-of-all-trades-Master-of-none, or incredibly amazing at one skill?

If you’re an indie retail store owner, you’re probably going with Jack. You wear many hats. You have to know your Products well enough to be a competent buyer. You have to understand Retail Math to get your books balanced, keep your inventory in check, and keep the cash flowing. You have to know something about Marketing and Advertising and Public Relations to keep attracting new people. You have to know Human Resources so that you can hire and train a staff to help you run the store. You have to understand insurance and leasing laws and tax rules. You have to know how to manage people, products, and crises.

In fact, you’re so busy playing the role of Jack, you have a hard time getting really good at any single element of it.

That’s the life of an indie retailer. At least that’s what many indie retailers believe. But let’s look at the big picture.

If you play the role of Jack and do everything mildly competent, what do you have? A mildly competent retail store. If, however, you hired someone fantastic at one element, while you were mildly competent at the rest, how would your business look differently? How would that change if you found several people, each with a specific skill you lacked?

Sure, it is a risk to hire someone else and turn over parts of your baby, your business, to that person. At the same time, it is the only way  to grow past mildly competent (and that’s assuming you are mildly competent at all elements of running a store). 

Sure, it is an expense to hire someone else to do a job your’re already doing. At the same time, if they are truly a Master, they will more than pay for themselves by taking your store to the next level. Plus, they will free you up to spend more time getting better at the things you do.

Jack can get the job done, but only a Master will get you to the next level. 

Here’s my challenge to all of you multi-tool Jack retailers out there. Go find a spoke wrench that works incredibly well at truing a wheel. Go find a socket wrench, too. And maybe a fantastic screw driver with a solid head and a perfect grip. Hire someone better than you to do jobs you’re only mildly competent at doing. Then take your free time to become a master at the stuff you’re already pretty good at doing.

Not only will your store grow leaps and bounds, you’ll have a lot more fun running it.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I’ve been a Jack most of my life. It is hard to accept that you aren’t great at everything and that more often than not, you are better off getting help from someone better.  Fortunately you do not need a twelve-step plan to break free of this Jack habit. Just two steps will do.

  1. Pick one of your job duties or requirements that you either hate doing, or recognize that you aren’t that great at doing.
  2. Hire someone else that is incredible at doing that particular job or duty and let them do it.

It pays more than it costs.

PPS The key phrase in all of this is “someone better than you” at that particular skill or job. Next post I’ll talk about how to find that person.

Not Just for Retailers

I was having a conversation this morning when the light bulb went on. I was asked by someone considering enrolling in the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop this Wednesday (it is not too late to sign up) whether he would learn anything useful since he “wasn’t a retail store manager.”

The answer is a resounding YES!

In fact, most of what I teach has implications far beyond just the retail landscape. I have followers from all over the world in all types of industries.

If you are in any position where you have to hire people, you need to read my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art.

If you are in any position where you write copy to persuade people to buy or use your products or services, you can learn from my articles on marketing (and my new book coming out later this spring). 

If you are in any position to teach and lead your staff you would benefit not only from the Spotlight class, but also from the Free Resources on Team Building and Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend.

I know where the confusion began.

The SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop is being offered through the Jackson Retail Success Academy™. While JRSA™ is mostly geared for retailers, we have had many graduates from other industries. Other than the inventory management segment, most of what I teach there applies to all types of businesses. I run all local classes through JRSA™ because of my partnership with Spring Arbor University and their Hosmer Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. They provide a fantastic venue for hosting events like these and have been a wonderful partner.

You don’t have to be a retailer to take any of the classes or workshops I offer. You only have to be open-minded and ready to learn.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I am already working on a date for the next SPOTLIGHT workshop. This will be an advanced degree in Advertising and Marketing in four fast-paced hours for anyone who has a business to promote. Stay tuned for details.

