Jenn Haines: A Very Boring Thing You Absolutely Have to Do
By Jenn Haines, owner of The Dragon
You've opened your store. You've got some customers. You're running events. Time passes and all these things increase exponentially until you're running events almost every day, receiving product just as often, working ninety-two hours a week eating meals at the counter while you make orders.
You know what you have to do to move the business forward: hire staff. But the prospect can be terrifying. How will they know what to do? How can they possibly treat your customers the way they expect to be treated?
The crucial first step is to establish simple, repeatable processes for everything—and I mean everything—and document them.
It's time-consuming, tedious, and boring—and you absolutely have to do it.
But the good news is you only have to do it once, the maintenance is easy, and it'll enable you to hand over some of the retail operations to staff. This will free you up to do the important things, like ordering and paying the bills, and, with any luck, sleeping.
A quick step back: before you establish processes, you need a mission statement to guide them. (Check out my last article for some tips on how to do this.) Once you've got that, you need two things: a staff manual, and a tasks checklist.
The staff manual should be a living document. We keep our manual on Google Drive, so that all staff can access it, and so that I can easily make edits as policies and services change and develop.
Your staff manual should have the following:
- Mission statement and ideals
- Employee code of conduct, including use of language, attire, and expectations of service
- Detailed instructions on using your point-of-sale system and taking orders
- Opening and closing procedures
- All the store policies and the reasons for them
- Troubleshooting tips for the various technology in your store
- Phone list for all staff, relevant technical support, repair people, and landlord
- Anything else that has steps you would need to explain to someone.
Basically, spend a couple of weeks writing down everything you do in detailed steps, and then rewrite it so that someone else can easily understand it when reading it. (Bullet points help a lot.) This way, they can reference it when working independently, instead of asking you for help.
The tasks checklist catalogs the duties that staff are to complete every day, along with day-specific tasks. Staff initial the task and enter the time of its completion. This makes it clear what is expected each day, and the checklist format makes it hard for them to forget a task.
Those two documents completely revolutionized my business for the better, and they can do the same for yours. Once you've got them, you'll find that other things start to fall into place—things like sleeping and having dinner with your family.
Plus, having systems in place helps give your customers a more consistent shopping experience.
And when customers have a consistent and reliable experience, it builds their trust, which leads to repeat visits.
Start today—begin the process of writing everything down. It is going to seem like there's no end in sight at first, but I guarantee you will feel amazing once it's done.
Jenn Haines (B.Ed, M.A.) owns The Dragon in Guelph, Ontario. She is a recipient of the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailing Award and the YMCA–YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the Business category. She is also a board member of ComicsPro.