Rising To The Occasion

How To Hire Super Stars To Take Your Shop To The Next Level

Where can I find good employees? I hear that same question whether I am working at a shop in downtown Toronto or on the edge of Nova Scotia! It seems that reliable, dedicated, talented workers are becoming an increasingly scarce breed. But are you looking in the wrong places? Do you have unrealistic expectations? Or is it a combination of both scenarios?

The first step in looking for new staff is coming to grips with the reality that you may have a hard time finding people with flower shop experience. And that’s not a bad thing. Far too many shops are “managed” very loosely (as mentioned in my last column), so you often get a new staff member with bad habits. You might have to teach someone from scratch how to make sales or design flowers. That may sound daunting, but think of it this way: you’re “imprinting” on them like a mother duck does with her ducklings. Consequently, your methods will be the only way your new hires will know how to operate. No more, “But at the last shop where I used to work we used to…”

The next step is to write a better ad, one that reflects real expectations and doesn’t romanticize the idea of working with pretty flowers. Here is a basic framework to consider as you prepare to post your help wanted ad for a customer service or sales person:

Busy retail business seeks articulate, detail-oriented, computer-friendly service clerk with at least 3 years’ experience to take phone orders and wait on walk-in customers. This is a fast-paced environment and we work through every holiday. Hours are X and the earnings potential is up to $YY per hour. Interested, QUALIFIED candidates should email their CV and references to retailjob1016@gmail.com. (Set up a new email address for this purpose.)

The advantages to this approach are many: you won’t get phone calls or unsolicited “drop-bys.” You can decide whom you want to speak with and when. You will get someone pre-trained with sales and service skills (maybe someone who has spent the last few years at a Telus call centre, for example). Remember, it’s far easier to teach employees the flower basics than how to sell! Finally, this approach means your staff won’t see your ad (if you are looking to clean house)!

Place the ad online in national job search sites, such as LinkedIn. Don’t rely on an old-fashioned newspaper listing.

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Start by calling applicants for a quick introduction. Listen to them on the phone and ask yourself if you would want them representing your shop. If so, set up the interview.

During the interview, look for the little things and the big ones: Did she show up on time? Was he appropriately dressed? What kinds of questions did he ask? Why is she leaving her current job? Make sure that YOU have a list of questions to ask about their work experience and goals.

When interviewing for a customer service/sales position, I also like to test their critical skills. Have them sit at a terminal and copy an order from paper into a Word document to test their ease with the keyboard and ability to use tools like spell check. Test their reasoning and service skills too. Come up with a few sticky scenarios and have them type their answers, giving their solution and the reason for their actions. For example, explain that a customer called to complain that his wife got the wrong colour roses delivered for her birthday. Look for an answer that rectifies the situation and demonstrates an ability to go the extra step (such as sending a replacement in the right colour with an apology note from the shop). I would be worried if the applicant typed that he or she would have to check with the manager and call the customer back. You want to hire someone who can think independently and make decisions!

Finally, when you do hire that person, PLEASE make sure to have a written job description and employee handbook ready for him or her on day one!

In the next installment we’ll discuss finding, interviewing and hiring design staff.

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Tim Huckabee
Tim Huckabee AIFSE was born, raised and educated in Connecticut and moved to New York City in 1993 to start working at a high-end flower shop called Surroundings, where he learned every aspect of the flower business such as handling telephone sales and customer service issues and dealing with walk-in customers. In his frequent conversations with florists, he realized there was a dire lack of sales and service education in the industry. That motivated him, in 1997, to launch FloralStrategies, a company that trains florists in sales, customer service, and how to get the most out of their POS system. He visits 250 shops annually, hosts a monthly webinar series, speaks at floral conventions, and writes a monthly column for the Society of American Florists.

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