Staff Meetings Have a Bad Reputation.
But Put a Little Thought Into Them, and Your People
Will Be Cheering in Unison.
Meetings. The word alone makes a lot of people tense up.
Owners don’t like staff meetings because they cost money. Employees don’t like them because meetings take up their time and can drag on and on. And too often, it feels like that money and time are wasted when everyone leaves the table and nothing really changes.
Many stores hold meetings as a matter of routine. “Once they’ve decided to have a meeting, I don’t think they probably spend that much time thinking about it,” says Tom LaForce of LaForce Teamwork Services, author of Meeting Hero, a guide to facilitating effective meetings. “That kind of meeting is what gives meetings a bad reputation.”
Even more stores avoid that problem — but only because they don’t hold meetings. Jewelry industry consultant Shane Decker says he frequently asks his audiences how many of them hold a weekly meeting. “Out of 500 people, I’ll have 20, 30 hands, maybe. Maybe.”
Your store doesn’t have to hold a weekly meeting — there’s a range of opinions about how often to meet, and whether to meet at all. But chances are, you’ll want to hold a meeting at some point. The following information should make that time together more valuable — maybe even enjoyable — for everyone involved.
When Do You Have a Meeting?
“There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Bryan Field, one of the founders of MeetingResult, a company that has developed a process and accompanying software for running better meetings. “The frequency is really driven by the underlying business process.”
To that point, jewelry industry consultant Harry Friedman says: “The No. 1 factor in determining how often to hold a store meeting is how often your inventory turns or policy changes.” If there aren’t products or operational changes to go over, there’s not necessarily a good reason to bring everyone together.
“When it comes to meetings, the idea of a schedule isn’t the right question,” Tom LaForce says. “It’s always about purpose or problem: What are you trying to solve?” Meetings mean paying your whole staff to come in early or late, so you want to be sure that a meeting is the best communication tool for whatever information you want to deliver. “Why do you all need to be sitting there around the same table going over the sales numbers, as opposed to just emailing everybody the spreadsheet?”
At the eight locations of Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry, employees start the day with a “10 to 10” — a 10-minute meeting that begins 10 minutes before the doors open, at which employees check in and warm up for the day. Each store also holds a weekly meeting. The company recently gave iPad Minis to all employees, who can use the devices to watch videos or check out other information instead of looking up at a larger screen at the front of the room.
And don’t say it’s just because you want to make sure everybody looks at the numbers. If the information is critical for them to do their job, then their performance will suffer if they don’t have it. If awareness of the numbers has no bearing on their performance, then it definitely wasn’t worth paying everyone to review them together.
As long as you have a why, there are good reasons to stick to a regular schedule. For instance, Decker notes, “Our industry has more knowledge to sell than anything but the pharmaceutical industry.” Meetings are a great opportunity to improve product knowledge and role-play customer interactions.
Don't just bring people together so they think they have a say and then do what you were planning to regardless. Employees always sniff that out.
- Tom Laforce
Decker differentiates between store meetings — 15-minute huddles each morning during which “everybody gets to say what’s on their plate that day” — and sales meetings, which take place weekly and cover topics like product knowledge, sales training, and procedures. He suggests Mondays and Tuesdays for sales meetings.
Friedman says “every couple weeks is sufficient” for a formal meeting, with the caveat that his management style also requires regular one-on-one coaching of salespeople. He advises holding such meetings on Saturdays, because that’s typically the busiest day of the week, so most of your staff will be coming in anyway. Plus, they’ll be pumped to hit the floor after a good meeting. “And I think there should be some kind of little chat before the game,” he adds. “You get together and say, ‘Here’s what’s going on. I challenge you to sell this.’”
That’s what happens at Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry, whose eight locations are spread across Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Training specialist Amy Echols provides content and guidance for meetings to all the locations, to ensure consistency throughout the company. Lee Michaels employees start their days with “10 to 10s” — 10-minute huddles that take place before the stores open at 10 a.m., during which they discuss topics like the day’s sales goals. “It’s very important for them to know where they’re going as a store and where they need to go individually,” Echols says.
