Lesson 1: A Crappy Boss
Back between owning Cool World Aquarium and working for Target, I held a job for a jewelry company.
Not your traditional jewelry store, this guy was a manufacturer — with factories in Thailand — a designer — creating most of those dolphin and sea shell pendants sold at the beach — a wholesaler — selling to all those “we buy your gold” jewelry stores before they learned to buy your gold — and a retailer. He also owned a diner and a coffee roasting business. I could not make this up.
HE WAS A MOGUL.
He was also, let’s use the polite term: eccentric.
We’ll call him Joe.
Joe advertised all the time for help. Part of it was his mind went 1,000 miles a minute, always planning another venture, always looking for the next buck. But nothing was focused. He’d start one project, then turn his attention to another, abandoning the first, then the second, to start a third.
Did I cover everything? Jewelry mogul, diner owner, coffee zen master. I think that’s it.
So, to run his empire effectively, he was always hiring people. And, since he was next to impossible to work for, those people came and went like moles popping up in Whack-A-Mole.
Why was Joe impossible to work for?
I started in his empire by managing his beach jewelry store. About 1,000 square feet, the store was located in Ocean City, MD, and open whenever Joe or his wife decided it should be open. Sometimes that was eight in the morning, sometimes eleven. Then, to close, sometimes it was 8 at night, sometimes 11. But never on the same day twice. Customers just loved the lack of hours, why, the next morning they’d pound on the door half insane with happiness — especially if they’d left something for us to repair.
A short work week, when working for Joe? About 50 hours.
Luckily, since Joe roasted coffee, he had great coffee at the store — and an espresso maker. I’d drink A MUG full of espresso every morning. And then switch to cappuccinos.
All this, though, paled to the actual merchandise. Joe used the store as an outlet — not a bad idea since he was both a manufacturer and wholesaler (and while Joe was crazy, his ideas were brilliant) — but what he sold was pure junk. Broken chains, tarnished pendants, earrings with backs missing, old designs in 1970’s merchandise wrapping. All displayed in broken glass counters he’d picked up at auction and other stores that had closed.
And every Friday — after working my 50 hour week, and before starting a 20 hour weekend — he’d rake me over the coals about sales (while dangling my pitiful check in his fingers).
I quickly wised up. I am a survivor. I hid the real crap behind the counters, displaying only things I thought someone might actually want to buy. I painted the entire store; it hadn’t been painted in years — I even painted the counters. I cleaned everything. I made Joe buy a rug to hide the beach stained carpet. I merchandised the counters to look cool. Finally, I posted store hours — and stuck to them. I gave out coffee to clients as they shopped — and sold bags of the whole bean Joe had roasted. That thrilled him. He’d never thought to sell it. That became another business for him.
But, If Joe called me on my TracPhone at 10 pm demanding to know why the store was closed, I told him it closed at 9 on Tuesdays — but was open late on the weekends. Read the sign. He’d go insane, threaten to fire me: I’d say, “good”, I’ll sleep in tomorrow morning, and hang up. The next day he’d pretend nothing had happened.
In the end, I won. Why? Sales jumped. If Joe respected one thing, it was money.
And so Lesson One was learned: The Role of Boss. Joe sucked at being the boss. He was great at dreaming, but that was it. Dreams are vital — but so is the team who executes to achieve that dream.
Joe thought as boss all he had to DO was dream. Dream and command. He was wrong.
Now I’m boss.
I have to make sure I’m never Joe. I have to provide the framework for my team to execute successfully, but I also have to step back and let them run. THAT’S FREAKING HARD. For all of Joe’s crap, in the end, he let me do just that. And when he did, that store’s revenue blossomed.
The only sucky thing as boss? I still work 60 hour weeks. Time for my second mug of espresso.