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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Knowledge Sells

By Patrick Donston

Store Owner, Absolutely Fish


Knowledge is power--we've all heard that before. The key is that the knowledge must be shared; smart business owners won't have successful businesses unless they have a way to communicate their facts and ideas throughout their whole company.

As such, training manuals are a must. I mentioned in my previous blog how important an aquatic manual is if you want to have a "great" fish store.

Your aquatics manual should have information about your store, including open-up jobs, close-up jobs, daily objectives, rules and regulations, and a management statement. Always be concise and accurate. Explain how you want your customers to be treated. Make sure you emphasize how important this is to you and your business. Keep it simple and be clear on your objectives.

You’ll also need to have information on new aquariums and conditioning. In my opinion, everyone on your staff should know the nitrogen cycle. There should be information on acclimating fish and a compatibility chart of the fishes your shop generally carries. I realize this information will vary from shop to shop, but what's important is everyone should be "on the same page" and giving the same information to customers.

I look at it this way, if I believe 'tiger barbs are not compatible with bettas,' my staff should express the same, as stated in the manual.

One of the worst reactions you will experience from consumers is when they are told one thing and later informed differently from someone else on the staff of the same shop.

You may want to include general facts that pertain to your livestock. Information such as planted tanks (fish compatible with), cichlids (knowing the differences between Central/South American and African rift lakes) and discus, angels or stingrays. Advanced manuals should be incorporated and contain information on marine fishkeeping, reef aquariums, nutrition, high-tech equipment, Latin names and families of fishes.

Do not expect your employees to read and absorb all the information you've put forth in your manuals. It is imperative you have review methods and develop tests pertaining to the information. Remember the testing procedure should not be graded as pass/fail, but should be used as another source for you to:

  1. Evaluate a trainee's progress; 
  2. Learn what a trainee has retained from your manual; 
  3. Allow time for you to elaborate and teach a trainee additional points beyond the manual; and
  4. Give a trainee a one-on-one opportunity to ask questions and/or clear up anything that doesn't make sense to him or her.

As you educate and advance your staff, you should also teach them certain facts and science as it relates to your customers’ questions and objectives. At the same time, you will want your staff to gain an education of aquariology and biology as it pertains to aquatic life.

Look at it as you being the "university," educating a hobbyist beyond a technical position. In other words, expand the mind of your employee beyond that of you customers.

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