Connect with us

Tips and How-To

The Big Story: Get It Together

mm

Published

on

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement
 

 

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.

Advertisement

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.

Family Feud
“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.”

Common Cause
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.

Pre-MorteM
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

 

 

Advertisement

SPONSORED VIDEO

Wilkerson Testimonials

To Generate Funds for a Jeweler’s Move and Remodel, Wilkerson More Than Delivered

Even successful jewelers need a little extra cash to fund expansion plans—especially when there’s inventory on hand that’s ripe for liquidation. For Beaumont, Texas-based jeweler Michael Price, co-owner of Mathews Jewelers, it was the perfect time to call Wilkerson. Price talked to other jewelers as well as vendors for advice during the selection process and decided to go with Wilkerson. And he wasn’t disappointed. When it comes to paying for the move and expansion, Price says the road ahead is clear. “When we close on the next two stores, there’s no worries about finances.”

Promoted Headlines

Columns

Use Facebook for What It Really Is: Just Another Media Spend

Jewelry store owners really need to stop romanticizing Mark Zuckerberg’s creation.

mm

Published

on

AHH, FACEBOOK, THE most widely discussed social channel. Every trade show is packed with speakers on the subject. “How to get the most from Facebook”, “How to Sell on Facebook”, “Get More Fans on Facebook”, the list goes on and on. Yet, almost all of you are using the channel wrong and wasting tons of time trying to work the fringes of the social network.

Let’s Cut to the Chase

Facebook wasn’t built for businesses. Businesses started using Facebook because they thought they could make money off of “free” marketing. Well, nothing is really free, at least not something truly effective. Fans? As Joe Biden would say, “Come on, man!” Truth is, an overwhelming majority of your “fans” never log into Facebook to see what’s going on at Main Street Jewelers. Sure, maybe here and there, but those people are on the fringe and that’s the point. Why would you want to spend so much time working the fringe instead of going for the core?

Advertisement

Organic Reach

Many retailers spend hours and hours creating content for their Facebook page only to post to their feed for a handful of likes. These are called organic posts because you don’t put any marketing dollars toward promoting them. That’s a waste of time and effort for the type of results you’ll get. Some agencies or “gurus” will say “Post multiple times per day to increase your reach”… to that I say, “Come on, man!” Let’s get down to the facts; organic reach on Facebook is now under 3%, meaning if you have 2,000 fans you might get 60 to even see your content. Moreover, only your current fans will see the content, unless they share it with someone. Also, an organic post has a lifespan of only about 2 hours. It’s simply not worth dedicating that much time for so little results. You’d be better off creating blog content for your website. If someone offered you a free billboard in the middle of the woods, would you take it? If you answered yes, what are you hoping your ROI is on this endeavor? Is it even worth the cost to print the graphics? The answer is no. You’re better off spending your time elsewhere.

Advertisement

Facebook is Just a Media Spend

That’s right, Facebook is just another marketing medium, and an effective one at that, if that’s how you approach it. Facebook advertising allows you to post a couple of times per week, yet your posts will be seen by more of your fans as well as others who meet your customer profile. You’ll go from a handful of likes to maybe 10x as much, or more! Plus, you’ll save more than half your time to do something more productive.

The point is to stop romanticizing Facebook. It’s a great publishing tool, but you have to get your content in front of people, and that takes dollars. Facebook is just a media spend. Even the category Social Media has been telling you that all along.

Continue Reading

Tip Sheet

How to Start a “Glitterature” Book Club, and More Tips for March

And here’s a cool way to present newly-cleaned jewelry in a way you’ve never thought of.

mm

Published

on

MARKETINGNew Page, Old Book

Laura Stanley, owner of Stanley Jewelers Gemologist in North Little Rock, AR, says her book club, Glitterature, is one of the most effective things her store does in terms of marketing. “We discuss a book that is related to jewelry. I present a 15-minute PowerPoint on a category of jewelry with live samples, and everyone has a fun evening,” she explains. “The best thing is my book club girls are an army of disciples. They feel special and they recommend me to their friends.”

SERVICEYour Jewelry Is Served

Never discount the power of presentation. Give your jewelry to the crew at Nyman Jewelers in Excanaba, MI, for a check and a clean, and it’s handed back on a plate, literally. “We deliver the jewelry back to them arranged nicely on a fancy saucer with a piece of lace, and we add a Hershey Kiss for them as well,” says co-owner Sue Parker. A lasting impression is guaranteed.

SECURITYEntrepreneur Beware

Every so often, you’ll read a news story about a seemingly street-smart business person who does something inexplicable, like wire hundreds of thousands of dollars to a man peddling a story about hidden gold. The reason, as psychology writer Maria Konnikova points out in her podcast, is that entrepreneurial types are actually more susceptible to being conned. They’re risk-takers who trust their own judgment, and they know too much caution can be fatal. But the trait that made them a success is the same one that can spell their undoing. As we move through tax scam season, take care if you’re one of those entrepreneurs whose boldness and lack of skepticism has been a key factor in your success.

