Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day Zero

My new employees and I just spent two weeks training in preparation for my new store's opening. It was a good process, with lots of team-building opportunities built into the process. Since all but one of my new staff members are under 20, and all are female, it was not a difficult process to see these people draw together.

Tuesday is day one. While I'm sure it will be a very, very busy day, we're probably lucky that it's a holiday week, because that will keep us from being as busy as we would have been if we'd opened in, say, mid-November.

Each manager in my department is included in a weekend and holiday rotation: our department works every day. Since my store opens Tuesday, I had volunteered to work Memorial Day. Realistically, I'd probably go in anyway, if only to open up the store so the new employees could have a little more practice time (which all of them want), and to do some prep work so Tuesday morning would go more smoothly. Of course, I'll probably regret that decision come 4:00 Monday morning, when the alarm sounds and I have to get to work before 5:00.

It's been a hard two months. I've worked more twelve-plus hour days in the past month than I had, combined, in my life. Arriving at work around 6:30 to get the old store ready to open, working in the store until training started, attending training, checking on the old store, back to training, catching up on the "desk" part of my job (which has been sorely neglected), then checking on the old store before I go home (and usually sticking around to clean it better than it was left by the person who's been helping out), getting home between 5:30-7:00. It's tiring.

My saving grace has been Craig. Not only has he worked (as a temp) in my old store for two weeks (and done as much cleaning as he could, given that he still had to pick up the kids from school at the same time the store closed), he's also planned and cooked every meal served in our house for at least the past two weeks, kept the laundry in check, and been very patient with my obsessive behavior and conversation. He's letting me eat, sleep, and breathe coffee and staffing and retail and shift planning, and even tolerated my going out for drinks with colleagues more than once this week (if I can't see them in the office, I at least get some face time on hotel rooftops and discos).

Here's the thing. It's going very well. Eyes are on me right now, professionally. I took on a failing venture and turned it around. And now I have the opportunity to not just "not fail" but to succeed, quite visibly. This store will be the social center of the hospital. Its success will be credited to me. Its failure will be on my shoulders. I don't have any doubt that the next few months will make or break my career, or at least this portion of it. And given the past few months' successes (33% increase in sales from March to April, and May looks to be at least as good, if not better), I feel like I'm up to the challenge. I've created some good partnerships in other departments (this is me waving to the directors of security and design and construction), and I think that's going to be crucial to my continued success.

I can't help but think back a few years, when my professional life, if you could even call it that, was absolutely the least of my priorities. I worked because I had to, for money and insurance, and I watched the clock all day. All I wanted was to collect my paycheck and go home.

Even though this month has been hard, it's been great. I'm having a fantastic time. I wake up excited about the upcoming day. I go to bed bone-tired. But it's stimulating and challenging and feels like exactly what I was born to do.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Good talk

Mostly when I say, "Good talk!", I'm being silly or sarcastic. Like when Craig and I have been in the car alone for several minutes without talking. Or when we talk about nothing at all.

But sometimes when I say, "Good talk!", I mean it.

Last night, the couple I'd approached a few months back, the couple for whom I'd offered to be a surrogate mother, came over for "the talk". The talk that would move us forward or, well, not.

And moving forward seems to be the outcome of the conversation.

I'd rehearsed some of the questions I'd ask. I'd made some notes of topics that bore discussion. The topics were discussed, but some of the questions weren't asked. Not because I lost my nerve or decided they weren't appropriate, but because they weren't necessary.

It was a good talk.

We even discussed continuing the conversation, and documenting the journey, on a new blog. It's empty now, but keep your eyes peeled. There may be some good talk there.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Not now!

This week is the calm before the storm. If by "calm" you mean hiring two part-time employees, setting up new cash registers, making a presentation to the hospital's administrators, training a temp to mind the "old" store while the staff of the "new" store is in training, making sure all the training materials have arrived, reserving A/V equipment for training, staying in contact with our corporate district manager, and coordinating with outside vendors to reprogram the cash register POS system.

The storm? Two weeks of training, setting up the new store, followed by the first week in the new store. Sounds easier, actually, than the so-called calm. But it won't be.

When I attended training in January, it was much more exhausting than I expected. At the end of every day, I was tired. Tired from dealing with a roomful of people I'd never met before. Tired from the barrage of new information. Tired from making and tasting drinks all day.

This training will be even more tiring, since I'm the manager and it's my store. I've been working with two of my five employees for the past few weeks, but that leaves three who are essentially strangers. And college-age. (I think that's a good thing, but I may live to regret hiring four people under 21. I'll let you know.) And the "old" store will still remain open during the training, and I'm still ultimately responsible for it.

Pesky human cloning. They need to hurry up with that one.

Oh, and did I mention that I left work early with a killer headache, complete with some delightful nausea? I'm hoping that it's stress and not the flu. Because I really don't have the time to be sick.

But my new store looks fantastic and I can't wait until May 27.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Art, I makes it!

My daughter accused me of looking like a tourist when I took these pictures. But I'm not a tourist. Not at all.


Pictures replace 1000 words, and I've missed a lot of blogging. Please to enjoy these photos of the Zombie March on Downtown Memphis last month.