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Where Are the Employees?

Last year I did something I had never done before. I went shopping on Black Friday. No, not in the early morning hours with all the mobs. I’m not that kind of shopper. I went out in the afternoon to see what the stores looked like after the mobs had left.

It was exactly what I expected. I had to fight the urge to want to straighten and re-merchandise the empty, messy shelves. (I actually did some straightening in Target just to get it out of my system.)

Some of my former employees have reported the same feeling. They find themselves straightening racks and displays constantly. If you’re a merchandising neat-freak like we were, I’m sure you’ve done the same.

This was taken mid-day on a Saturday in September!

Just recently one of my former employees was in Macy’s. She was straightening a rack, as is her habit. Nearby was a group of young men searching for an employee. They were singing, “Oh Macy’s employeeeeeee. Where are yooooouuuu?”

They saw her and asked hopefully, “Do you work here?”

When she said, “No,” they returned to their singing and standing on their tiptoes trying to find help in the cavernous and employee-less department store.

As she told me this story, two thoughts came to mind …

First, if your employees don’t have that urge to straighten and rearrange the displays in other stores, you haven’t trained them well enough.

Second, the lack of well-trained employees on the sales floor will be the downfall of the department stores, not Amazon, not the economy, not their failure to latch onto some shiny new tech, not their website, not their omni-channel efforts, not their advertising.

All the traffic in the world won’t matter if there is no one to take care of that traffic.

Don’t make the mistake that has shuttered the stores of JC Penney’s, Sears, Bon Ton, Younker’s, Elder Beerman, and so many others.

Train your staff well and have enough of them on the floor to make a difference.

That will be the winning formula this holiday season.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I used to have a red polo shirt. I wore it into Target once. Once. Retailing may be one of the lower rungs on the employee food chain, but when you find the right people and train them well, you get a team where retail is in their blood. They will get mistaken for employees in other stores on a regular basis. That should be a goal you strive for your team—to have the kind of people who want to make the shopping experience better no matter where they are.

A Retail Lesson From 9/11

I was in the office this day seventeen years ago. My dad was there talking on the phone with my sister. It was in the morning just after 9am. She had called to wish him a happy 58th birthday. She had CNN on in the background and asked my dad if he had heard about a plane flying into the World Trade Center. No, he hadn’t.

While still on the phone, he turned and asked me if I had heard about it. No, I hadn’t.

I immediately got on my computer.

By early afternoon we had seen the last of our customers for the day. I had sent home most of the staff by then, too. I’ll never forget that day.

The next few days, however, were a blur. We had customers, but even they were somewhat in shock and not sure how to react or what to do. It took about a week before business came back to normal levels. Surprisingly, it still ended up being the second busiest September in the history of the store.

One fascinating memory I have from that month was how the relationships seemed to change. It felt like we were closer with our customers than we had been before. Whether that was a result of all of us going through a shared tragic moment, or if it was because it was our core customers who were the first to return, or simply because we put a premium on relationships after those attacks, I’ll never fully know.

It just felt different.

I felt a similar difference in 2014. My overall training goal that year was on Relationship-Building and Selling.

We started in January talking about Repeat and Referral business. Repeat business comes from giving great customer service (doing what the customer expects). Referral business comes from doing more than the customer expects, so much more that she has to tell her friends.

In February the topic was the greeting, how to say Hi and welcome the customer to the store. In March we worked on listening skills. In April we worked on how to decipher what was in our customer’s mind. What were her fears and objections? What problem was she trying to solve and how could we help her solve it? What questions should we be asking and what answers should we be listening for?

The next three months were about closing the sale including Features & Benefits, Visualization, and Assumptive Selling.

Those six months of training were the basis for the presentations I did last August and the five new eBooks posted on the Free Resources Page. Those six months of training are now an integral part of the new presentation—The Ultimate Selling Workshop.*

I think the feelings we had with our customers in the fall of 2001 were a combination of the relationships we were building naturally and the common tragedy we all had experienced. That year was the biggest year in sales in our 68-year history.

In 2014, however, the relationship-building was intentional. Even as our market was in serious decline, 2014 was our second most profitable year and one of the more rewarding years I’ve ever experienced. It was the closest we felt to our customers since 2001.

