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Should You Use OKRs, How to Discipline a Tardy Worker, and More of Your Questions Answered

And what to do about a moonlighting employee using your subcontractor?

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I’m not good at disciplining employees, but I have one staff member who’s repeatedly arriving late to work. What do I do?

Few people enjoy confrontation, but you’re not doing anyone a favor when you allow an employee to flout store rules. A constantly tardy employee hurts both customer service and staff morale. Make a time to talk to the person in private. Isolate the faulty behavior and explain the problems it’s causing. Remember: Criticize the behavior, not the person. Carol Schroeder, author of Specialty Shop Retailing, suggests using an “Agreement for Job Performance Improvement” form, on which you can write down the situation in advance of the conference. Allow the employee to suggest how she’ll remedy the problem, and then set a time to meet again to assess progress. It’s a good idea for both you and the employee to sign the agreement at the end of the meeting so you’ll have a paper trail should the problem lead to dismissal.

We seem to be getting more people looking for something different, often meaning color. But my staff and I are finding it surprisingly difficult to deliver smooth presentations. What’s going on?

As you’ve evidently discovered, colored stones are tough to get handle on. The first problem is that there is no universal grading system. The second is most salespeople’s lack of experience and training. But while you may be feeling out of your comfort zone, there’s nothing lacking in a colored stone’s story. In fact, it’s often far more romantic than a diamond’s. The key is to adopt a conversational tone. Use grading terms like “intense” and “vivid,” but intersperse them with descriptive phrases like “midnight blue” to convey a rich, dark blue color, or “sky blue” to imply a lighter color. (Note that we’re pinching phrases here from the GIA Colored Stone Grading System here — a very good source of “word pictures.”) Always stress the rarity of fine-quality colored stones.

By adding anecdotes about the source, mining and market, and gemstone lore, you will have an irresistible sales presentation. Remember too that your customer’s preferences are more important than trade preferences. “If your customer likes the color of a green-blue aquamarine over the trade-preferred color of a more pure blue, then that is the color you should promote,” says the GIA.

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I recently discovered one of my employees was sending repairs to the same independent repair guy that our store uses (they sent me the bill!). What is the industry norm as to employees who do “business on the side?”

To be blunt, the norm is to have a policy manual that governs this. If there’s no written policy, it’s pretty hard to argue the person’s done something wrong. David Geller says that in his store, the rule was that employees could not deal directly with any suppliers. “If they bought a product or service for personal use/consumption, it cost them a percentage above our cost (10 percent above cost was still a loser, but a benefit none the less). The only family members who could buy through our vendors at the same rate were listed (spouse, siblings, parents, in-laws and grandparents). That was it. Anyone else in the family would get a discount off of retail.” It sounds tough, but Geller says business — as you’re discovering — will leach from the store if you don’t set the rules. Among the things you’ll have to consider are: Will you allow them to buy anything at your cost? Do you want to know about it? Who gets billed? Do you want or will you allow your employees to earn extra cash on the side? Once you’ve formulated your policy, ensure that everyone gets a copy and that everyone signs it.

I’ve been reading about big corporations doing away with KPIs and using OKRs. As a small business owner, should I be considering something similar?

It’s true, much of the coverage of OKRs, or “objectives and key results” as they are known in full (think a goal and the targets needed to achieve it), has tended to portray them as an evolution from those crusty old key performance indicators like revenue growth or customer satisfaction. But the two serve slightly different purposes. One tends to look forward, the other back. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, and they can be used in different ways to achieve different goals. However, there are some general points to consider:

  1. KPIs are more suitable for measuring past performance and tracking progress towards specific targets. They can help you monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of your processes, identify areas for improvement, and evaluate the results of your actions. KPIs are usually quantitative, objective, and easy to measure. However, they can also be limiting, as they may not capture the full picture of your business performance or inspire you to pursue ambitious goals.
  2. OKRs are more suitable for setting future objectives and aligning them with your vision and strategy. They can help you communicate your priorities, motivate your team, and focus on the outcomes that matter most. OKRs are usually qualitative, subjective, and thus challenging to measure. However, they can also be empowering, as they encourage you to think big, experiment, and learn from your failures.
  3. Depending on your needs and preferences, you could use either KPIs or OKRs, or a combination of both. Some businesses use KPIs to track their daily operations and OKRs to plan their long-term goals. Some use OKRs to set their company-wide goals and KPIs to measure their team or individual performance. And some use both OKRs and KPIs to monitor their progress and adjust their actions accordingly.
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Elizabeth Gibson, owner of Eliza Page in Austin, TX, said she has started using OKRs to define and help her employees develop as both individuals and as a team. “We are still getting used to the process, but setting short-term, quarterly goals to achieve our annual goals is going well so far. It keeps us engaged, communicating, and helps us focus on the bigger picture as we keep our eyes keen on the day to day.”

Ultimately, the best method for managing your business is the one that works for you and your team. But you won’t know if you don’t experiment. 2024 is around the corner. Set a few OKRs and see how they pan out.

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