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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Nov. 21, 2012

Teenage Employees are Worth the Training Effort

By Patrick Donston


Do you think pet retailers--and fish stores in particular--can survive without teenage employees? I’m inclined to say no, especially on the retail end. Teenagers have curious, moldable minds. They’re passionate about pets and ambitious about communicating their love for animals to others. Oh sure, some teenage employees may come with maturity issues, lack of attention skills and communication conundrums. However, teenagers are affordable labor who, if trained and coached properly, can be a real asset to your store.

I give all new hires an Experience-Personal Agenda to take home and fill out. They are told to tell me anything they want me to know about themselves: “There is no right or wrong, just tell me about you and why you want to work here.” My objective is to learn about their psyche, what makes them tick and extra skills I may not know about.

Here is a quote from one of my newest teenage employees who had a less-than-normal home life.” When I think of my childhood, it makes me want to cry. My pets are everything to me. I love my dog Trixie and my fish to no end. I want to teach others. Communicating a love for pets can be a savior to many personal issues.” She was a wonderful trainee and is a serviceable sales associate on my floor.

help wanted, now hiring

Here’s another good story. We were in one of our weekly meetings talking about social networking and how we can do better to increase likes and to connection, communicate and promote. A few of my managers were going back and forth about Twitter and the necessity of using it. We’ve been researching different strategies and formulas for success through the process. The problem is none of us “old dogs” really immerse ourselves in online social networks or communities.

One of my teenage employees (no school that day) spoke up and said,” You have to use our Facebook page to promote a special release. “Bands and companies I follow do this all of the time.” Another younger staff member threw out an idea he found successful. Then a third offered another opinion. Next thing I know, my managers and I are sitting there listening to the teenagers running the meeting. I walked out of that meeting truly enlightened. I told one of my managers,“Wow, I really learned something in there.”

I’m always interested in young “fish geeks” who frequently visit us. Can’t have too many in my opinion. I’m really happy with all the teenagers on our payroll. I view them as an important piece to the puzzle.

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