The best stores build relationships with customers all the time. It starts by hiring friendly people who love to meet and help others. If you only do that, you’ll still be doing more than most of your competitors. The true excitement, however, happens when you teach those friendly employees how to intentionally create the lasting relationships that keep your Repeat and Referral rates at all-time highs, while, more importantly, making life better for both you and them. That’s when you’re no longer compared to your competitors because you’re on a level all your own.

It is all about the relationships you build. That’s the retail lesson from this day.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

*PS The Ultimate Selling Workshop is a three-hour, hands-on session that takes the best elements from the breakout presentations The Meet-and-Greet, Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling, and How to Push for “Yes” (Without Being Pushy) and wraps them up into one power-packed event that includes training activities for your staff, hands-on activities that drive home each point, and a map to guide you to better selling. You’ll learn how to build long-term relationships, get the most out of every transaction, and even how to attract the best, most profitable customers to your store. If you sign up now through the end of September to do this workshop this fall, you’ll get the special introductory rate of $2,000. (Call me October 1st and you might be able to talk me down to $3,000 for the same workshop—and it will still be more than worth it!)

Two Completely Different Ways to Build Your Team

I love thought-provoking questions. Here is one I was asked recently …

How do we bridge the gap between employees and corporate America?

The question makes two assumptions; first that there is a gap, and second that the gap must be bridged.

The first assumption, that there is a gap, is not hard to understand. Corporate profits and C-Level wages seem to be growing astronomically while front line worker salaries seem to be stagnant at best, and possibly in decline. Bernie Sanders just introduced the BEZOS Bill that will tax employers with 500 or more employees an amount equal to any public assistance benefits the employees qualify for because of their low income.

Many companies in corporate America are hyper-focused on Shareholder Value. Through that lens, employees are seen as expenses that must be cut, trimmed, managed, and kept under control. As long as the guys at the top keep the shareholders happy, the stock values keep rising and they keep making their money. They ask the question of their employees, “How can I cut costs more without cutting productivity?” This approach leads to that huge salary gap between the top and bottom levels of the pyramid. It also leads to the adversarial gap between employees and “corporate America.”

Image result for steve jobs hiring quoteMany companies, however, take a different approach. They look at employees as assets, not expenses. They ask a different question …

“How much more can this person add to the bottom line and what is that worth to me?”

Both are legitimate approaches and both have found their successes at the corporate level. Understanding the differences will give you a leg up in deciding which approach will work best for you.

EMPLOYEES AS EXPENSES

No company will actually admit this is their practice, but for the most part, this is what they do. Their pay is low compared to others in their industry. Their pay is low compared to other measures such as “living wages.” They hire primarily for skills, invest very little into training, and look for ways to replace employees with systems, technologies, automation, and streamlining of the process. They put an emphasis on their managers to demand more and pay less.

Turnover is high at businesses like these. You might have the skills but not the “fit.” They don’t care about the fit. They hired you for your skills. Do the job or move on.

When unemployment is high, these businesses thrive because there are plenty of workers out there they can chew through and spit out. As long as the top guys keep the stockholders happy, they’ll have all the cash they need to keep the machine humming.

The downside to businesses like this is that they have to cycle through several employees to find ones that have both the skills to do the job and the personality to fit into the culture. When unemployment is low, workers have the opportunity to move on to better jobs, better pay, and/or a better atmosphere. These companies spend a lot more money hiring than they do training and are willing to discard employees at a moment’s notice in their quest to find the right people.

EMPLOYEES AS ASSETS

Most companies pay lip service to this ideal. They claim this is their practice, but unless they are actually “investing” in their employees, it is merely lip service. Investing in your employees means you are spending time, energy, and money on your people with the belief that they will pay off with better productivity over the long run. In fact, it is the long run that drives these businesses.

Companies looking to appease shareholders take a short-term view, looking to beat expectations each quarter. Companies who look long-term are willing to invest more for payoffs down the road.

These companies are slower to hire, looking for corporate fit more than just for skills. These companies spend more time and energy training their employees to do things their way. These companies make sure the work atmosphere is attractive as much as productive, knowing that employee turnover can often be more expensive than paying for quality training programs and niceties for the team.

When unemployment is low and workers have the power, these companies will have the better pick of the litter because employees want to go where they are compensated and appreciated. Plus, since they spend more time and energy on the fit, they have less turnover and are looking for fewer people, and can therefore be more picky.

YOUR CHOICE

While I am obviously biased toward the latter, both methods work. Amazon has been making a killing, becoming a trillion-dollar company, while being known for notoriously horrible treatment of their warehouse employees. Turnover at their fulfillment centers is high, and Bernie Sanders wants to tax them for not paying those people a living wage.