HUMAN RESOURCESThe Customer Comes Second

Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry team in Peachtree City, GA, are inspired by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s approach and often use the following two quotes:

1. The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers.

2. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.

Mucklow’s does that with lots of paid vacation, staff-friendly hours and other benefits. It must be doing something right. It was a finalist in our 2018 America’s Coolest Store contest.

IN-STOREMeet the hardest working dog in jewelry

Have a store hound lying around near the diamond case. Give it some training and put it to work, a la the jewelers at M. Flynn Boston, whose dog “does tricks that help distract children while their parents shop.”

PRODUCTIVITYPhysical Action = Results

You’ve got a thousand things to do, but some just seem to elude completion. The problem could be that you’re not phrasing your tasks correctly, says productivity guru David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. He notes that in the context of daily work, physical actions are the only things you can do. That’s why a surprisingly powerful anti-procrastination trick is to keep rephrasing a task until it involves the use of your limbs: “Pick up phone and call…”, “Open laptop and search for…”

Continue Reading

Real Deal

A Jeweler is Forced to Fire His Peer’s Son, Who Then Threatens to Sue. How Should He Handle It?

He made the mistake of calling his friend to let him know before he fired the son.

mm

Published

on

FIVE YEARS AGO, Jim Leland, owner of James, Ltd., an upscale, suburban store in the Southeast, got a call from Scott Gordon, his longtime best friend and fellow jewelry store owner. Scott said that his 30 year-old son Evan — an entry-level bench jeweler — was struggling and was in need of a fresh start. He knew that Jim had been looking to replace his soon-to-retire bench guy, and asked if he would consider Evan for the job. Jim had some concerns about hiring his friend’s son, but he’d known Evan since he was born, and was reasonably confident that between them, he and Scott could handle any challenges that might arise. Once Evan was on board, Jim could see that basic training and four years of bench experience had rendered him moderately competent, and that, as his father described, he had a lot of potential. He seemed to take well to the idea of a fresh start in a different part of the country and was grateful for the opportunity.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual jewelry businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Peterson is president and CEO of Performance Concepts, a management consultancy for jewelers. Email her at kate@performanceconcepts.net

Evan started off pretty well, and over the first two years, his skills improved as Jim provided ongoing training and continued to challenge him with more complex jobs. As the second year came to a close, however, Evan’s reliability started to become an issue. Work was still getting done well and generally on schedule, but Evan was frequently late and out sick more than normal. He said that he was just going through an especially tough time, with everything from his car dying to dealing with allergies and a series of other minor health issues, but that things were heading in a positive direction, and he would definitely get it all under control.

Evan was paid well, but with old debt, was still struggling for cash. In an effort to help (and hopefully, to minimize punctuality and attendance issues), Jim offered him the option of living in the small studio apartment above the store at no cost in lieu of a pay increase as he entered his third year with the company. Evan accepted Jim’s generous offer, but his reliability did not improve much. He was still late several days each week, spent increasing amounts of time behind the building smoking e-cigarettes, and began disappearing to his apartment for periods of time during the day.

Jim suspected a return to the excessive alcohol and/or drug use issues his friend’s son had battled before a stay in rehab and his move south, but when confronted, Evan angrily denied the suspicions. Unable to prove anything, Jim felt that his hands were tied. He told Evan that being at the bench on time was a condition of employment, that he was no longer permitted to leave the store without direct permission, and that all breaks and lunches must be approved. Once again, Evan apologized and promised improvement.

Another year went by with what appeared to be moderate progress. There were still issues, including even more frequent “smoke breaks,” but the number of late arrivals had diminished, and the sick time had tapered off a bit, as did Evan’s visits to his upstairs apartment during business hours. There were a few staff complaints about “surly, temperamental behavior,” but Jim thought they were pretty routine. Evan’s skill level didn’t seem to improve much that year, but work was getting done. With business on the increase, Jim had little available time to babysit.

At the end of last year, Evan took two weeks off after the holidays to visit his dad back home. While he was away, one female employee made what she referred to as an “official complaint” accusing Evan of sexual harassment. She also described multiple instances of seeing Evan pouring vodka into his water bottle in the store. Another told Jim that Evan had actually been vaping weed behind the store during work hours. She knew because he had invited her to join him, and because he also offered to sell weed (still illegal in the state) to her and to other employees.

It was clear to Jim at that point that Evan had to go. The James, Ltd. Employee Manual made it very clear that harassment of any kind would not be tolerated and that drug or alcohol use on the job was cause for immediate termination. He chose to have the conversation by phone rather than wait for him to get back, so Evan could take the time to decide if he wanted to stay with his dad. Jim then decided he owed it to Scott to give him a heads-up before talking to Evan to explain why he felt he had to fire his son. Jim was firmly convinced that Evan needed help, and believed he owed it to his friend to fill him in.

