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Hiring A-Players for Your Specialty Running Store

Hiring A-Players for Your Specialty Running Store

Running IntelligenceOriginally Published in Running Intelligence

For many of my clients in the specialty running business, business has been good even with all the real and perceived economic gloom and doom around us. So, while for other retail segments a discussion on hiring might be inappropriate right now, this article is a reminder to us as owners and managers of running stores: hiring is not about filling positions; it is about building a great team. If you are committed to building the best team possible at your store, you must be committed to an ongoing process of looking for the best employees possible.

One of the most important concepts to understand is that, in the running specialty business, marketing is recruiting. Your efforts to find new customers double as an effort to find new employees. Furthermore, the business owners and executives who are the best recruiters have a vision for recruiting that goes beyond filling positions. They are committed to building a fantastic team. They know that over the long haul, it is the qualities of their people that will make the business thrive. They accept that the recruiting and interviewing process never ends. You will always have employee attrition. There are always high-quality people out there who would make a big contribution to your business. Your job is to find them, build a relationship with them, and over time show, them why working for you is the best move they can make for their career.

For store owners that consistently attract strong employees, recruiting is not a distraction from their job – it is a key part of their job. As a result, they interview people all the time. Sometimes these interviews are formal. Often they are just casual conversations in which the business person is evaluating whether or not this person would make a great employee.

You will find that the following you have built around your store through your training programs and other similar programs can be a terrific recruiting ground. The people involved in those programs already have at least an interest in, and possibly a passion for, fitness. They know, like, and trust you. You have gotten to know them. Reach out to folks like this and ask them if they know anyone who would be interested in a full or part-time position. They may well be personally interested.

Reach out to connected people and decision influencers. When you realize that recruiting is a subset of marketing, you get a lot more comfortable with being a proactive recruiter. I always counsel my clients to reach out to people in their network, or people who should be in their network, and let them know about the kind of people for whom you are looking.

The current employees of retailers and employees of restaurants are also a good potential pool for your store. The best employees at a restaurant, for instance, demonstrate the kind of customer service and ability to multi-task that are called for in a running specialty store. Every time you are in a restaurant or retailer, you should be on the lookout for employees that do a terrific job. Compliment them, hand them a business card, tell them to check out your business in person and on the web, and encourage them to introduce themselves further if they are every interested in a job. Invite them to join your training programs and otherwise get to know your store.

When you reach out to your network of contacts in the community, look for people in the retail and restaurant community with whom you can develop contacts. I recommend that my clients be scheduling at least one lunch or coffee per week with well-connected people in their community. You educate these people about your business and help them become a salesperson for you. These relationships not only help you to expand your recruiting reach; they build relationships that drive new customers into your store.

As you reach out to people in your network, always describe your job opening in the context of growth. It is one thing to ask someone in your business community if they know anyone who is interested in working retail. It is another thing to say that your store has been growing in double digits despite the economy, and you need someone who ideally has retail experience and has a passion for fitness. In other words, always communicate your job openings in the context of a story about your growth and success. My theory is that every business person has a “short list” in their Rolodex of high-value contacts. They give those names out sparingly because they are important relationships that need to be cultivated. By positioning your need in the context of growth, you encourage the people you know to tap into that high-value network list.

Send a follow-up email: I like the idea of both calling and emailing your network with information about your open job. Reinforce with the folks that you know that it is a priority for you to find the right person for your job.

Include your story in your electronic newsletter: Many of you already promote your open positions in your electronic newsletter. I would include the same story about your store’s growth and development in the newsletter to explain why the position is open.

Reinforce the importance of employee referrals. The best hires often come from the network of relationships that you have built around yourself and your store. You want your employees to be actively thinking about terrific people that they know who would make great store employees. Consistently remind your best employees that you are always interested in interviewing great people even if you do not have an open position. Put some type of employee referral in place for successful new hires. For example, give an employee $50 of store merchandise for referring someone who you hire and who is successfully employed 60-90 days after their start date. This kind of program taps into your employees’ competitive nature and helps them to get focused on providing quality employment referrals.

Recruiting is a hassle when you view it as an interruption to your real job. Ask yourself if it is time to change your perspective. Get a vision for the great store team that you want to develop. Then, accept that this team will only get built by a passion for and commitment to recruiting the great people. Your store contributes to people’s lives and to the community in which you live. Get out, tell your story, and find people who can share your passion and grow your business.



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