Life is a Circle | Teaching What I Learned

How my employee and mentor, Charles Fisher, still effects the way I do business.

At first, I thought it was just the flag business that was seeing unprecedented sales. But, after noticing all the bare shelves in other retail stores and after asking around, I realized that this phenomenon is all over the place. People are shopping and spending their eating-at-home savings and newfound stimulus money like crazy.

Our shipping department is so busy that the poor staff members have been working 10-hour days, 6 days a week for 2 months, and still cannot get caught up.

To help, Grady and I went to the office on a Sunday, the only day the shippers were off, and did some serious reorganizing of the warehouse. Our goal was to improve the shippers’ workspace, thus making their jobs easier and more productive.

Thinking of my Mentor

While he and I are moving, sweeping, and reorganizing, I think of my mentor, Mr. Charles Fisher. I was 33 and pregnant with my second of four children when Charles came to work for me. He was 55 and a retired Safeway store manager. He had been trained by Safeway Grocery, a great corporation (back when corporations were great) and unlike him, I had come up the ranks through the school of “hard knocks.” We made a good team.

The first thing Charles did, upon coming to work for me, was speed up my invoicing cycle. I invoiced once a week; he began invoicing every day. This put money in the bank faster. Second, he went into my stock room and – on a smaller scale – did what I am doing in my warehouse now; he cleaned and organized it.

At the end of Charles’s Safeway career, before the hostile takeover by corporate raiders Herbert and Haft and before he worked for me, his job was “the turnaround man.” He would go to flailing Safeway Stores and turn them around. He said the problem almost always came from the stock room and so, knowing that, he would typically begin his turn around work there.

Another thing he taught me was to handle every piece of paper once. Every day at his job for Arkansas he would open and sort a huge pile of mail. To his credit, for every piece of paper he opened and held, he decided and executed that decision before end of day. You never found any towering trays of paper on Charles’s desk.

And paper on your desk is not the only paper that needs tending. As I was taught, so have I taught countless numbers of employees to put trash in the trash can. Sounds easy, but humans have a hard time throwing things away, even obvious things like waded-up paper, and empty boxes are left lying around.  Tip: Put a trash can nearby and take it out EVERY DAY, whether it is full or not.

Life is a Circle

Life is more of a circle than a straight line. I am now the “turnaround man,” executing what Mr. Charles Fisher taught me so long ago by gathering up the mountains of trash that have been left around the warehouse then calling the dumpster dispatcher for an extra pick up.

As I have said before, problem solving in groups is my jam. I am really energized by the increased sales and all the problem-solving opportunities its created. This week, I am calling in the professionals, American Material Handling, a company that specializes in warehouse organization, to see how we can streamline our shipping and receiving departments even more, in order to meet all the new consumer demand.

Thank you Charles for lessons learned. I’m doing my part and passing it on.