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  • Scheduling Your Staff, Part 1

    Finding and hiring good employees is difficult. Especially for employers in a low-wage industry. And in a tight labor market.

    But once you've found the right people, the personnel management task is still not complete. The next major challenge is to set working hours. The goal is a plan that will be both profitable for the business and agreeable to the employees. Striking the right balance is no easy accomplishment.

    Profitability

    Your goal as a small business owner is to make a profit. Although many factors effect the bottom line, the one that can cause the most damage is inflated payroll. Too many people doing too little work means too little in profits.

    If you hire extra staff for the busy holiday periods and don't cut back after the holiday is over, you are asking for trouble. Floral Finance has a cardinal rule for staffing properly:

    Your basic staff must be based on your non-holiday level of sales. Then add necessary personnel for the relatively few busy holiday days. Immediately after each holiday is over, staff must be reduced to non-holiday levels.

    If you really want to help your bottom line, you must also staff appropriately for each day of the week. Every shop has a predictable weekly sales pattern.

    Usually, Friday brings the largest volume of business. Sunday (if you're open), Monday and Tuesday will be slow days. You can't keep your Friday staffing level during the slower days if you want to be profitable.

    To accurately plan non-holiday staffing, you should perform a simple staffing analysis. Instructions and forms for this task are included in The Profit Minded Florist, available from Teleflora.

    Once you've determined your overall staff requirements by day of the week, you can move on to consider the special needs of each position.

    The Design Room

    Properly staffing the design room is a function of two variables. First, your expected design volume for each day. Second, how much productivity you expect from a designer.

    The design room is not directly dependent upon the ebb and flow of daily sales activity. Designers can work ahead on specials and featured designs. Completed pieces can go in the cooler. Conversely, production work can be put aside if orders for custom work come in.

    Designers should be able to start first thing in the morning and work right through to the end of the day. Larger shops sometimes even hire "swing shift" designers, specifically to work at night on the next day's orders.

    Sales Personnel

    Staffing the sales floor is more complicated. Sales personnel need to be available whenever customers want to place orders.

    It will take a little homework to determine your individual sales patterns. However, there are some general patterns that appear to fit most retail florists.

    Generally, there will be a short busy time at the beginning of the day lasting up to an hour. Then activity slows down until around 11:30 a.m. The lunch crowd keeps the phones and sales floor active until about 1:30 p.m. The final sales rush comes toward the end of the day — from around 4:30 p.m. through the rush hour.

    The trick is to staff so that you have enough sales personnel to cover the busy periods, but no idle workers during the slower hours.

    The answer? Part-time employees.

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