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Christmas Quick Tip #14 – Get Away

In the interest of time during this busy holiday season, these blog posts will be short and sweet so that you can get back to business more quickly.

Here is tip #14 …

GET AWAY

No, I’m not suggesting you take a holiday this time of year (wouldn’t that be nice?). But I am reminding you that you need to leave the store for an hour or two each day. You need to go home and rest or go to a restaurant and have someone serve you.

This time of year we get in early, stay late, and always seem to be running errands whenever we leave the store. I know. I was part of that grind for twenty four years.

Unfortunately that is a recipe for disaster. If you work yourself too hard you will …

  • Learn to hate the holidays
  • Wear yourself out (often too soon)
  • Get so tired that you accidentally snap at a customer or staff
  • Ruin your health so that you miss out enjoying Christmas Day or New Year’s Day
  • Become so cranky your kids won’t like you

When I was young, my sister and I talked about how our “Christmas” dad was so far different than our friends’ “Christmas” dads. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

Every day take at least an hour break just for you.

No errands. No hiding in your office where they can find you. Get out of the store and try to relax.

Your store won’t implode if you’re gone for an hour (or if it will, then we need to talk about a little reorganization and maybe some staff training?). But you might implode if you don’t take those breaks.

The next ten days will be your busiest stretch of the year. Make sure you take care of yourself while you’re taking care of your customers. It makes the holidays so much more enjoyable.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Since I was working from 7am until 9pm I usually took a couple hours mid-afternoon. Often I would go home and nap. If that wasn’t possible, I would go to a restaurant and read the newspaper. That’s what got me through over two decades of holiday retail sales with my sanity (somewhat) intact.

PPS Put the calmest person on your team in charge. They keep everyone else calm, which keeps the fires to a minimum before you return.

Christmas Quick Tip #13 – Reload the Paper

In the interest of time, I’m keeping these posts short and sweet to quickly give you tips to make your season just a little bit better.

Here is tip #13 …

RELOAD THE PAPER

The next two Saturdays will likely be the two busiest days of your year. One thing we always did during this time of year was make sure we started out our busy days on the right foot.

We reloaded our cash registers and credit card machines with fresh rolls of paper.

Each night before a busy day we took off the half-used rolls and put on fresh ones. This way we were less likely to run out of paper during the day.

Sure, there were those awesomely busy days where we would go through more than one roll per register, but at least those outages came during peak staff times. Nothing looks more unprepared than to run out of paper on the fifth transaction of the day.

We would then use those half-used rolls of paper in January when business was a little slower.

It is a little thing, but it adds up. Reload the paper in your machines before your busy days. It helps.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Also check all your other supplies like staples in the stapler, ink pens that work, scratch pads and notebooks, a fresh “No List”, etc. Take five minutes on a Friday night and your Saturday will be that much better.

Christmas Quick Tip #11 – Catch Your Employees

Christmas is only two weeks away! This is a quick tip to fire up your staff for the final push.

Here is tip #11

CATCH YOUR EMPLOYEES DOING SOMETHING RIGHT

By now, if you trained them well, your newbies should be doing more right than wrong. Pay close attention to them over the next couple days. Find something they did exceptionally well and praise them for doing it.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Simply say …

  • I love how you handled …
  • You did a nice job with …
  • That was really nice how you …
  • You’ve really gotten a handle on …
  • You do (_________) so well!

“There are two things people want more than sex or money… recognition and praise.” -Mary Kay Ash

Give your veterans some love, too.

  • You’ve really stepped up at doing …
  • Thank you for (_________)
  • I’m so grateful for all you did to …
  • You are my rock star!

Build up your staff with praise and recognition and you’ll see their energies rise. 

It will give you the necessary momentum to finish these last two weeks strong.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Don’t stop at just catching them once. Whenever you see energy levels fading, pull out the praise card. It works wonders!

Christmas Quick Tip #9 – Empty Her Hands

This month’s blog posts are short and simple because you’re busy. They are also reminders of tips, techniques, and tools you can use to increase sales, increase profits, and increase customer delight. This tip does all three.

Here is tip #9

EMPTY HER HANDS

If you don’t have shopping carts or baskets, your customers are limited to buy only what they can carry. Therefore, it should be a mission for all of your team to help unburden your customers whenever their hands are full.

