A showroom attendant should greet visitors and steer them in the right direction to the products they seek.

An attendant with a design background can help the customer make product selections by helping her cut through the myriad of available choices.
Well before your showroom opens, you must consider the choice of a showroom attendant. Whatever title you choose — “attendant,” “showroom manager” or “designer” — it will be this person’s responsibility to make visitors feel at ease and confident that they have come to the right place for help and advice.

The primary thing to remember is that THIS must be the attendant’s only job function! He, or she, is not a secretary (except maybe for himself). He is not a bookkeeper (except for tracking his own orders and leads). He is solely dedicated to the showroom and its business. The attendant is a viable team member. He is a salesperson, and the showroom is his territory.

A design background is most helpful

If at all possible, you should hire someone with a design background. Sound expensive? Don’t despair. There are ways to add a designer to your staff without blowing out your budget. Consider a student intern, for instance. Many schools are eager to see their students to obtain practical experience, and the students are looking for that experience too. Their transition to full-time employment is much easier when they have some real life experience to show on a résumé. (Trust me on this one!)

Still sound a little shaky? Plan ahead. Visit local schools and set up an internship program with their design departments. Have the professor monitor the program and establish a grading system to gauge the student’s progress. The fact that he will be monitored and graded gives the student more incentive to be responsible as your showroom attendant.

A sure-fire way to entice conscientious students is to offer a scholarship. Students today appreciate almost any amount of funds they get, and such scholarship outlays are tax deductible for you. Consult your tax advisor about setting up a scholarship program. It’s a good publicity move, and an excellent way to build credibility with a whole new group of prospective customers.

Establish job descriptions

Job descriptions can help you in selecting, hiring, compensating, and determining training needs. They also will be useful in conducting performance appraisals and planning for future employment needs.

It’s important to create a “goals and objectives” job description rather than merely listing every detail for which the attendant will be responsible. By emphasizing goals and objectives, you focus on the major functions of the business and set a guideline for how this person will become part of the team. The job description should help increase productivity, and produce results through better task delegation and time management.

Update job descriptions as necessary, just as you would with any other plan or company forecast. Ideally, you should accomplish this goal during the annual review. This allows you to discuss plans for the company in general and detail how the individual employee contributes.

The following should be covered in a job description:

Job title and accountability. This helps to identify the job and its unique characteristics.

Job summary. Define the work to be performed. (You may have two employees with the same job titles and pay levels, but each may have different duties, responsibilities and accountabilities.

Duties and responsibilities. Cover all tasks to be performed.

Skill and educational requirements. Describe the skills needed, desired educational requirements, any special training, and amount of experience necessary to perform the job.

Inter-relationships. Describe how this job relates to others within your organization, as well as with customers and vendors.

Working conditions. Outline any unusual conditions, the amount of out-of-town travel required and any unusual hours or special events that the job requires.

Needed attributes. This is where you should discuss any aptitude and temperament requirements of the job or any other desirable qualities.

Signatures of author, approving manager and date. Authorship of the document may be important when questions arise. And dates serve as reminders for updating and revising the job description.

Recruiting Good Employees

If you expect to recruit the best, you have to be the best. Good employees are hard to find and competition for them is fierce. You need fresh ideas to convince bright, new people to work for you. You need to scrutinize your recruiting systems and the people that are doing the recruiting. This may include you! Details make the difference. Below are some factors you need to consider to help you compete.

Reply to applicants. Let them know that their r¾sum¾s were received. All of them won’t make the cut, but you may have to go back to the well if your first choice doesn’t work out. Make your responses conversational. Write informally as one person to another.

Become a good host. With a host mentality, you treat the job applicant as a guest. Make sure all applicants have an understanding of the invitation to the interview. Be sure they have good directions to get to your showroom, a place to park and a specific appointment time. Alert whoever may be greeting applicants to the scheduled appointment times of so that each candidate feels welcome when he or she arrives.

Be punctual. Don’t keep applicants waiting. Their time is as valuable as yours. Remember that they’ll be forming first impressions of you too!

Clean up. My Mother always said that a guest sees more in an hour than you do in a year. So, clean up both indoors and out. Is the reception area spotless? How about your desk? Be mindful of what you’ve left out on your desktop. Is there an empty chair for the guest to use?

Dress up. You’re having guests, so make an effort to dress up a little. A tux isn’t required, but a reasonable impression is. Don’t slouch. Extend your hand and stand to meet candidates. Have someone escort them to your office. Or better yet, meet and escort them yourself.

Customize the interview. If you interview frequently, you may be in a rut and rely too heavily on your usual spiel. Invariably, job candidates pick up on the “canned” nature of your presentation. It makes the applicant feel that you view him more as a number than an individual. Even if you’re required to follow a specific interviewing procedure, keep it fresh. Frequently, refer to the person by name. Review the candidate’s resume BEFORE the interview. Then, during the interview, keep it in front of you along with your notes and questions. (Yes, you also have to prepare in advance of your meeting!)

Inform applicants of your hiring decision as soon as possible. Write individual notes to the top candidates you opted not to choose. Remember, the first candidate may not work out. You want to keep these folks happy to be backups.

Non-compete agreements

Most business information doesn’t qualify as a trade secret or intellectual property, which are covered by patents and copyrights. However, an ex-employee could share some of your business information with a competitor of yours. To keep this from happening, incorporate a non-compete clause in agreement you make with a new hire.

The best time to establish such an agreement is at the time a job offer is extended. Once an employee is already on board, he or she may be reluctant to sign anything and you will have less leverage to negotiate a non-compete agreement. A pay incentive may be the only bargaining chip you have at that point.

But it’s never too late to ask an employee to sign a non-compete agreement. You may consider offering a severance package to an employee who is being fired and include a non-compete commitment as part of the deal.

Typically, an employee should agree not to own or work for a business that competes with yours. Usually, the restriction covers a specific number of years after the employee leaves your business. The restriction should apply to specific geographical area. Your agreement, for example, may be for two years within a 20-mile radius of your business location. Focus on the following three questions when formulating the need for the non-compete agreement.

1. Is there a legitimate business reason for restricting the activities of this particular employee? There is if you expect to spend a significant amount of time and money in training the employee for his job or if he is privy to sensitive documents, contracts or lucrative accounts.

2. Is the agreement reasonably limited in time? Courts tend to favor shorter time limits.

3. Is the agreement reasonably limited as to location? For a local business, a mile radius or county selection may be reasonable. Regional business might include several states. If your business is online, national or international, restrictions may be acceptable. I urge you to consult legal counsel on this point. Ideally, you should consult a lawyer who’s familiar with any cases that have had court settlements in your area.

Battles over the legality of these non-compete agreements can, and do, end up in court. Usually, agreements that are fair and reasonable hold up in court. Any such agreement can’t limit an employee’s ability to make a living.

Once you’ve hired your attendant, the most important part of the program takes place. In my next article, I’ll explain how to develop a team member.