Oh good, you’re still here. You survived the quarantine and figured out how to keep the business going and serve customers. If what they say about the things that don’t kill us makes us stronger, then I gotta believe we all have a little bit of Tom Cruise in us. We graduated Top Gun and emerged the best of the best, and everyone else crashed and burned – it wasn’t pretty. That said, by no means are we out of the woods, and bogies are still out there waiting to shoot us out of the sky. Freight costs, raw material shortages, and product availability issues are just a few of the things that keep our heads on a swivel. Repopulating our talent pool is another one.
Every store I go to asks me if I know of any “good salespeople.”
“We’re desperate,” I’m told. “No one wants to work, and we need people!”
What lies in front of us is an opportunity that we haven’t seen since before our doors first opened. On day one, we had a scrappy vision. We did whatever it took to make a buck. Rent day was scary. Payroll was scary. Deciding what bills to pay and in what order was frightening and sleepless nights could very well have been the norm. I write from experience.
As I often opine, the future success of any retail business that relies on providing a service, like selling furniture, is keeping an eagle eye on how your customers are treated. My dad had a poster above his desk that pointed out that if you weren’t going to take care of your customers, someone else would. Now, there are some things you can’t control, and so you have to ride out the storm. One thing you can control is the opinion your customers have of your business. This time of great flux and unprecedented challenges could very well harbor the greatest opportunity you may ever have to fully realign on the soft skills of culture. How, you ask? You can do this by taking the extra time you don’t have while your staff is low and decide something very important. Something that will guide you to the calm, azure waters that are sure to be back before we know it – or eventually. Go to a quiet place, close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions.
- Who are you, and what are you doing here?
- What does your business stand for, and what philosophies must your staff share to put forth a consistent message?
- What is the culture I fostered pre-pandemic, and what can I do now to make it more of what I want it to be?
Yes, help may be needed in every department. Yes, the immediate road ahead is uncertain. Who knows what’s coming next? However, I’ve always been an advocate for offering the right kind of service, even at the expense of no service. Take this time and look at your lineups for all of the customer-facing departments you have and evaluate. If it were me, I’d be sharing my vision with passion to make sure everyone who wears my uniform understands what the mission is. This is a sales job, and selling is nothing more than a transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another. Sell your staff on why they need to buy-in.
- Share the dream and ask your staff what their dreams are. I always let my team know that their success was my primary concern, and being here to support them was 100% of my mission.
- Define success specifically. Do they want to buy a house, get more reliable or swanky transportation, invest more for the future, go back to school, get promoted, or go on an awesome vacation? I want to help make that reality.
- Everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Let them know that management has a personal, professional, and ethical responsibility to help them succeed as long as they are on the team. Employees will take a bullet for someone that has their back and has proven it with actions. It’s human nature.
- The better I do my job, the better the store does. When I run a great ad, the sales team benefits. When I make a great buy or select a winner, the sales team benefits. When I can make sure that my orders get shipped because of the relationships I’ve forged with my vendors and their teams, my staff benefits.
- Train, train, train, or feel the pain. Develop and invest in your team. Let a promising salesperson sit in on a vendor meeting with you. Bring them to the warehouse and meet the delivery and ops teams to get a sense of their struggles – bring them into the fold. Make them better.
- Make things a little bit nicer, and the bottom line will be a whole lot better. Spruce up the break room. Pay a little better commission than the competition. Lease top performers a car, get them Massage Envy memberships, send handwritten letters of appreciation to their spouses, thanking them for being a great support system at home. Find little perks that won’t break the bank but lets everyone know you care. It goes a long way.
Books and books have been written on company culture; I’ve read a ton of ‘em. In the end, we should believe in the fact that we are good people looking to have a positive impact on the customers we are lucky to serve each and every day. Employees want to do good work and be appreciated by their employers, maybe even celebrated. Show the love. Customers want the same thing. They want to be appreciated by the companies that have earned their business and want to feel special. As a business owner or manager, it’s on us and only us to make sure our staff wants nothing more than to serve customers to the very best of their ability. When a customer sees that, how can they think of shopping anywhere else?