If you are the owner or manager of a retail small business,
that first job you had at 18 as a cashier or sales associate may have been
several years ago. Now that you’re secure in the retail industry and you’re the
one in charge, you may want to be reminded of some important concepts to put in
place to bring you more success and a smoother running business. Of course,
these things can also be applied to other industries, too, so if you have a
successful business (or plan on starting one), this is for you. Here are 10
things I learned when I worked in retail.
Smile, smile, smile. It may sound very simple, but you would
be surprised how many people forget this. Smile at your coworkers, your boss,
your customers, and anyone else you work with (even the girl at the coffee shop
on your break). On a good day, this is easy to do, but sometimes this takes
more effort. Always smile, though, because honestly, no one cares that you
slept through your alarm and had to skip breakfast this morning or that you
were supposed to go home at 5:00 and here you are at 7:30. It’s no excuse to be
grumpy. While smiling may not reflect what you’re truly feeling, it will make
you appear warm and easy to talk to rather than like someone who doesn’t want
to be bothered.
Know when to figure it out yourself and when to ask for help.
Many people like to try to figure out how to do something on their own because
that shows they can work independently. But there are times when you are better
off asking for help. Avoid spending too much time thinking How in the world can I do this? or Where the heck IS that thing? The busier you are, the quicker you
should ask for help. You want to save time, not spend it. Figuring out when to
go it alone and when to ask for reinforcement is important. The same applies
when you are in a leadership role and you need assistance; it goes both ways.
3. Prepare to
be unprepared. You can’t foresee certain situations ahead of time. On the
employee side, prepare to be asked to work on your day off when someone calls
in sick, to be very busy with mundane tasks one day and have nothing to do the
next, or come across a situation with a customer that you just don’t know how
to handle. On the employer side, prepare for your employees to call in sick or have to leave early due to an
emergency and either ask someone else to come in or expect to take on more work
that day. Your employees will ask you
to deal with very difficult customer situations and you will experience
significant fluctuations in workflow. Better to know this now.
4. You will
never like everyone. With so many variations in personality, maturity, and
work ethic, chances are you will have at least one employee or superior you
don’t get along with. If you realize this now, you will be better able to find
ways to make working with the person more enjoyable. Be as nice and considerate
with them as possible and keep your opinions to yourself.
to detail: deal with it. This is especially true for clothing stores and
stores that sell small novelty items. You will have to take time making sure
every display and every item looks as perfect and appealing as possible.
Sometimes this involves training your employees how to do it or helping out
with it yourself. Clothes need to be folded to specific proportions, stacked
neatly, and size ordered. Don’t forget to zip zippers, button buttons, straighten
collars and adjust hangers. Face items and fill shelves, always leaving empty
space to the back and not visible. Other things involving detail include
cleaning windows, sweeping and mopping, and updating displays on a regular
basis to reflect current promotions or new items. This ensures a good first
impression of your business to every customer.
apologize when a mistake is made. It is one thing for a customer to
experience the result of an error—everyone makes mistakes, so sometimes it
happens. It is another thing when the mistake is denied or goes unacknowledged.
When something goes wrong and a company representative listens, apologizes, and
fixes the problem, the customer almost always leaves satisfied. Apologize even
if you weren’t the one who messed up or if it was actually the customer’s fault
(that doesn’t matter). I had a friend who ordered pizza at the mall’s food
court and when he received his food, it was clear that cheese had spoiled. When
he brought the slice back asking for a new order, the cashier said there was
nothing wrong with his food and said if he wanted a new piece, he would have to
buy another one. My friend got food elsewhere and has not gone to that
restaurant since. Would it have been so hard to say “I’m sorry about that” and
to offer him a free meal? No. The outcome may have been significantly different.
late happens. Yes, even for the owner. While the employees who work under
you get most of the odd hours, it doesn’t mean that you will never have to work
outside of the 9 to 5 (or other reasonable) hours. You may be needed for
inventory, meetings, or during busy holiday shopping days to name a few. Part
of owning a small business is being willing to stay pretty late at least every
now and then. On the other hand, if you’ve got enough help and a young employee
with an 8am exam finds out the closing duties won’t be done until 1am, let her
go home. Be reasonable and have a little mercy on those busy young people—they
will appreciate it.
8. Don’t play
the “no-hours” game. Why do employers do it? They
hire too many people, need to cut back to their non-seasonal staff, or have an
employee that’s not working out, so they don’t schedule people. They are still
technically employed, but they may get one shift a week or less. Instead of
coming to them and having an honest conversation like “You were hired
seasonally, so unfortunately, this will be the end of your position” or “I feel
that you are no longer a good fit for our company needs”, they use the
“no-hours” game to get them to quit. An employee would much rather sit through
an awkward conversation that may result in looking for a different position than
be strung along wasting their time without making money. Be honest with your
employees. It will save you money and increase your productivity because those
who will remain part of your long term staff are the ones that will do better
9. There is
no excuse for rudeness. Of course, there will be customers (and coworkers)
that will be rude to you and at times, impossible. You may be in a bad mood
because of something going on outside of work. In any case, you cannot afford
to return the rude behavior. Have you seen review sites like Yelp, Google
reviews, and Trip Advisor? These are all sites where anyone who has been to
your business can post a review about your business and you have no control
over what they say and who reads it. You do have control on the other end
though—ensure good reviews by being kind, courteous, and helpful at all times.
It’s easy to think: What good does it do
to be really nice to someone who is just going to be rude anyway? But it
matters for the person and the company they work for. Not everyone is perfect,
but remembering this concept will make bad impressions few and far between.
come, and people go. In entry level positions, there are some who will stay
with the company for a few years, but many people are looking for something
temporary when they apply to work in retail because it’s a stepping stone to
something else. A lot of times, it’s a support system for their education or a
supplement for other income. Not only that, but people move, go to school,
graduate from school, and get higher paying jobs. Those who do stay at a retail
company for longer than a year or two most likely get promoted eventually,
still leaving those entry level positions unfilled. Be prepared to hire often,
experience unexpected vacancies, and maintain your interview strategies. This
is the nature of the retail industry.
Hopefully, you learn something new or remembered a
practice you had long forgotten. These things are easy to implement and will
only help your business grow.
© 2012 eMarketing 4 Business LLC