Sign Up for the Spotlight on Managerial Success Workshop

If you’re still sitting on the fence about signing up for next Wednesday’s SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do you manage a team of three or more people?
  2. Do you feel that your team is not working up to their best potential?
  3. Do you believe you could improve your communication skills?
  4. Do you hate confrontational situations?
  5. Do you believe that team building can be fostered and led rather than just happening organically over time?
  6. Do you believe your new hires need a better, more consistent training program?
  7. Do you believe your current team would benefit from further training?

If you’re answering No then you can stop reading. You’re good to go.

If you’re answering Yes, then ask yourself these two questions…

  1. What will help your business more in the long run – you being there at your business all day Wednesday or you taking a day to learn new skills, techniques and tools to make everyone on your team more productive?
  2. Where else could you get hands-on training to teach you how to lead team building, teach you how to communicate better, and help you build training plans for your employees for only $50 and eight hours of your time?

If you’re still not convinced, let’s make this really simple… If you don’t find value in the program, I will refund your money. Period. (If you read my blog regularly, you know I’m serious about that. Customer first. Always.)

Sign up today!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Here’s a benefit I have yet to mention. Attend this Jackson Retail Success Academy™ event and you will become an alumni, eligible to attend future JRSA™ events at discounted prices!

 

Who Would You Blame?

Overheard in a shoe store the other day…

Customer: “Ma’am, do you have this style shoe in a brown?”

Clerk: “I don’t know what we have or don’t have. I just work here.”

My first thought when I heard this was, “You won’t be working here for long with that attitude.” Then it dawned on me. Someone hired this person. Someone hired this clerk, “trained” her (I use the term loosely), and scheduled her to work on a busy Saturday. This clerk who shows no initiative to learn, shows no empathy or caring, shows no desire to serve, went through an application and interview process. This clerk got hired, filled out paperwork, and learned how to run a cash register.

Who is to blame?

My first reaction was to blame the clerk for her lack of desire to do her job. But then again, the clerk needed a job and did what she needed to do to get that job. The manager who hired her failed in finding the right person to fill that job. So maybe you could blame the manager.

But in the manager’s defense, you have to know… Was the manager ever trained on hiring skills? Was the manager ever trained on how to teach? Does the manager have a training program in place for new hires? Does the manager have training on how to motivate the staff to get the most productivity out of them? Does the manager have the authority to create her own programs for training and motivation if her higher-ups don’t have those for her?

I read articles on the retail industry every day. I read about CEO’s of major retail chains talking how they are implementing plans to increase customer service, focus more on the customer, become customer-centric, etc. But then I hear, “I don’t know. I just work here.” Where in the chain of command is the breakdown?

I want you to do a quick exercise right now. Write this down on a piece of paper. Don’t overthink it. Just write down the first number that pops into your head.

  • What percentage of your customers are “repeat customers”? What percentage of the people that come through your door today have been in your store before? Write it down.
  • What percentage of your customers are “referral customers”? This is their first visit, but they came to you because one of your repeat customers told them to visit you. Write it down.

That first number is a measure of how good your customer service truly is. If you have great customer service, if you meet your customers’ expectations at every turn, then you will have a high amount of repeat business.

That second number is a measure of how well you exceed your customers’ expectations. Remember that word-of-mouth comes when you go above and beyond what people expect to surprise and delight them.

Add those two numbers together. Subtract that from 100 and you have the percentage of your customers that are advertising-driven.

If you are like most indie retailers, the first two numbers are far greater than the last number. Yet, if you are like most retailers, you probably spend way more money on advertising than you do on training. You might want to rethink that.

Next Wednesday, April 26 I will be doing a one-day workshop in Jackson specifically for managers. This SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop will teach managers how to teach. It will teach managers how to better communicate. It will teach managers how to build a team. It will teach managers how to set up and implement training programs for new employees. It will teach managers how to set up and implement ongoing training to keep the staff at peak performance. Your store will only rise to the ability of your manager. Make your manager great!

Space is limited for this class. Sign up now.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I would fire the shoe store clerk. Although her lack of training probably isn’t her fault, she doesn’t have the right personality traits for the job. I would then spend a lot of time working with the manager who did the hiring to make sure she knows how to hire and how to train so that the above conversation never happens again.

