Thursday, 16 February 2012

Passing the Buck

I love to play poker!  Can you imagine my excitement when I learned that the phrase “passing the buck” started as a poker term?  In current poker practices there is a “dealer button” which is put in front of the person who chooses the game and deals the cards.  In frontier days, they often used a buckhorn handled knife (or “buck”) to indicate the dealer.  If you “passed the buck” you were absolving yourself of the responsibility for making the decision about what game would be played and were letting someone else do the shuffling and dealing.

Harry S. Trueman had the famous sign on his desk; “the buck stops here.”  This meant that when a situation came his way, he would take the responsibility to make a decision and “deal” with the issue.

Here’s Todd’s challenge of the day:  write down the names of everyone in the store.  When a customer wants to return something outside (or in a grey-area) of your return policy, where does the buck stop?  When a good client asks for a discount, where does the buck stop?  When a client asks a technical question about a gemstone or jewellery, where does the buck stop?  How much “passing the buck” happens in your store?

If the buck sometimes stops with someone other than the owner, then congratulations, you have achieved LEVERAGE.  If the buck always gets passed to the owner, then you as a owner are a PRACTITIONER.  If you have leverage, you can go on vacation.  If you’re a practitioner, you lose business when you leave the store. 

Leverage can be gained through key-persons, through well-defined policies and procedures and through affiliation.  Train and authorize staff to take ownership of problems that come along.  Let them make mistakes, correct and redirect.  If your policies and practices are well-defined and articulated to staff, then they’ll know what to do under more circumstances.  Belonging to a buying-group, the CJA, service groups, BBB and/or Chamber of Commerce gives you a platform for developing your practices and policies.

Staffers: if you feel that you are ill equipped to handle certain circumstances, open a dialog with your owner or manager.  Nobody enjoys saying to a client, “gee, I don’t know, I’ll go get Janet, maybe she’ll know.”  That’s passing the buck!  If you are doing this business as more than just a job, you want to be seen as competent in the eyes of your clients.

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