Offer to take her items up to the checkout station.

This is good for two reasons. First, it frees up her hands to shop for more items. Second, it helps close the sale because when she agrees to your request to take the items up front she is giving her implicit acknowledgement that she has decided to buy those items.

When her hands are free she will shop longer, buy more, and be happier.

Don’t believe me? Believe Paco Underhill. He researched it for decades and chronicled it in his book Why We Buy. If you haven’t read it, ask Santa to bring you a copy.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Come up with a system for your team when they bring items up front—put a sticky note with a name on the pile and/or have a designated place for piles—something that helps you keep piles organized so that the wrong items don’t go home with the wrong people.

Christmas Quick Tip #6 – Coins First!

Keeping it short and sweet, here is another simple, easy tip you and your team can do to make the holiday experience a better one for your customers.

Tip #6

GIVE THE COINS BACK FIRST

If you’re a regular, you know this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. It shows both a lack of caring and a lack of training when the cashier hands me the bills first and then dumps the loose change onto my already occupied hand. The coins inevitably spill and now I’m wasting time on my hands a knees for a couple dimes.

Ugh!

The best thing you can do is teach your staff to “Count Back” the change.

The second best thing you can do is to at least have them place the coins in the customer’s hands first, followed by the bills.

Please, please, please teach and do this. Not only will you avoid those awkward hands-and-knees moments, you’ll subconsciously make your customer’s day (or in my case, you would consciously make my day and I would probably let out a rebel yell of joy!)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I do think it is a big deal. There are little things that have bigger meaning. This is one of training and caring. A cashier taught the right way instills far more confidence than one who is bumbling around and making you drop stuff.

Christmas Quick Tip #5 – Start Closing at Closing Time

Since your time is tight, now through December 21st I’m keeping these blog posts short and simple with tips, tools, and techniques that make a difference.

Here is tip #5

START CLOSING AT CLOSING TIME 

Not before.

Yes, you’re tired. Yes, these are long days and you want to go home. Yes, waiting until closing time to wash the counters, count the change, empty the wastebaskets, etc. will make you have to stay a few minutes later.

Yes, your last customer of the day deserves the same enthusiasm as your first customer of the day.

Make it taboo for anyone on your team to mention how tired they are. This is your moment to make hay. This is what your whole year has been built around. You’re supposed to be tired at the end of the day. Just don’t let it show.

Treat the last customers with the same enthusiasm as the first customers. Don’t go around the store closing things down and making them feel unwelcome. Instead think of them as the icing on your sales cake and give them the red carpet treatment.

Even if you have to fake it.

It not only pays now with bigger sales at the end of the day, it pays down the road as a customer treated well is more likely to come back than a customer treated like a nuisance.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I was guilty of this far too often. It is the one mistake I wish I could go back in time to fix. Yes, they are long days for you. Have you ever considered it has also been a long day for your customer? Treat her with kindness and enthusiasm and not only do you get the sale, you just might make her day.

When You Need to Change Things Around

We had two warehouses in our store. We called them “Warehouse #3” and “Warehouse #5” Yeah, I know.

Those names actually made sense based on our phone paging system. The first warehouse was button number 3 on our phone system. The second warehouse – created when the store expanded in 1972 – was button number 5 in the system.

Since the front line staff called those warehouses as often as they visited them, the names made sense.

We also had six numbered doors on the back side of the building. Door #5 was where we sent customers to pick up large, bulky items like Little Tikes and Step2 products or baby furniture. Door #5 was located in Warehouse #5.

A long time ago all of our warehouse aisles were also numbered. Because of reconfigurations, only one aisle number remained. You guessed it … Aisle #5.

Aisle #5 was in Warehouse #3. Aisle #5 was the “junk draw” of the Toy House. All the shelving odds and ends ended up in Aisle #5. When something needed to be put back in the warehouse temporarily, it went to Aisle #5.

The New Baby Department May 2006

Confused?

My new staff regularly was.

Every year I would ask my staff for a new name for Aisle #5. I would even have been happy with “junk drawer.” But every year they said don’t change it. It will be too confusing.

