Why my business values its employees

By Gina Schaefer

When I opened my first hardware store in Logan Circle with my husband, Marc, in 2003, we wanted to be part of the resurgence of small, independent mom-and-pop stores in the District. Now, we have 11 stores all over the area and employ more than 225 people. Since the very beginning, I’ve subscribed to the theory that business is a two-way street. I tell my team that as an employer, I hope to be respected by them and that they in turn should get the same respect back

That’s why our starting wage is higher than the minimum wage, and why we offer health-care and dental insurance, profit-sharing and 401(k) benefits for our employees. It’s part of our commitment to providing not just a good place to work but a great place to work. But beyond benefits, there are also small but incredibly meaningful choices we have as business owners that make a world of difference to those who help make our stores run.

For example, we post our schedules at least two weeks in advance, and schedules aren’t changed without staff members being informed so that our employees knows when they’ll be working and can plan their lives around their work. For the convenience of our staff, we use an online payroll and time clock system, so that every time a schedule is posted, our team members can access it from anywhere they want. Obviously, life happens and no one is immune from getting sick or facing emergencies from time to time. To accommodate inevitable conflicts and the unexpected, we make advance scheduling change requests as easy as possible through this online system and make sure every employee has contact information for their co-workers who are available to work if they need to swap out shifts because of emergencies. We don’t use on-call shifts either. An on-call shift is when employees have to keep an open schedule, not knowing if and when they will be called in and paid to work. We realize how ridiculous that is. When shifts become available, we first make them available to our store associates who work part-time before hiring someone new.

These scheduling practices aren’t simply for the benefit of our team members. We want our managers to focus on developing their teams and taking care of our customers.  The less time they have to spend changing schedules, the more time we have to wow everyone who walks through the door. When our store associates get enough hours at work and a decent schedule, they are more likely to stay with us and keep our customers happy. And likewise, when District residents have sustainable jobs, they’re more able to shop at locally owned stores with their families.

I hope other companies will also strive to give their employees the stability they need and deserve in their lives. And I support the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act that the D.C. Council is considering that would ensure that more people who work in the District have access to predictable schedules and enough hours to sustain themselves and their families. As an advocate for local, independent businesses here in the District, I know how hard my fellow small business owners work to make sure their stores thrive. This law should build upon the successes they have had in valuing their employees and still allow enough flexibility for employers to adjust to the many unique challenges and demands of running a small business. It would be a big step forward if the D.C. Council ushered in these common-sense scheduling standards so that the chain companies that operate in our city do right by our community — the way mom-and-pop store owners have been doing things for years.

The key to our business is that we link what our company needs with what our employees need.  Doing so is good business practice. This two-way street enables our stores and the people who work for us in the District to flourish.