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Candace D'Agnolo

10 Ducks to Get in a Row Before You Fire Someone

Ensure that your HR nightmare doesn’t spiral out of control.

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GROWING A BUSINESS eventually means hiring a team. For the most part, it’s easy to find and train great individuals who rarely cause drama. And then sometimes we have to deal with the ugly side of human resources … termination.

I have employed more than 150 people in the 15 years I’ve been in the pet business, yet still I found myself in a situation recently that I had never experienced. I uncovered something, which required me to immediately remove a longtime team member, who was one of our best.

These are the 10 strategies I had in place, ensuring this HR nightmare didn’t spiral out of control.

1. Know the HR laws for your state and utilize HR services and tools from your payroll company. Some providers like ADP, also have online courses, in-person training and an HR specialist for immediate access. This helps ensure you’re following the law and protecting yourself. 

2. Fully understand your insurance policy. If a claim is brought against you, it’s critical to know how much coverage you have and what steps they require you to take. Agencies like the Business Insurers of the Carolinas specialize in the pet industry.

3. Hire an employment attorney from your state. Jackson Hewitt came recommended to me by my insurance agent and payroll provider because they specialize in small businesses. The law is typically in the favor of the employee, so having experienced counsel can help you make smart decisions. 

4. Document everything. A standard form to document disciplinary conversations with an employee is critical. Start with a “Counseling Record” form that explains whether the conversation with an employee is verbal, written or a final warning. Detail on the form what happened, how his actions impact the business and the improvement you need to see. This will be helpful if a wrongful termination suit is filed.

5. Install high-quality, wired video cameras. This eliminates the “he said/she said” conflict that can happen between co-workers. Save it to a secure cloud folder. Never post any video on the internet and depending on the issue, let very few people see it. An impulse to defend your side of a story can cause more harm than good.

6. Always come from a place of integrity. Are there other people involved in the situation who need to be notified or included in the process? Do you need to explain a situation to a customer? It’s better for people to hear things from you. 

7. Keep things private, but have a witness. When speaking with employees about their performance, always keep it private from their co-workers, but include a supervisor when possible. He or she can play moderator to keep the meeting on point and can confirm facts should the need arise.

8. Put facts before feelings. It’s human nature to judge, to feel hurt, to get angry when trust is broken, but no matter the issue, you must remind yourself to look at the facts when making decisions and when choosing what to say.

9. Keep it short and simple. During a termination, employees often veer off topic trying to defend themselves or keep their jobs. Stay focused by responding in this way: “We are discussing only your role in this situation. My decision is final. I will answer questions only about the end of your employment.”

10. Respect the rest of the team. When talking with employees about their co-worker’s termination, simply state that the employee is no longer working there. Put their mind at ease that their jobs are not in jeopardy and that the decision was in the best interest of customers and them. Remind them that for legal reasons, they should not communicate about the situation with the former employee. And let them know that your door is always open if they have questions.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.

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PETS+ Live with Candace D'Agnolo

This North Carolina Pet Business Thrives by Creating Unforgettable Customer Experiences

Catch the replay of this PETS+ Live! webinar hosted by Candace D’Agnolo of Pet Boss Nation. This episode featured Wendy Megyese of Muttigans in Emerald Isle, NC. Learn about ways to combat the big boxes and online — the key is to give your customers an experience they can’t get anywhere else — and learn why the business was honored in the 2018 PETS+ America’s Coolest Stores contest.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Boost Staff Morale with These 3 Holiday Sales Games

It’s important to first identify what your goal is.

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WHEN I WAS running my own pet retail boutique, I found that as the busy days of December rolled on, our team would become more and more run down. Every day gets longer and longer. It becomes harder and harder to keep the team motivated. I needed to find a solution, and I discovered that one of the best ways to perk up everyone was to play games.

Using “gamification” in your business is a really hot trend right now because it creates engagement, connection and results.

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Video: Adorable Cat Melts Hearts By Trying on Eyewear for Children

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Video: Cat Surprises Airport Security After Stowing Away in Family’s Luggage

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Photo of Adorable Service Dogs in Theater Gets Viral Attention (VIDEO)

When it comes to using games as a tool in business, it’s important to first identify what your goal is. Perhaps it’s to move out your holiday-specific merchandise. Maybe it’s to ensure that all the new customers coming in are being added to your database. Or you want to get the team to add on one more item over $10 to each sale. Whatever it is, make sure you pick a specific purpose for your game. Play the game only for up to one week. Games that last longer tend to lose their magic. You can play multiple games throughout the month, too. At my store, we had a different four-day game that would run every Thursday through Sunday. Each game’s tactics were different, and each game’s purpose was different.

Here are a few of my favorite games to play to help you sell more stuff, motivate the team and keep that register ringing to make the most of December.

The Dollar Tree

Tape fake dollar bills on a wall in the shape of a Christmas tree. Encourage your team to ask each customer: “Does your pet have a present under the tree this year?” If the customer says, “No” (or even yes) and that question leads them to purchase a toy, then that team member gets to pull a fake dollar from the tree. At the end of your game, they get to turn their fake dollars into you for real dollars.

Staff Santa Sack

Every time you beat your daily sales goal, each person who worked the floor gets to pull a card from the Staff Santa Sack. The sack can be filled with notecards or something similar, each with a reward, gift or surprise written on it. They can turn their cards into you whenever they want during the months of January or February. The rewards could have ideas like, “Skip my turn to clean the bathroom,” “Go to Lunch with the Boss,” “Pick one item from the store under $20,” “Get a 30-minute paid break.”

Staff Bingo

Play Bingo! Make your own bingo board by filling in the boxes with product names, tasks or questions instead of the typical bingo number. Keep them all the same or make a variety of boards. Hand them out to your team and have them try to get bingo in order to move toward your objective. When they have a completed board, they get a prize.

