Retailers: Lead by Example to Boost Your Shop

Role models inspire others to work hard. Set the tone and pace for your employees, and they’ll follow.
Photo Credit: ATA

Author: Cassie Gasaway

Do you tell your staff to put away their phone? Do they dress appropriately and communicate with customers? Are they on time for work and meetings? Do they stand straight behind the counter?

Archery retailers must set rules for their employees, but don’t stop there. Employees take rules most seriously if you abide by them, too. Lead by example and be a role model.

Kemlin Hart, owner of Hart Brothers South LLC in Mason City, Iowa; and David Landsborough, owner of Landsborough Auctions Ltd. & Triggers and Bows in Burford, Ontario; live by those principles.

“Asking someone to do something while doing the complete opposite never works,” Landsborough said. “(Employees) won’t trust you, and they’ll follow the example you set, no matter what.”

Set the example you want your employees to emulate. Photo Credit: Hart Brothers South

Hart agrees. “Your employees represent your brand and business,” he said. “You must set the tone for them in every aspect of your business. Always be nice, have fun, and show your employees you’re in this together.”

Hart and his wife oversee three full-time employees. Landsborough manages 15. Both retailers said business owners can’t get complacent. Following your own rules makes you honest. Dismissing them makes you a hypocrite. Never ignore standards you set for your employees. They’ll mimic your behaviors, purposely or unconsciously.

Show employees how to behave. Don’t just tell them. You must also discipline them or correct their mistake if they break rules. If you tell employees not to swear, use their phone, or raise their voice with customers, do something about it when they slip up. Free passes for rule-breakers create an unfair work environment, which sparks rumors and resentment. Plus, those who feel immune to rules will take advantage of you and keep abusing your rules.

Hart advises owners to promptly and consistently address issues. Employees will soon address problems on their own if they know you don’t tolerate rule-breaking.

“You don’t have to hammer on your guys, but if you let it go too long it festers inside of you,” Hart said. “By the time you confront them, you’ll be so upset that you’ll want to scream and fire people. No one wins that way.”

If you have a great relationship with your employees, that will show in their relationships with the customers. Photo Credit: Triggers and Bows

Being a role model who sets the bar high makes you a good manager. It can also make or break someone’s work attitude. Hart takes responsibility for creating a positive work environment.

“I had good bosses and bad bosses before I worked for myself,” Hart said. “Bad bosses can make a great job terrible, and good bosses can make a bad job pretty good. I don’t tell my guys they work for me. We work together. I do the same jobs they do, such as sweeping and cleaning bathrooms, so they don’t feel picked on.”

By leading by example you also show employees how you want them to treat customers. Respect your employees and they’ll respect your customers, Landsborough said. It also brings peace of mind, customer satisfaction, and increased sales and profits.

“You can walk away knowing you don’t have to worry what your employees are saying to customers,” Landsborough said. “If you know they’re respectful, and nothing inappropriate is said or done, you’ll have happy customers.”

And happy customers usually buy or return to make more purchases. Hart said retailers must also teach employees how to greet customers, make sales, answer the phone, and close sales.

Hart also recommends giving employees the freedom to find customer-service techniques that work for them. You must still watch them, however, and give pointers to improve and hone their approach.

“Appreciate the fact that people have their own way,” Hart said. “If it’s forced, it doesn’t work. It’s not genuine. Customers pick up on that.”

Because everyone has a unique personality, each staff member needs their own sales pitch or communication style. As long as their behavior makes you proud, let them do their thing. Knowing, respecting and trusting your employees boosts their performance.

By helping them optimize their strengths, you’ll boost your business. A Harvard Business Review article evaluated research that showed businesses increase sales, profits and customer engagement by developing their employees’ strengths. If possible, invest in training programs that give employees tools to improve their work relationships and your business.

Meanwhile, keep communicating. If an employee doesn’t pick up on your clues or behaviors, address the problem. Direct them to observe and follow your lead. Further, if they’re going to be late for work, tell them you’d appreciate a heads-up. Good communication solves most problems. All it takes is routine conversation with everyone around you.

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