This article was originally written in 2009, but I just did a seminar for retailers in a different industry and it dawned on me that from time to time we all need to reread this.
The seminar was entitled “you are who you hire.” It was pretty well attended and we all had a great time learning, laughing and promising each other we would fix a few things when we got back to the store.
The first thing I did at the beginning of the seminar was ask who has a person working for them that needs to be fired. How many people do you think said,“I do?” Before I give away the answer, let me ask you the same question. Do you have somebody who works for you that you know you should fire?
Take a guess what percentage of folks said yes and hold on to that thought for a few minutes. After we all laughed at each other, me included, we talked about what these future ex-employees had done and why they needed to be fired ASAP.
We also talked about ways to avoid hiring folks like them again and ways to stay out of court after you fire them and yes, how to make firing the ones who are nice but need to go easier on you and them.
Just about everybody had an employee that has a bad attitude about work, about life about who knows what. Get rid of them now.
That person is a cancer in your organization. That person will bring down your team, your customers and most importantly, that person will make your life miserable. That person was the most popular person in our class. Just about everybody there who said yes to the question said that person was the one who had to go. It amazes me how many of those unhappy folks are in the world.
In my 35 years I have had my share of those folks and yes, I have waited too long to fire some of them. You know the reasons, can’t find any body to replace them, they have a family and depend on me, they do something well in the store that I don’t think I can find a replacement for and the list of reasons goes on and on.
Here is what I learned.
By not firing them, the rest of my crew sees me as a poor manager. Plus any rules or culture I try to develop in the store is meaningless since this person does exactly as they want not what I want. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “what took you so long?” from other employees after I finally get rid of the culprit or culprits.
If you have an employee that doesn’t get it, doesn’t understand how to treat customers the way you want them treated, get rid of him or her now. We even had some folks who were afraid of firing a person because the person would have them in court for discrimination.
OK, some tips. Not really tips, but good advice that must be followed. Every employee must have a file and you must document all discipline issues in writing and have the employee sign every write up.
Know what your state requires you to do before you fire a person. I promise you if you don’t have things in writing as proof you will lose any and all legal battles no matter how right you may be.
I want you to remember this, you are who you hire. It’s that simple. You can spend a gazillion dollars advertising to get customers in but a bad crew will make sure those customers don’t come back again.
As independent retailers we are an endangered species. The good news is most folks want to do business with indies like us. The bad news is they expect way more from us than they do from chains. One of those expectations is great customer service and a wonderful shopping experience. If we can’t deliver those why on earth would the customer come back?
-Dave Ratner is the owner of Dave’s Soda & Pet City, an award-winning seven store mini-chain. Dave sits on the Board of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association and the National Retail Federation.