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  • Everyone Working Together

    Flowers and Profits®

    Jo Buttram of Shirley's flowers and Gifts in Rogers, Arkansas, has learned the value of setting aside time for training. With everyone moving in the same direction, she no longer needs to micromanage, and customers receive even better service. Creating a harmonious and close-knit team out of 12 individuals wasn't easy.

    All florists want their shops to hum like a finely adjusted sewing machine. However, anytime people have to work together there are bound to be misunderstandings and friction.

    "Three years ago, I had fallen into the role of being 'Mom' all of the time," Jo said. "A few of my employees were nitpicking. Some were finding fault with each other. I spent a lot of energy resolving problems instead of managing my business. Work wasn't as fun for me. I wanted my employees to respect each other as much as I did."

    Team Training

    Fortunately, Jo discussed her frustrations with a friend who owns a spa and hair salon. The friend had resolved a similar situation by implementing a "tear training" program.

    At first, Jo was concerned about how much time it would take, but based on the positive results the spa had experienced, she thought it was worth a try. Jo contacted a consulting group to help.

    Getting Off-site

    "To accomplish our goals the consultants said we had to close the shop down for a day and go off-site," Jo, said. "Even though I waited until September, when business is slowest, we're a busy shop and I was concerned about closing. But I bit the bullet and put a sign on the door saying we were closed on Saturday. It was well worth it."

    On Friday evening, the group ate dinner and went to a cabin, where they spent the night together. Although some were uncomfortable about the arrangement, Jo made it mandatory if they were to work for her shop. "I even encouraged an employee who was nursing to bring her baby along and we all took turns caring for her."

    Good Lessons

    "The really great thing about team training is that, for the first time, we all got to know each other and connected on a personal level," Jo said. "We learned how to communicate and how to listen."

    During one exercise, participants were required to listen to each person for three minutes without responding. "You don't realize how much you try to dominate a conversation until you're forced to listen. This especially taught us how to listen better to our customers."

    They also participated in a "race" that was impossible to finish unless they worked together as a unit. "This taught us how to depend on each other and to respect each other's strengths and contributions," Jo said

    Surprising Requests

    After the preliminaries, they got down to some business-oriented exercises. "The consultant asked my employees to write down their answers to 'What do you want out of your employer?'" Jo said. "I just knew they would answer with things like they wanted more money. But I was astounded with their requests. The first thing they wanted was to have monthly meetings. Second, they wanted an employee handbook. Third, they wanted a procedure manual."

    A Partnership

    It was then Jo realized how much her employees really cared about the business. "They wanted the shop to grow and prosper too," she said. "It was then that we began to form a partnership."

    Since that first team-building session three years ago, they schedule monthly meetings to discuss their challenges and opportunities. "It's wonderful now that we all have a common goal — to please customers," Jo said "That makes every decision easy. We're all moving in the same direction."

    New ideas keep coming from employees. For example, they wanted the part-timers to receive a vacation and the same 50% discount on merchandise as full- timers received. They pointed out the value these people provide during peak periods, even though they don't work full-time. Jo agreed.

    Jo has also involved her employees in the hiring process. "Recently, after I narrowed down the applicants to replace a designer, I let the other three designers interview the final candidates. This way, if the person that they voted for doesn't work out so well, they share some of the responsibility for making the decision."

    Because her workforce is now a team, Jo even finds it's easy for her to leave the shop for a vacation. "Because everyone works so well with each other and because they are committed to serving the customer and meeting the shop goals, they can more easily run the shop without me," she said.


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