Home » Management

Category: Management

We All Get a Little Rusty

Last Saturday at The Poison Frog Brewery I got to accompany Steve Tucker with my harmonica . It was the first time in a while I got to really blow some blues as we did an entire set together. I have jammed with Steve a few times before. He’s an amazing musical talent and knows how to make those who play with him sound better. All the drunks at the bar agreed I sounded pretty good.

The truth is, I knew better. I wasn’t at my best. It took me the whole first song just to find a groove, and I was totally winded at several points, which is hard to do considering you play harmonica by breathing in and out.

I was a little rusty.

That’s me on the left checking off the bucket list.

I’ve been playing harp for over 34 years. I play in my car driving down the road (one hand always on the wheel). I play when I’m playing guitar at The Poison Frog. I have played with the bands at several trade show parties. I even played on stage at The House of Blues in Chicago (bucket list!!)

But I hadn’t played in over a week when Steve asked if I had any harps on me (which, of course, I did, as most harmonica players always do).

I was a little rusty. If you only heard the opening of the first song, you wouldn’t have been impressed. If you stayed for the entire set, it got much better.

Here’s the lesson in all of this. I was prepared to play harp. I brought three different harps in different keys to the brew pub where a guy I have played with before was performing. Yet, because I hadn’t been practicing, the start was a little rough.

If you want to be at your peak, you have to practice. If you want to be the best sales person to every customer, you have to be practicing. You can’t just toss out the first customer as a “warm-up”. You have to be ready to perform at peak every morning when you turn the key on the front door.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. How do you get to the top of the business game? Practice. How do you make sure every single customer gets your best? Practice. We all get a little rusty. We all need to practice.

Next time Steve Tucker plays, not only will I have the harps in my pocket, I’ll be blowing the blues in the car on my way to the bar (one hand always on the wheel).

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. There is the long-term preparation (training programs) and there is the short-term preparation (shaking off the rust before the first customer walks through the door).

If you need caffeine to start your day, have a plan and maybe even a back-up plan. Lack of coffee is a poor excuse for bad customer service.

If you need to free your mind a little before you greet the customer, then start your day a little earlier so that you have time for meditation or spiritual rejuvenation.

If you need to meet with your staff for five minutes before you open shop, then schedule them to start 20 minutes before you open so that they all make it on time and you don’t have to rush.

A Fresh Set of Eyes Sees What You’re Missing

Get in a circle of store owners and say the words “Mystery Shopper” and watch the eyes begin to roll. We all hate them or, if that’s too strong a word, think quite low of them.

The problem? Mystery shoppers tend to only take a snapshot of a single moment in your store with no regards to what is going on around them. They evaluate your entire operation based on one interaction, one done-under-false-pretenses-just-to-see-how-you-react interaction at the most inopportune time with the least talented member of your team.

Not fair.

The biggest problem with the Mystery Shopper concept is that most business owners are quick to dismiss the findings as being only a snapshot in time and not a true reflection of your business.

Then again, a new customer walking through your doors will only get a snapshot of a single moment in your store with no regards to what is going on around them. The only difference is that this customer won’t offer you any feedback to help you improve.

You need a fresh set of eyes. You need someone else to help you see the flaws that have blended into the landscape. You need someone to:

  • Look at the appearance of the store from the front. Is it clean? Is it inviting?
  • Walk through the door and give you an honest first impression. Does it smell funny? Is it inviting?
  • Look at the little details like signage and order and cleanliness and lighting and decor. Does the store look or feel worn and dated? Does the store feel dark and dirty or bright and happy? Do the signs even apply anymore? Does the merchandising draw you in?
  • Get a first impression of the staff. Are they welcoming or huddled for safety and comfort?

A fresh set of eyes can identify the subtle turn-offs you stopped seeing years ago. A fresh set of eyes can show you what you look like at your worst, which is far more important than what you look like at your best.

Before listing my house I had a few fresh sets of eyes look it over. We found a door that needed painting. We found a roof area that needed cleaning. We found some rooms that needed re-decorating. We found an outlet cover that was broken. We found paint peeling on the outdoor furniture. We found a mess of cobwebs in the light at the end of the driveway. We found bushes and tree branches and vines that needed trimming. We found a tree that needed to be cut down. We found thirty two cans of paint that needed to be removed.

Individually those are all minor in the grand scheme of life. Collectively, however, they create a perception different from the one I want the people looking at my house to feel. It took more than one fresh set of eyes to find it all.

