If we want our retail businesses to scale and grow, we can’t do it alone. That means that we have to hire—and hiring well requires having a system in place. 

In Master Shopkeepers, our mastermind for brick and mortar retail store owners, we were lucky to have my friend Stacy join us as a guest expert for the past year. She’s a full-time Human Resources expert and the biggest reason why the HR module in the Shopkeepers Lab is so valuable.

“Human Resources is an advocate for the employee AND the owner,” Stacy said, during her time as a guest expert. You don’t set up systems just for the employee but also for yourself as the business owner.

Here are ten steps on the roadmap to hiring successful employees for your independent retail business.

Write Your Job Description

Your job description should be short and sweet. Stacy recommends ten high-level bullet points to cover the basics. Then, list the required experience at the end. 

When hiring, retailers make a common mistake by looking for a jack-of-all-trades or having what Stacy refers to as “purple unicorn expectations.” You’d never expect someone to do both an HR and a Finance role at the same time, so don’t expect the same of your potential retail employees.

It is always better to hire someone for a specific set of related tasks rather than expecting one person to do everything. One of our Master Shopkeepers members does this really well; she has strategically hired one employee for inventory management, another to handle sales, and a third to manage administrative tasks. 

Shopkeepers Lab Resource: Hiring for Success Guide, which includes a Job Description Template

Have a Hiring Application

This doesn’t have to be fancy, but you do want to document the potential hires’ information for your records.

Shopkeepers Lab Resource: Hiring Application Template

Where to Find Employees 

Indeed, LinkedIn, Craigslist, local Facebook Groups are all options for finding employees. 

And using your own network can be very effective, too! You can post your job listing on your Facebook business page or maybe even your personal accounts.

Prepare With an Interview Guide

This is where you define the person’s role more and use questions to determine if they are a good fit. Be sure to ask general rapport-building questions along with behavioral-based questions, such as “Tell me about a time when you dealt with a challenging customer” or “tell me three ways you get more engagement for your social media clients.” 

Shopkeepers Lab Resource: Interview Guide

Have a Progressive Discipline Plan

You want to have a formal plan for discipline documented. That way, you and your employees know precisely what happens when expectations aren’t met. 

This might look like:

1. Formal Warning

2. First Written Warning

3. Final Written Warming

4. Termination

No one wants to fire an employee, but having a clear understanding of what to do if that needs to happen is essential. 

Shopkeepers Lab Resource: Discipline Plan Template

Start to Write Specific Policies 

These will be different for every retailer. I suggest writing policies regarding Attendance, Customer Service, Non-Discrimination, Phone Etiquette, and Social Media use. 

You can’t control what people do outside of your business, of course. But you can set guidelines for what they do when they are representing your business. If an employee is using your social media account to post on your behalf, for example, you might include something about non-disparagement in your Social Media policy. 

Another example would be your Phone Etiquette policy. You may want to cover how an employee should answer calls, how long it is okay for a customer to be on hold, and what information to get from a caller if they need to call them back. 

Shopkeepers Lab Resource: Policy Templates

2021 Savvy Shopkeeper Retreat Sponsor

Have an Employee Handbook 

Every shopkeeper who has a team or wants to start a team should have this! It’s critical to your store’s success to communicate how your business is run and what your expectations are with your employees.

In addition to your store policies, the employee handbook covers other basic employment rules and procedures, such as hours of work, vacation and holidays, overtime, and so on. 

Shopkeepers Lab Resource: Employee Handbook Template (many thanks to Dani of Cotton Shed Vintage Market & High Cotton Decor for providing this)

Build an Onboarding Plan 

Stacy shared this onboarding plan with our Master Shopkeepers, and it is an excellent system!

It goes through four stages: Week One (Acclimate), Month One (Integrate), 60 Days (Celebrate), and 90 Days (Accelerate). 

This is a process you’ll go through with each employee. You’re training them AND checking in with them at the same time. 

It’s okay to make this process feel a little formal—you’re establishing your expectations and your role as the business owner. You can be kind, compassionate, and still have boundaries and rules for your store.

Master Shopkeepers Resource: Four-Part Onboarding Plan

Schedule and Plan for Team Meetings 

Consistently communicating with your team allows you to stay connected to them and stay on the same page. 

Stacy recommends setting a cadence for these—maybe one per month, or if your team is big enough, one a week.

Master Shopkeepers Resource: Dani of Cotton Shed Vintage Market & High Cotton Decor taught a masterclass for our Master Shopkeepers members called “When You’re the Owner & Manager: How to Manage Individuals”

Create Your Operations Manual

Your Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs, should all be held in one central place: your Operations Manual. 

Operations typically contain processes, procedures, and work instructions that help employees understand how to complete tasks correctly and in a standard way.

Stacy stresses the importance of documenting everything you do as a business owner (that you want someone else to do)—it makes the training process more manageable. 

Ask yourself this question: “if I didn’t know anything about this shop, what would be the first five things I would need to know?” Based on your answer, start compiling the processes, documenting them, and then prioritize them. Every time you do a process that’s natural and intuitive to you, write it down!

Creating a systematic approach will build a culture of predictable excellence and customer service.

Savvy Shopkeeper Resource: I’ll be offering a template for an Operations Manual very soon! Look out for its release after the Savvy Shopkeeper Retreat

Other Hiring Resources

Stacy recommended two books that can help you build a culture in your business: The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger, Disney’s former CEO, and That Will Never Work by Mark Randolph, the Co-Founder of Netflix. 

I haven’t read these books yet, but Stacy mentioned these titles as inspiring examples of taking what you have and making it scalable and manageable.

There are even more resources in the Shopkeepers Lab for members, such as information on determining if an employee should be a subcontractor vs. on payroll, a guide on employee benefits, and much more.

I know why hiring can feel so overwhelming for retailers. But if you’re ready to go from solopreneur to scaling retailer, then you have to boss up. You can get support from your fellow shop owners—along with tons of premade resources to guide you—by joining the Shopkeepers Lab.


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*Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links or referral codes, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link or using the code. I make recommendations because I genuinely believe they are useful to shopkeepers.  Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.


  • [00:29] Why Hiring Well is Critical to Growing Our Retail Businesses
  • [06:24] Write Your Job Description
  • [08:14] Have a Hiring Application
  • [08:48] Look for Employees in the Right Places
  • [09:43] Prepare With an Interview Guide
  • [10:14] Have a Progressive Discipline Plan
  • [11:07] Start to Write Specific Policies
  • [12:22] Have an Employee Handbook
  • [14:07] Build an Onboarding Plan
  • [16:55] Schedule and Plan for Team Meetings
  • [17:51] Create Your SOPs
  • [21:06] Other Hiring Resources

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