Retail Sales Training (or the Lack Thereof)

I took over the hiring of employees at Toy House in the fall of 1995. My dad never really liked the job. I quickly found out why. We would hire 10 or more seasonal employees every fall and try to train them up to our customers’ expectations in just a couple short weeks. Finding good quality people wasn’t as easy as it seemed. The first year I did it, I sucked. Out of ten seasonal employees, I had two good ones, six warm bodies, and two that would be better off if they just stayed home. Not a good record.

I don’t like to be bad at anything so I started reading books on hiring. The first one I read was the Harvard Business Essentials book you see here.

The title was exactly what I wanted. I read the book cover to cover. The most important point they kept coming back to in the book was this…

“The number one factor is experience.”

So I spent the next few years hiring for experience. I only hired people who had worked retail before. And for the next few years my results were exactly the same – two good ones, six warm bodies and two people who need to go home. Yes, it was the definition of insanity.

So how could Harvard Business Essentials and all the other books I read that said the same thing be so wrong? They were making the one HUGE assumption that constant training happened to everyone everywhere. Maybe that is true in many service jobs, but continual training is lacking in the retail sector. Heck, many large chains hardly do any new employee training. One of my former employees went to a large national chain and reported back that after learning how to use the time clock there was zero training other than criticism when you did something wrong.

Untrained employees who have to learn the job on their own will never rise above their personality traits. 

I did two things that changed my results each fall. First I started hiring for personality traits. Second, I implemented both a more thorough new-hire training program and a monthly training session for the current staff. The quality of my new hires went up dramatically. More importantly, so did the quality of my entire staff.

If your competitors were training their staff regularly and you weren’t, what kind of advantage would they have over you? Now switch that around. Most of your competitors are not offering the kind of sales training they should be. But you could. Most of the managers at your competitors don’t even know how to train their employees. But you could.

One of the best compliments I ever received was from a former employee who went to work for Disney. She came back and reported that the highly regarded Disney Institute for customer service reminded her of all the training she did at Toy House. She said, “They pretty much teach all the same stuff you do.”

The best way to learn what I teach and how I teach it is to sign up for the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop happening April 26th.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The second best compliment I ever received happened the day we announced we were closing Toy House. I received more than one phone call from other businesses wondering what would happen to my employees and when they would be available because, “we know what kind of people you employ.” Believe me, I didn’t employ such great people by accident. I learned from my mistakes twenty years ago.

PPS Since none of the other books on Hiring talked about hiring for personality traits, I decided to write my own. It is called Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art. The book outlines what you should do. The workshop shows you how to do it.

Talent, Practice, and Luck

One day I would love to go to The Masters in Augusta, GA. I have watched it on TV so many times that I know every green instantly before the announcers even tell me the hole. I love golf. Love to play it, love to watch it. Especially this tournament.

These guys are amazing!

Image result for the masters

I have played golf all my life. I know it takes three things to be successful at golf – Talent, Practice, and Luck. Then again, you can say that about pretty much everything.

Talent in business is the skills you hire.

Practice is the training and preparation you offer.

As the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Unfortunately many businesses, especially retailers, think the only preparation they need to offer is training for new hires. That would be the equivalent of trying to play The Masters after six weeks of golf lessons. Not enough preparation for the opportunity.

That’s why part of the focus of the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop I’m offering on April 26th includes creating an ongoing training program to help your staff be better prepared for the opportunities that arise. Talent alone won’t win the day. Experience alone won’t make you lucky.

If you manage three or more people, this workshop will bring you the kind of luck that wins major championships. Sign up today!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I would take tickets to a future Masters golf tournament as barter for my services. I already know where I would stay and what I would do on the course.

The Team, The Team, The Team

If you know me well, you know I’m a Wolverine. Been one since the day my grandfather took me to The Big House at seven years old. It was the only university I applied to attend. If you know the University of Michigan and follow their football team, you’ve heard the immortal words of the late, great football coach Bo Schembechler, “The Team, The Team, The Team,”

Heck, if you’re a sports fan of any team, whether it is women’s gymnastics or men’s lacrosse or anywhere in between, you understand the power of teamwork and cooperation and working together as one unit. Ask any coach in America and they’ll take amazing teamwork over individual stardom every day.

