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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the Disruptive Diva




Editor’s Note: Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved. The names of the characters and stores have been changed and should not be confused with real people or places.

Five years ago, after over 40 years in the business, there were only two things that Jack Casson looked forward to: The opening of his bigger, brighter and better located store and his son’s movement into the management of his family business. Both efforts had been long in coming, and neither had been without significant challenges. Jack’s son, Kyle, had worked in the store on and off for over 10 years, since his high school days. After his college graduation, Jack and his advisors tried several different plans for assimilating Kyle into the business full time, but it seemed that with each effort, the linear thinking and process-focused Kyle grew more and more frustrated and felt less and less like jewelry retail was the right career for him. Finally, back in 2008, Kyle and his dad agreed that a break of sorts was in order. He went out on his own, successfully establishing and running an online operation in an entirely different field, while still handling some of the store’s administrative duties.

Building a new store had long been a dream for Jack. He’d been successful in maintaining his father’s Ashville Jewelers business in its original location for many years, but the decline of the neighborhood, combined with his vision of an innovative, modern showroom led Jack to set out in search of a new home. After years of work searching for the right development in the right spot, Jack finally saw his vision come to life in the form of the all new Ashville Jewelers in 2010.

Of course, a new store and the promise of an expanded customer base meant that Jack also needed to add to his long-tenured team. Just in time for his grand opening, he hired Amy and Josh, two bright, young, aggressive (but inexperienced) salespeople, bringing his staff to a total of eight.

Within 10 months, Amy had become a strong and productive salesperson, while it became clear to Jack that Josh was not going to work out for the store. Jack made the tough decision to let Josh go and was about to begin the arduous search for a replacement when Kyle approached his dad about coming back to the store full time. He explained that he’d learned a great deal over the previous several years, and was ready to work toward assuming management responsibilities within the family business.


The two men developed a plan of action that included a clear responsibility list for each of them, and specific goals and benchmarks for Kyle’s development. While the process was not without its challenges, it appeared to Jack and to the other long-time Ashville associates that Kyle really had grown into the role. He was able to implement a number of long-overdue procedural improvements and more importantly, had gotten much better at dealing with both customers and employees — despite having to deal with some resistance to the changes he brought to the Ashville operation. A year after re-joining the business, Kyle assumed the role of general manager, taking over a number of new responsibilities including staff development and training.

The first order of business for Kyle was to implement a weekly staff training meeting schedule. Jack thought it was a bit silly, since it seemed easy enough to just talk to everyone in the store throughout the day, but he went along with Kyle’s decision. The rest of the staff, for the most part, shared Jack’s view, but were willing to give the idea a try. Amy, who had become the store’s top salesperson, made it perfectly clear, however that she had no interest whatsoever in coming in an hour early for what she considered an unnecessary waste of her time. She came to the first meeting at Jack’s request, but then found excuses for missing the next two. When Kyle made it clear that the team meetings were mandatory, Amy’s attitude deteriorated quickly. She became disruptive and belligerent in the store, and made no attempt to hide her disrespect for Kyle from other associates. She came to the next scheduled meeting, but sat stone-faced and silent, refusing to engage. Afterward, she went to Jack to plead her case, and asking she just be sent a memo of the main meeting points. Jack called Kyle into his office and suggested that he come up with a way to appease Amy, since they couldn’t afford to lose her. Kyle took issue with his father, pointing out that Jack himself had missed nearly half of the scheduled team meetings for one reason or another, and said that he had every intention of firing Amy for insubordination. Jack saw the whole issue as a minor disagreement with a valuable employee, while Kyle saw it as a symptom of a much bigger problem. He told Jack that his behavior with Amy was undermining and unacceptable, and that he needed to stay out of it and let Kyle do his job.

The BIG Questions
Should staff meetings scheduled outside normal business hours be mandatory? Does a top selling employee have the right to an exemption? What about Jack’s role in the drama? How should a business owner handle employees who take advantage of “direct access” to circumvent store management? Will Kyle ever earn respect as a leader while Jack is still in the store?
Comment below (please leave your name and store) or at [email protected]


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