Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Who Signs our Paycheck

Overheard: Why do we have to solve all the problems?

When I hear comments like the above I get very annoyed. My first thought is because it is our job!

The second, and better answer, is because we want the customer to have a great experience with us so they will spread happy comments and order again and again. Which will allow me, as an employee, to continue to have a job, salary, bonuses, food, housing, and maybe even a vacation. 

Commission was always part of my pay package, either straight up or salary +. If I wanted to make more money I needed to make the company more money. I needed to make my customers happy. Simple. 

Comments, like the one I overheard, demoralize the business atmosphere. Never forget it is our customers who sign our pay checks, no matter whose signature is at the bottom. If we don't have customers we don't have jobs. 

Sure we need to continue to strive at the front of the sale to eliminate any issues so there are fewer questions after the sale. But no matter when the questions are asked we need to answer them quickly and with a smile. 

Dimensional Research conducted a survey that found 62% of B2B and 42% of B2C purchased more after a good experience. Whereas 66% of B2B and 52% of B2C stopped making purchases after a bad experience. Bad experiences also spread like wildfire in this digital age. 

Yikes! If people are talking about my business I want it to be good stuff. Which would you prefer? 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My First Fall and Winter in St. Louis

I lived in New Hampshire for nine years in my late 20's and early 30's so I really didn't think a St. Louis winter would be that big of a challenge for me. I knew I would need a new wardrobe since I had been in Florida the past 17 years but I would get into the groove again. I had no idea the country, including St. Louis, would be hit with the worst winter in decades.

It was wonderful to see a Fall season again. The leaves on the trees were beautiful! The temperatures were cooling and very refreshing. I had a small deck off the kitchen and sat outside with a glass of wine many of evenings. The best part about Fall - my best friend came to visit me! It was wonderful to have someone to check out a few of the sites of St. Louis with. I did notice something odd after my BFF left and I was putting the "guest" room back into the "office/junk/extra closest" room again. There were some small leaves inside one of the two front windows. I took a photo and texted it to the landlord.

As temps fell I noticed a definite temperature difference in the front room of the apartment compared to the rest of the place. I finally started closing the doors and stuffed some towels around the windows. The dogs weren't happy as this was a row house so that was the only room they could check out the world going by. We were walking every evening but it wasn't the same of course.

The landlords hadn't been working on the downstairs apartment and the cold was starting to creep up the many cracks between the two floors. The very cool old industrial refrigerator also stopped working for about 36 hours. Just long enough for me to lose all the perishables. The landlord responded quickly for a weekend but it just wasn't quick enough.

Winter. What can I say that everyone else in the country didn't experience? A week of below 0 temps. -11 was the coldest. A few small snow squalls which were fun. Then the big snow storm which brought St. Louis to a standstill for over a week.

 I bought the dogs snow jackets. Fergus loved the cold temperatures and snow. Duncan hated it and shivered a lot.

A lot of the problem was the apartment wasn't holding in the heat. I couldn't keep it warmer than 65 and my electric bill was outrageous.

Apparently in December the landlords had removed the old storm windows in order to have a company measure for new ones. They were going to be installed any day now. I heard that for months while dealing with over $400.00 electric bills.

The big snow storm at the beginning of January started early Sunday morning and lasted until Monday. Thirteen inches in 24 hours. In New Hampshire this would have been a minor issue. It shut St. Louis down. The weather forecasters prepared us. I was out Saturday morning grocery shopping at 7:30 am. I learned you can't buy adult beverages before 9:00 am so I was back out around noon to stock up on wine. I made sure all my laundry was done (down, out, around, and down again). I took the dogs for a long walk. I shook out HEAT around my car and down the front steps. I was prepared. Then Sunday I fell ill with a bad cold. It wasn't like I could go anywhere anyway.

Kitchen Deck
Work was canceled for Monday. Which was helpful. I waited until noon for someone to show up to shovel. Snow shoveling was supposed to be included with the rent. It was the warmest it was going to be at -11 and the sun was actually out. Thankfully I never lost power. The newscasters were very clear about how long it was safe to be outside. It wasn't long. As poorly as I felt I knew this was the best time to try and start shoveling since I hadn't seen anyone else at the apartment. I dressed as warmly as I could but didn't have long underwear or snow pants...jeans it was.  I shoveled the back porch and a path for the dogs first. Took a break. Then started on the front. I got the front steps done and was working on the sidewalk when the neighbor and his kids came out and started working on their front walkway. With the sidewalk done I surveyed the car. St. Louis doesn't plow side streets (didn't know that!). Where do you put the snow covering the car and surrounding area when the streets aren't getting plowed? I decided I was too cold and coughing up a storm to think so I went inside to get warm and drink some hot tea. 30 minutes later, semi refreshed, I looked out the window and my neighbors kids had cleaned off my car and a path to get to it. How incredibly kind was that!

Benton Park
During one of my trips to Home Depot in late Fall I had bought a snow shovel and a collapsible snow shovel for my car. Best winter purchase I made besides my coat from LL Bean. For the next 4 days every drive to and from work I got stuck (sometimes twice) and had to use that shovel. I wore jeans and my LL Bean duck boots to work, not professional looking at all. Everyone else was dressing the same way thankfully. Finally, the City declared it would plow the side streets due to the number of complaints it was getting, especially from the social media front. It also helped the temperature was starting to climb and actually got above freezing by the following weekend. My boss texted me "it isn't normally this bad". I was ready to head back to Tampa!

