Home » Hiring

Category: Hiring

Hiring People Who Believe

I stepped out of my comfort zone tonight. You read this blog because you’re an independent retailer. At least that’s who I normally write and speak to. Tonight I spoke to dentists. I spoke the Jackson District Dental Society about hiring and training.

Image result for jackson district dental society
Jackson District Dental Society

Their issues are interesting. They hire hygienists and assistants who need specialized skills and training and degrees. They hire front office staff who need to know deep terminology exclusive to their trade and the idiosyncrasies of dental insurance. They need a well-balanced staff to maximize their profits. If they aren’t seeing patients, they aren’t making money. Not exactly the same as hiring for retail.

Or is it?

As I learned years ago, there are certain skills I can teach and certain traits you have to bring with you. When you hire the right traits, your team is better right from the start.

Simon Sinek said it best… “The goal is not just to hire people who need a job; it’s to hire people who believe what you believe. I always say that, you know, if you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money, but if they believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears…”

Hire people who believe what you believe.

In a dentist’s office or a toy store, it makes a huge difference. If you like to joke around and have fun and you hire someone who doesn’t, you’ll both be miserable. If you like everything to go exactly like the book and you hire a maverick, you’ll both be miserable.

As we went through all the steps outlined in my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel, it was obvious that hiring and training is the same no matter what industry. If you follow the steps the potter follows, you’ll end up with a team that is a work of art.

And when you’re a dentist, the better your hiring and training, the longer and stronger your staff becomes, the more time you can devote to taking care of your patients.

Okay, so I wasn’t that far out of my comfort zone. I believe in having fun helping others. Tonight I spoke to a group who believes the same.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The only thing about giving talks in my hometown is that the questions usually get around to the radio ads I would run and how they were different than everything else you heard on the air. I told them that presentation happens as soon as this one ends.

Not My Job

The downside to writing a job description for each position on your staff is that you can never remember to list everything that position needs to do. Something will eventually get left off the list. Or if you do remember everything, the list is so long no one reads it, let alone memorizes it.

I had an experience last night that was clearly the case of, “Not My Job.”

I had a sit-down meal in a fast-food joint. Ordered french fries with my meal. You know the drill in these restaurants. They give you an empty cup and you get your own beverage. Want ketchup for your fries? They have those little paper cups and the big vat of ketchup. Two pumps and you’re loaded.

Except last night.

Somehow they timed it perfectly. There were only two paper cups left at the ketchup stand. I grabbed them both. I was about to tell the gal behind the counter they were out of cups, but as I started filling my cups, the ketchup ran out, too. Both nozzles on either side of the drink dispenser were dry. “You’re out of both ketchup and these little cups,” I said to the young lady.

And I got the look. You know the look. “Why are you telling me? That’s Not My Job.”

Fifteen minutes and several packets of ketchup requested by frustrated customers later and still not a single employee had addressed the issue. Apparently it wasn’t only Not Her Job, it wasn’t her job to tell anyone else about the problem, either.

Do you have any NMJ employees?

Here are two ways to solve that problem…

  1. The first line of any job description, no matter what the position, should read, “Do whatever is necessary to make sure the customer has an awesome experience.”
  2. Only hire people who care.

Our tag line at Toy House was, “We’re here to make you smile.” When new employees ask me their job description, I start with, “Your job is to make customers smile.” Then I show them how to answer the phone, run the register, ask questions, suggest the proper toys, giftwrap packages, offer tips, carry things up front or out to their car, sign them up for the Birthday Club and email newsletters, build a relationship, occupy their child, counsel them, teach them a new game, oh yeah, and sell them stuff.

The second part – hiring people who care – saves you all the hassle of writing up a lengthy job description. Hire someone who cares and they will do whatever it takes to get the job done well. The one thing they don’t care about is whose job it is to get something done. They only care that it got done.