Get a few friends, preferably ones who do not regularly shop in your store (I know you have them—we all have them). Give them a list of things you want them to notice (the above list is a good start). Then invite them all over to your house for pizza and beer and sharing. You’ll be amazed at what they see, and if you’re honest enough to listen to them without getting defensive, you’ll make sure the “worst” experience anyone has in your store is better than the best at your competitors.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Don’t think you aren’t blind to seeing things right under your nose. We all are. When I closed Toy House, we found almost $10,000 worth of “missing” merchandise that had been written out of stock over the years. Most of it was in places we looked almost every day. We found signs that should have been taken down years ago. Get some fresh eyes in your store now before the holiday rush starts creeping up on you. That’s worth a few pizzas and beer, right?

What if You Don’t Train Them and They Stay?

There is an old story of two managers discussing staff training. The first manager objects to training saying, “What if we train them and they leave?” The second manager replies, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

My friends, knowing I write this blog, send me examples of experiences they have all the time. This one that happened last night …

My friend walked into a restaurant. The hostess eyed her from the moment she walked through the door all the way to the hostess stand. The hostess didn’t say a word. Not. A. Word. My friend had to initiate the conversation. Talk about awkward.

Image result for old-fashioned telephoneOne of the first skills all of my new employees learned was how to use the phone. We learned how to answer it, exactly what to say (yes, the greeting was scripted), and how to respond to questions. We even talked about the importance of smiling while on the phone because people can actually hear a smile. (Try it with your friends. Grin broadly while talking on the phone until the person on the other end of the line asks whats so funny.)

I taught the phone skills first for a number of reasons.

  • It made them feel helpful right off the bat.
  • It set the tone for the attitude I expected from them in front of customers.
  • It helped me gauge their communication skills.

Answering the phone was easy because there were pretty much only four questions that got asked …

  • Can I speak to (a person or the manager)?
  • Can I speak to (a department)?
  • Do you have (a product)?
  • How late are you open?

For the first three questions, no matter who answered the phone, you would typically put them on hold. The last one even the newbies on the staff could answer.

The cool thing was watching them practice their phone answering skills. The outwardly friendly staff members had no problem smiling and speaking joyfully. The rest, I knew I would have to work with them on their communication skills a little more.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Communication skills are important. You can no longer take for granted that people know what to say and how to say it. You have to teach it and practice it. By starting early with a communication skill, I set the tone for how important proper communication would be and what I expected.

If you aren’t teaching proper communication skills you just might end up with a hostess who doesn’t know that it is her job to say, “Hello!”

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The script for answering the phone was simple. “Thank you for calling the Toy House. How may I help you?” I’ll break that statement down completely in a following post.

A Place for Everything

This week marks my last week on the water as the sailing instructor for YMCA Storer Camps. Next Monday I have to do my least favorite job—putting stuff away. I hate it. I hate cleaning up. I hate filing papers. I hate organizing and sorting. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love it when things are well-sorted, organized, labeled and put away properly. I love it even more when somebody else does it.

Image result for ymca storer campsDon’t judge me. You have something in your business you hate to do. Maybe it is managing your social media. Maybe it is running your special events. Maybe it is your bookkeeping. Sometimes you can hire others to do it. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do it yourself.

I’m biting the bullet for four reasons:

  • It needs to be done.
  • It’s my job to do.
  • I know exactly how I want it done.
  • I want to make life easier for those who come after me.

I’m spelling this out to give you some ideas how to muscle through those things you don’t like to do. Yes, it takes some justifying. Yes, it takes some convincing of the mind that it will be worthwhile. Yes, I have scheduled when I’m going to do it. Yes, I have already gathered supplies I need to do it right. Monday will go smoothly and quickly and I’ll feel a whole lot better when it is done.

When you find yourself in this situation understand that you are not alone. We all have that one thing (or two) we hate to do. Whenever possible hire someone amazing who loves to do what you don’t want to do. If you have to bite the bullet and do it yourself, remind yourself why you want it done right and then schedule time to do it.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Scheduling is the key. It is too easy to put off the things we hate to do if they aren’t on the schedule. They’ll never be a high enough priority to make it to the top of your to-do list on their own.

PPS “I want to make life easier for those who come after me.” That reason fits in with my core value of Helping Others. If you can find a reason to do what you don’t want to do that aligns with one of your core values, you’ll find the job a whole lot easier to do.

When the Boss Plays Favorites

I spent the summer of 1992 working for the Los Angeles Unified School District teaching team building and leadership skills to inner-city kids. It was one of the most meaningful and wonderful jobs I’ve ever held.

Part of it was the difference we were able to make in the lives of these kids. Part of it was the camaraderie of our team.

Dana, our fearless boss, had a style I have tried to emulate ever since. He treated everyone on the team equally. He gave everyone an equal chance to do the jobs. He gave everyone a fair shake at learning the roles we had to play. He never played favorites with any of us.

Image result for playing favoritesBelieve me when I tell you it is hard not to play favorites. As a leader, you tend to rely on one or two team members you know you can trust. You give them the better shifts. You give them the better duties. You forgive them quicker.