Apple is another trillion-dollar company where people are lining up out the door trying to get an interview. As Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

The key for you is to make a conscious choice about the approach you are going to use. Then take those steps necessary to fully embrace that approach.

If you wish to view your employees as expenses, find better ways to streamline your processes to make them more efficient. Automate everything that you can. Build systems that eliminate too much choice. Spend your money on hiring, and hire specifically for the skills you need so that you can spend less money on training. Be quick to fire and move on when an employee is costing you too much. Don’t get attached to your team, either. Keep the gap firmly between you and the worker-bees.

If you wish to view your employees as assets, find ways in which they can bring you value to your company. Hire people who fit your culture and have the character traits you desire, then train them up to have the skills they need to be successful. When you evaluate them, look at the value they bring to the table both monetarily and otherwise. Give them the free rein to do their job at their highest level. Make them feel valued and appreciated.

Both ways work. The more fully you embrace your approach, the better.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS My grandfather definitely fell into the Employees as Assets category. He always believed you could never overpay for great help, and that when you find the right person, invest heavily into that person and pay that person enough to keep him or her.

PPS If you’re going to take the Employees as Assets approach, here is one investment sure to pay dividends—The Ultimate Selling Workshop. No matter what you sell, this three-hour training workshop will lay the foundation for creating long-term relationships with customers that lead to higher conversion rates, higher tickets, and higher customer loyalty. You’ll get your customers to buy more and brag more about you at the same time. I am offering a one-time special. If you book before the end of September to do a training before Thanksgiving, you’ll get the special low price of only $2,000. You’ll get the theory, practice, tools, and techniques to turn your staff into rock stars.

PPPS To answer the second assumption from the original question … If you take the Employees as Expenses approach, you don’t ever want to close the gap because you’ll be too emotionally invested in your team to be able to fire quickly and move on. If you take the Employees as Assets approach, there won’t be much of a gap at all because both you and your team will be fully invested in your success. The gap only exists where corporate America favors profits over people.

“Attracting Millennials” and “Ten Mistakes:” Two New Free eBooks for You

I have a file on my computer named SCHEDULE. It has every schedule I ever created for the Toy House staff dating back to the fall of 1996. That was the year my dad turned the hiring, training, and scheduling of the staff over to me. In 1997 I hired my first Millennial. Granted, the term was still in its infancy, and the defining characteristics of this new, emerging generation born between the years of 1981 and 1996 (according to The Pew Research Center) or 1982 to 2000 (according to the US Census Bureau) were yet to be labeled.

Regardless of the years (or labels) you use to define “Millennial,” in the twenty years from 1997 to 2016 I hired, trained, and worked alongside dozens of people from this generation. I even raised a son born in 1998 who falls under the US Census Bureau’s definition, and while I laughed at all the jokes and negative stereotypes given to this group of people, I knew many of the older guard were missing something.

I often run into people who hear the word Millennial and automatically think Lazy, Self-Absorbed, Selfish, Entitled, Snowflake.

Yet in 2005 when I was called for a job reference for the first Millennial I ever hired, I told the employer, “If you don’t hire this person, you will be making one of the biggest mistakes in your HR career.” She was one of the hardest, smartest, most intrinsically motivated people I have ever known. She just celebrated her thirteenth year with that organization.

What is funny to me is all those negative stereotypes assigned to Millennials were previously assigned to Gen X, and before that used to describe the Baby Boomers. I think we tend to look down on the younger generations and never believe they work as hard as we did. Do that at your own peril.

If you are looking to hire or sell to Millennials, instead of looking down your nose at them, I suggest you look up to what they aspire and meet them there.

They don’t have all the answers, but they are asking some interesting questions that we all should be considering.

Questions like …

  • How do I live more Eco-Friendly?
  • How do I create a more Sustainable world?
  • How do I stay out of Debt?
  • How do I avoid falling for the Hype?
  • How do I help the Collective to grow?

If you want to attract this generation and all their spending power to your store, you need to help them answer those questions and more. You’ll find plenty of ways to do that in my new Free eBook Attracting and Selling to Millennials on the Free Resources page of my website.

(PS The eBook is great, but this is one presentation where the live version is so much more mind-blowing than the print version. Contact me to schedule a time to talk to your team or organization.)

