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Ask INSTORE: October 2007

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Buying a traffic-counter, dealing with overtime issues, what to do when two employees want the same day off, and more.

[h3]One Fish. Two Fish. Red Fish …[/h3]

[dropcap cap=Q.][h4][b]I’m looking for a traffic-count system for my mall jewelry store. Where should I start the search?[/b][/h4][/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=A.]Probably with your security provider, says Kate Peterson, of consultants Performance Concepts.

“The hard truth is that, for a mall store, the best counter is typically of the human variety — usually a security officer well trained in the art of people watching and counting.”

If that’s not a cost-effective option, Peterson recommends you talk to the folks who installed your camera system. Most security-camera companies offer systems that not only count people, but also capture full-frontal images of everyone who enters the store. This works, of course, only if you have an actual “doorway” — as opposed to the wide gate or full “open-on-two-sides” typical of many mall-location entrances. 

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If your lease lines include a lot of open space, there’s too much “clutter” for a motion-sensor device, she says.

Trainer Shane Decker says you may also want to ask one of the companies that puts up commercial buildings in your area. These firms generally install traffic counters in the doorways, and should be able to recommend a local supplier.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]OVERTIME[/componentheading]

[h4][b]Do I have to pay overtime whenever an employee works more than 40 hours, or can we just give him or her the hours off later?[/b][/h4]

Federal law and most states allow you to juggle hours, with the employee’s consent, but you are nearly always required to pay an overtime premium, which is 50 percent, be it in dollars or minutes. For example, if the staff member works 42 hours in a week, you owe three, not two, hours of time in compensation.

You can, however, offer them four 10-hour shifts in a week and not break the 40-hour threshold. California, Colorado, Connecticut and a few other states use an eight-hour daily overtime standard, so your options are more limited. There are numerous exemptions in the laws so it’s a good idea to check the Department of Labor’s website at Click here (click the link for “Overtime Security”) and with your state labor office. 

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[componentheading]STAFF[/componentheading]

[h4][b]My best salesperson has just told me she is quitting to take another job. It’s only a few months until Christmas. Should I try to woo her back with more money?[/b][/h4]

Money talks but it also sets bad precedents. If other staff find out there could be a stampede to your office with similar ultimatums. First, evaluate the position and figure what it would take to fill it with a good worker. Second, find out why she is really leaving. Money is rarely the main issue. Be careful what you say or promise, says sales trainer Dave Richardson, adding that in such situations bosses often react irrationally.

If you give away too much to keep the salesperson you may well find yourself later resenting the individual. If nothing can be done, accept her decision and make plans to find a good replacement. The woman’s mind will probably be on her new job but ask her to help with the transition for the two weeks or so she’s still on your payroll. “After all, this is your best employee. They usually do things right,” says Richardson.

[componentheading]NETWORKING[/componentheading]

[h4][b]I’ve directed a bunch of work to a neighborhood bridal shop but so far the owner, whom I met at a networking event, hasn’t given me any leads. How do I force a little reciprocation?[/b][/h4]

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Ah, Grasshopper, you disappoint me. Give selflessly and you shall ultimately receive far greater rewards. And that’s not just fortune-cookie wisdom. Networking expert Andrea Nierenberg says the same sentiment lies behind her Golden Rules of Networking:

• Offer to help others sincerely. People can tell the difference between an opportunist and someone doing a good deed. 
• Share information. If you know something that can help someone, pass it on. 
• Respect other people’s time; it’s a precious commodity for everyone. 
• Always convey appreciation. Give a little gift or write a simple note of thanks. Either way, do it consistently. 
• Follow up, follow through, and keep others in the loop. Find a good reason to stay connected, even when there is no news.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Give without remembering and receive without forgetting.” Put this into action, it will come back to you in better ways than you ever imagined, Nierenberg says.

[componentheading]SCHEDULING[/componentheading]

[h4][b]We have a flexible approach to using vacation time, but now two of my employees want to take the same day off in December. I can cover for one but not the other. What should I do?[/b][/h4]

At a rough guess, you are probably going to have to resort to bribery, or have at least one worker who thinks he’s hard done by. Call the two staff members in and ask them how they think the work can get done. This creates a sense of — we hate to use the word — “ownership” of the issue among the employees. If that doesn’t work you may have to promise one of them an extra half day off later or something else to sweeten their sacrifice.

And, once you get that sorted you should probably revisit your holiday policies. While a flexible program can give you an edge in the labor market, especially now when workers seem more concerned with life-balance issues, staff should be told how important December is even before they are hired.

[span class=note]This story is from the October 2007 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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