You find those people by asking questions like…

“What do you care about?”
“Tell me a time you went above and beyond what was expected of you…”
“What are your biggest pet peeves?”
“Have you ever done someone else’s job for them?”

Just hiring warm bodies won’t grow your business. I would have written a different blog if the gal had looked me in the eye and said, “I’m so sorry about that. Thank you for letting us know. We’ll get on that as soon as we get a free moment. In the meantime, can I get you some ketchup packets? How many do you need?”

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Don’t get me started on the overflowing trash cans or the ten-minute wait for the fish sandwich or the cold apple pies. You can’t afford that kind of help at any minimum wage.

PPS When you decide you want a better staff, buy the book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel. The steps are there for turning your staff into a work of art.

Not All Retail Experience is the Same

It dawned on me what a hypocrite I was last week. I was doing some talks to retailers at a conference and in my introduction I bragged about getting my start in retail at the age of seven when my grandfather paid my sister and me ten cents an hour to put price tags on boxes. My official start in retail came just after my fourteenth birthday back in 1980 and my full-time career in retail began April 30, 1993 – as if all those dates were important.

I say that because at the end of my talk I share a quick story about my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel and how all other books on hiring say Hire For Experience. As I tell the audience in my presentations, I used to hire for experience until I realized you can have twenty years of retail experience and still be lousy at it.

See the hypocrisy?

In my book I teach that you should hire personality traits suited for the job. Without those traits, there is no amount of training that can turn them into the kind of staff you want. Experience can sometimes be a negative because that means you have a lot of bad habits to break.

Yet I sell myself on exactly that – being experienced. It begs the question… When is experience bad and when is it good?

BAD EXPERIENCE

The only truly bad experience in retail is when someone is put in a job that doesn’t match his or her personality traits. Fortunately, since you will be hiring for personality traits first and foremost, that won’t be an issue. Sure there will be applicants who worked at stores with lousy (or non-existent) training programs. Sure there will be applicants who worked at stores with low bars of expectations. Sure there will be applicants who worked for less-than-stellar managers who never recognized and developed the talent below them. None of those are deal killers if your applicant has the character traits you need. Just remember that you’ll have to break a few more bad habits early on.

GOOD EXPERIENCE

Some businesses have a reputation for high levels of service. That experience works in an applicant’s favor. If you have an applicant with the right character traits and five years of experience at Nordstrom’s – ka-ching! If you have an applicant with the right character traits who worked for a company who holds regular training exercises – ba-da-bing! If you have an applicant with the right character traits who moved up the ranks at a business known for service – rama-lama-ding-dong!

When we announced our closing I had several businesses reach out to ask about the availability of my staff because those businesses knew what I expected and how I trained my team. Many of my staff moved on to bigger and better things in part because of the reputation of our store.

Experience by itself is neither a good nor a bad thing. When you find someone with the right personality traits and the right kind of experience you will find some real superstars (if you can afford to pry them away from their current jobs). It is all about getting the right traits for the job first. Their experience only tells you how many more bad habits you may or may not need to break.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The non-hypocritical part is when I explain what I did with my experience at Toy House including getting the store named “One of the 25 best independent stores in America” in the book Retail Superstars (George Whalin, Penguin 2009), winning the Entrepreneurial Vision Award in 2010, and how my Core Values of Fun, Helpful, Educational and Nostalgic were a perfect fit to toy retail (and a perfect fit to my new role as a Retail Educator).

You’re Not Perfect

You’re not perfect. Far from it. Me, too. You will make mistakes. You will ruin someone’s Christmas. You will cause someone gray hairs. You will make someone miss an appointment because they had to deal with your carelessness.

You will have some problems that aren’t even your fault. Maybe your vendor screwed up or the customer had a completely unrealistic expectation even after you explained it for the third time. Maybe you get the good spouse, bad spouse routine.

No matter what type of retail, you are going to have the unhappy customer.

I believe two of my favorite companies – Ritz-Carlton and Zingerman’s Deli have it right.