Image result for bo schembechler the team

Why is teamwork that is so important on the playing field so neglected in the workplace?

I used to work on a team for the Los Angeles Unified School District. There were five of us on the team and each week we worked with inner-city LA teenagers at the Clear Creek Outdoor Education Facility in the Angeles National Forest north of the city. We did team building exercises with these kids. We taught them about nature and an outdoors they rarely experienced back home. We had bears foraging our dumpster, snakes slithering under our cabins, and coyotes howling at the moon.

And we had a Team.

At our staff meeting before each group arrived, we discussed who would lead each activity. That was the only person assigned any task. It was naturally assumed that the other four people would do everything else to support the activity and make sure the entire event was successful.

Now, on some teams, this might be a recipe for disaster. If something doesn’t get done, there would be plenty of people to step up and say, “Not my job.” The NMJ’s are killers to productivity and morale.

On our team, because we were hyper-focused on the experience we offered these adolescents, that was never the case. If one of us saw a job undone, we did it. Period. Everything was our job. There was never any resentment because we all had each other’s back and we all had the overall success of our guests as our goal. It was the most amazing work experience of my life, one I still think about to this day.

What made the difference?

When we weren’t leading team building exercises with the kids we were doing team building exercises with each other. We were all experienced at leading these exercises so we spent the summer creating new exercises to try with the kids. We tried them out with each other first. Our leader, Dana (he was a top-level college wrestler in the ’80’s, would love to find him again but I can’t remember his last name), worked with us all the time on communication, cooperation, problem-solving and trust – the core elements of any team building.

It made a difference for us. More importantly, it made a difference for our students (customers, clients, guests…).

This is why I am leading the all-day workshop SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS here in Jackson on April 26th. I want to teach you Team Building skills so that you can build your team to this level.

If you manage three or more people, you have a team. That team needs a foundation in teamwork that you can bring to the table through what you train and how you train. This workshop will show you how to do it the right way.

Space is limited. Sign up today!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Our team disbanded when the LA Unified school teachers went on strike in October 1992. When we headed down the mountain after our last group, we didn’t know it would be the last time we saw each other. I headed back to Michigan and joined a new team that was as dysfunctional as my previous team had been functional. The difference? Leadership. Be your team’s Leader by learning how to build your Team.

Only One Out of Fourteen Said Hello

Over the last few weeks I’ve visited some big malls. Call it field research. These malls have been busy, packed with customers. These malls are also packed with stores you’ve read about that are struggling and closing locations around the country. I saw a fair amount of Going Out of Business signs. One mall is losing its Macy’s. Another has a Sears and a JC Penney as anchors. I’m sure the leasing agents are nervous.

In my last two trips I visited fourteen stores in those malls.

Only one greeted me with a sincere hello.

Only one made me feel welcome and tried to connect with me instead of bombard me with sales pitches. Only one asked me a question that wasn’t a version of “Can I help you?” or “What brings you in?”. Heck, some of them never interacted with me at all.

The traffic was there in the mall. The mall owner had done his job. The food court and the Starbucks seemed to be making sales. But there were a lot of other sales being left on the table by the untrained sales teams.

Here is a quick recap of the experience…

Six of the stores never greeted me at all. I entered the store. Looked around. Touched a couple items. Walked out. No one said hello or hi or welcome or thanks for coming in. It wasn’t that these stores were necessarily busy. Maybe they were a bit understaffed, but there are still ways to teach your staff to greet new customers even when engaged with someone. Maybe they couldn’t afford enough staff because they weren’t training their staff how to sell. Either way, I left feeling neglected.

Five of the stores greeted me with some form of,  “Can I help you?” or “What brings you in?” In all five cases I responded with the two words you never want a customer to say – Just Looking. I verbalized out loud that I was NOT there to buy. I told everyone including myself I was only browsing.