The problem with playing favorites, even if done unintentionally, is that it destroys morale on the team. Your staff sees it when it happens. Those that aren’t the favorites will either resent it or resign themselves to not feeling any need to improve.

Here are some ways Dana kept from playing favorites.

He made us all feel special. Dana went out of his way every day to praise everyone on the team both privately and publicly. He made sure you knew what you were doing well. He made sure everyone knew what you were doing spectacularly. That constant praise, especially in front of the group, of everyone meant that he valued us all equally.

He gave us all equal treatment in job assignments. Everyone got to lead. Everyone got the “shit detail.” Everyone got support roles. While it might be easiest to give all the solos to the best singer, Dana’s job was to turn us all into the best. He made sure we all got the chance to shine.

He was honest and honorable in his words. There was nothing he ever said to any of us that could not be repeated. He told us straight up when we screwed up (and made sure we learned from our mistakes). He only spoke in positive terms of growth and learning. He never gossiped.

If you’re playing mind games with your team; if you’re keeping secrets within and from your team; if you’re gossiping about team members to other team members, you’re creating a culture of favoritism. Take it from Dana. If you want a crack team from top to bottom, you need to keep favoritism off the table.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you only feel like you can do one thing, do the first one listed above. Make every single individual on your team feel special and important and noticed. Praise them constantly both publicly and privately. You will change the culture almost instantly.

PPS I am a big believer in the ideal of “best players play”. Retail isn’t little league where everyone gets a medal for participation. But it also isn’t the Major Leagues where you better be ready when you get there. Your job as manager is to teach people up and get them all to play like all-stars. When Dana gave us activities to lead, he first made sure we had the skills to lead.

Busting a Scheduling Myth

There is a scheduling myth I have heard for many years, and although on the surface it seems to make sense, I don’t think it is in the best long-term interest of your store. The myth is that you should schedule your best sales people for your peak hours and your worst sales people for your off hours. Let me tell you where the flaw is in this thinking.

In November 1991 I moved to San Diego, CA. I immediately got two jobs there.  One was teaching Outdoor Education for the Orange County School District at Camp Edwards near Big Bear Lake. The other was selling sporting goods for Cal Stores – a ten-store chain of sporting goods and apparel stores in San Diego County (since bought out by Big 5 Sporting Goods).

Image result for big 5 sporting goodsI spent Monday morning through Friday morning in the mountains above San Bernardino teaching kids about geology and ecology. I spent Saturday and Sunday selling tennis rackets and weight sets.

At Cal Stores we were paid on commission. Each week they would post the top selling people across the chain in sales per hour. I was usually #2 for the entire chain, right behind the guy who sold all the ski packages. I wasn’t #2 because of my selling skills, but because I had the two best shifts—Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t have any mundane Mondays to drag my average down.

In the above myth, I would always get the peak times and best shifts because my numbers were top notch. And I would hold onto those shifts because those shifts would keep my numbers higher than the Tuesday and Wednesday slackers. It would self-perpetuate. I would stay on top and feel no need to improve. Plus it would drag down the morale of everyone not getting the prime times.

Do you see the flaw now?

Smart managers understand the importance of having top levels of sales and service at peak times, but they also look for ways to raise the level of all the staff so that everyone can perform at peak and off-peak. They look for ways to pair top sales people with learners to help both become better (the former by teaching, the latter by being with the former). They split up the hours, knowing that sometimes you need the busy hours for the learners to hone their skills, and sometimes you need the slower hours to know if your top sales people are truly good or just lucky.

Smart managers realize that raising the bar for everyone helps the business far more in the long run than just maximizing the peak hours. They realize that a properly trained staff maximizes sales at all hours (and there are some big sales you can do during the perceived off-hours.)

Smart managers realize when everyone performs at a high level they have more flexibility for scheduling around vacations and special requests for time off. They have more staff available for special events. They have more trust that the staff will perform no matter the situation.

If you have a few top performing sales people and a few that need some work, don’t just throw all the prime rib at the top people and leave the scraps for everyone else. Give them all a taste of the good stuff and teach them all how to rock your customers’ worlds every day of the week.

That’s what the smart managers do.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I wasn’t a great salesperson back then. I was just lucky with my shifts. Fortunately I was (and still am) a competitive guy who is always looking for ways to improve. Not every salesperson thinks that way. Smart managers find ways to help everyone improve and raise the overall bar for the store.

PPS No, not everyone will perform at the same level. Your goal, however, is to help each person on your team get to the next level no matter where he or she is right now.

The Scary Truth of Averages

“Have you ever noticed that everyone wants to be normal but no one wants to be average?” -Roy H. Williams

Did you hear the one about the statistician that drowned in a river with an average depth of three feet?