(source unknown)

They both empower their entire staff to be able to take care of a customer’s problem. Everyone from the assistant bottle washer to the garden boy to the valet have authorization to take a customer’s wrongs and make them right.

It does beg the question… Would you leave the fate of your customer service reputation in the hands of your lowest paid employee?

Yes! If you train them right.

Here is the easy format for handling about 98.7% of your unhappy customers.

  1. Apologize. It doesn’t matter who is at fault. They are angry. They perceive you have slighted them in some way. Apologize to them. “I am really sorry that this happened.”
  2. Ask. Ask for a complete description of what happened and what went wrong from their perspective. Don’t interrupt. Let them say what is on their mind. Don’t assume you know what happened. Let them tell the whole story. Apologize again, if necessary.
  3. Amend. Make it right. The best way to make it right in their eyes is to ask, “What would you like us to do?” Most of the time, especially if you have done steps 1 and 2, they will ask for far less than what you are prepared to do. Do what they asked, and then a little more. Yes, even if you’re giving away the farm (figuratively, of course).
  4. Learn. Let your staff make the customer happy. Then have them report back to you what they did. As long as they made the customer happy, tell your staff, “Well done!” Then show them a better way to handle it the next time if necessary.

You have to train your staff to do this. It won’t happen overnight. You have to role play it at meetings. You have to spell it out in writing. You have to remind them that the store’s first and foremost goal is to have happy customers and their job is to make those customers happy. Your job is to teach them how.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Unhappy customers are people, too. Treat them with respect and dignity (apologize and listen fully to their complaints) and they become a lot less unhappy in very short time. In fact, they often become your best ambassadors.

My Staff Training Philosophies

One of the fun things about closing up the shop is finding hidden treasures as I empty filing cabinets. This is one of those treasures. I don’t know when I wrote it, but I do remember writing it. I was on a flight home from a conference or workshop and one of the speakers asked us to write down our philosophy about our staff and why we should train them.

Here is what I wrote…

For those who can’t see the image or read my handwriting…

Philosophies

Staff Training –

-Staff is only as good as you allow them to be

-Staff rises/falls to your expectations

-Attitude of Management directs attitude of staff

-Communication is #1 key
–Communication of Expectations
–Communication of Information necessary to do job
–Communication two-way street

-Empowerment is key #2
–Empower to make decisions
–Empower to use Imagination/Creativity
–Empower to solve problems

-Motivation is key #3
–Motivation through financial rewards
–Motivation through personal satisfaction
–Motivation through recognition

-Need to put staff into position to succeed
–Play to their strengths
–Give them “tools” to do their job

-Have Confidence in…
–Your Knowledge
–Their Training
–Their Abilities

There you go. There’s your blueprint for a killer staff. Go make it happen.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I think I wrote this after a trip to Wizard Academy, but I’m not exactly sure. Based on where I found it, it was likely written between 2004-2009.

Newly Redesigned PhilsForum.com Website

I told you I was working on a new version of my PhilsForum.com website.

It just went live a few minutes ago.

Everything is up and running except this blog (which should be migrated over by late Thursday).

In an effort to make it more search engine friendly, some of the pages you’re used to seeing have new names.

  • Freebies is now Free Resources and still includes links to free pdf’s you can download on a variety of topics
  • Speaker for Hire is now Hire Me to Speak and focuses on the top programs I am most often hired to do
  • Products is now Phil’s Books and focuses on my two books, Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel and Welcome to the Club Daddy
  • Media is now About Phil and yes, it is about me

You’ll also find a few fun things hidden here and there on the site including a page of radio ads I have run for Toy House and Baby Too.

Check it out and let me know if there are any issues with the site (tell me what browser/platform/device you’re using, please).

Every time an independent retailer grows, we all grow.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Supposedly all email subscribers will be migrated over, but I will be looking into it directly. You may get an email from me asking you to resubscribe to the new blog site. Just giving you a heads up.

