Toolbox for Excellence founders Jane Merritt and Mallory Wachowski recently offered at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo, co-located with Deck Expo their top tips for pool and hot tub retailers for recruiting and retaining workers and increasing sales.
Hire based on referrals. Merritt and Wachowski agreed that your employees are both invested and engaged in your company, so they will most likely only refer those who would do a good job for you.
Besides gathering referrals, use social media platforms to find new talent. If you’re active online, Wachowski said, your audience may think your company “looks like a really cool place to work.”
In addition, you can create internships tailored to what college students are studying in order to attract bright young people to your firm after they graduate. You can partner with schools to get internship credit for students.
Plus, consider hiring at county jails, where there are people who have committed minor offenses. This might open a new avenue for you to find talented workers and allow you to become a second-chance employer, like Merritt. Recruiting a formerly incarcerated person would likely create a long-standing, respectful, dedicated employee because “you’re giving that person a chance that a lot of other businesses wouldn’t,” Merritt said.
Finally, always be hiring. “It doesn’t matter the time of year, if you find a person who would be a good fit, hire them,” Merritt said. If you hire someone in the off season, however, give them expectations and keep them busy; otherwise, they will become disengaged and lose interest in the busy season.
Create an onboarding process that encourages your company culture, Merritt said. Cross-train new hires immediately. This gives them the big picture of what your company does and provides them with hands-on training.
Systemize your daily processes and document them. Having systems and procedures in place allows you to empower your employees.
In addition, set expectations with procedures from the beginning of the onboarding process. This can provide the employee, and you, with the comfort of knowing when tasks are completed.
Offer comparable wages to businesses in your area to stay competitive. Wachowski pointed out that the federal minimum wage has increased as well as state and local wages, so it’s important to be aware of those minimums.
Meanwhile, when giving raises, make sure you can sustain them and justify the amount you’re paying any employee.
Finally, bonuses are a way to compensate and appreciate your employees without increasing their hourly pay. Increasing payroll is an investment, so Merritt, for example, has given staff gas gift cards.
The panelists said retailers should consider a major remodel every five years, and every year, change something in the store so that customers are always seeing something new.
“If you keep the exact same footprint year after year, (customers) aren't going to look at anything,” said Merritt.
But remodels don’t have to cost a lot and can be simple. Merritt suggested grouping similar products and pricing them that way instead of individually. She added it’s also important to keep things orderly.
“If you don’t change, you’re going to be left behind,” Merritt told show attendees.
Retailers have always had to keep up with the times, but now things move at warp speed—and Merritt predicted that the pool retail world is due for another big shift. In the next two to three years, she said, customers are going to be treated differently based on technology and our society’s desire for instant gratification.
In the end, the panelists said, try to align your company's goals with what you want out of a retail experience, and always look at ways to improve the customer experience.