First job teaches life lessons

By Vern McClelland

April 14, 2016 6:00 AM

My first job was as a clerk at the local Co-op grocery store weekdays after school and every Saturday.
It was quite an adjustment at age 14, going from working on the family farm to taking direction from adults not related to me.
What a great place it was, though, to learn the finer points of what it takes to keep a job!
I had four co-workers, and I learned something fundamental to my future endeavors from each of them.
For this I will always be grateful.
Why they put up with a free spirited teenager is beyond me, but they did, and along the way I was trained to cope in a world outside of small town Saskatchewan.
Danny was the boss but he didn’t crack a whip, rather appealed to your intelligence with logical explanations.
Hard lessons were usually introduced with a story about his prior mistakes.
You couldn’t help but like him and want to not ever disappoint.
Mary patiently demonstrated to me how to treat each customer as an individual.
To be alert to the mood they came in with and how to give them a little morale boost before leaving.
She could have four customers in a line up at the till all laughing and not noticing the time they were waiting to check out their groceries.
Jean worked diligently at keeping the store clean and well presented.
It was her who taught me that when a place sparkled it was more inviting and made you proud to be a part of it.
She was also quick to point out how short cuts almost never were effective in the long run.
I still “face” cans to the front of the shelf when I’m shopping!
Al knew how to have fun, yet could describe in detail what every regular customer would want in the meat counter and on what day.
His part of the kingdom was at the back of the store and if someone didn’t know where to find something he would give quick directions with a smile and nary a complaint.
I could also count on him to source me a mickey of rye or a case of beer for those late night weekend adventures with my friends, but only if I promised to stay out of trouble and show up to work on time the next day.
Together they were a great team. Each had his or her own talents that made our store welcoming to the public.
They knew there was a direct connection between the quality of the experience and the job they held.
There are places within our region today where the quest to provide quality service comes before profit.
Believe me, that is hard to do when presented with a multitude of personalities within a multi-cultural customer base.
As a self-employed realtor, I have to admit there have been times I have not met a customer’s expectations.
The public wants us to be personally available to them most waking hours and every day of the week.
However, we are not Wal-Mart.
One gentleman phoned me at noon and said I had one hour to get to Paradise Hill if I was going to list his dad’s house, otherwise he was going to call someone else.
I asked him if he wanted me to supply him with some phone numbers as I don’t jump well.
It is not physically or mentally possible to sustain 100 per cent commitment to a job unless, of course, you are willing to sacrifice all other interactions in your life.
I’m not. That’s the main reason why Mike Dewing and I teamed up twelve years ago; so both of us had a knowledgeable partner who could step up and look after a client while the other spent time with their family.
Technology helps but it also doesn’t always help. Instead of phoning, people text.
Once an email is sent there is an expectation of a prompt reply.
Office hours are a thing of the past.
If you answer your phone, it must mean you’re at work.
I love working with people.  Most of the time.
Just not all of the time.
Leave me a message. 
I will get back to you.
Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster.

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