You remember that window in the apartment that I found leaves on the inside? There was snow on the inside during that storm and a few more. I kept being told the storm windows are 3 weeks out. To the landlords credit, after I complained so much, they installed plastic on the inside over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I also discovered during the long winter months that there was a huge discrepancy between temps inside when you walked through the front door, up the stairs and into the my living space. I could see my breathe on the staircase. One of the dogs vomited inside by the front door and it froze. I hung flannel sheets on tension rods halfway up the stairs to try and help. Duncan was wearing sweaters daily and still shivering. Per the landlords this was "normal".

I sent my boss this photo with a funny caption. He showed it to his boss, one of our VP's at Hager. A few weeks later I was called into this same VP's office. He started the conversation by asking how work was going and then steered the conversation to my home life. How was it? I told him I really hated going home except for the dogs. He asked why and I told him the truth. That day began a search for a new place to live by his orders. He very clearly stated he nor the Hager family brought me from Florida to have this type of experience and whatever needed happen, time off work, get it done and get out of there! Wow. Just wow.  I was blown away by that support. I knew then I had made the right decision to take this job. 

It took some hard looking, which wasn't easy in the middle of winter, but the end of February I moved into a house. It is in a great, well cared for, neighborhood while still being in the city. The house is one level with a basement and garage (no on street parking). A fenced yard for the dogs, a deck and separate patio area, the washer/dryer is on the living area and there is inside access to the basement. Which was helpful during two spring tornado sirens. It was warm during the last of the winter months, a consistent 68 degrees! Duncan stopped shivering and started gaining some of the weight back that he had lost. There is room to move around and have a full size couch. A true guest room and guest bathroom.

It seemed St. Louis was looking up!! Winter was over, flowers were blooming and the April rains came. I didn't realize my next challenge was just down the steps.

A Year

The Archway to the West
It has been a year since my last post and a lot has happened. New job, two new places to live and of course, a new city.

Let me start with the positive. Hager Companies is a fantastic company to work for. I had a very good distributor / manufacturer relationship for many years but sometimes going to work for said manufacturer becomes a disappointment. So happy that the positive experience, being an employee with Hager, continues. My boss, his boss and the Hager family are truly fantastic. Reasons why will become apparent as I relay the less that positive experiences that have happened since I moved.  I am having fun educating my co-workers and especially our sales representatives on why social media matters and how it can help spread brand recognition.  More importantly how we can use Social Media to educate others out the life and fire safety aspects of our industry.  A few reps have even signed up with Twitter! My first year review is coming up next month so I hope Hager Co. experience with me has been equally affirmative.

When I was considering moving to St. Louis I wanted to try a more urban living experience.  I rented the 2nd floor of a duplex that had just been renovated. The house was over 100 years old. Unfortunately it was site unseen through Craig's List. That was my first mistake - not negotiating for temporary housing.

The landlord promised the key would be under the flower pot. It wasn't. Visions of a scam swam in my head but thankfully that was not the case. After a phone call the landlord delivered the key in about 20 mins. We were two very hot and exhausted adults along with the two stressed out dogs. We couldn't wait to get into a cool apartment, take a shower and eat. That didn't happen either. The landlord did not turn the a/c on ahead of time
After a two day drive with 2 dogs, a packed car and a very dear friend who volunteered to help me with the trip we arrived in STL around 3 pm.even though I had transferred the electricity to my name that day and asked him too.  After hauling everything that had been packed in the car upstairs and making a Target run my friend decided to take a shower. I had brought towels so all was good. Until I hear her yelling asking if the water heater was gas or electric. She wasn't getting any hot water. Another call to the landlord. He never had the gas turned on and he forgot to mention they never showed up for the appointment I had scheduled to have the gas transferred into my name. Ok so no hot water. Oh and no hot food either because the range was gas.  Hmmm this wasn't a good start.

We arrived in St. Louis on a Saturday and my friend stayed until Tuesday. We had no furniture, except for the two inflatable beds I had
packed in the car, as the
Our "TV"
moving company wasn't scheduled to arrive until later in the week. Another trip to Target to buy two lawn chairs, to be used temporarily inside. Two dogs, two adults and two non-folding lawn chairs in a Jeep Liberty. Have I mentioned my friend was (and is) such a trooper!

The gas company finally showed up late Monday evening, after tweeting them my situation. The gas company technician had a few issues so though he turned the gas on I wasn't left with a very secure feeling it wouldn't blow up.  I had never used gas before and I can say now, I am still not a fan. Hot showers was a yay! The burners on the range worked but the oven...not so much. It was an old range and I would have to light the pilot if I wanted to use the oven. That wasn't happening so no oven.

My friend left - and I was in St. Louis, by myself, with two very confused and freaked out dogs. I couldn't leave them in the apartment by themselves without them trying to tear down the door. I was scheduled to start work the following Monday, July 29th so I really needed my belongings to be delivered by the moving company to start getting settled. Unfortunately they were delayed and it was Saturday before I was able to start unpacking and getting a home organized.

Once I had "my stuff" and I started the new job life started to get settled. Sure it was annoying to have to walk down two flights of stairs to do laundry in the basement and find a place to park on the street, but that was all part of the urban experience. And so what if I could see the 1st floor apartment through some not great wood floor workmanship. After all the landlords were still working on the first floor and assured me once they put the insulation and ceiling in I wouldn't be feeling all that heat..and cold it turned out.

 Next up - Fall and Winter in St. Louis