As I write this, the phones are busy ringing, band and orchestra rentals are flying out the door, method books, marching band and choral music orders are in and being delivered, and the general mad chaos of our fall “harvest season” is upon us. We use the term “harvest” because it fits: all year long we sow the seeds of expertise, good customer service, and stocking quality products hoping for a bountiful crop of new beginner musicians and healthy, vibrant music programs. It is a stressful time for our staff – while we hire some temporary help this time of year, the majority of the extra work just has to be borne by everyone and sometimes our day is spent moving from one crisis to another, putting out only the hottest fires.
So, how do we live through it? First of all, we survive by learning to lean on each other. Staff members will answer the phones when there are too many calls for the office staff to answer, or deliver merchandise whenever they can, or cross into another department to help a customer when all available help is otherwise occupied. There is literally nothing that “isn’t my job” this time of year.
“Management by walking around” takes on a different meaning during this time, and I like to spend as much time as I can on the sales floor to encourage and thank the staff for their efforts, as well as to pitch in and help where I can. It’s important to me that my staff knows I work no less hard than any of them.
We also have a fall party to celebrate our successes, relax, and enjoy each other’s company. These are casual, potluck events that don’t cost very much. In addition, I often have lunch catered in for the staff on two or three Saturdays when we are the busiest, in exchange for shortening their lunch hours to 30 minutes. The employees appreciate it, and we keep the floor staffed as fully as possible at a critical time.
Finally, we also try to have a little competitive fun during the harvest season with a sales contest. Sometimes it’s a team event, sometimes it’s an individual effort, but it’s usually tied to rewarding the activities we’re trying to maximize at this time of year, with some extra points thrown in for doing things outside of your normal job description (like working at rental nights). There’s also some luck involved just for extra entertainment. There are prizes at the end – cash, gift certificates, tickets, extra time off, etc. I’ve done several different contests and would be happy to share my ideas with you: email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the details.
Keep it fun and keep it in perspective. Happy Harvest Season!!