Monday, 23 July 2012

Building a Better Business

This article was issued in a March 2007 issue of my Road Reflections Newsletter, but remains an important message.  Enjoy this Toddwaz Classic.

Big corporations have boardrooms, and great corporations use them.  It’s important to get your key people together (for most of us it’s all of our people) to correct, instruct and inform.

Staff meetings can be really boring, so there are four things that exemplary jewellers do to make them efficient and valued. 

First, most of you’ll be holding these meetings either before or after work, so provide a snack and beverages.  Mike Ungrin of Marjon jewellers cautions that if you’re not careful snack-time can burn-up valuable meeting time, so keep it simple!  He keeps his meetings to a maximum of one hour as it seems the outside limit for information retention without a recess.  While it is lawful to provide a meal as compensation for being there, all of the jewellers I spoke to said that their staff members are paid for their attendance.

Secondly, any meeting needs an agenda in order to keep conversations on-track.  While open-discussion time is important, there are urgent matters that will quickly be put on the back burner if conversations wander down one rabbit-trail after another.  Dick Jewell of Mitchell & Jewell rotates the task of recording secretary.  If you record your minutes and post them on the bulletin board, then staff are reminded of the new expectations that came out of your meeting.

Some common agenda items are:
·      Sales stats
·      New product knowledge
·      Workplace issues (incl. security)
·      Sales training

Thirdly, use these meetings to clearly outline expectations.  Everyone I spoke with discussed the ongoing challenge of developing and maintaining consistent customer service and operating procedures.  By discussing expectations, you give staff freedom and power to exercise creativity without acting outside your parameters.
 The fourth common element for successful staff meetings is “open discussion.”  Allow time for questions and comments when going over agenda items.  If, for example, one person questions a new repair tracking system; chances are they’re not the only one who lacks understanding.

Also allow time for “new business.”  Great ideas sometimes go unsaid without an appropriate forum.  Grumbling about petty issues may continue behind backs unless given a chance to publicly vent.  If you are honest enough to, as Dick Jewell says, “praise and whip,” then your staff will echo a similar openness about their issues.

What if you’re just a small operator? Curtis McLeod of Ken’s Goldsmithing, along with the owners is part of a team of only 7 to 8 people.  They hold their meetings mid-day during the shift cross-over once or twice per month.  They usually talk about workplace issues and work on sales training.  Even though they all work with each other so closely, Curtis claims that “it’s a must” because “it helps keep everyone on the same page.”

Here’s what others said about holding staff meetings:

Dick Jewell – “will make life easier for management.”

Mark Tuttle (Independent Jewellers Edmonton) – “Without them, we would have chaos” and “it definitely increases productivity.”

Mike Ungrin –“Staff meetings essentially help clear the air.”

So, if you’re not currently holding regular staff meetings, here’s a start:

·      Get a box of donuts and some drinks
·      Arrange a time for everyone to attend
·      Set an agenda; taking into account your expectations that need to be met
·      Use the agenda to keep the meeting at a lively pace, while leaving room for open discussion
Post the minutes on the bulletin board to remind your staff of the new or renewed policies and expectations.

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