 

The other new Free eBook is called Ten Mistakes That Sideline the Sale. This is strictly a Customer Service book that focuses on some easily correctable mistakes we all make. Some of them are mistakes we make thinking we are offering Great Customer Service, when really we’re killing the mood. Some of them are mistakes that happened to me just this past weekend.

If you’re looking for simple things your team can correct that will immediately affect your bottom line, you might want to start with this list. Pick one or two to work on each month and you will be pleasantly surprised at how many more repeat and referral customers you’ll get this holiday season.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You might be wondering why I give these away for Free. Heck, I don’t even make you subscribe to my blog to get them. One reason is that I have subscribed to several blogs myself just to get information, and while I get some information, mostly I get email after email trying to sell me something to the point that I am afraid to subscribe to anything new.

I don’t want to be that person to you.

Another reason is that I want you to succeed. If the point of writing this blog is simply for me to make money selling stuff, then it doesn’t fit with my Core Values of Having Fun, Helping Others, and Education. The point of this blog, my website, and my purpose for Phil’s Forum is to help as many small businesses as possible. The money will take care of itself.

Finally, while I know you can bypass the whole concept of paying me to be a speaker or coach and just download all this content, I also know by hiring me you get an experience and information that goes far beyond these three to six page eBooks. In the live presentation you get this information tailored to your specific industry. You get context and relevancy and tips and ideas directly related to what you do day in and day out. You get the chance to ask questions, get clarity, and expand the topics to fit your needs. These eBooks are simply the notes from presentations, written generically to fit the most possible industries. They are reminders for those who have sat through a live presentation, minus some of the stories you’ll never forget that drive home the point but take too much ink.

PPS One last thing … I also know not every independent retailer has the budget to hire a coach or go to a big retail conference. If you’re in this category, you deserve to have access to this kind of information as much as the next person. Consider me a library. Borrow as often as you’d like.

I Thought She Was the Owner

Often someone from my staff would enter my office and say, “I have an idea.” Often I would answer, “Great! Run with it!”

“But don’t you want to hear it first?”
“Is it consistent with our Core Values?”
“Yes.”
“Will it cost the company a lot of money?”
“No.”
“Run with it. I hired and trained you. I trust you.”

In Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive, he shows how “autonomy” is one of the key elements for motivating your staff to do their best. Autonomy gives them a feeling of ownership and a sense of pride. Autonomy also empowers them to make decisions and take care of customers the best way they can.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink

I know. This is scary. But what if they screw up? But what if they don’t make good decisions? But what if they aren’t as good as I am?

Have you ever thought if you hired well and trained well, they just might end up being better than you?

Sure, giving autonomy to your staff is scary, but in the long game it is how you build a winning team.

I was in Athens, GA recently when my tennis shoes died. I went to the New Balance store where Cameron helped me find the perfect pair for my needs. (Did I mention I have odd-sized feet? Oh yeah, yesterday.)

She was smart. She was well-versed on the products she sold. She studied how I walked. She asked questions about what I did when wearing these shoes. She listened, repeated things back to me, asked more questions, then told me why she was suggesting the pairs she suggested. She was amazing!

As I was checking out, I just had to ask, “Are you the owner or manager?”

“Oh no, I just love working here.”

Cameron had the autonomy to make decisions and act as if she owned the place. She was in such control that I believed she was the owner.

That should always be your goal—to hire and train so well that your customers are so impressed by your staff member that they think he or she must be the owner.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Autonomy is letting your team members do the jobs they were hired and trained to do without someone breathing down their neck or constantly looking over their shoulder. Note the word “trained.” Don’t give them autonomy until they are trained, but once trained, set them loose. They’ll make a mistake or two at first, and you’ll help them learn from those mistakes, but in short order they will become the person you expected them to be when you hired them.

Having Fun, Helping Others, Eating Lunch

For the past three weeks I have been making several drives from my home in Jackson to the Oakland County area for lunch. For those of you not in Michigan, Oakland County is one of the three counties (including Wayne and Macomb) that makes up the Greater Detroit Metropolitan area. Oakland County is the northernmost of the three and includes several cities, villages, townships, and lakes.

Oakland County is home to twenty-one Main Street programs in the various cities, villages, and townships, and also home to one of the largest county-wide Main Street support programs. It was Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) that hired me to make these drives each week to do a “Lunch-and-Learn” series of workshops. The workshops are four-week-long tracks on one of three topics: Selling & Customer Service, Marketing & Advertising, or Retail Math.

