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Choosing the Right Staff

Choosing the Right Staff: How to Find Good People

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.

–Vince Lombardi

If you want to succeed in running a fireworks stand, you need a team of employees whose commitment makes your company better. Just getting bodies to do menial tasks is not enough. How you go about hiring, training and using your employees is important, even in a seasonal retail business.

In this post, we’re going to help you understand the work that needs to be done and how to find the best staff for your team. Getting this right will maximize your enjoyment and minimize your stress throughout fireworks season.

Determine the Size and Scope of Your Labor Needs

Fireworks tents, stands and stores have different needs depending on their size and location. Some operators run low-volume tents by themselves, while larger locations might need 5 or 6 employees on busy days. Plus, several states have laws that prohibit customers from touching the product until they’ve made a purchase. This requires more staff to help customers while they shop.

You’ll need to decide what amount of staff is the right fit for your situation, but we want to provide some insights to guide you along the way.

Ultimately, your work will fall into one of two categories: one-time and ongoing. One-time jobs center around the setup and teardown of your location each selling season. The ongoing work is what happens in your stand on a daily basis.

To get a sense of what needs to be done, we’ve created a list of tasks you can expect to oversee as you start and operate your stand. Understanding how much will be done in each area will be important when figuring out what you need to hire for.  While not comprehensive, this list shows what is involved:

Daily Setup

  • Unloading product from locked storage
  • Opening gates and or unlocking fixtures
  • Quick inventory check — Keep a record of what is sold and what is left over.
  • Get your point of sale ready for the day by doing a till count
  • Ready shelves/ tables for the day — This includes making sure your space stocked, clean and there is adequate representation of all types of product.

Continual Duties

  • Keeping shelves full
  • Answering customer questions
  • Ringing up customers
  • Getting customer’s product boxed up and/or carried to their car

Marketing Duties

  • Having a sign holder/signaler walk the area in front of your store
  • Making sure signs, banners, flags are displayed
  • Parking lot attendant

End of Day and Clean up

  • Break down register and account for sales
  • Inventory count and restock
    OR End of Season:
  • Place inventory away for safe storage and possible transportation
  • Clean up around stand/tent area
  • Pull signs, flags and banners

All of these duties can be done by one person, but we’d advise against it. Running a stand is a huge responsibility and it’s best if you have help.

The main reason you want help is so that you can provide a top-notch customer experience. If you’re trying to do everything yourself, it’s more likely that something will fall through the cracks when you get busy. For instance, you’ll want to make sure you have enough help to keep display areas stocked and keep the lines moving quickly.

Think about a time you went to a store and the shelves were empty, and the employees did not know anything and you waited in line for what seemed like an eternity to just hand over some money for the one thing you wanted to buy. That is NOT what you want for your store.

Different Roles and Responsibilities

You can categorize your work into different areas of responsibility. As you grow your staff, this can provide logical places to divide your labor:

Register/Money Handling

The key here is to have as few people as possible handling your money. The more people who are in the register, the bigger chance that something will go wrong. We suggest putting yourself in charge or this, or your most reliable employee.

Set Up/Stocking/Customer Service

Your stocking/customer service person is going to fill shelves in the morning. Once customers start trickling in, he or she will be bouncing between restocking shelves and talking with customers. This person should be outgoing, friendly, and willing to learn about the product.

Sign Holder/Marketing/Parking Lot

This person needs to have tons of energy and get excited about customers pulling into your lot. If you interview someone who likes having the spotlight on them, this job is a great fit. During the day they’ll be spinning signs and watching the parking lot, but they’ll also help out in the tent as needed.

Now that you’ve got a sense of what kind of jobs you’ll need to fill, let’s talk about the hiring process.

Planning for the Busy Days

If we’re being completely honest, running a seasonal fireworks business usually means sitting around for 12 days thinking you made a terrible mistake, followed by 2 days of being overrun with customers. It’s good to plan ahead and make sure you have enough help when you need it.

Obviously, you’ll want more help on the day of a fireworks holiday like July 4th. However, buying patterns are impacted by where July 4th falls in the week and whether it’s attached to a weekend. If it’s on a Tuesday through Friday, then you might have very little business until that day. If it’s any time Saturday through Monday, though, you could have pretty decent business starting on the Friday before.

Arrange in advance to have extra help on those days, and decide what tasks you can easily assign without a lot of training. If you’re planning to have extra help setting up and tearing down for the season, you might be able to rely on those same people to ramp up for the busy days.

How to Hire the Right Staff

There are books written on staffing and we will not try to replicate what they have already written. Here are a few ideas to be looking for in your staff:

  • On time for the interview
  • Dressed appropriately
  • Has a knowledge or interest in the product
  • Sales is sharing excitement, so it’s good to have someone who knows a thing or two about fireworks and really likes the product
  • Doesn’t have crazy around them: you know it when you see it. They give off the “vibe.” Trust your gut when it comes to this
  • Seems to be self-motivated: Once again, a gut call, but you can tell the difference just in the way they approach you and the hiring situation.
  • Self-Starters: people who don’t need to be told to do stuff, they just step in and start doing.

The next question is, Where do you find these people? Your tent will be open during normal business hours, which means many people will be working. And the work is just for a couple of days. So, your stand will most likely appeal to certain types of people.

What Are Some Good Sources for Employees?

Think about sourcing team members from the following pools of talent:

Local teachers

Teachers tend to be intelligent folks who have great ties with the community. As far as availability, they have summers off and have the time to put in a few hours around 4th of July.

Seasonal trade workers

These workers have full-time and part-time work, but only during certain parts of the  year. For example, a person who works construction up north may not have much going on during the New Year’s holiday time. Someone who works in the winter might be looking for a quick gig during the summer.

People who have mandated vacation or furlough

Some people are required to take 4-5 weeks of vacation each year and they can’t sell those days back. Yet, they want to stay busy and make some extra cash. The allure of a quick few days of something to do for some extra money is enticing.

College-bound or home-for-the-holidays

Young people are a great resource for seasonal work. They’re in between semesters and are looking for a seasonal job where they can earn enough money to get them through the year.  Also, they can pick up a fireworks job and still work another job during the summer!

Family and friends

Sometimes the best help comes from those you already know and trust. Teenagers can even help with most tasks, although you should check your state’s laws about minors working in a fireworks store.

Looking Ahead: How to Promote Your Stand

Not everyone is going to be a good fit for your fireworks stand. Look for motivated, detail-oriented people who have are enthusiastic for fireworks, or at the very least, willing to learn about the business.

Finding people to work for you might sound hard because you’ll be operating during normal business hours when everyone is working. However, there are specific groups of people who will have time to help you out.

Once you selected your site, acquired the permits, gathered your product and hired your staff, you’ll need to put a solid promotion plan in place for your stand. Read the next post in our series to get all the details.

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