These are just a few examples of games you could play with your team to keep things interesting and to increase your sales at the same time. If you give one a try, make sure to share your results with PETS+.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Purposeful Outreach: How to Segment Your Customer List and Communicate with a Purpose

The best emails, text messages, direct mailers and thank-you cards are relevant to the recipient and timely.

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MY LAST TWO COLUMNS covered why collecting customer information was so important, what you should collect and then ways in which you could encourage your customers to give their information to you. Now that you have your list, it’s time to communicate with them in a purposeful way that adds value. The best emails, text messages, direct mailers, thank-you cards are relevant to the recipient and timely. So how do you do that?

The first step is ensuring that your list is segmented, meaning that all your contacts are in the appropriate categories/lists. You can mark your customers with “tags” or custom fields inside your software (based on recommendations I covered previously — check out past columns here: petsplusmag.com/dagnolo).

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Podcast: Wellness Junkie “Coach Caitie” Teaches You to Care for Yourself as Well as You Care for Your Pets

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Segmenting will allow you to send relevant information to customers. Wouldn’t it be better for a cat customer to get a cat-related email from your business instead of hearing about a dog mom event? If the cat customer hears only about dogs, they will stop opening your emails or paying attention to your marketing.

Segmenting takes effort on your part, but once you get a system down, it will become easy for you to send the right message to your customers.

Now that you have them segmented to send relevant information, it’s important to send consistent and timely communication.

Here are a bunch of reasons to communicate with your customers:

  • Newsletter (monthly, weekly, bi-weekly)
  • Welcome to “Business Name Family”/Story behind business
  • New client/onboarding
  • Reminders
  • Promotions
  • Re-engagement for customers you haven’t seen in a while
  • Abandoned carts for online stores
  • Milestone emails
  • Special offers
  • Surveys or other request

And here’s a list of things you could share in those communications:

  • Celebrations
  • Announcements
  • Customer and team highlights
  • New products and benefits of others
  • Breaking news/recalls
  • Vendor stories
  • Your stories
  • Events
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Do’s and Don’ts

So, now you’re building your list. You know why you should be communicating with customers and what to talk about. Now it’s about being consistent in your communication. Come up with a plan to communicate at least weekly with your customers — whether it’s to the whole group or targeted segments of your list.

Sending relevant info is key. The right message must reach the right people. The most important thing about your communication is to communicate with purpose. The purpose of your communication will allow you to ensure you’re driving important and interesting communication that still supports your business.

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Candace D'Agnolo

8 Ways to Collect New and Existing Customer Information

Incentivize new and existing customers to give you more of their information.

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LAST MONTH, I SHARED with you why collecting customer information is critical to your success. Now that you know what you want to collect from your customers, I’m focusing here on how you can incentivize new and existing customers to give you more of their information. In this three-part series, I’ll help you move from sending a random monthly mass email newsletter to truly building an engaged and active customer base. This not only means having your customers’ information, but collecting information as much as possible so you can keep growing your business!

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Behind the Pages

Podcast: Wellness Junkie “Coach Caitie” Teaches You to Care for Yourself as Well as You Care for Your Pets

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Behind the Pages

Podcast: Talking Cybersecurity, and Keeping Your Pet Business Safe Online

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The most obvious example of where/when to collect their information is at the register and/or the time of purchase. (P.S. This should be a non-negotiable standard for your team when ringing people up). Here are eight alternatives to getting oh so much more information:

1. Require people to register in advance for your events. Google Forms is free and provides a link for you to share on social media or in emails for easy online signup. Eventbrite is also a fabulous tool since you can charge for the event, allow people to attend for free, and you can even ask for a donation! Some of the CRM platforms from July/August 2019 issue will allow you to build landing pages that integrate with their software, as well.

2. Do a raffle. Make sure you have each participant’s cellphone, email and address. An idea for this would be to do an online “getting to know your customers” contest on social media. Have them fill out a survey (all their info), and they get entered to win a gift card for the store.

3. Create an “opt-in” to use in a variety of places. Share it on your business cards, social media, website, emails, videos. An opt-in is when you give something away of value in exchange for your customers’ information. This can be a 10 best tips PDF, an educational video, a gift certificate — the options are endless!

4. Implement a texting service. A texting platform will help you automate the opt-in process in a wide range of places. Use your short text in keyword to get people to join a VIP Club, use it events for easy signup, add it to signage in your store and call it out on Facebook Live videos.

5. Utilize surveys, contests, polls and competitions. Outgrow.co, Survey Monkey, Google Forms, Rafflecopter and Poll-maker are among a few websites that allow you to create these for distribution as well as capturing the data you want.

6. Do a pop-up ad on your website that asks anyone visiting to fill out a brief survey for an instant 10 percent off sent to their email upon completion.

7. Offer a “whatever you can fit in [this box] in 5 minutes is yours” shopping spree giveaway on a Facebook Live video. Or if that’s too much of an expense, do a surprise grab-bag giveaway. Fill a box with whatever you want, cover/wrap it up and tell people it can be all theirs if they enter! Really talk up the goodies in there, saying they can have enough gifts and goodies for the next six months! Include a link where they can register to win.

8. Offer a coupon on their next purchase if they leave an online review of their experience. Platforms like Nextpaw + Broadly can help make this easier.

Last month, you learned why it’s important to collect customer info and what you should collect and track (petsplusmag.com/9191). And now, you have ideas to incentivize new people and current customers to opt-in. I’ll share with you ways to best communicate on a regular basis in the last installment of this three-part series in the October issue. Because aside from sending regular newsletter emails, there are lots of strategies to building raving fans who support your business!

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