We rolled this out to three different communities. Two of the communities chose Marketing & Advertising, one chose Selling & Customer Service. All three are reporting back with incredibly positive feedback. Other communities are already bugging MSOC to be included in the next round.

The fun part for me is that I like driving and I love doing these presentations, mostly because I know the difference one or two good tips or techniques can make for a small business.

The fun part for the attendees is that they get a free lunch (or breakfast) and four 45-minute presentations jammed with eye-opening ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and surprisingly simple techniques to improve their businesses.

The fun part for you is that there is still time to plan a Lunch-and-Learn in your neck of the woods (as long as you are within two hours driving time from Jackson which would include Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Fort Wayne, Toledo, Detroit, Flint, and Lansing areas).

Here are the three tracks with class titles and descriptions.

Option A: Marketing & Advertising

  • Week #1 Boosting Your Brand to Attract the Right Business – A quick lesson in branding to show you how a well-crafted brand makes a huge difference in attracting the right types of customers and business. You’ll learn how to uncover the true value in your brand and make your brand stand out in the crowd
  • Week #2 Marketing Your Business on a Shoestring Budget – Seven different ways you can get the word out about your business and draw traffic in without spending a fortune. You’ll learn how to leverage your talents and time to attract more customers to your business right away.
  • Week #3 Making Your Ads More Effective – We hate ads, not because there are too many, but because most ads suck. This presentation will show you the six principles that make the difference between your ad being remembered and acted upon or being simply ignored. You’ll learn techniques even the most highly paid professionals sometimes get wrong, and how you can apply them to your own advertising efforts
  • Week #4 Generating Word-of-Mouth Advertising – We all know Word-of-Mouth advertising is far more effective than traditional advertising, but do you know what it takes to actually get your customers to talk about you? This presentation shows you four proven ways you can generate word-of-mouth advertising. You’ll walk away with tips and techniques that get people talking the very next day.

Option B: Selling and Customer Service

  • Week #1 Selling in a Showrooming World – Online shopping is here to stay. So is the concept of Showrooming, where a customer uses your store to touch and feel the product before ordering it online cheaper. This presentation shows you the two types of customers, how to recognize them, and the very different ways you sell to them. Learn this and you’ll close far more sales than ever before.
  • Week #2 Raising the Bar on Customer Service – Every store thinks they offer Great Customer Service, but every customer can regale several stories where the customer service fell far short. This presentation gives you a different perspective on customer service and shows you how to up your game so that Great Customer Service is only the minimum. You’ll learn how to surprise and delight customers at every turn.
  • Week #3 Building the Perfect Salesperson – Finding the right salesperson is the key for any organization. But how do you identify the perfect fit? This presentation will change the way you look at interviewing and hiring and even training. When you’re done you’ll have a better understanding of how the best companies find the best employees time and time again.
  • Week #4 Training and Motivating Your Team to Perform Their Best – The carrot and stick might be good for a donkey, but it won’t get the best out of your team. This presentation will show you what really motivates people to do their best work and how to get the kind of creativity from your team that sets you apart. You’ll also learn how to turn staff meetings and training times into something your staff looks forward to attending.

Option C: Retail Math

  • Week #1 Reading Your Financial Statements – Your accountant will be glad you attended. This presentation will show you in layman’s terms how to read the two most common financial statements – the Profit & Loss and the Balance Sheet. You’ll learn how they are calculated, what they show, and an intuitive way to use them to check the financial health of your company. It isn’t as scary as it sounds.
  • Week #2 Inventory Management – Cash is King. In retail, the biggest use of your cash is your inventory. This presentation will show you simple and smart ways to manage your inventory levels better including how Open-to-Buy programs work and easy ways to increase cash flow. You’ll learn how to turn slow moving merchandise into cash and make your inventory work for you.
  • Week #3 Pricing for Profit – Most businesses leave thousands of dollars on the table because they don’t understand the principles behind how to properly price their products or services. This presentation shows you how you can raise prices and increase unit sales by harnessing the power of perception. Learn these techniques and you’ll start making more money the very first day.
  • Week #4 Unlocking the Hidden Cash in Your Business – There is more to retail than just buying and selling product. This presentation will show you some different ways to measure your business and some simple ways to make a little extra cash that might just be the difference you need to pay yourself a bonus this year.

