Articles for Retailers - by Tom Shay

Building the Team

by Tom Shay, Profit Plus Inc.

In my March 14 article, Being the Team, I made a comparison of your employees and a sports team. The point of that article was to get past having “employees” and, instead, having a team that was customer focused.

I discussed the team being most effective when everyone gets together before the business opened each day and talks about short term activities (what needed to be done that day) along with long term activities (exercises to improve our sales skills).

The team meeting to start each day is a wise investment of 15 minutes of everyone’s time.

This month I want to discuss an investment in your team that pays tremendous dividends in sales, profits, and in controlling how much of your time is spent handling issues that should be handled by your team.

Just like the sports team model, we again look at a team “staff education”  program. This is a 60-minute event held, minimally, once a month, and involving every individual in your business.

While the initial meetings should be conducted by you so your team experiences the format, the ensuing sessions should be conducted by members of your staff  This strategy helps to free up your time as well as helps your staff experience the challenges and time consumption of creating and teaching the class. It’ll also help your staff members be respectful of their fellow team members as they create and teach the class.

The focus of each meeting should be the things that most businesses take for granted; knowing the products and knowing how to sell.

Engage your staff with educational games. For example, give each person a list of 25 items you sell. The “game” is for them to name at least one additional item they could sell when the customer has asked for one of the items on the list. The person with the biggest list for each of the 25 items wins a prize. A nominal gift card to a nearby coffee shop works great.

Also included should be a discussion of your company’s policy and procedure manual. Your policies cover things like the dress code for your staff and how they are to handle scheduling vacation and unplanned absences. Your procedures are for tasks like writing special orders and how to load the truck for deliveries.

Your class should have a guideline that is printed and given to each attendee so they clearly see there is a schedule to be followed. It also prevents the leader from rambling and getting off task.

Just like in school, there should also be a written assessment. Research shows more information is retained when the individual is quizzed about what they have heard. Having a reward for each person who has a high score makes the class extra enjoyable.

The net benefit of this investment in your business is that it focuses on education instead of training. You are educating people and teaching them to think. After all, you did hire them because you thought they were smart and had skills. You need to give them opportunities to demonstrate those skills.

All of this requires a commitment by you as well as your requiring everyone in the business to participate.

The best part, however, is that after a few months of consistent education you will be amazed at how your employees have become sales, profit and productivity producing team members.



Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner, author, columnist, coach and speaker who has authored several training manuals for retailers that can be found in the Resources section of the NAMTA website – His knowledge of small business marketing, business strategy, staffing, and financial management have provided small business owners with the help necessary to increase their profits plus build their business for the future. You can learn more here -