There are still people in town who call the mall on the north end of town Paka Plaza even though it changed its name to Jackson Crossing twenty-eight years ago!

We are resistant to change. We don’t like change. We cling to the old even after change happens.

So how do you change the things that need to be changed?

First you need to identify the type of change. Is this a tweak or a wholesale change?

Tweaks are easy. Explain why the change is better/easier/faster/more-customer-friendly and everyone will jump on board fairly quickly.

Wholesale changes need buy-in.

Wholesale changes need key employees leading the charge or being the cheerleaders for the change. You need your managers and assistant managers on board. You need your veterans on board.

If you need to make wholesale changes such as completely revamping a policy, changing your hours and/or days of operation, or adding in a new POS system, you need to identify your key people, not by their role (manager, assistant, etc.) but by their likely position regarding the change. You need to know …

  • Who will be most resistant to the change
  • Who the change will affect the most
  • Who will be the most happy for the change

Unless change is a constant in your particular business, your elder statespeople will most likely be the keepers of the we’ve-always-done-it-this-way flame. You need to sit down with one or two of them and have a conversation before you announce the change. In that conversation, don’t ram the new way down their throats. Instead focus on the problems the old way causes. Get them to buy-in on the old way being “broken”  first and they’ll be much more open to new ideas.

The employees most affected by this change are your next group. You don’t have to meet with them before (although it helps to have a similar conversation like you had with the previous group), but you do need to meet with them after you announce the change. You need to sit down with them and tell them you understand how much more difficult this change will be for them than the others. You need to tell them what you’re planning to do for them to help them through the transition.

The third group is who you want to call on when you announce the change. Get them to give their input right away and their positivity will infect the rest of your group. They will become your head cheerleaders.

Follow this blueprint and you will have much quicker and better buy-in by your team. You’ll still have some trials and tribulations. You might have an employee or two who won’t adapt well to the change. You might even have to fire someone over this.

You will likely also have a dip in productivity while you go through the transition to the new procedure. That’s okay and expected. You’re in business for the long run, remember?

The right changes now will keep you in the game long enough to wonder why people still remember what you did twenty-eight years ago.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We changed computers and cash registers once on my watch. We changed hours several times including being open Sundays year-round. We changed closing procedures, too. We even closed for three days to totally revamp, renovate, and relocate every product, shelf, computer, and cash register in the store. The more I followed the above blueprint, the better each change happened.

Two Books Every Manager of People Should Read

I had a gal on my staff a few years ago who was a hugger. She hugged me when I hired her. She hugged me when I changed her position from seasonal to permanent. She hugged me when I encouraged her to pursue her dream job. She hugged me when that didn’t work out and she came back to work for me.

I had no problem hugging her back.

In today’s #metoo world that might not be such a safe position. Hugging your staff, especially your female staff if you are a male boss, is probably a no-no.

But I had no problem hugging her back because to her, the hug validated her and made her feel appreciated. (Plus, if I were to need a defense, she did initiate the hug.)

Each person on my team had a different way of feeling appreciated.

Some needed words of encouragement. I would heap praise on them whenever I could. I knew a kind, affirming word here and there would rock their world, and they would, in turn, rock the customers’ worlds.

A couple of my staff members needed a little “token” of appreciation. I’d pass along a freebie or two their way, knowing that it was as equally powerful as the hug was to my hugger in terms of making them feel appreciated.

One person in particular just needed my time. This person needed me to just listen, just be there. My ear was her way of feeling appreciated.

Those of you who are familiar with Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages probably have already recognized what I’m talking about. In this book Chapman claims that there are five different ways we show and receive love:

  • Physical Contact
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service

He calls them our Love Languages. Each of us has a primary language we receive love and a primary language we show love (sometimes the same language, but not always). Knowing the language of my staff made it easier for me to show them Appreciation (love) in a way they would best receive it.

The purpose of the book is to help couples understand how to show love to each other. If you show love in a different language than your partner, if you don’t learn to speak his or her language, he or she might never feel the love you actually have.

As a boss, however, it also helps you learn how to show Appreciation.

According to Daniel H. Pink in his book Drive, what motivates your staff is Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. But what creates loyalty and happiness and job satisfaction is Appreciation. We all have a basic need to feel loved and appreciated.