If you just read those and said, “Dang, I could use this!” pass this post along to your DDA Director, your Chamber of Commerce, your Main Street Director, your Economic Development Director, your Shop Local director, and tell them, “Dang, we could use this!”

(Heck, you don’t even need one of those organizations. Just get a few other small businesses together and give me a call.)

Then contact me. We’ll go over what it would cost, creative ways to finance it, how to get the food and venues, and what dates to schedule this fall to have some fun helping small businesses grow and thrive, all while having lunch.

Sound yummy to you?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Not within that two-hour drive? No worries. Instead of four lunches, we’ll do one big brunch and put all four lessons into a three-hour workshop. Call me.

PPS The beauty of what you’ll learn in these tracks is that the dividends are immediate. With many of the lessons you’ll see results right away. Having this information fresh in your mind leading into the busy holiday season will make a huge impact on your bottom line this year. Lets get some dates locked in now.

PPPS If you’re in Oakland County, MSOC is already working on the budget for 2019. Contact John Bry at MSOC and let him know you want in. If you want something this fall, however, check with the other organizations in your community to see if they will help you organize this.

Delegate to Make Two People Happy

I started working full time at Toy House on April 30, 1993. It wasn’t my first job at Toy House. That started when I was the cute kid on the float in the Rose Parade through downtown Jackson at the age of three. At seven I was getting 10 cents and hour to put price tags on boxes. At twelve I got paid to mow the lawns. In 1980 I showed up the day after my 14th birthday with work permit in hand to work on the sales floor selling handheld electronic games.

My dad convinced me to come back to the store full time in 1993 to help expand the baby department. We had a baby department since 1962 when my grandfather bought out Bennet’s Furniture that had been located across the street from the store at the corner of First and Franklin Streets. Dad felt there was a lot of room for growth in that area. (He was right.)

By 1996 the baby department was growing fast. Dad decided it was time to shed more of his responsibilities. The first was marketing. Dad never really liked marketing and advertising. He wasn’t the creative type. He didn’t want to deal with the salespeople. He didn’t want to craft any messages. On the other hand, I loved it.

The second task dad turned over to me was hiring. My dad is introverted. He likes his alone time to recharge his batteries. Oh sure, he can be outgoing and friendly when he wants, but he prefers to work alone. Interviewing employees, hiring them, and training them were not high on dad’s list of favorite things to do.

Although my dad was fairly quick to delegate certain tasks over to me, it took me time to appreciate how he delegated. Prior to my arrival I had heard he had a hard time letting anything go. Partly because he knew he could do it faster and better, partly because he didn’t want to spend his time teaching someone else. I felt both of those as I took over my first two roles. He lamented how much time and energy I put into those roles yet left me to my own devices to figure things out for myself.

In retrospect, I appreciate how he delegated because he gave me room to develop my own style and systems for doing those tasks. Sure, we butted heads often on how and what I was doing in those roles, mostly over budgetary concerns as he still controlled the purse strings. And there were days I felt he was holding me back. But in the long run it worked out quite well for both of us. He got rid of two tasks he never really liked and I got to do two tasks I really loved.

That’s what this post is about—delegating the tasks you don’t want to do to someone who wants to do them.

If you truly want to make your business more fun, hire someone who loves to do the stuff you hate to do.

 

That used to be my office!

I hate filing papers. My desk is a mess. My piles are everywhere. I know what is in each pile, but I still need to pick up the pile and sort through it to find what I want. At Toy House my desk was equally as messy. So I hired an office manager/bookkeeper who loved filing and keeping things organized.

By giving her free reign to clean up my office, I made both of us happy. It also freed me up to do the things I loved to do.

I know there are some things you have to do that you cannot easily delegate such as paying bills, taxes, etc. But you can always ask yourself this question. “If I pay someone else to do that stuff, will it free me up to make more money so that I can afford to pay that person?”

You might be surprised how many times you can actually answer yes to that question. When you do delegate those things, you find you enjoy your business that much more.

When you delegate you have a couple options. You can teach them how you want it done or you can let them figure out their own way. My dad did the latter. Since I loved those two tasks so much, I spent a lot of time learning new and better ways to do them. I did the same with my office manager. I showed her what we had done, but then let her figure out better ways to do it.

After my office manager got me organized!

When you find people passionate about doing a task you hate, they will often find a better way to do it than you ever could.

