I have a great relationship with my sales staff, but sometimes the chatting seems to happen at the detriment of work. How can I get everyone focused on work without killing the good spirit in the store?

Getting that communication/camaraderie balance right is always tough, especially in a small business environment.

Consultant Andrea Hill, owner of Hill Management Group, recommends scheduling time for both. Be forthright, she says. Tell your staff how much you enjoy your conversations and what you gain from them, but that one of the things you’re working on is “learning to minimize my conversation during the day and maximize my focus on work.” Suggest starting each day with some time to catch up — personally and on business issues. And then add: “The rest of the day, let’s keep our conversation focused on business issues. At the end of the day, let’s spend another 10 minutes recapping our day.” This approach will help your employees understand that your limitation of conversation is based on a business objective, and not on unfriendliness, says Hill. “It also helps you when she starts talking during the day, because you can say ‘I’d love to discuss that with you. Let’s save that for our end-of-day recap — it will be something for me to look forward to!’”


Our family has built a significant jewelry business over the last five decades, but I fear the curse of the third generation. How can I be sure my kids don’t blow it?

Sure my kids don’t blow it? You have good reason to be worried, says John Hartog of Hartog & Baer Trust and Estate Law. By the end of the third generation, nine of 10 family fortunes will be gone, he says, citing Boston College Center for Retirement Research figures. To prevent this from happening, have honest conversations, pass along family values, and teach children from a young age how to manage money. If your children are already adults, Hartog recommends giving them a substantial amount of money now to see how they handle it. Along with the cash, you must be willing to relinquish some control, says Jim Kohles, a CPA and chairman of RINA Accountancy. “We must give our successor the freedom to fail,” he says. “If they don’t fail, they don’t learn, so they’re not prepared to step up when the time comes.” Perhaps the most important move is to implement an ongoing dialogue that involves all members of the family. If that is going to be a painful process, bring in a mediator and set strong ground rules.


I’ve always done my own books and taxes, but I’m thinking of hiring a bookkeeper or CPA to take over. The cost worries me though.

You sound like a lot of entrepreneurs with that DIY frontier mentality. To be sure, CPAs aren’t cheap and they don’t even keep your financial paperwork in order (that’s the bookkeeper’s job). But hire the right one and he or she should return the investment many times over in strategic advice with regard to taxes, sourcing capital, operational weak spots, financial red flags and competitive opportunities. Indeed, after tax season is over, a good accountant should be acting almost as an outsourced chief financial officer, looking how to drive performance over the next year and into the future. Seek someone who will take the time to really understand you and your business. 


Sometimes I receive calls over the weekend but the client doesn’t leave a message. Should I call back?

If the customer didn’t leave a message, you should assume he did not want your immediate attention, says store management consultant Kate Peterson, president of Performance Concepts. “A follow-up call Monday (‘I saw that you called over the weekend. How can I help?’) might be appropriate,” she says. 


This article originally appeared in the December 2016 edition of INSTORE.

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