By Pat Henneberry
Pat Henneberry is vice president of global learning and development at Hearts On Fire. Reach her at
While watching the Summer Olympics, I am reminded of what all the teams have in common. When you think of the relay teams, soccer teams, water polo teams--what trait do they share? They are all stories of individuals combining their talents to achieve a common goal.

Teamwork brings victory in the world of sport, and it can help you succeed in your retail stores too.

Collaboration is a big theme for small businesses today for a reason: It works. As vice president of learning and development at Hearts On Fire, I know the importance of building a team. People thrive in an environment that frees them to collaborate. When my team experiences job satisfaction, our HOF retail partners reap the benefits.

However, implementing this approach can be challenging. It requires a complete paradigm shift to change the focus from individual accomplishment to team success.

The first step to getting started is equipping each team member to participate. Here are six ways to cultivate a collaborative environment in your store.

1. Share company expectations.
Define roles and responsibilities within your sales team, and make it clear that collaboration is the minimum standard. All team members should understand their positions and what is required of them.

In a collaborative environment, every team member takes responsibility for good outcomes. Our learning and development team is getting ready to launch our first HOF online learning platform. But it’s so much bigger than just my department. It’s help from IT, marketing and sales. It’s a big team effort, and everyone is part of its success.

2. Set goals.
Set concise, measurable goals on a quarterly basis. Getting the team to focus on goals will keep individual efforts aligned with desired outcomes. Be willing to re-evaluate goals as needed. Keep focused and transparent.

3. Foster creativity.
Allow team members to question and brainstorm in a non-judgmental framework. Encourage the team to view all obstacles as conquerable. Nurture a can-do attitude. Ask why, or why not, on a regular basis.

One way we cultivate a creative atmosphere is by providing leadership training that encourages character development. I purposefully hire people who aspire to be and produce their very best.

4. Build cohesion.
Include every person on the sales team in as many large decisions as possible. Initiate daily team huddles where each member shares what he or she will be accomplishing that day, and have a means to communicate workflows to avoid duplicating efforts. This keeps everyone on the same page and enables team members to redirect their efforts as needed.

5. Know one another.
Every team is full of different personality dynamics, skill sets and experiences. It’s worth the effort to have each member complete a simple personality profile. Share the results, and openly discuss likes and dislikes regarding communication, tasks and personal focus.

6. Leverage team member strengths.
Position each team member for success by assigning tasks that play to his or her respective strengths. Reward both individual and team accomplishments regularly.

Establishing a collaboration policy is just the beginning. Collaboration must be consistent and deliberate, and you must dedicate time and resources to it. You may have many professional sales associates in your office already, but you can increase your productivity exponentially by getting them to work as a collaborative team.

Think about all those Olympic teams and how important each team member is. Every single person on your store’s team is important. Collaboration is free, and it’s one of the most important tools you can teach today.

Pat Henneberry is vice president of global learning and development at Hearts On Fire. She also is founder of The Jewelry Coach, a sales training community for jewelers. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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