Thursday, January 29, 2009

Screw over your employees

One thing I see come up from time to time in submissions we get from associates is the complaint that studio managers steal all the good sales.

I've gotta say, as an assistant, this was something I did. I had to. The company constantly put me in the place where I always felt that if my sales didn't go up by an average 10 dollars that week, I would be in danger of being fired.

So when a new associate came in who obviously wasn't going to last more than two weeks (hint: 95% of them) and they happen to make a $200 sale of photos I took while doing sales training, of course I'm going to enter my code in the register. This will result in the associate's average not being as good, but they have a lot of leeway during the first couple weeks. I would never take credit for a later sale when their PRS really starts to count for their own job security, but early on, who wouldn't? You've gotta do whatever it takes when it feels like you might lose your job.

If only everyone didn't always feel of the brink of being let go.

Monday, January 26, 2009

As if it getting a raise wasn't impossible already

Our latest submission deals with one employee's quest to get the wages promised at the interview.

"I am going through a situation with SPS currently even though I've been gone for the past month. After about 3 months working there, I was dense enough to not look at my pay stubs and see that my hiring manager put me on for $7.50 an hour instead of the 8.50 that she told me from the very beginning. And I'm sorry but I know people that work at Target who make more than $7.50 and I'm pretty damn sure if I would have known she hired me for $7.50 I would've rethought my options. However, she said $8.50 and after finally checking my pay stub I realized I was getting gypped.

This is not the first time this particular hiring manager has done this. One of my co-workers overlooked her pay stubs as well and noticed that she hadn't received her two $.50 raises for the past year and when she went to the manager she said she would 'take care' of it and apparently never did. My co-worker later heard from the asst. manager that the hiring manager was almost going to fire her so payroll wouldn't find out that she never updated this girls pay. Fortunately she didn't fire her because if she had that would've counted as a lawsuit against the store and in the end my friend - the co-worker - got back her money which amounted to well over $500.

But now, it's my turn and I was only hired for a seasonal position. I quit before they even got to lay me off and I was told that I would receive my retro-pay with my last paycheck and guess what? I didn't. I'm almost 100% my manager didn't even call or email or talk to payroll about my situation at all."

Anyone else have similar problems? The above problem might not even be the studio manager's fault. I know at my studio, one of the associates had the problem that she was getting paid too much. She told the studio manager who tried time and time again to get it fixed. Eventaully, the associate said "I'm going to tell you one last time and if they can't fix it, they can't fix it."

Friday, January 9, 2009

From a DM's perspective

I just received this as a comment on an old post and found it too good to just leave hidden and squirreled away. Not that this will be much of a surprise, it’s not easy being a district manager either. I’ve added topic headings to each paragraph but mostly left everything else unchanged. The following post is long but great.

I actually agree with 100% of the complaints I see on this site. But, I would also like you guys to see what we see in DM land

Being a DM, Fake Appointments I was a DM for 5 years, and recently lost my job this fall due to performance.(we were way in the red)Before we jump on managements back and make them out to be the bad guy...I think we need to look at ourselves. I had 15-19 studios at any given time. Part of my job was to look at your no show/cancellation rates. And investigate the issues. I would simply pretend to call the customer and confirm the appointments. In every single location I would find fake appointments being made. In the studio. That’s frustrating I realize that is was most likely not the management - but it was still happening. In every location.

Outreach We also would have to investigate the validity of these appointments - I'd say 40% of my districts and the other districts that I looked after due to DM maternity leave...medical leave...etc... were also false. The amount of energy that went into making false appointments astounds me. Why not just book the real one ? But here's the thing... I hated trying to sell to you guys that outreach wasn't telemarketing. Because no matter how you slice it, it was.

Labor I hated telling you guys you had to go down to single coverage during the*off* season. So I would discuss it with you all on conference calls and then during one on ones -I would end up giving you extra coverage anyhow. Believing that you would hold up your end of the bargain and get those extra appointments- be it smile searching...via phone or acquisitions. That never happened. You still ended up with the extra labor though. I was such a sucker, and this is why I no longer hold my position and have gone back to being a studio associate.

The hours kept My point is - there are good DM's. They know what it is like being from the field and do their best to work with you from that point of view. We have families to take care of, too. And DM's do not make a lot of money. Contrary to popular belief. We work 7 days a week. But we sign up for that. We don't sit on a couch eating bon bons taking calls while watching all my children. We have check ins from studios and forms that need to be filled out showing what we worked on with you guys, etc. Our office days are usually are longest days of the week. Usually not getting done until 9 or 10 at night...and trust me...those TM's expect us to start our day by 630/7am.

Dealing with upper management We also get yelled at, screamed at, told we are failures and that our people are failures. We keep all of that from you guys. That’s no way to motivate a team. Studio-Field has no idea what our calls and our visits are like. We protect you guys from all of that. You really and truly have no idea. V.P.'s and CFO's look at your numbers on a report...and ask why we still a studio manager who is doing so poorly. Without knowing anything about you or what you do in your studio. We try to explain what hard workers, go-getters, PRS drivers, photography gurus you all are. They just wave all that off. All that matters is the end result. If it were your business - would you write them a check from an overdrawn account week after week? We get asked that a lot.

Lending a hand Ever wonder how you have more outreach done on some weeks than you thought? Well some DM's get so tired of getting yelled at over a studio shooting 25 customers in a week and booking one outreach appointment...we just do some for you. you use 100 hours to do that...let's say I even give you fifty hours to handle the 25 customers. What did you do with the other fifty hours? Someone has to do it, right? Why not the DM ...not like we have anything else to do.

