Magazine Article


PTN's 2002 Dealer of the Year

Empowering Their Employees

The way Dan's Camera City empowers its employees is based around the simplest of conceptsallowing people to speak their minds. And the main place where employees get the chance to "speak up" is during the early morning staff meetings that are the greenhouses for new ideas at Dan's.

"The key to it all are those morning staff meetings," Dan Poresky says. "I don't know how any store gets by without having them."

Every morning, a half-hour before the store opens at 10, the retail staff at Dan's meets in the cafeteria to make announcements, discuss store issues, or hatch new ideas to make the store a better place. Nine times out of ten, ideas from those meetings will later be implemented at Dan's. These "bull sessions" really get humming on Thursday mornings when the entire staff, all 65 of them, are required to take part.

"We've taken the concept of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it,' and thrown it in the trashcan," Poresky says.

But employee empowerment at Dan's is about more than just "running it up the flag pole and seeing if it sticks." It's also about taking "responsibility" for your work and "ownership" for the outcome of a task. Much of this comes from an employee's "Areas of Responsibility" or "AOR," which is an additional job held by a staff member outside of their "core" job.

So, for example, along with handling counter sales, an employee might be responsible for overseeing the free rentals of photography videos to customers, or be entrusted with making sure there's an ample stock of scratch paper around the store. Once an employee is given an AORmany staffers are assigned several of themthey "own" that AOR and accept responsibility for the "outcome" of it.

"That way people can't say, 'I didn't know it was my job. It is their job and they take responsibility for it,' explains Manny Brodt, retail division manager at Dan's. "There's more accountability to themselves and the store."

Jim Didyoung, a retail supervisor at Dan's who oversees the evaluations, or "write ups" of AORs at Dan's, said the concept doesn't always sit well with some employees at first. He said he even had trouble getting used to it himself.

"It's radically different from the cookie cutter mentality I came from," Didyoung said, noting he worked for a camera store chain prior to joining Dan's. "But I didn't feel anything I said had any value at my previous job. Some of the policies could have been better but I had no way of correcting them. Here I do feel I have a direct impact on the business, and if I do my job well, it will be a positive impact."

In the end, it's all a part of Dan's overriding ethos, known by its acronym IQQPBE, for Increasing the Quantity and Quality of Positive Buying Experiences. The acronym is so important to Dan's Camera City, it's tacked up at various locations around the store.

Finding the right employee who can meet Dan's standards is a painstaking task. David Raub, a retail supervisor who's been with the store for 19 years, notes that it's not unusual for a prospective employee to come back four, or even five times, for interviews. And the process doesn't end there. For their first month on the job, the new employee will learn a variety of responsibilities at Dan's to develop a better understanding of how the business runs as a whole.

"You might not be spending a lot of time in the lab, but you will have an appreciation of what that person does because we're all part of a team here," Raub says. After a month, an employee officially "gets their wings," but not before passing through one of Raub's infamous two-hour "sweat and grill" sessions where a range of questions about the store are fired at the candidate.

Not everybody makes the cut, but those who do, tend to stick around for a long time. The average employee at Dan's has been with the store for approximately six years.

"We don't turn over a lot of employees, because we empower them with a lot of responsibility which makes everyone pretty close," Raub says.