Many of my conversations are off the record, people who call and just want to run an idea by me, ask a business question or, in some cases, simply vent.
    The topics range from store issues to industry gossip to more recently, changes seen in the retail world (for more on this topic see pg. 60). I’d estimate that 90 percent of these conversations are with storeowners, although occasionally I have the pleasure of talking to an employee – bridal or otherwise.
    This particular employee, who doesn’t work in the wedding world, gave me permission to share her story provided real name and identifying details were withheld. I’m doing so because something about it struck me, and I thought it contained a good lesson for anyone who has ever owned a business.
    This employee, who we’ll call Karen, landed her first professional job out of college. Her salary wasn’t great but it was fair, in line with what you might expect for an entry level role. In the “positives” column: good perks, awesome colleagues, friendly environment, enjoyable job.
    After about a year and a half of hard work, accompanied by a slew of satisfactory reviews, the subject of promotion came up. Karen’s manager, pleased with her performance, assured her there would definitely be one, even outlining Karen’s new job responsibilities. There was only one problem: the salary increase had to be approved by the company owner, and that might take a little time.
    Well, I don’t know how you define “a little time” but I do know Karen was completely caught off guard by the fact that, six months later, the salary issue still had not been resolved. In the meantime, she was basically doing the work of the new role, albeit for her same entry level salary. Frustrated Karen brought the issue up to her boss more than once, and was constantly told there had been “slight delays” but the raise “would happen soon.”
    Despite these reassurances, nothing changed. Eventually Karen got so frustrated that she began emotionally withdrawing from a workplace she otherwise liked very much – and started hunting for other jobs.
    It took Karen – an intelligent, ambitious person with a good work ethic – about two months to get another offer, and when she did it trumped what she was making by more than 50 percent. In fairness, there was probably nothing Karen’s original company could’ve done to keep her at this point, however, it was clear from the tone in Karen’s voice she felt resentment about being put in this predicament in the first place.
    The thing is, Karen didn’t really want to leave her old job. She loved the environment, people and role. But the new offer – which she never would’ve known about had her current company not taken her for granted and given her motivation to job search – was simply too financially lucrative to turn down.
    It was hard for Karen to resign, and when she did (miraculously and coincidentally!) her long-awaited raise happened to be approved that very day. It was too late, however; ties had already been severed. Karen’s old company had screwed up, taking a good employee for granted and in the process chasing her away.
    Yes, corporate America works differently than small, independent retail, but the principle – how important it is not to take good employees for granted – is exactly the same. Your staff is the heart  and soul of your store, the people who create and reinforce your brand image in customers’ minds and sell the products that keep your doors open. Showing your appreciation for them should be a top priority – not just because it’s the right thing to do but because your recognition of their efforts directly impacts their motivation to work for you and performance on the sales floor.
    Showing your appreciation can be as simple as a verbal compliment or handwritten note. It should also, when appropriate, manifest itself through tangible rewards like raises, bonuses or other perks. Not everything is about money, but when you have a great employee, you can’t expect to keep her happy by continuously putting off raises. I have no idea why Karen’s first company kept neglecting the issue of her raise, but I do know there reached a point where the “why” no longer mattered to Karen.
    The bottom line is this: Take employees for granted and risk losing them. Treat them fairly, however, and make a concentrated effort to recognize their hard work, and you could retain loyal superstars for life.