“We have a meeting every morning before we open for business and cover goals, gold pricing, expectations for the day, and upcoming events,” says Jake McCaleb of Mountz Jewelers in Pennsylvania. “We also communicate with each other any special needs — e.g., leaving early, appointments, or tasks that require special attention. By covering all this information, everybody is aware and fully prepared for the day ahead.” The meetings include all employees, including non-salespeople.
What Do You Talk About?
Echols, who organizes the meetings across Lee Michaels, notes the importance of “strictly business” communications, but incorporates personal bits, too. A “10 to 10” always starts with something positive, like everyone mentioning an achievement from the day before. Employees at every location all review the same “Extraordinary Expectation” for the day, an aspiration derived from the company’s vision statement. And personal milestones such as birthdays and service anniversaries are noted.
If a vendor makes a presentation at a meeting, record it on video and put it in your product knowledge library. - Harry Friedman
“I don’t feel you can leave out the personal,” Echols says. “We spend more time with these people than we often do with our families. If someone’s been here for 23 years, how do you not celebrate that first thing in the morning?”
A larger store meeting or sales meeting will obviously get into more in-depth topics. Echols says Lee Michaels meetings always start with a short (five-minute) icebreaker or team-building activity to get everyone in the mood and interacting. “After that, we always have a 30-minute training,” she says, covering some product knowledge or sales technique that applies to all locations. “It’s very important, with eight stores in three states, that the information conveyed in these meetings is consistent.” Then the individual stores each discuss business that pertains to their location.
Shane Decker breaks down the weekly sales meetings with characteristic exactitude: They start with 20 minutes of gemological or product knowledge. “The next 20 minutes, you discuss how you’re going to sell that product. And the next 20, you role-play it. Break up in twos — don’t make people stand in front of the group and have everybody pick it apart. Nobody likes that.”
Underwood’s Fine Jewelers in Fayetteville, AR, uses staff meetings to discuss new company developments, such as the revamped website that the store recently launched. “We had everyone huddle around our big-screen monitor and walked them through the various website pages and options,” says Craig Underwood. “We have a lot going on this time of year, and our sales meetings are an important component of keeping everyone on the same page.”
All new employees should start the day of a store meeting, so that they’re formally introduced to the rest of the staff, as opposed to being a random guy who shows up on the floor. - Harry Friedman
He adds that for a meeting to convey information effectively to every employee, you’ll need to deploy a variety of techniques to reach the four different kinds of learners: auditory, visual, hands-on and readers. That means, for example, lecturing while abetted by visual aids and actual products, and providing the information in written form, too. “If all you do is lecture, maybe three of your 10 people will get it; the others don’t,” he says. “You tell them about it, you show it to them, and then you hand it to them.”
Meetings, too, are a great arena for solving problems, as LaForce notes: “People will be more supportive of a solution because it was either theirs or at least they were part of it.” But you’ll be better served if you go into a meeting knowing what problem you’re going to tackle (and with some idea of how), than if you get sucked into a drawn-out discussion of hypothetical concerns. If a policy changes or a new procedure is implemented, you may mention it, but again, don’t spend a lot of time in a meeting going over details that employees can pick up on their own via email.
Definitely don’t use meetings as a venue to dole out discipline. If somebody’s not doing her job, talk to her about it privately at another time. Making other employees sit through a dressing-down is uncomfortable for them and, Friedman notes, punishes the good guys, too. And if your whole staff is having a problem, such as consistently coming in late, or eating or looking at their phones on the sales floor — well, that’s actually your problem; that sort of behavior is better addressed through clear, immediate feedback (and discipline).
