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Offer new employees a happy home

Saturday, August 1, 2009 - 00:00
Mark Smith employees

I recently helped my niece and her husband move into a new home. My brother and I made the trip to assist and share in the newlywed happiness one feels when you buy your first home. But soon, our greatest fears were realized.

Shortly after arrival, we discovered the home needed a lot of attention. For savvy homeowners and handymen like my brother and I, this was taken in stride, and suddenly our positions of authority were elevated to levels previously enjoyed only by Greek gods.

My brother strutted around barking out orders like a military dictator much to the chagrin of my nephew-in-law, who felt ridiculed because he couldn't drive a nail or run a chain saw. My duty was to give further explanation to obscure hand gestures and grunts of instruction coming from my brother so that my nephew-in-law would understand enough to help, and hopefully retain something from this hellish weekend that he could make use of during future homeowner disasters.

My brother and I shared countless techniques, theory and our own horror stories. Through all of this and more, my nephew-in-law and niece soaked up as much as possible, and tolerated our somewhat haughty attitude about them being new homeowners — most likely because we also consoled them, counseled them and encouraged them just enough to be steadfast in their own abilities to overcome challenges and tasks yet to come their way.

This is exactly what happens when we get new counterpeople. The first few hours in the store, they are simply glad to be there. Then the work begins. Experienced counterpeople run circles around them, bark out brand names, locations in the store, phone numbers and other technical jargon that no newbie can ever comprehend. When time permits, some of the employees will explain the importance of knowing these things. We have our fun with them — asking for radiators for a boat and other nonsense to see if they can handle "lesser informed" customers who have no clue what they are doing. We are quick to jump in and finish a sale when we see newbies in trouble, but sometimes the luxury of time does not permit us to allow them to help themselves.

After a few days, a newbie will seek feedback, and I will share some of my experiences, and encourage the newbie to ask lots of questions. If you want to attract, hire and retain counterpeople, you must offer more than a paycheck. You must offer them a home and encourage them to maintain enough skill and desire for it to be a happy home.

A bewildered new employee will very soon become an ex-employee. Encourage your experienced staff to share their secrets of success with the newbies, and they will become seasoned veterans quickly. Give your new counterpeople encouragement, training and a sense of purpose. They will get over you yelling at them a lot quicker.

Mark Smith is president of Wholesale Auto Parts, Summersville, W.V. Smith most recently served on the Auto Value/BTB National Advisory Council and on his town Rotary Club as president.

MARK SMITH President, Wholesale Auto Parts

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