The day after the termination call, Evan sent Jim an email demanding that he deposit a $25,000 “severance payment” into his bank account. He threatened that if Jim refused, he would sue for wrongful termination and violation of employee confidentiality since Jim had spoken to his father about his employment situation. Jim knew that his actions were based on genuine concern for his business and for Evan’s well-being. He also understood Evan’s anger and need to lash out, but he was caught totally off guard by what he perceived as a clear-cut extortion attempt.

The Big Questions

  • Was terminating Evan the right call without further investigation of the harassment complaint or direct proof of drug or alcohol use?
  • Did Jim violate employment law by talking with Scott about the situation with his son?
  • Should he reach out to his friend again with a request for help in getting Evan to back off — or should he retain an employment attorney?
Brian W.
Greensboro, NC

Document, document, document. Have a store policy and follow it. First offense, verbal warning, document it. Second offense, written warning, have the associate sign and date it, make copies. Third offense, termination. You can always make exceptions, give multiple written warnings, give the guy a chance, but you want it all written down. Failure to follow through may be harmful to not only your business, but more importantly to your other associates. Yes, it was right to fire him. Yes, hire an employment attorney, and document who (which associate) said what, when and where. He might need it if the former associate actually follows through with his threats.

Christine H.
Lemoyne, PA

Even though positive intent was there, Evan’s father should not have been contacted nor his son’s employment discussed. Evan is an adult and deserves confidentiality about his employment. The owner should have had an exploratory conversation with Evan first to determine if the accusations were true. My opinion is it would have been best to wait for Evan to come back to discuss face to face. The owner should have also talked to the other employees mentioned in the complaints to see if there were witnesses or other interactions with Evan that should have been considered prior to his discussion with Evan, so he had a full scope view of his team’s observations. The owner should then have asked Evan questions to gain clarity about why he was late, taking multiple breaks, etc. Then an educated decision could have been made about his employment.

Susan O.
Kirkland, WA

The termination of Evan was way past due and not worth risking the well-being of the business and employees. In Washington, a person can be terminated with no reason given, but in this case, a “This is not working out” is all that is needed. I do not feel there is any need for concern about a lawsuit considering the egregious behavior that has gone on and that you have been condoning by letting it go on for several years. Any suspicion of drugs or alcohol in our business is dealt with immediately. Again, the welfare of the business is the priority, and Evan is lashing out and needs an intervention. The tenancy is another issue altogether, and Evan may have tenant rights in your state that you need to adhere to.

Kent C.
St. Simon’s Island, GA

Is it permissible in this state to spank Evan? It appears he is an irresponsible child. I would send him back to his father with out any supper. Dismiss the threat of blackmail as simply another attempt of Evan’s self-centered thinking. If proper records were kept prior to firing, I wouldn’t be concerned. How many times has this spoiled boy failed at rehab, other jobs, and at school? The father should have been open with his friend, the store owner, about how dysfunctional the boy’s bad habits were. Somewhere along the line, the store owner must accept his enabling behavior. Allowing Evan to screw up is the perfect lesson to the rest of Jim’s staff. Talk about a bad apple ruining the rest. His father should be asked to come pick up any possessions and Evan should be banned from the store.

Marc F.
Houston, TX

I think the owner tried his best to help the friend’s son out. Five years of employment is a long time. How much was invested in him? I don’t allow “trial by ambush.” The owner should have instructed the employee making the allegations to put it in writing. When Evan comes back, have a private meeting and show him the letter, see which way he reacts. Based on that, have your attorney mediator sit down with Evan, the accuser, and the owner, and come to an agreement. All this was hearsay, you must remember. Bringing in Evan’s dad as a pal to pal isn’t doing anyone any good. Whatever happens, he will understand. Take things step by step cautiously and with prudence.

Marcus M.
Midland, TX

Terminating Evan was definitely the right call. Jim had his concerns, and those were cemented with the complaints from his employees. Evan is a bad apple, and his behavior is spot-on with that of an addict. He needs help and hopefully he’ll get it. But if I were Jim, I would tell him he can take his severance demand and threats and shove them. Jim gave him more than his fair share of chances, and Evan took advantage of him. Maybe once Evan settles down, Scott can talk sense into him, then he’ll realize he’s in the wrong and drop the threats. I would definitely hire an employment attorney, though, just in case this guy gets real crazy.

Stacey H.
Lincolnwood, IL

Hire an employment attorney. There should have been a series of warnings, write-ups, and a serious conversation about standards each time with a signed “I understand that I have been put on notice about my behavior” note for his personnel file. Once he hired his friend’s kid, all bets were off with the father. He never should have discussed personnel matters with anyone but the employee(s) involved. The matter of the offer of drug dealing might be the way to deflect a lawsuit, but this was bungled.

Bruce A.
Sherwood Park, AB

Regardless of Jim’s compassion, he has left himself open for potential litigation. His first course of action should have been a discussion with his own lawyer on the legal (and proper) handling of employee termination. The regulations vary from various countries and between states and provinces. But all regulations share similar and basic employee protections. By Jim ignoring his own availability to legal council, he has entered the gladiator ring with nary a sword nor a shield!

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

Continue Reading

Most Popular