Managing people. It's literally the only thing I learned from being in the U.S. Army for 12 years: how to manage. Managing a platoon is much like managing a game store. Much to my early dismay, civilians are actually more difficult to manage than soldiers. There is no basic training for game store ownership, or game store operations, see. So, there is no shared knowledge when a new employee shows up for the first day of work.
A soldier knows how to do the basics -- clean their rifle, maintain their uniforms, use a buffer -- all sorts of things. But, a new employee at a retail store is, more often than not, just a gamer, a comics reader, or someone who was looking for a job and you hired them and they have literally no experience in the merchandise you sell, or the way a game store operates. That is a challenge!
Over the years I have come to write an operations manual to teach new employees how to do what the current employees do -- quickly. Unlike the Army, I don't have 90 days to get a new hire up to speed to do this job. Nor should I!
This is retail. And, in retail, every employee either makes you money, or costs you money.
A new employee absolutely costs you money. For a new staffer to get to the point they make you money, they have to generate more profits per hour than it costs to employ them. I know that sounds simple, but it isn't easy. If it were easy, I would have 50 people clocked in at my store all the time! Right? But, the reality is that you have to teach people to become profitable. That takes time.
For us, I need a staffer to know how to greet people, answer the phone, how to enter merchandise into the point of sale (POS) software, how to display product, to know where literally everything in the store is located. An employee must know what to do when someone wants to buy stuff they can't find, how to suggest items based on requests for things we don't actually have, how to buy items from customers wanting to sell their games/comics/movies/music/cards/miniatures/video games and other items. Before a new hire can really generate more revenue than it costs to employ them, they have to know how to sell a comic subscription service, how to grade comics, how to use our tools like the ladder to get things off the wall, or how to hang swords ON the wall so they won't fall. They must learn how to display the graphic novels, how to put out the new comics, how to check in an order from two dozen different sources (and each one is slightly different), and how to do a weekend inventory.
A new hire must be able to demo a game to 4 players, and how to run an event for 40+ attendees. They must be able to write a comic review, know how to tell the different Magic, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! sets by the symbols or text on the cards. They must be able to take a request for a product, how to fill out a reorder sheet, how to notice a shoplifter, and how to react when someone is acting like a shoplifter.
There is a LOT to learn between the time I say “you're hired” and the time when I can put that staffer on the schedule alone in my store. And, until a staff member can handle the store alone, they really are not quite profitable yet. Because although we have two staff here most of the time, there is no reason to have two people here during slow hours.
I have a specific manner in which I train new hires. They work with different MODs (manager on duty) throughout the first couple weeks, being trained on the basics. Then, I work with them more, imparting more specific information to them. I hold weekly training meetings for all staff. I have a private staff-only Facebook page to share ideas, instructions, the schedule, and answer staff questions, or impart new policies, and I also go over things for new hires there.
Knowing all this helps me get my staff up to snuff more quickly.
One thing I do try to avoid, at all costs, really, is the new applicant who, during the interview process, tells me how cool or fun it would be to work at a game store. Because you will work harder here, and make less money, than if you took a job in fast food.
So… if you happen to be going to a game or comic store for a job interview, here are just a few tips:
- Smile. A lot. I want to hire happy, energetic and friendly people.
- Talk about how you can sell things, your sales experiences, and emphasize how you envision yourself increasing sales.
- Talk about how you use social media to influence your friends to do cool activities.
- Make a lot of friendly eye contact, speak clearly and don't say uhm or uhhh. (In fact that is just good interviewing advice overall.)
- Dress like you want the job. I have never hired someone who showed up to the interview in jeans and a t-shirt. Or someone who showed up dirty, unclean or unprepared to be interviewed.
(Btw, I am looking to hire one new person, so if you can get to London, Kentucky stop in and see me.)
If you like my column this week, please like my store page on Facebook, where I often share other cool stuff about the game industry, or talk with fans.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.