Zachary’s Jewelers in Annapolis, MD, usually has a staff meeting every Friday. “But around the holidays, because of split shifts and long hours, we instead have a morning and afternoon mini ‘pep talk’ from the owner that includes Shane Decker tips, roleplays, and what we can do on this particular day to better ourselves and make sales,” says marketing and sales director Evangeline Ross.
Leading the Way, Staying on Track
“Eighty percent of meeting success has already been determined based on whether the person planning it did what they needed to do,” LaForce says. That’s a rough estimate, he confesses, but the point still stands.
For a standard meeting, whoever is leading it — usually the owner or manager — should put together an agenda and will want to post it somewhere in the back at least a couple days ahead of time, for all staff to see. (You’ll want to email it to everyone, also, for employees who are off.) If you wait till the meeting itself to bring up a topic and then ask for questions, employees will often be caught flat-footed. “But if you tell people that you’re gonna be talking about ring sizing or repair, then they’ve got a couple days to think about it,” Friedman says.
One of the things I find most effective is using a flip chart. Write everything down there as you go over it, and then you can go back to it. - Darci Aselage
When the meeting begins, it’s useful to start off with a “road map,” says Darci Aselage, client services manager for the Edge Retail Academy. “Say, ‘This is where we were, this is where we are, and this is where we’re going.’”
Perhaps the second-biggest challenge with any meeting is just keeping people from drifting off-topic and talking (or worse, complaining) purposelessly. For legitimate issues that merit further discussion, the meeting leaders at Lee Michaels use what’s called a “parking lot,” Echols says, which is just a list. “If we get off on a tangent — stop!” she says. “Put that on the parking lot for next week. Everyone’s idea is important, but this may not be the time or place, so let’s put it up there and revisit it.” (For tangents that don’t pertain to the store, it’s even simpler: Just interrupt the speaker and remind them that the meeting isn’t the appropriate setting for that conversation.)
As for the biggest challenge, it’s actually not about the meeting per se, but what comes afterward.
“The problem with a store meeting is that a meeting without follow-up is just a nagging session,” Friedman says. Or as LaForce puts it: “In some ways, there’s nothing of value that happens in meetings. You can say, ‘We made a decision.’ That’s great. But a decision doesn’t add value until someone implements it.”
Not long ago, Lee Michaels distributed iPad Minis to all employees. The tablets are loaded with the company’s app, which has a dashboard page alerting staff to new policies or changes. And Field’s company, MeetingResult, offers online meeting management software that will generate a list of outcomes from a meeting. But really it’s also just as simple as writing it down, and making a note for the next agenda to follow up on the decisions you’ve made.
“We have meetings every morning after setup and before we open, 15 minutes minimum or until the first customer comes to the door,” says Tom Duma of Thom Duma Fine Jewelers in Warren, OH. “We go over the prior day’s sales totals broken down by sales associate. Sometimes, we have an associate take over and tell us about a product.”
So Why Are so Many Meetings so Bad?
“I think it’s a discipline and courage problem,” LaForce says. “People don’t take the time that it takes to plan.” Just a bit of extra thought about why you’re having a meeting — and whether you need to have it at all — as well as how to proceed afterward, can make all the difference in the world.
“Our goal is to have fewer, faster, more focused meetings,” Field says. “If you shorten meetings or make them more impactful, you create this environment where people look at meetings as an effective tool for getting things done. And then people don’t dread them.”
5 Exercises to Try at Your Next Meeting
“If you make learning fun, it helps a lot,” says Darci Aselage of the Edge Retail Academy, who handles all the organization’s staff meetings. Here are five ideas for activities you can try at a store meeting to better engage your people.
“I play that a lot,” Aselage says. “Pick teams and ask questions like ‘How much is it to size a ring?’ — something they should know off the top of their heads.”
She doesn’t have a name for it, but Aselage loves this exercise. “So many things come out of this,” she says. Split your employees into groups and have them make four lists: 1. Things everyone in the group has in common (“has kids,” “likes football”); 2. Things nobody has in common (maybe everyone has a different favorite lunch spot); 3. Things we wish we had in common (“we wish we all had more empathy”); and 4. Things that motivate you (“words of praise”). Then everyone regroups and shares their lists. You’ll find out a lot about your people, Aselage says.
