Friday 13 December 2019

Problem Solver: How can I get my messy staff to clean up their act?

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Feargal Quinn

Q: We have 20 staff in our business and provide a private area for staff to prepare their food and eat in comfort. The challenge is that every time I enter this room it is untidy and uncared for. Despite my best efforts I don't seem to be able to get the message across. Help?

A: Don't despair! You are not alone in your frustration. Over forty years ago I remember being hugely frustrated by ongoing cardboard, plastic and general debris being scattered around the floors of our shops.

It wasn't the customers who were putting it there, but rather staff who were busy merchandising the sections, dropping pieces of packaging as they speedily attended to their work. At all times we had at least two members of staff pushing one metre wide ballroom brushes (from my Red Island Holiday Camp days) around the shop in order to ensure the waste didn't build up. It was a never-ending cycle which hugely frustrated me.

We had organised for the manager of one shop to go to America on a fact-finding trip. One of the many things he noticed was that floors were spotless with no sign of staff sweeping. They simply didn't drop litter in the first place.

On his return, the first thing the manager did was to gather up the cleaning staff and all the ballroom brushes in the carpark at the back of the shop, where he promptly set fire to all the brushes. The word quickly spread among the staff and with a little encouragement from the manager, the shop was spotless within days as all of the merchandising staff suddenly started to take care not to drop anything and as the floors were always clean.

Within two weeks the idea had been adopted by every other manager, and within six months it had spread to every other retailer in Ireland. Sometimes it is about a change of mindset and to create that change you have to do something dramatic to signal you are moving on.

Q: We're starting up a home-based bakery business in Dublin, and was wondering if you could provide information or help that would assist in our success.

A: Thanks for your email. It is great to hear of a new business starting up. Well done for taking the initiative! I'm assuming you have registered your home kitchen with your Environmental Health Officer and have your insurance in place. If not, do both immediately.

There are lots of supports available for a new food business like yours. The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) have a mentor and advice service etc. designed to provide you with support. Contact them as a start point.

There is a specific course for food startups like yours called Kick Start Your Food Business in Dublin which will provide you with perfect advice for where you are at. The LEO will give you details of the next course available. You should also join the Dublin Food Chain (it's free) which is the networking and marketing forum for the Dublin food community. They have some great events which bring buyers and sellers together. You will really benefit from these events.

Bord Bia also have an annual Foodservice Seminar which focuses on supplying the food service sector (cafes etc.). Bord Bia also have their Foodservice Directory which is free to download and profiles all the key chain café operators etc, but it might be a bit soon for you to supply some of these big ones, but I have no doubt you will learn lots from reading the profiles, which set out their needs. That will help get ideas for smaller local cafes to start off.

I hope all of the above helps and do start by chatting to the LEO. They are best positioned to help you at this point.

Send your small business questions to

Indo Business

Also in Business