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Last Update: Monday June 21, 2021

Key Idea: Turn Workforce Planning Upside Down

Owner Carol Schroeder has taught her team to staff the shop on their own and she rewards them for being collaborative.

Key Question:


Running a retail operation is grueling. It is non-stop. There is no rest for even the weary.  Carol keeps everyone productive by letting them work out the schedule on their own.

Q:  How does Carol manage the scheduling?

A:  She rewards the behavior she wants to see repeated. And, she expects her employees to keep all the bases covered without consulting her. Carol believes her employees enjoy having plenty of freedom to work full days and half days and they may want to change their mind on a whim. Therefore, there is a complex reward system for employees who step into  fill a void at the last minute.

Think about it

How do you reward the behavior you want to see repeated? Can employees manage work flow without you? If not, what needs to be done so they can?

Clip from: Orange Tree Imports with Carol Schroeder

Madison, Wisconsin:  Meet a guru of specialty retail, Carol "Orange" Schroeder (just above). She is the author of the book, Specialty Shop Retailing,  and she truly walks her talk. With her husband, Dean, they started their business, Orange Tree Imports, soon after graduating from college. That was 1975.

Today Orange is a master retailer and a quiet hero in her community. She was an early leader in the movement to revitalize the old downtown. Soon after buying the building on Monroe Street, Orange organized a neighborhood business association to do joint marketing-and-promotion to change the orientation of their old shopping district to be a vital area for specialty shops and restaurants. That worked miracles. Monroe Street now draws people from well beyond the neighborhood, even Wisconsin!

Go to all the key ideas and video of this episode...

Orange Tree Imports

Carol Schroeder, Founder

1721 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711

Visit our web site:

Office: 608-255-8211

Business Classification:
Specialty Retail

Year Founded: 1975

Turn Workforce Planning Upside Down

HATTIE: They do it on their own time?

CAROL: Well, we pay them, but...

HATTIE: They do it while they're here, but they squeeze it into their regular work.

CAROL: Exactly. And, in fact, that's how all the restocking is done, also. We have assigned countershifts when you have to be there behind the cash register to work with customers, but all the rest of the scheduling people do on their own.

HATTIE: I've never heard of letting people do it that way. So I can save my stock time and come when the store's closed and do that?

CAROL: Exactly. Or you could come in at 8:00 AM and do your restocking before we open at 10, and that tends to be a very good way of doing it because people take care of their own responsibility on their own time.

HATTIE: Doesn't that sound different? I mean, I've never heard of that before.

CAROL: Well, it could well be. I think that it's the wave of the future. I think that in order to keep good employees, especially in retail, we're going to have to be more creative. And even with the assigned countershifts, which tend to be four-hour shifts so that people can do half a day or a whole day, we encourage people to take subshifts for each other and trade around. And we offer a bonus. If you have subbed for someone else 10 times, you get a voucher each time and then you get a reward after those 10 vouchers are turned in.

HATTIE: So what I think you're teaching me is a lot of nurturing creates this wonderful culture.

CAROL: Probably the most important thing we can do and which we never do enough of is complimenting our staff, thanking them, making sure that they feel that they're doing a good job. And that's very hard. It's hard for us as entrepreneurs. As someone once said, you know, who does that for you? Who gives you the pat on the back that helps you pass it on to somebody else? So it's hard to do, and it's hard to remind yourself, when you've got a lot of tasks to do, that you really should spend a little bit of time with your staff and make sure that they feel good about what they're doing.

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