Image result for averagesIn business, everyone wants to know the averages, the average cost of rent, the average sales per square foot, the average level of inventory, etc. Averages are interesting. They can be a nice benchmark, but they can also be misleading, and sometimes downright dangerous.

Take, for example, average inventory at cost (a number you should all be tracking). If you were an average toy store doing around $500,000 a year in sales, your average inventory at cost would be around $100,000. But if you are that same toy store, your Thanksgiving to Christmas sales will likely be around $200,000, or pretty much all of your inventory if you only had the average on hand. As nice as it would be to sell to the walls, so-to-speak, you know you can’t sell it all. You also know you need some inventory in January for birthdays and post-Christmas.

Just trying to keep your store at the average will kill your holiday sales. You’ll need a lot higher inventory to start the busy season and much lower inventory the rest of the year. Rarely will you ever have the “average” amount of inventory on hand.

Another problem with that average is that $100,000 worth of toys looks a whole lot different in a 2,200 square foot store than it does in a 1,100 square foot store.

The bigger the store, the more creative you may need to be with your merchandise to keep the store looking stocked and full. The smaller the store, the more creative you may need to be with your merchandise to fit it all in. Sometimes your store space dictates your inventory levels more than just sales or industry averages.

Averages are a nice starting point, but it is worth exploring all the reasons you might deviate from the average, and be okay with those reasons.

For instance, my payroll at Toy House was a significantly higher percentage of our expenses than the average toy store. But I could afford that because my rent was significantly lower. Our sales per square foot was extremely low compared to the average, but that was because we had wide aisles to allow for shopping carts, four cash registers lines, a large gift-wrapping area, and a stage with seating/playing area—in other words, a lot of square footage not used for showing merchandise. Our average ticket, thanks to shopping carts and toy demos however, was significantly higher. Each deviation from the norm was on purpose and with a purpose.

I do many talks about the financials of independent retailers. Whenever possible I try to use an average store for that industry. But I remind everyone in attendance that these numbers are average and they should be striving to be spectacular. If all your numbers are average, you haven’t found the place to stand out and make a name for yourself.

In retail, there isn’t a prize for being normal.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The upside to averages is that they give you a quick check of the health of your business. If you have a number way off from the averages and you don’t know why, that might be a good place to focus your time and energies on changing. The downside is that you don’t ever want to be an average store. You are destined for greater than that.

PPS Rent per square foot and sales per square foot go hand in hand. You need to be selling at least 10x more per square foot than what you pay in rent (if your profit margin is around 50%). That’s a far better benchmark than average rent or average sales per square foot for your industry. Those averages tell you nothing.

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.

Some Things Change, Some Things Shouldn’t

I saved one item from the Toy House when we closed. One item that had endured the entire 67 years of our existence. One item that had served one single purpose, unchanging, for the store’s entire life. It was the metal box we used to hold our layaway cards. If you ever had a layaway at Toy House, your name was on a card in that box.

The cards changed over the years. We updated them with different logos. We went to duplicate paper when our printers changed. We added services to our layaway program. We even made a major point-of-sale software provider change the way their programming did layaway so that it matched our level of service.

The layaway program changed, but the box remained the same.

Any business that has been around ten or more years knows how drastically business can change. For most retailers, your product changes every year, sometimes several times a year. Your marketing changes as your market changes. Employees come and go. Customers come and go.

But change is scary. That is why we cling to the known. We hold onto what we remember. We defend the status quo. We use marketing that worked before even if it isn’t working now. We sell products long past their peak. We hold onto employees long past their usefulness.

The layaway box reminds me of one simple truth. When something you are doing is no longer productive, you need to change it. The box did its job quietly, efficiently, and unassuming. The layaway program, however, went through many changes to accommodate the needs of the customers.

Here is your summary of what should change in your store …

Never Change: Your Core Values, Putting Your Customer First

Don’t Change Now: Anything that is productive and efficient

Change Now: Everything else

Change doesn’t have to be major. Sometimes you just need a little tweak here or there to raise the productivity and efficiency of a program or policy or employee. Paint a wall. Try a new product line. Change the terms of a policy. Move a display or two. Upgrade the phone system. Reprint signs. Reword your phone message. Add a new training program.

Notice also that I didn’t say eliminate. Just like you, your customers like what is familiar and comfortable. Make your changes simple, customer-centric, and obviously better for everyone. It will still feel familiar and comfortable, only better and more productive. As credit cards became more common, our layaway program became less used. We tweaked it to fit the needs of those who still loved it, without getting rid of it entirely.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The accompanying photo was taken in 1957 at the original store on First Street. That is my grandfather, Phil Conley, who founded Toy House. The layaway box is in the foreground and pretty full. Grandpa taught me a lot about Core Values and Putting Your Customer First.

PPS I don’t know what I am going to do with that box quite yet. I’m open to suggestions.