One store shoved a coupon in my hand for 20% off their already 40% off discounted prices. I guess they don’t value their merchandise very highly. Or maybe they could see I was a transactional customer and needed that little push to get me to pull the trigger? Oh wait. How could they know that considering they hadn’t asked me a single question? I will give this store credit in that every single person on their team approached me at least once during my walk through their store. They had a willingness and desire to sell, if not the actual training on how to do it properly. As misguided as it was, at least it was better than the indifference other stores had shown.

Only one store, however, greeted me with a sincere hello. This gal greeted me as if I had just entered her house. She was in the process of straightening up a display. She stopped, greeted me with enthusiasm, and started a conversation. Pretty soon we were sharing stories of trips to Florida and Phoenix and anywhere warmer than Detroit. Shortly after that I was asking her questions about product that wasn’t just, “Do you have this size in back?” We were engaged in conversation. We were engaged in getting to know each other. When she offered to show me something new she was excited about, I immediately said Yes!  I learned about a product I never would have known otherwise, never would have searched for online, never would have considered if she hadn’t first made a connection.

That is the “shopping experience” customers visiting malls and shopping centers and downtowns are craving. That is the shopping experience that gets people to come back and bring their friends. That is the shopping experience that makes your cash registers ring. Everything else is just a transaction, more easily done on a computer.

The traffic is there. You just need to connect.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you were counting, there was one store I didn’t mention. Actually it was a food kiosk. If you run a food kiosk that regularly has a line of customers, can you please make it obvious where the line starts and how it should form? Please? Don’t make me guess where to stand. Don’t make me guess where to place the order. Don’t make me stand where people have to keep cutting through me to get past me.

One Little Problem, One Big Mess

I went down to the basement this Sunday to turn on some lights and make sure it was presentable for a house showing in three hours. It wasn’t. At the bottom of the stairs I encountered a huge puddle of water and a steady drip, drip, drip from the floorboards above. There were only two things that could have put water in that area – the dishwasher and the refrigerator. I turned off the water to both of them and grabbed a mop.

The carpet remnant laying in the area was soaked. All ten by eleven feet had sucked up a fair amount of water. I rolled that carpet up and out of the way and started mopping. I figured if I could get the area clean and dry, I could worry about the source of the leak (which had stopped) later.

It wasn’t until Monday night that I found it. I fixed it with a .40 part from the local hardware store.

A small leak in the supply line to our refrigerator ice maker had dumped an entire bucket of water into our basement and almost derailed a house showing.

Isn’t that the same with business? A little leak can cost you a ton of business.

An employee who isn’t trained and ready for the floor gets shoved out there because of a shortage of staff and through no fault of his own angers the first two customers he faces.

A common problem grows into a huge hassle with Yelp reviews and threats of lawsuits because someone didn’t listen closely enough to the unhappy customer.

A mis-tagged price change upsets a regular customer who quietly becomes an un-regular customer.

A rarely-updated website gives out wrong information that causes a customer to search elsewhere for a product you have.

A Facebook page gives out the wrong hours and a customer stays home even though you were open.

An employee cluster discussing last night’s show misses a customer needing help who doesn’t want to bother the group discussion.

A missed note about being out of copy paper keeps you from printing off the directions to your customer’s favorite game and being her hero.

These are all small leaks, but they can fill a lot of buckets with the missed sales and missing cash. Some say you need to work on the big leaks first. But those are obvious and already get your attention. Keep an eye out for the small leaks, too. Although harder to find, those are easier and quicker to fix and will pay off dividends.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Fortunately, the refrigerator was a cheap and easy fix. Better yet, not knowing if it was the dishwasher or the refrigerator, I found an even smaller leak in the dishwasher that my buddy, Alan, was able to fix before it became a bigger problem. Sometimes it pays to go looking for little leaks and fixing them now before they become big leaks.

PPS When you find a small leak, your first reaction is to do a temporary fix, figuring you’ll get back to it later. Pro tip: you never get back to it later. Fix it right the first time.