February '20

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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1 2 P R I N T W E A R F E B R U A R Y 2 0 2 0 Your Personal Business Trainer BUSINESS MANAGEMENT be as simple as creating a daily or weekly log for each employee. Don't begin to make this more difficult than it needs to be. I've found that having a separate notebook for each person is adequate. Each page can be designated for one work week and should have three columns labeled Duties and Responsibilities, Notable Accomplishments, and Areas for Improvement. Under the Duties and Responsibilities, you could transcribe the list you developed from the job description exercise. Under the other two headings, you would note the date and enter an observed behavior and its effect under the appropriate column. You should try to make entries in each direct report's log every day, but at least once every week should suffice. To be within the law, if you keep a log on one employee, you should have and maintain a similar log for every employee, so as to guard against being accused of discriminating against a particular person. You are not required to make known the existence of your notes. If the worker asks to look at their personnel file, it is up to you to decide if you want to disclose the contents of the Supervisor's Log and Notebook. It is a private document but can be subpoenaed in a wrongful termination or discrimination court case. When it comes time to conduct the formal performance review, you don't have to rely on your memory to cite specific examples to justify the performance rating for any employee. Another advantage of the log is to weigh fairly things that happened at the beginning of the review period against things that most recently occurred. You are not required to include all of the notes you've made. You can pick and choose the most meaningful and relevant ones to discuss in the review meeting. PREPARING AND CONDUCTING REVIEWS The first decision you should make is when to conduct performance reviews. Some compa- nies require reviews be completed organization-wide during the same month. I think this practice has more shortcomings than benefits. First, the manager will be unable to get any other work done during that period because of the paperwork involved in preparing each review. Additionally, it creates an unnecessarily heightened tension level throughout the company. Employees begin to discuss among themselves the comments, ratings, and pay adjustments—which are often given out coincidental with the review—and this often leads to dissention among the troops. A better practice is to separate pay adjustments and performance reviews and to conduct the review during the employee's anniversary month. This policy will spread out the adminis- trative load of the supervisor more evenly throughout the year and allow for service awards— such as five year pins, plaques or gifts—to be given out when they have more meaning and can be directly associated with the employee's contribution to the company. There's "performance management software" on the market to assist you in executing your duty of providing feedback and evaluating employees. Insperity pairs their job description software with a performance review tool named Performance Now for less than $300 a year. Other similar software programs include Lattice, Trakstar, and PerformYard. All companies offer free trials so you can test drive their product. If you have several reviews to do at the same time, I recommend conducting your best performer's review first and work your way down to your marginal performer. This practice helps you to get a good review under your belt out the gate and will build your confidence in handling the difficult one ahead of you. Likewise, starting with your better workers will protect them from the "toxicity" of a low performer's review, in case you decide to start with that one to "get it out of the way." Even within a performance review, you may decide to start with the duties and responsibilities in which the employee ex- cels. This practice builds momentum and helps the worker be open to more critical feedback later in the conversation. Be careful that the employee does not completely discount the positive comments and over-emphasize the negative ones. Base your decision about the order of the evaluation topics on the general personality and tem- perament of the employee. WHY EMPLOYEES STAY AND THRIVE A report from a dozen "best to work for" companies found that it was not by hap- penstance that turnover rates were signifi- cantly lower than other businesses in their industries. Their secrets included accessible leaders, the fairness principle, letting go of the "stagnant quo"—a system that every- one knows isn't working yet is still in place because "that's how we've always done it"— finding fun in the purpose-driven job and living the connection between the three primary relationships (company, supervisor and colleagues) and three secondary rela- tionships (job, career, and customers). It makes sense that if any of these relation- ships are unhealthy, the business will pay in lost revenue and waning performance. Be- ing committed, as a company, to conduct- ing good performance evaluations regularly can't help but make you more prosperous and improve customer loyalty. Good luck! PW Vince DiCecco is a dynamic and sought-after seminar speaker and author with a unique perspective on business development and manage- ment subjects, primarily in the decorated and promotional apparel industries. With over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and training, he is presently an independent consultant to various apparel decorating businesses looking to improve profitability and sharpen their competitive edge. Visit his new website at, and send email to

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