Preparing Your Staff for Life

One of my talented regulars on my staff just put in her two-week notice. She is leaving me for a new full-time job teaching art.

JUST A JOB (?)

As much as I love my job and my business and the difference we make in other peoples’ lives, I know where Retail Sales Clerk sits on the hierarchy of employment. Unless you’re in management or ownership, it is a job, not a career.

When my employee told me what she would be doing next, I gave her a standing ovation. I could not be happier for her. It is a huge step up for her in many ways. Sure, I will miss her and I’ll have to find a way to replace her. But in the long run this is a great opportunity for her and a chance for me to bring in some new blood with new energy and ideas, too.

The only real question I had was more internal… Had I helped to prepare her for this next step?

Had I helped her hone and practice skills that would be helpful working with others? Had I helped her hone and practice skills for teaching? (Education is one of our Core Values). Had I helped her hone and practice skills for dealing with conflict? Had I helped her hone and practice skills for finding creative solutions to all kinds of problems?

I believe it is my responsibility as an employer to help my employees prepare not just for working specifically at my store but also for what may come next. Maybe it is a management job. Maybe it is a new career. Maybe it is a new role. Maybe it is to stay home and raise a family. Maybe it is simply to be better than they were last week, last month, or last year. Personal growth is not just an idea. It is part of the culture.

INVEST IN YOUR ASSETS

Some retailers look at their employees as their biggest expense. But when Customer Service is your one true advantage over your competitors, your employees are instead your biggest asset. Properly invested, that asset can give you incredible growth.

Training – whether it is done in group settings, one-on-one, by videos or online – is the most valuable and least utilized tool you have in your Retail Tool Kit.

Bob Negen of Whizbang Training is a big fan of videos. Short, simple, raw videos of your best teacher (you?) teaching one technique or skill at a time. No fancy production necessary. Just someone with a smartphone taping you being you.

I’m a big fan of the monthly Staff Meeting. I choose a grand theme and goal for each year and plan step-by-step trainings to reach that goal.

Maybe you do your best work one-on-one or your staff size is such that anything else wouldn’t make sense. That’s great. Just take the time and keep investing.

Remember, though, that you aren’t just preparing them for the job. You are preparing them for life. Take that approach and it changes the way you invest and the rewards you reap.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Here is one of the rewards you might not think about. When employees move on from my store, my reputation goes with them. If they lack the skills, it reflects poorly on me. But when they rock the house, it makes me look like a star, too, and raises the esteem people have of our business.

The Ideal Employee

I was digging through some old staff newsletters and came across this article. At one of our staff trainings I asked the staff to create what they called The Ideal Employee…


THE IDEAL EMPLOYEE
(reprinted from the August 2002 Team News)

Here is the composite of what you identified as the “Ideal Employee”…

Attitude—The Ideal Employee will have a positive attitude at all times, whether it is dealing with
customers or with other employees. He or she will use a friendly voice and have a helpful demeanor in all interactions with others.

Appearance—The Ideal Employee will dress appropriately in a conservative, business-casual outfit.  The Ideal Employee will not have his or her midriff exposed (or other body parts that should not be seen). The Ideal Employee will wear appropriate footwear—no sandals or open-toed shoes. The Ideal Employee will have his or her hair combed neatly and a general appearance of cleanliness. Finally, the Ideal Employee will always “wear” a smile.

Knowledge—The Ideal Employee will know and understand…

  • How to run a cash register
  • How to answer phones and take phone orders
  • Our policies of our many services such as gift wrapping, layaway, delivery and assembly.
  • How to measure packages for UPS shipping
  • The products that we sell
  • The hours of our operation and how to give directions to get here
  • Where to go or who to talk to for any information he or she doesn’t know
  • His or her schedule so that he or she will always be on time

Commitment—The Ideal Employee will be committed to helping the customer, or when unable, finding another person to help the customer. The Ideal Employee will be committed to assisting other employees with scheduling conflicts. The Ideal Employee will be committed to helping out in areas that are not his or her responsibility when no one else is available.  The Ideal Employee will be committed to making sure that all customers are being helped, and that all customers and other employees are treated with respect.  The Ideal Employee will be committed to protecting the store from theft.