If you manage people and haven’t read those two books, I know what Santa needs to get you for Christmas.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, some of my staff received Appreciation through Acts of Service. Fortunately for me, that was how I best showed love, so it was easy to appreciate those members of the team. Knowing that, you now know why I write this blog and give away so much on the Free Resources page. It is my way of showing love.

PPS No, I wouldn’t use The 5 Love Languages for hiring purposes. While it would seem that having a team that all spoke Acts of Service would be a good thing, remember that your customers speak all five of the languages. It is good to have a team fluent in several languages.

Make Change with a Purpose

While I know I should probably avoid the drive-thru restaurants, I don’t. I go even though I don’t particularly like the drive-thrus. It isn’t the food. It is the experience, or more accurately the final moments of the experience.

Two things happen far too often at the end of a drive-thru experience that shouldn’t. One is partially my fault. One is simple training that would make the experience far more pleasurable.

Don’t you just hate when they give you your change?

They always stack the bills on your hand first and then drop a wad of coins on top of those bills. My only hope is that when the coins start sliding off (as they always do), they will slide into my vehicle and not on the ground.

There is a far better way to give back change. I’ve highlighted it here.

The second problem is making sure I got the right stuff. I don’t want to hold up the line so I rarely ever check the bag. Sometimes they are polite enough to tell me what they are handing me. Sometimes they aren’t.

Yesterday, however, I found a third reason to be annoyed.

This picture is the dollar bill I got in change for my meal yesterday. I actually flattened it out some for the picture. It was pretty crumpled. I was afraid to put it into my wallet.

All I could think about as I drove away was why wasn’t this drive-thru cashier instructed to put the nasty, slimy, crumpled, torn, barely readable dollar bills at the bottom of the stack and only give out the good ones as change?

You do that, don’t you?

If there was anything I was OCD about at Toy House, it was clean dollar bills in the drawer. Every morning when I counted out the drawers I held back the nasty ones for the deposit and put the clean ones in the drawers. I used to beg the teller at the bank to give me the clean bills whenever I bought bundles of ones. (She used to hold the better bundles aside just for me—that’s customer service!)

It seems like a silly, minor thing, but it is those little details that set you apart from your competition.

Your customers won’t notice you did it, but sometimes the best customer service is doing something nice they don’t notice rather than having them flame you on Yelp for something not so nice they did notice.

Teach your staff to give back the right kind of change the right way. It quietly makes a difference.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Oh, I would love to go into a fast food joint and whip them into shape. After giving back change, the other thing I would teach them to do is to put the lettuce in the sandwich, not in the outer folds of the wrapper. I would have taken that picture of me becoming a salad yesterday if I wasn’t driving.

PPS I was in a Chick-fil-A restaurant once where the cashier handed me back change the right way. It was so refreshing that I had to thank her. She said it was the way she was taught. See? It can be taught. While that isn’t the only reason why an average Chick-fil-A restaurant does over three times in sales of the average KFC, staff training is definitely a major contributing factor.

Small Business Academy Homework Part 2

I am taking a class to work on my business. It is a class for startups, primarily, but the exercises will not only help me with my business as a speaker, writer, and business coach, they will help me help you become a better business.

My instructor, Frances Schagen, has granted me permission to do all my homework worksheets live here on this blog. You can read the first worksheet here. Time for Part 2.

DISCOVERY DANCE – WHO?

The previous step was about me, what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. This next exercise is for me to think more about who I want to work with. I have three questions to answer …

  • What problem are you solving?
  • What are the characteristics of the people you most want to work with? What is it about them that makes them a fit for your solution?
  • List 20 people who have those characteristics and who you think might need your solution.
Don’t adjust your monitor. This is Alpine Soccer – a real thing!

What problem are you solving?

Giving tools other than the markdown gun to retailers and small businesses to help them create successful businesses that can compete on a field slanted against them.

What are the characteristics of the people you most want to work with? What is it about them that makes them a fit for your solution?

