2017 VDTA Convention


One Bad Apple


We've all heard the saying "One bad apple spoils the bunch" as it applies to people… but where did the phrase come from? Does it actually happen to fruit?
"Yes. As they ripen, some fruits, like apples and pears, produce a gaseous hormone called ethylene, which is, among other things, a ripening agent. When you store fruits together, the ethylene each piece emits prods the others around it to ripen further, and vice versa.

The riper a piece of fruit is, the more ethylene it produces, and overripe fruit gives off even more ethylene, eventually leading to a concentration of the gas that's enough to overripen ALL the fruit. Given the right conditions and enough time, one apple can push all the fruit around it to ripen—and eventually rot.

Additionally, an apple that is infested with mold will contaminate other fruit it's stored with as the mold seeks additional food sources and spreads. In both cases, it actually does take just one single apple to start a domino chain that ruins the rest of the bunch."

As stated in the article by Matt Soniak of MentalFloss, one apple can spoil the whole bunch. It applies to apples, and it definitely applies to people also.
Over the years, I have had plenty of great fruit... and a few bad pieces. Looking for examples? How about the employee who told everyone she was quitting to go to a better job? Yes, she told everyone but her boss. She left the day I found out. Then there was the employee with a temper issue, and I came to see just how unpleasant that temper really was during a "discussion" about an employee complaint. He also left the same day. The list goes on…

More recently we had a department manager who was proficient at organization and office duties. The manager did a lot of things right but was not a people person, especially when it came to working with other staff. The staff working under this manager were concerned, but it took a while before they started complaining. Then we began hearing complaints from customers.

As it turns out, the department manager was complaining to customers about store staff, including Cindy and myself. After giving the manager two chances to change, on the 3rd occasion they decided to quit. A few days later, one of our best employees told us the department manager had said they were leaving in 3 months anyway. This employee had been afraid to say anything while the manager was still there; she had been too intimidated.

While good employees are hard to find, if you make a bad hire or have an employee who starts causing issues, even over a period of time, don't be afraid to cut ties. It might hurt for a while, but the damage they do to a business can last a long time. Like the apple in the drawer, that employee emits a noxious attitude. Other staff notice it and customers notice it too.

Most of us work very hard to earn new customers and retain our present customer base. Having employees, especially frontline staff, who are not happy is one of the quickest ways to burn a customer. While customers deserve and expect good service, they will understand if something goes wrong. It's all in how it's handled. If that frontline person has a smile and is eager to help, the customer will in most cases understand.

If the employee has a negative attitude, things can go south rather quickly.

Customers walking into our store don't have to be there. They can purchase many of the products we sell or similar at a Big Box store or online. Customers come to us because we are the vacuum and sewing experts. They are looking for answers to their questions, recommendations for their needs, and in many cases the "people" interaction.

Rotten attitudes have a stench all their own. If a customer walks into a store where there is dissension or bickering among staff, they will smell it, even if you try to cover it up. The best way to eliminate the stench of bad attitude and make sure it's gone is to get rid of that bad apple. If you don't, the whole drawer will eventually spoil. Don't procrastinate for another month. Let the person in question know what the issue is, giving them a chance to explain, and if you don't see quick results – do what needs to be done. TODAY! The longer the bad apple is part of your staff, the more damage they will do.

Non-disclosure agreement: Over the years we have hired many people. In the vast majority of cases we were sad the day the staff relationship ended. But, in a few cases we were relieved to see certain people go. For years we've had staff sign nondisclosure agreements when they come to work at the store. In many cases, staff have access to information such as sales numbers, customer names, product costs, etc., and the last thing we want is for an employee to move on feeling free to quote numbers or names to people outside the store. While not being bulletproof, a nondisclosure agreement signed at the start of employment and a copy given to a disgruntled employee at resignation or termination is a deterrent to having store information being passed around or used at their next job.

GO FISH! We recently started a new staff contest that our people are having fun with. It's called "Go Fish." How it works is we have each machine sale count for points. A lower priced sale is a "small fry" and weighs 2 lbs. Mid-priced sales qualify as a "nice catch" and weigh 5 lbs. An upper level "whopper" sale counts as 10 lbs. We have a weigh-in at the end of each week with the winner getting a $25 gift card. Since we sell both sewing machines and vacuum cleaners, we have a higher dollar amount for sewing machine sales but every machine sale, vacuum or sewing, at least counts as a "small fry." It seems to be working well to create a little "friendly" competition between sales staff. The $25 weekly prize is very inexpensive if it creates a desire to be proactive on the sales floor.

Community Meal Project: Recently I received e-mails asking how our Community Meal Project is going. While we are not yet serving 7 days a week, I am pleased to say we have partnered up with another group who was already serving free meals in the community and have expanded their meal program to 3 days a week. We are projecting over 25,000 free meals will be served in 2017. Once we are serving 7 days a week, we are estimating 75,000 free meals will be served. There are several of us working together to make the free meal program expansion a reality. To go along with that, we are very shortly going to be starting a program to connect those in need with available resources and services that can help provide morale support and assistance.

E-mail your comments, ideas and suggestions to jimbarnhardt@msn.com

Jim Barnhardt
J & R Vacuum and Sewing
VDTA•SDTA Board Member


Reprinted from Floor Care & Central Vac Professional & SQE Professional, November 2017