Hardware Retailing

MAY 2018

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 | May 2018 176 Throughout high school and college, she worked for a nonprofit in event management and development, and she expected that to be the trajectory of her career. When she moved to Washington, D.C., as an adult, it was to join a nonprofit organization. That experience tempered her perspective on how leaders motivate. "Managing a business and a nonprofit has many similarities, but when you start managing a team of people who are doing something for very little financial compensation, you develop good motivational skills," she says. Those working for a nonprofit are less likely to be working with a paycheck as the end result, as the pay is generally low. Rather, they tend to be working for some greater good. That sense of a more intangible goal has to be the source of inspiration, especially when juxtaposed against a low wage. In fact, Schaefer discovered that not all employees are motivated by wages alone. After working for nonprofits, she spent time working for a technology firm at a time when that industry was experiencing a bit of volatility. As a member of the human resources department, Schaefer says her job was to try to keep employees from leaving to go work somewhere else. "People were jumping ship daily because other companies were throwing money at them," she says. "We built a game room, threw parties, took trips, all to keep employees, who were already very well- compensated, from leaving the company." Today, she draws on both experiences when it comes to engaging her staff. Schaefer wants her employees to be well-compensated. She pays a higher-than-average wage for retail (she's actually a vocal advocate for raising the minimum wage) and offers a range of benefits, such as a health care plan, profit sharing and a 401(k) program. She also wants the store to be a fun place to work. "We do a lot of really fun stuff, whether it's offering discounted movie tickets or throwing summer picnics," she says. But Schaefer also realizes that, similar to her time in the nonprofit sector, motivation needs to come from a deeper sense of mission. Her business operates on a set of eight core values, such as "communicate respectfully," "be an awesome team member" and "embrace and drive change." Just as those in a nonprofit look to their mission statement for direction and motivation, Schaefer holds up those eight core values as the code for all employees. Motivated employees are happier, too. There's a trickle-down effect that starts at the top and goes all the way to the customer. Good upper-management leaders inspire good store managers, and if those managers lead well, they create happy employees. If employees are happy, then they treat customers like they want to be treated. Happy customers mean more sales. Never Stop Learning One of the greatest misconceptions leaders may have about themselves is that they shouldn't ask for help, says Schaefer. "We don't know everything and we can't think we know everything," she says, adding that it's important to look around for opportunities to learn. To start, be aware of your weaknesses as a leader. Schaefer says her strengths lie in her ability to see the big picture, to cast a vision. She doesn't much enjoy the details or the numbers side of the business. She's thankful her husband is willing to run the finance department. But she also knows it's important for her to keep her skills in that area sharp. "I knew that to be a good leader, I needed to fill the gaps in my knowledge," she says. About three years ago, she hired a business coach to increase her knowledge of finances, even though her husband would continue to run the department. Schaefer wants her stores to be fun places to work, so she offers several perks, including paying higher than the minimum wage.

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