That’s what my staff came up with 13 years ago. I’m curious what they will create this year.
-Phil Wrzesinski
PS Although this is a good blueprint for any retail staff, you should have your own staff create what they believe to be the Ideal Employee. You’ll get better buy-in from them that way.

Avoiding the Discount Mentality

Everyone wants a discount. Everyone wants a deal. Everyone wants a coupon. Or so you might be led to believe.

One of my employees went to a fast food restaurant and said, “I’d like a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink.”

The employee answered, “The drink isn’t included with that.”

She responded, “That’s okay, I want a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink.”

He replied, “But the drink isn’t included.”

She said, “I don’t care if it is included or not, I want a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink.”

He replied, “But the drink isn’t included. You’ll have to pay extra for the drink.”

This went on for several more exchanges until the clerk finally got her what she wanted. He had no concept of how to take care of a customer if it didn’t fit into his special value meal buttons.

Unfortunately, his actions aren’t far from his experiences. There are many customers out there who would have not gotten the drink because it wasn’t part of the bargain. They would have ended with the strips and biscuit or chosen something else that included a drink.

That is the Discount Mentality that has taken over much of America. And it is reinforced and fueled by retailers all across the country who only offer customers the bundles, deals and specials. 

Don’t be that store.

There are also a large swath of shoppers who are more like my employee, who know exactly what they want and how they want it. They are willing to pay extra for the drink, because to get it any other way is to not get what they want.

While the rest of the world caters to the Discount Mentality…

  • You need to find and hire employees who don’t think that way. 
  • You need to train your team to first give the customer exactly what she wants (and then worry about any specials or deals). 
  • You need to create a store where falling in love with the product is more important than fitting a budget or a price. 

You do that and you’ll have plenty of customers willingly paying extra for the drink. They’re thirsty for a store that gives them exactly what they want and how they want it.

Be that store.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS For those of you who have read Dr. Ross Honeywill’s book One Hundred Thirteen Million Markets of One, you’ll know that I am talking about selling to NEO’s. I’ll show you how to get customers to fall in love with your products in the next post.

Super Heroes aren’t Born, They are Made

I saw the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie last night. Loved it!! I love the super hero movies in general. But some people are complaining that it is becoming over-the-top.

Avengers: Age of Ultron copyright Marvel Comics, source IMDB.com

It seems like every few years they reboot the franchise for our beloved super heroes. We’ve had two different Spider-men and five Spider-man movies since 2002, yet another reboot is scheduled for 2017. Fantastic 4 is getting a re-do this summer. And lord knows, Batman has gone through so many do-overs that you would need a stadium to host a party of everyone who has ever played the role.

Do we really need all those genesis stories?

I say yes! The genesis story is most often my favorite of the super hero movies because it reminds me of one simple truth…

Super Heroes are not born, they are made.

Oh sure, they may be born with super powers. But powers alone don’t make you a hero. You have to learn to harness those powers and use them for a purpose. They have to be trained to grow into that hero role.

Every retailer wishes they had a super hero team working the store. You just have to put in the effort to develop that team.

  • First, you have to find those people with the super powers you want. (The Interview)
  • Then you have to train them to use those powers for the purpose of growing your store. (The Training)
  • Finally you have to get them to use those powers in conjunction with the other super heroes on your team. (The Continual Education and Team Building)

No small task for sure. But not impossible, either. You just have to put on your Nick Fury eye-patch and start assembling your team.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, this is a different metaphor than the usual one I use for building your team. But the steps in creating a team of super heroes are exactly the same as the steps for creating a Work of Art. It all starts with having the right raw materials (super powers).