Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Who's The Boss... Chronology of my "I used to work for's"

I now have so much empathy for all the managers I had in high school and college. Though I have to admit, for a school age kid, I was pretty dedicated and bought in to the company philosophy of Revco, CVS, and the GAP. The associates I have to manage now are among some of the least motivated people I have ever met. Their ambitions in life are hard to dig out; one of them wants to work in business but can’t understand that you have to sell things for more than you bought them. I have yet to master the ability to connect with them.

It makes me think of my bosses from the past as a part timer. Jimbo, my first boss at Revco (later bought by CVS), didn’t probably want to hire me. Lucky for me, my cousin David was an assistant manager up in Greensboro and was willing to lie to say I would be a good worker. I was involved in so many activities in school that I really appreciate the flexibility he let me have, though I think I worked some kind of shift on almost every Saturday, and I don’t remember many Sundays off either. I loved Sundays because the pharmacist that worked on Sunday would bowl with Christina the shift supervisor and I down the analgesics aisle. That was a lot of crap for one man to deal with, but he took it in stride. To my knowledge, Jimbo is still managing the Mint Hill CVS.

I left CVS for greener and gayer pastures at the GAP. This was by far my favorite employer, even over my beloved Carmax. When I first started my new manager Mark called me and asked why I missed my first shift, I simply explained that no one told me that I had gotten the job. After a long pause, a gasp, and an hmmmm, he said “if you are dressed, I could sure use some help tonight.” There was my first day. From then on it was flirting with girls, scoring discounts for my friends, and learning a lot about fashion and the like. I got a lot of exposure to different people working at Eastland Mall. Mark was the first homosexual person that I ever spent a lot of time with, Mark always had pictures from parties and stuff sitting on his desk so I learned about that side of the gay lifestyle. Mark was the first manager who would talk to me like a peer, always making me make decisions, hence, getting me to care about what I was doing. He was moody too though, which I had to learn how to deal with. When he went to another store, Lisa stepped up to become manager and it was the first time I saw the political workings of the workplace. As soon as that happened, two of the passed over assistants quit and the third demanded a transfer. I followed Kyle to the University store.

Kyle was the first manager I ever interacted with outside of work, I helped him move a couch from a friends house into his apartment. Kyle was also the first manager I ever really disappointed. This was a grand opening store and they had yet to fill in the lead cashier role, not too much responsibility, but at 18 an extra dollar an hour goes a long way. On the first day I was supposed to open, I slept in, and Mark who had returned as manager decided to go another direction. Kyle pulled me aside and let me know how much I had disappointed and embarrassed him. I only slept in for work one more time in my life, 5 years later. I became lead cashier there right before Kyle left to become the manager at the Winston Salem GAP, I felt like I had vindicated him and made right my egregious wrong.

Then came the switch to Carmax, welcome to used cars Mr. Salesman. I did make a lot more money but I never enjoyed work the way I did back in the GAP days. On my first day of sales training, I found out that my assigned manager had quit, a few weeks later I saw him working at the GAP as a manager in training, shocker, it didn’t work out. My first car sold was to Mary and Jack, friend's of my mom’s. I sold about 6-10 cars a month and was pretty good at it, but I never got feedback from any of my managers. I would learn a lot about what a bad manager was from these sales manager. These are the same people that I helped to “promote to customer” when I became a manager. I loved the money in sales, but when I skipped a class to close a deal, I realized a commissioned job was not right for a college student. I put in my two weeks notice and went on the prowl.

I landed about 100 feet away when at Sunday sales training they introduced the new Purchasing Manager Chris. He asked anyone if they knew anyone who wanted a part time job taking off license plates, pulling in cars, and doing walkarounds. I approached him after the training and said I wanted the job. He didn’t want to take someone from the sales force, but after I showed him my resignation letter, he talked to the LGM and I was in. My first day as a Buyer’s assistant was in August of 2000. I called that office home until December 2006.

Chris was a spastic guy who was never fully involved in the store. He would show up at nine, leave at three without ever opening his door. He was cool in that he would pay for us to all go bowling and buy all the beer, he would even vouch that I was certainly of age to drink. He cared about us all in that he would not let people drive drunk or pay for dinner. He always took interest in what I was doing at school. Ultimately Chris was soon fired for some questionable business practices. KMX had to bring in the big gun, affectionately known as the Commander.

C3 (his initials were CCC) was the most hard nosed and ruthless manager I had ever had. He was not a jerk by any means, I actually had a better relationship with him (likely due to the limited amount of time I spent with him) than most had. He did what Chris could not do, by the time I became Buyer In Training, I had the fourth longest tenure in an office of 14. C3 was the first boss I feared, not because he would hurt me, but because you could not read the guy. He had a great poker face, you would talk about the business and he would just nod his head and say “interesting.” He was never high nor low, just bald. The worst was this smirk he got right before he was about to correct you with a long dissertation on the proper way to do things. His smirk was accentuated with his deep dimples; if you got “dimpled” you were done.

Joe transferred in from another store as a Senior Buyer and after becoming the PM at another store, came back as C3 went to Cali. Joe had to put up with me growing up and growing into my job. I was too young, but the company and C3 knew I would be a good manager one day so I think they took a leap of faith I would learn quickly. The jury is still out on their decision. Joe taught me a lot about how to be a company man and how to work my natural interpersonal skills. He spent a lot of one on one time with me, trying to make me a better manager. He was a drummer in a cover band, I hung out with other guys at his shows and would always help close the place down and pack gear, ask Amanda, I can never leave early or on time. Joe was the first boss I ever stood up to, I won some, I lost many more, but I would always feel respected and heard. Sometimes all you need is to be heard. Joe put up with many of the worst mistakes one can make in the workplace, one he really should have fired me for, but he didn’t, and I am here because of that.

MJ is my current boss, though not my PM, he is directly above me as a mentor and liaison to my PM. In 10 weeks I can tell you he is the greatest unrealized asset this company has. He has taken to this XFM project like a kid in a candy store, making changes and taking names. Well hell, anyone can do that, and I agree. MJ makes it your decision, I tell him that I have yet to see him make an actual decision anywhere. He just smiles and says, “You’re on to me.” He was gone last week, the store ran flawlessly without him, that is a sign of great leadership. I have never felt more empowered as an employee to change, develop, and implement anything I wish.

I have been very lucky to work for some great people, I have no idea who is next. I would like to work for a woman for a change, but there is only one female PM and she is in Texas, trust me, not going to happen. Maybe some guy will blog about me as a manager 10 years from now, that would be kind of rewarding.


Jon said...

My mom said not to forget that she is my greatest boss ever!

Anonymous said...

I will have to agree with her. Can't wait to see you next week. Love, Amanda