opinion

Uplifting Sales by Creating a Positive Work Environment

Megan Swartz

The attitudes of your team members are a reflection of the attitudes of management. The ultimate goal in retail stores is to provide patrons with the most positive experience possible. Attitude starts at the top and has a trickle-down effect. Your bottom line is a direct result of your team’s interaction with the customer. This is why it is imperative that your team is offering the best possible vibe.

If your team leaders lack a healthy balance of instilling structure and respect for others, I guarantee that your sales associates (and your store) won’t achieve their full potential. In fact, they’ll likely share the same negativity when interacting with other team members and your guests as well. Then again, I guess you can’t really refer to your staff as team members when this happens, because you’re not promoting a team environment in the first place! It’s easy to take all the credit and have an “I did this, I did that” attitude. Let’s examine the reasons some managers adopt this behavior:

The truth of the matter is that if you surround yourself with people that are as great or better than you, it will only help your success in the long run!

Reason 1: They are insecure about their jobs! Makes sense, right? A manager (however long s/he has been with the company) thinks that by boasting absolute credit to their superior, they will enjoy better job security. This is often false because most GM’s and owners can see right through this! The problem is that new managers adopt this attitude because it may be their first management position or because they work or have worked in environments where their job is always on the line. But as my boss often reminds me, my job is to hire my replacement and always be looking for better people! And the truth of the matter is that if you surround yourself with people that are as great or better than you, it will only help your success in the long run!

Reason 2: Recognizing all players involved in reaching goals and accomplishments can be difficult. This is true, especially if you think you are the most important player. As a team “leader” you must do just that, LEAD your team to victory. Maybe as the team leader you are smarter or have more knowledge than the rest. Avoid using your knowledge as a tool to intimidate other members of staff. Instead, help to teach them to become the best employee they can be — even if that means creating a carbon copy of yourself in your previous, (their current position). Regardless of who helps with tasks and how much, I always say “we.” Even if I received very little help (and let’s face it, this happens from time to time), it sounds better saying “we.” The saying, “one bad apple spoils the entire bunch” is something we strive to avoid! Damage control after your operation has come to this point can be a huge task and often results in many new faces and saying goodbye to many people. We recently had to change part of the staff in one location because of this very scenario! We have learned from this and will continue to try and implement more positive attitudes and employees.

Reason 3: Maybe they just need a hug — or a high five (if you’re not a hugger). You have to get to the root of the problem in order to arrive at a solution. Ask your managers “What can I do for you? How can I make your day run smoother? Are there items on your to-do list that I can possibly help with?” Sometimes the biggest challenge that managers face is asking for help. They might feel that they have made it as far as they did because they work hard on their own and asking for help is like admitting they don’t know it all — which is tough for some. Not me, I LOVE asking for help! Why? Because it takes some of the pressure away from my job. Truth be told, I have at least two people help edit every one of these articles I’ve written. So if you are reading something you don’t like, chances are they made an addition. LOL, just kidding.

On larger projects we often ask vendors to come in and help. Also, some of the best people to ask for help are former employees that may have moved on from the company but still understand our vision. That’s why it’s important to build relationships. You never know when you may need to call in a favor. When I hear management speaking down to their staff, regardless of the establishment, it makes me anxious to leave the store and not return. It’s uncomfortable, awkward and embarrassing to be around these personality types! It not only ruins the sales associates’ day, but it also gives guests an uneasy feeling that ultimately leaves a bad impression and negative shopping experience in your business. Some people possess every single skill needed to be a team leader except the most necessary requirement… people skills! If their ego gets in the way when speaking to sales associates on your front lines, then you can be sure when an upset customer would like to speak to a manager, the associates will be taking the s me approach. You have now lost a customer for life! This is why it is very important to help everyone find their part instead of trying to run the entire show yourself.

To clarify, I’m not suggesting you let everything slide. If there are problems with policy violations or improper procedures, then most certainly you have to address the matter. Find a way to connect with the person in violation, praise them for what they DO bring to the table, and then let them know the areas where improvement is needed. Of course, this should all be in private. Never in front of employees or guests. As the old adage goes, praise in public, reprimand in private. We have all had our bad days, however, set an example. Be positive, be funny, get to know your staff, make light of situations, make blanket statements in group settings (don’t single anyone out) and help make your business become the happiest place on earth. As they say, if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life! We may not have Ferris wheels and roller coasters (although there are toys with these functions) but we sell some pretty fun stuff!

I’m sure many of us have had a taste of what it’s like to have an absolutely outstanding employee that is promoted and then it all goes completely south. You really don’t know how people will handle a little bit of power until it’s given to them! It’s up to them to try their best and not abuse this power. Unfortunately, I have witnessed some of the not-so-fabulous sides of people that I felt had the most potential and at some point considered a huge asset. The sad truth is that a good employee does not always equate to a good manager, and this is a truth as an operator that I have had to learn. On the flip side, I have witnessed some employees grow into amazing leaders!

Now, let’s get back to job stability. It’s important to remind your team that there’s longevity in any position. Those who are at the top more than likely worked their way from the bottom. For most of us it took years of hard work that we may have thought went unnoticed. In the long run, persistence and hard work always lead to advancement. You can’t have a “That’s not my job attitude.” You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to benefit your business. You get back what you put in!

With more than 10 years working with Deja Vu’s various branches, Megan Swartz — Deja Vu’s general manager and buyer — has made a name for herself as a dedicated and savvy, merchandising and operations-managing dynamo.

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