Business Owners and Managers of small, independent businesses who:

  • Can make their own decisions
  • Want to learn new and better ways to run their businesses
  • Believe in continuing education
  • Are open to trying new things
  • Care about their customers
  • Care about their community
  • Want a push in the right direction
  • Want to learn new skills

Notice that these characteristics align with my Core Values of Having Fun, Helping Others, and Education. Your answer should align with your Core Values, too.

Notice also that I did not limit myself to just retailers. I go back and forth on this part of the answer. Although my background is in retail and some of my presentations are strongly retailer-focused, the characteristics listed above are not just limited to retailers. Nor are all my programs and teachings just limited to retailers.

My book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art works with any business that must hire people. I have a couple Fortune 500 companies that use this book and its teachings. I have a couple international companies doing the same.

There is something to be said for narrowing your focus so tightly that you become the known expert in a narrow field. There is also something to be said for keeping the net more broadly focused not on any single type of business or individual, but on the characteristics. I love that part of this question. If you own a non-retail business and have the characteristics listed above, I am sure I can help you.

There are still a couple problems with my original answer of “Business Owners and Managers of small, independent businesses.” Most of those people cannot afford my services on an individual basis and I prefer to work with large groups of these people at once.

Therefore, to truly reach them in the ways I can help most, I have a secondary customer that is in many ways my primary customer. I have to go through the gatekeeper.

My true customers are typically Trade and Business Organization Leaders who, along with the mindset above, also:

  • Plan learning events for their members
  • Hire people from outside their echo chambers to give fresh perspective, new insights, and sharper tools to their members

Those organization leaders are the gatekeepers to the first group because A) they have the money to plan learning events, and B) they can corral a number of businesses into a group setting.

Therefore, to reach my preferred customers, I have to find these gatekeepers who share these characteristics and reach them.

This is an important understanding and distinction. I write this blog and create the content on my website for you, the small business owner. I have to find another avenue to convince the gatekeepers to hire me. This blog isn’t for them, nor will it ever get me hired by them*.

When you understand your customers at this level, it changes the way you look at how and where to find them.

List 20 people who have those characteristics and who you think might need your solution.

I think Frances wants me to list specific people or businesses here. I’m going to take a slightly different approach in my answer.

I think the following businesses need my solution …

  • Independent Retailers & Restaurants
  • Locally Owned Franchise Retailers & Restaurants
  • Service-based businesses such as insurance agencies and beauty salons
  • Anyone involved in Sales

who belong to …

  • Downtown Development Authority districts
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Shop Local Organizations
  • Industry Buying Groups
  • Industry Trade Associations
  • Main Street Programs
  • Merchant Cooperatives

and/or attend …

  • Industry Workshops
  • Educational Conferences
  • Local Seminars

I also think the following people need my solution because it can help strengthen their members, which strengthens their organization …

  • DDA Directors
  • Chamber of Commerce Directors
  • Main Street Program Directors
  • Shop Local Directors
  • Economic Development Directors
  • Trade Association Educational Committee Directors

One of the first questions I always ask when I meet this last group of people is,

“Do you offer or have you considered offering any training programs for your members?”

Listing 20 people can be challenging. For your benefit, I thought about my business at Toy House and came up with this list:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Children
  • Aunts & Uncles
  • Teachers
  • Home Schoolers
  • Hobbyists
  • Gamers
  • Librarians
  • Interior Decorators
  • Coaches
  • Athletes
  • Event Organizers
  • Daycare Workers
  • Therapists
  • Pediatricians
  • Dentists
  • Anyone with a waiting room with kids
  • Musicians
  • Entertainers

I’m sure with enough thought you can come up with a list like this for your business.

Here are my takeaways from this exercise for you.

If you can clearly identify the problem you are trying to solve and clearly identify the characteristics of the person with this problem you would most like to work with, you’ll understand more clearly the advertising and marketing you need to do to get more of the customers you want (and less of the ones you don’t want).

(Having read ahead in the course work, I think Frances will take this info to send us in a slightly different and more fascinating direction than that. Sit tight. I’ll explain it when we get there.)

Thanks, Frances!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS *This blog actually can get me hired by “them,” but it involves YOU. When you tell your DDA/Chamber/Shop Local/Trade Association person about wanting opportunities to learn more and having educational programming available to you, then they are more likely to hire me to do that. Tell your organization directors about me. Send them to this page.