When you run your own small business you wear many different hats, often too many hats. See how many of the hats you hate to wear that you can pass on to someone else. Not only will it free you up to wear your other hats better, the people you delegate to will wear those hats you hated better than you did.

That will make a lot of people happy, you most of all.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Once I saw the light, delegating became a lot easier for me. Whenever a team member came in and said, “I have an idea,” I would often respond, “As long as it is consistent with our Core Values, run with it.”

“But don’t you want to hear what it is?”

“No. I trust you. After all, I hired you.”

PPS It seems almost too simple, but so many people get this one wrong. Hire people who love to do what you want them to do and they’ll not only work their tails off, they’ll find better ways to do what you want them to do, and they’ll be happy to do so.

Getting the Help You Want

Ever have one of those moments where things just clicked for you and everything that was a little hazy before now came into focus? I feel blessed that I have had several of those moments in my life and business career. One of them happened in October 2006. I wrote the following script for a radio ad looking for seasonal help at Toy House.

“Are you reliable and trustworthy?  Positive and cheerful?  Friendly and outgoing?  Do you love to help others, no matter how difficult the challenge might be?  Are you continually seeking to improve yourself, to be better tomorrow than you were today?  Are you willing to give up your weekends just to bring smiles to people’s faces?  Do you desire to work for a company that believes in the value of education, the importance of family, and the merit of hard work?  Are you willing to forgo upward mobility for stability and satisfaction of a job well done?  Apply in person at Toy House, 400 North Mechanic Street, downtown Jackson.”

Image result for help wanted adThis ad was a far cry different from previous help-wanted ads.

This was the first I ran that was more about the person than about the job.

Two things happened when I ran this ad.

First, I had fewer applicants than in previous years. This is not a knock on radio because I had used radio several times looking for seasonal employees.

Second, the quality of applicants went up dramatically. I had far more people I was excited to interview than in any year prior.

Actually, three things happened. the third was that I started to see a cultural shift in the team. Oh don’t get me wrong. We had a crack staff in 2006 and, for the most part, for most of our 57 years in business at that point. The sweetest music to my ears was when people told me they loved hiring former Toy House employees because of the quality people they would get.

After running that ad in 2006, however, I never ran a help-wanted ad again. I made a few posts on Facebook. I put a blurb in the email newsletters I would send out. But I didn’t have to pay for another ad. Partly because I found seasonal people who came back year after year for the season. Partly because the team really began to embrace those traits more openly, which, in turn, attracted more people who shared those traits, without even having to run ads.

It really was amazing to see the difference in the quality of people I attracted when I made the help-wanted ad about the person and not the job. Some people heard that radio ad and said, “Oh wow! He’s talking about me!” Others heard it and said, “No way. Not for me.” 

When you write your classified about the person, not the job, you are pre-selecting candidates who believe they have the right traits for the job. You’ll attract more of what you want, less of what you don’t want, and have a better pool (even if smaller) of qualified applicants.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I’ll be teaching this along with other tips and techniques for “Building a Better Salesperson” for Main Street Royal Oak tomorrow at noon at Cafe Muse on S. Washington in Royal Oak. Hope you can join me.

When to Bend the Rules, When to Break Them

When I was writing my new book Most Ads Suck I had a long internal debate about the word “Rules” versus the word “Principles.” There are six elements that the great ads incorporate to make them more effective. You don’t have to incorporate all six, but the more you use, the more powerful your ad can be. My question was whether to call these six elements “rules” or “principles” to follow.

I chose the word “principle” for the book because of one phrase. “Rules are made to be broken.”

If I had called them “rules” some of you rebels would have broken them just on principle alone (you know who you are.) Others would have believed you need to follow all six to be effective. You also know who you are. Principles are guides to help you be better. Rules are made to be broken.

Image result for rules made to be brokenIn this world there are the Rule-Followers and the Rule-Breakers. We need a third category. We also need Rule-Benders. These are the people who are smart enough to know when a rule just doesn’t apply to a specific situation, and are willing to make exceptions to the rule without throwing the rule completely out the window.

Here is an example …

I was in Athens, GA last weekend. We had a party of five and called a local restaurant on Saturday mid-day to see about getting a reservation for that evening. The hostess said, “I’m sorry. We don’t make same-day reservations. You have to call in advance to make a reservation.” (The Rule)

Then the hostess said, “But it’s the summer and with the students gone, we aren’t very busy, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting a table.”