Spending your own money - I have never told someone they had to spend their own money to hold an event. I lay out the ideas/options. But also gave them plenty of ideas for events that cost 0 dollars. I spent thousands on event kits to be passed around the district. (that I don't get reimbursed for.) in hopes it will drive business. For what? For some studios not to book a single appointment ... or for other studios not to even bother picking up the kit on their scheduled day. (and I always paid mileage and drive time and if you couldn’t get the kit I made sure I brought it to you.) Or my favorite - the only sittings shot with the event kit were associates family. Why? It was very frustrating. And for those of you who are going to tell me that DM's get reimbursed... I'll just tell you only sometimes and at certain times of year. So when I spent hundreds of dollars per event kit...I could submit a pro forma and it didn't always get approved if I did it on my own accord. And then to get the kits back... with half of the props missing or damaged. Well that was the straw that broke my camels back. I stopped buying new things. I expect wear and tear from kids. Most of the damage was not being stored or transferred properly. Just not taking care of things. It was always very disheartening.

The Team My people. I loved my team. I bragged about them, shared their work with everyone including the higher ups at corporate. We were so photography driven. I taught my people how to shoot like a private studio in the high end of town would shoot. None of this cookie cutter malarkey you see on passouts or coupons. My people were bad ass. We usually got yelled at for thinking outside of the box and we never were five star. I would look at all the five star studios work outside of my district every round. I would pull up hundreds of their sittings and it would never even compare. It’s easy to get a five star by using mechanics. Five Star studios rarely ever have WOW photography. It’s all mechanics. How boring. I found our work far more inspiring and our customer retention rate was huge because of it. But we were never given any credit. We got bitched at instead. I’d be more than happy to share with any of you the model released work we shot if anyone wants to leave an email address.

PRS. Pre photography really does work. I could go into studios and only one or two in the district would actually do (sitting card review) pre photo. Why? If you know it works - why just blatantly ignore instructions? And I'm not talking doing pre photo in the thick of it. I'm talking in January... blank session cards. Same thing goes for session planning. I always got a lot of lip service from my people. But when I inspected things, it didn't happen. This is probably where I failed. If I performance managed everyone who wasn’t doing what they were supposed to be. I'd be running 18 studios by myself. Even though my team didn't do what they were supposed too, I still loved them and went out on a limb for them all the time. If they only knew how many times I had to go to bat for them to keep them from getting fired because of performance their heads would spin. I put my name on the line time after time because I kept expecting them to just listen to what I was saying. I guess they just didn't want too. And I didn't want to fire people over small things like I was directed, so I lost my job. I blame myself, yes. As you can see though, I’m not 100% at fault.

Contests Corporate stopped letting us buy gift cards and contest prizes, etc. any of you that have got them in the past year... that's money out of your DM's pocket. Not reimbursed. TM'S stopped approving those things a year ago. I was always buying gift cards... I even offered up cold hard cash for contests. The sad thing is, half the time the associates didn't know about the contests. And only half the studios would ever participate. I'm sorry if you think fifty dollars isn't enough. But that's all I got. If I didn't take the money out of my own pocket-there would’ve been nothing offered. No contests. Then you'd be complaining about that. I never once told my people how they were supposed to spend their winnings. Some chose to use it on their studio for a morale booster - some would keep it. My philosophy was that you do what you want with it.

DM's as “corporate”I read this entire website today. I think one thing that is lost in translation is that DM's are not corporate. They are also field management. We don't make rules. We have to enforce what's brought to us. We think the 4.99 sucks too. We think you’re abused by customers all the time. We think that you guys having to always go against LY...instead of just focusing on this years profit also sucks. We also think the bonus programs are ridiculous. Going against LY with a bad economy is a joke. We also think the appointment scheduler is a joke. We fight your fight with corporate all the time over it. but then when they investigate and find you have fake appointments in there...we're the ones made out to be the idiots. But we still take it. We think the single coverage in a high volume studio is insane. But we also know some of you schedule how we expect you to in the browser. then carry a paper schedule of what you actually do in the studio. We are on that.

Not all DM's are idiots. There’s so many that do go the extra mile. Before you judge, I'm just saying walk a mile in their shoes. It’s really hard to give a fair opinion on something unless you've been on both sides of the fence. I have been. I love what I do, and will never leave the industry.

Closing thoughtsYou guys work very hard for little glory. And there are a handful of you out there who do everything 100%. But seriously. Not everyone does. Trainers out there know what I'm talking about. You see it in studios when you visit.
I believe in the plight of the studio manager. I'm one of you. But I won't judge another’s position without knowing all that it entails. I could go on for hours about this...and some of you would have your minds blown at the abuse we take/took as DM's. (I still have a hard time saying I’m not anymore.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

A chance to win money you should already have

A submission from a reader:

There was a $100 incentive once in our district to be awarded to the studio manager that reached a particular benchmark. I was the winner. About a month later, when we were being asked to buy things for the studio with our own money (as we usually were), I mentioned to her that I didn't have the cash to put up for supplies and props. She said to me "What about that $100 you won?" I said, "I used it to buy groceries." She said, "That was meant to be spent on your studio." I was shocked. Why was I working so hard to win a prize? To win money to be spent on props and supplies for my studio? Those are things that the company should be paying for anyway. What a lousy incentive.