Planning a new project or venture? Ask your people to write down what’s going to go wrong with it and why it will fail and share their answers. This exercise will help you recognize potential flaws and dangers ahead of time.
Design the Box
a If you’ve got a new promotion or product coming up, have your team design the box it would be sold in at a store like Walmart, using sketches and marketing copy. This will help you boil down the most important features and benefits, and think about who the target market is and other important details.
What’s My Line
a Pick a design or collection from one of your lines and give everyone three minutes to make a list of as many of its features and corresponding benefits as they can come up with. (“It’s platinum, so it’s hypoallergenic and the patina will give it a soft, attractive glow over the years.”) Then go over the lists as a group, combining them into one master list (which you should save for reference). This is a great way to familiarize people with different lines and get them on the same page.
What’s on the Agenda
Shane Decker has put together a 52-week syllabus outlining sales meeting topics for jewelry stores throughout the calendar year — and he was kind enough to share that information with us. You can use it to get an idea of how to schedule your own training. (For a more in-depth look at these topics, of course, you’ll have to talk to him.)
WEEK 1 Garnet
WEEK 2 Diamonds: The 4 Cs
WEEK 3 Leadership, attitude, and team selling
WEEK 4 Garnet
WEEK 5 Amethyst
WEEK 6 Valentine’s Day (how to sell more than just what they came in for)
WEEK 7 Diamonds
WEEK 8 “Team opportunities” (how to turn over a sale)
WEEK 9 Aquamarine
WEEK 10 Proving diamonds are inexpensive, using value-added statements
WEEK 11 Studying sales profiles — i.e., learning what kind of salesperson you are
WEEK 12 Closing skills — which ones work with your profile
WEEK 13 Spontaneous creative salesmanship — wowing the client
WEEK 14 Diamond history (engagement season is kicking off!)
WEEK 15 High-ticket items
WEEK 16 Handling objections due to price
WEEK 17 Diamonds
WEEK 18 Emerald
WEEK 19 Mother’s Day
WEEK 20 Diamond product knowledge (ins and outs of your diamond brand — Hearts on Fire, etc.)
WEEK 21 Bridal selling and generational salesmanship
WEEK 22 Beryl
WEEK 23 Pearls, moonstones, or alexandrite
WEEK 24 Father’s Day
WEEK 25 Selling high-ticket items to men
WEEK 26 Diamonds
WEEK 27 Ruby
WEEK 28 Creative closes, romancing the product, and handling objections
WEEK 29 Engagement rings
WEEK 30 Peridot
WEEK 31 High-ticket items
WEEK 32 Teamwork and team selling
WEEK 33 Romancing the reason — hearing why they came in and making it a big deal
WEEK 34 Limited-budget clients (students, seniors on fixed incomes)
WEEK 35 Sapphire
WEEK 36 Corundum
WEEK 37 How to determine a client’s buying ability without saying “How much do you want to spend?”
WEEK 38 Diamonds
WEEK 39 Opal and/or tourmaline
WEEK 40 Christmas selling: creating a sense of urgency without being pushy
WEEK 41 Tourmaline
WEEK 42 Store procedures and Christmas events
WEEK 43 Diamonds
WEEK 44 Topaz or citrine
WEEK 45 Wowing, adding on, and selling relatives (“Oh, do you need something for your sister, too?”)
WEEK 46 Holiday selling, the 5-second rule (everyone is greeted within 5 seconds)
WEEK 47 Store floor awareness
WEEK 48 Turquoise (in the Southwest) or any red, blue, or green gemstones
WEEK 49 Diamond selling
WEEK 50 Christmas selling
WEEK 51 Christmas selling
WEEK 52 Proactive salesmanship — thank-you notes, email, follow-up phone calls