Chapter 8: Smart Recruiting for Retail
Now you have your store. The next thing is where do we find great people to work for you? The truth is, by putting a little sign outside, you're not going to find the best ones. People that are good have jobs.
My favorite way of finding new people is by poaching them. Like I'll go to ... Listen, it's all bad karma if we poach them from the boutique next door, right? I like poaching them from major chains, from department stores. You know what I find makes an excellent salesperson? Waiters and waitresses because they have to be kind, they have to be organized and they have to be fast.
You can train people on sales, on fashion, on loss prevention, on anything that you want, but you cannot train people to be nice. One of the things that I think is very important to start with is you have to create a job description because, trust me when I tell you, what they think they should be doing and what you think they should be doing are two different things.
The next thing is you want to be able to find people that want a career. One of the questions that we like to ask is, "Why would you like to work here?" If they answer with anything like, "Because I need a job," that's not the person you're hiring. You want people that maybe it's their second career or they're looking for something interesting or they want something to do with fashion.
The next thing is you want to be able to find people that understand the product. Now, I'm not saying that they can afford the product, I'm saying that they understand the product that you're selling.
I'll give you this great example. A couple of years ago, a girl friend of mine said that she wanted to be a partner with this woman that owned a store in uptown, here in the Upper East Side of New York City. It was a handbag store. She had a great niche. She had a great location. Her niche was handbag. She had bags from like $200 to $2,000. She had exclusives. She had this woman who was a protégé of Judith Leiber who did handset stones in her bags. She couldn't understand why the business wasn't doing well. She needed to bring in a partner.
First of all, I have to say I'm not a fan of partners, but this was my girl friend and I figured let me go check out the retail situation for her. It's Sunday morning. It's 11:00. The store is supposed to be open. It's not open. Now, I'm trying to look in the window to see if they're open on a Sunday. Of course, there is no hours of operations on the window. Okay. Find. I figured let me wait around. It is Sunday. Let me give them a few minutes to get to work.
It's 11:15. I see the two girls walking towards the store. I knew it was them because they were walking the "walk of shame." We all know what that looks like. Now, the two girls come. I'm apologetic. I shouldn't be apologizing. They should be apologizing, but, since it is Sunday, I figured let me be nice and be the nice customer.
Now, we're apologizing. "I'm sorry I'm here so early."
"No. No. It's okay."
"I was in the neighborhood last night. I was at a restaurant."
"What restaurant were you at?"
"Oh, it's Cafe Luxembourg."
"Oh, no kidding, my boyfriend works there."
Guess what, in New York City, by 3 degrees of separation, you know somebody that knows somebody. Now, we're friends. I'm actually helping them open this gate, this old, rusty gate of New York City. All three of us are lifting up. We're lifting up, we're lifting up, and, finally, we get it up. They run into the store. They run into the back to shut off the alarms. They leave me in a dark store with an open door and thousand-dollar bags.
Just thinking about it, how many bags could I have stolen at that moment because, remember, the con man is always the nice guy. It was never like, "Oh, he was so mean and rotten." No. It was always the nice guy, right? Me, personally, I could have stolen a lot of bags because I'm really good at it.
Now, I'm in the store. They're in the back. We're talking, we're best friends, about the neighborhood, the neighborhood has changed, the neighborhood hasn't changed. What about the people? Blah. Blah. Blah. We're really good friends.
Now, I said, "Listen, you know what, I came here for the bag that's in the window. Do you mind showing it to me?"
"Sure. Sure. Sure."
Now, that was another project. That had to get a step stool from the back. They had to find the key to unlock the door. They had to climb into the window. They handed me the bag.
Now, the bag is full of dust. It's a beautiful bag. It's completely encrusted in turquoise, right, hand set. It's plated in 24-karat gold. It's signed and numbered by the artist. Inside, when you open it up, it had this beautiful red Valentino silk lining. Then, I looked at the price. $1,700. I'm, like, "Oh, my God." Sticker shock, right? $1,700. They both, in unison, said like this to me. "I don't know who would pay $1,700 for a bag like this when you can go to Canal Street and buy it for 25 bucks." Remember, they're my friends now. They're giving me good advice.
You cannot have two high school dropouts being paid minimum wage and expect them to appreciate the product. She could have hired anybody for that store. It could have been an Upper East Side divorcee. It could have been an artist. It could have been a craftsperson, a jewelry designer, somebody that could have appreciated the craftsmanship of that product and been able to sell it as such. It is important when we're looking for people that they understand the product and, again, not too much that they can't afford it.
Sometimes I like to ask really crazy questions because, in retail, every single crazy person is going to walk into your store. I like to ask questions that keep them on their toes. My favorite to ask is, "From 1 to 10, how lucky do you think you are?" Trust me when I tel you, anybody that picks anything under a 4, don't hire them. They're that person that walks around with the cloud over their head. You have that friend that everything bad happens to them. Their dog is sick. Their car won't start. They always have some drama going on. Do not hire them.
I also like to ask like really crazy questions like, "If you could have one superhero power, what would it be?" It's not so much so that they could pick something interesting. It's that they're able to engage in conversations. That's what you want in a salesperson, somebody that's engaging, somebody that can converse, somebody who can talk a lot about anything. That's the type, a cheery, happy person, that you want in your store.
When really thinking about hiring in your store, don't just hang up a sign in your window. You have to aggressively look for the good people.