“… we aren’t very busy …”

If you aren’t very busy, wouldn’t you want to make all the reservations you could to get more business?

With a reservation, we tell everyone in our party, “The reservation is at 6pm. See you then.” Without a reservation, someone in our party might say, “Hey, maybe we should try that other restaurant down the street.”

I don’t know enough about restaurants to know why they have such a rule in the first place. Maybe it was designed to show off their exclusiveness? Maybe it was designed to encourage people to plan earlier? Maybe it was designed because the hostess isn’t trained for fitting new reservations into the grid of existing reservations? If you take both reservations and walk-in traffic, it seems like a rule that needs to be broken and even eliminated. But I will give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt that the rule exists for valid reason.

With that said, I do know that if your hostess is saying, “We aren’t very busy,” she needs more training. The proper response would have been, “We’d love to see you tonight! What time would you like your reservation?” That would be a bending of the rule that would greatly benefit both the restaurant and our party of five.

In every type of retail there are rules in place. Usually those rules are created by the owner or manager to make it easier to train and set boundaries for employees. While I understand how this makes life simpler for the employee and manager, it also robs the employee of being able to do what you hired her to do—to surprise and delight your customers. if your rules are for these purposes, empower your employees to bend those rules when the opportunity arises to make a difference for a customer.

And when they do bend the rules, always applaud them for doing so, even if they bent the rules more than you would have liked. Otherwise you’ll stifle their desire to bend rules in the future. (Say, “Great job!! Now, next time…”)

Sometimes those rules are set to protect the business from the unscrupulous customers who might try to take advantage of the retailer, or simply to give the business control over the customer. If you have rules like that, those need to be broken.

  • Bend the rules when it will surprise and delight the customer
  • Break the rules if they aren’t customer-centric in the first place.

Got it?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When you hire people who are compassionate problem-solvers, you’ll have some rule-benders on your team already. Explain to them why the rule exists and they’ll know when to bend them to make a difference.

It Never Feels Like Work

Last weekend YMCA Storer Camps celebrated 100 years of camping. I was there celebrating with over 834 of my closest friends. I’m not exaggerating when I say 834 of my closest friends. Many of them are people I haven’t yet met. But I know if and when I do meet them, we’ll hit it off immediately.

One of the reasons I know this is because the camp’s Core Values are perfectly aligned with my Core Values and shared by the other 834 people in attendance.

Toy House Character Diamond and Core Values
The Toy House Character Diamond and my Core Values!.

Having Fun? Check! It is a camp after all!

Helping Others? Check! The motto of camp is “I’m Third” meaning God is first, others are second, and I’m third. The camp also celebrates different mottos for the first five years of your camping experience. The fifth and forever motto is Service.

Education? Check! Storer is one of the largest Outdoor Education Centers in the country and has been leading the way with innovative curriculum for environmental and experiential education for decades. I learned how to teach on the banks of Stoney Lake.

Nostalgia? Check! I did say it was the 100th anniversary, right?

It is quite rare that you will ever work for someone else’s organization and have it align so perfectly with your own values. The one organization you can count on to most perfectly align with you will be the one you run. That’s one of the benefits of being your own boss.

The beauty of having your business aligned with your Core Values is that it never feels like work. That is why I always encourage business owners to spend some time uncovering their Core Values.

  • Once you know them, you can tweak your business to align more perfectly.
  • Once you know them, you can change the parts that don’t align at all.
  • Once you know them, you can amplify them within the business so that others who share your values will be attracted to your business.
  • Once you know them, you can hire people who share those values.
  • Once you know them, you have a blueprint for making all decisions going forward.

I am willing to bet that all 834 people at camp last weekend shared at least one of those Core Values with camp (and with me). It was those values that drew these people back for the reunion and celebration.

I am lucky and blessed to have worked for two organization, encompassing most of my life that have perfectly aligned with my Core Values. The work I do under the banner of Phil’s Forum is more of the same—Having fun helping others through education (with a healthy dose of perspective from reliving my past experiences and drawing out their lessons).

When you align your work and your values, it never feels like work and you never want it to end. Who wouldn’t want that?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Here is a link to some worksheets that will help you uncover your Core Values.

PPS There were hundreds more people who couldn’t make it to the camp this weekend for the celebration who also shared some of the camp’s values. There are thousands in your town who also share your values. How do you become a beloved business? By creating a tribe of customers who feel the way you feel.