Hardware Retailing

AUG 2017

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | August 2017 42 A sense of the importance of working together runs deep at HPM, which has eight retail locations as well as distribution and building material production facilities in Hawaii. The company is 100-percent employee owned, which means everyone has a vested interest in maintaining a business that runs smoothly and profitably. For Tracie White, talent development manager at the company, the purpose for team-building is simple: Employees who learn to work together are more productive. They deliver better customer service and sell more. Team building is the culmination of a process that starts with teaching people to get along, says White. The more she gets employees engaged in team-building exercises, the more she's able to see its effects. Team building reduces the number of groups that don't communicate much with each other. When they don't communicate, or help each other out, they slow down the efficiency of the store and make it more difficult to deliver good customer service. One of White's roles at the store is to encourage team building whenever and wherever she can, across all of HPM's facilities. In staff meetings, she mixes employees from different departments so they feel more comfortable talking with each other when they're on the job. "When they start building their own networks in the company, instead of always going to management with their questions, they can go to their peers first," she says. That helps them solve problems faster. Employees with a team mentality are also willing to help wherever needed, even if it means working outside their job descriptions. That improves overall employee morale, which has a ripple effect everywhere in the operation. Employees will also be able to take better care of customers, because they're working together to find answers to questions and meet needs. By promoting a spirit of team building in your business, you are also showing you want to invest in your employees. You are demonstrating you want employees to have a great work environment, you care about their needs and prioritize making their jobs more productive. That can reduce turnover and help employees feel more invested in the company. "Many times we, as retailers, focus first on our facilities and on the products we are selling, and tend to put the most investment on those items," White says. "But you can't do anything without the people and without the team. When something starts to go wrong with your business, it's because employees are isolated from each other. Customers can feel that, and employees don't want to stay somewhere like that. Focusing on team building will improve your business from both a morale and profitability standpoint." How Team Building Works at HPM White encourages employees throughout the company to work together, both formally and informally. There's no single best way to make it happen, but here are a few of her strategies. Overcome the 'Too Busy' Excuse Ask the typical retailer if they are promoting teamwork among their staff, and the first excuse you will hear, White says, is "I'm too busy." "I think we as retailers understand that the more we learn to work together, the better for our customers and the better for us," she says. "But we get so caught up in the day-to-day tasks that we forget the bigger picture of the importance of working together as a team." To forego time spent in simple team-building exercises is nearsighted, she says. However, getting buy-in from all of her managers and staff requires work on her part. White talks to each team leader on staff, face to face, to explain what she's hoping to accomplish through her team-building activity and asks for their feedback. Then, she talks to individuals on the team and tells them that while she understands they have a lot to do that day, if they will just Building a Company Culture HPM operates eight retail locations in Hawaii, as well as building material production and distribution facilities. It serves a mix of homeowner and contractor customers.

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