Retailers: Give Yourself a Performance Review

retail retailers owner owners performance review

As retailers, giving an employee a job review seems to be a challenge, regardless of the size of your business. We have observed businesses that never give reviews, with the reasoning of, “If I give a review they are going to expect a pay raise,” or “if they do something wrong I will tell them.”

We spoke with a business owner recently with a policy of semi-annual job reviews. They were three months overdue in reviewing an employee whose biggest challenge was procrastinating.

We visited with an owner recently who was detailing challenges he had with each of his six employees. We asked what all his employees have in common. The answer we gave was all the employees have the same boss!


“Ouch,” the owner replied.

When you hire an employee, you want to believe you have hired a quality person who will put forth their best effort. And to get their best effort, that employee needs all of the necessary tools for success. The most important tool is the boss!


What employees need differs with each employee, based on their life and work experiences. Imagine hiring someone for their first job: a person who has worked in retail for 10 years, and a retiree who owned an arts material business that focused on commercial accounts. Each has different skills and needs.

The challenge generally comes in the owner being open to hear their comments, compliments, suggestions and complaints. Remember, however, that their input is what makes your business better. And if your reputation as an owner is that of being dictatorial, you may need to spend some time and do some work to alter what employees have previously experienced as your reputation.

Employees have to feel confident that their input is genuinely received, and that talking with you won’t result in backlash.

The process would begin with your creating what you believe is your job description. Very likely there will be items you put in the description that employees are not aware you are responsible for. This will help with miscommunication.

As an example, we called to speak to an owner recently. The employee answering the phone responded with, “Are you kidding? She never shows up before 11. She is probably still at home.”

What this employee does not know or understand is this owner has an office at home and does her “owner tasks” where she can work uninterrupted. The employee thinks the owner is just lounging around.

Your job description should be a series of short sentences; there is no need for lengthy or formal language. The job description should be clear and easy for anyone to understand.

The way we found best was to ask employees to rate us on each of these sentences — score a 10 for our doing an excellent job, and a 1 for a poor job. You will quickly see how your staff believes you are doing. Follow this section with several questions.

“What three things can I do to help you do your job better?”

“What three things can I do to help you enjoy your job more?”

Not that three items is a magic number, but you want the employee to be able to open up.

As this is likely to be a practice that none of your employees have ever experienced, you should follow up 30 days later to ask the question, “How am I doing as your boss?”

This may be your business, and you can do what you want to do as an owner. However, if sales and profit are two of the items you value most, then the people who can deliver each need to be able to share with you what kind of boss will help them the most.

Tom Shay is a lifelong small-business owner and manager. He has authored 12 books on small business management, a college textbook on small business financial management and co-authored a book on retailer/vendor relations. Read his recent piece, Why You Should Attend Alcohol Trade Shows, plus his classic columns, 9 Ways to Treat Your Customers Right and How Much is Your Customer Worth?


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