Saturday, October 16, 2010

Clarks

I read something the other day while I was stalk-searching other people's blogs and found it to be insightfully true. The difficulty in blogging lies in being able to do so even when life becomes complicated and overpoweringly busy. Obviously, I'm failing, but not that many people care anyway. Usually, when people are asked what they have been doing lately, most give a generic response. "Not too much." Some might give a small detail such as, "I've been working a lot." Well, I won't do that. This post has been long overdue and calls for specifics. I'll rewind far enough back that everything will become crystal clear.

A Christmas climbing vacation last year ended before it ever really began, quite frankly. I had an emergency surgery and decided to leave my job as a live-in nanny for more income among other reasons. Immediately I was homeless, but at least I was smart enough to take care of my massive doctor's bills by ensuring my financial well-being. I say this in a grandiose way, but in fact I had told my part time job that I was now free to work as many hours as they could schedule; the more, the better. So began a long road of physical and financial recovery.

Approximately six hours before the emergency room.

The first four months of this year were spent working 50 hours a week without health benefits or paid time off all while living on my gracious friend's living room couch. By the way, thanks again Greg, Sarah, and Max. Things would certainly be different without that grace period. Still, though, I was without a permanent place to live and trying to prove myself everyday at work. I wanted desperately to have benefits, a "regular" schedule, and a room of my own. Slowly but surely I went from being just another part-timer to a real work horse. There were weeks that I slept in the stockroom or in my car simply because I had no other place to go and couldn't afford a different situation. This isn't the most glorious quote, but Mat Kearney once said, "nothing worth having ever goes down easy." I thought this many nights as I slept alone and sometimes sick in these places.

Some nights I slept in the mall just like Corduroy the bear.

Over those months I was given the classic run around by my boss and my boss' boss. My district manager continually told me to improve certain aspects of my job and "we'll see in a month" where I would be. Each month I was always in the same position. I had improved, but it was not quite what they were wanted. (Side note: what does indirect jaron like that mean?) By early summer I had been through two different stores and six bosses for various reasons. Full time associates and assistant managers were hired and quit within months, yet I was still a part-timer working more than 40 hours a week. By April I was literally knocking it out of the park every day I came to work. At the end of each month a top 20 list is posted for several sales categories, and I finally made it. Albeit the category was socks and I was a mere 16th best in the country, I was still proud of my accomplishment especially given my housing circumstances.



A brief pause for a snapshot in that first few months.

My brother came and visited in the middle of May. It was a breath of fresh air, even if it was for only a week. Some how things are always alright no matter how terrible they may seem if he is there. The presence of someone or lack thereof is a powerful thing. I realized my struggle at Clarks was just beginning and it would be a similar test to surviving architecture school. Amazingly enough, I found a great place to live in late May and was no longer sleeping in my car. I quickly settled in and went to work for Clarks even more dedicated.
The top 20 list for June was posted and I couldn't believe my eyes. I knew I had an unreal month, but to be on the list for a third time in a row was great. However, this time it was not for socks alone, but name was on the list in four of the six rankings. The most incredulous part was that I was at the top of the list in the two most important and difficult categories. In six months I had gone from and average, hard-working part-timer to the best shoe and accessory salesman in the country for Clarks. What a special moment. I finally felt like I had achieved something. There was a bonafide period where no one in the country was better than me at my job, plain and simple. In fact, I was almost 50 percent better than the second place finishers among 1000 sales associates, give or take a few. I felt an enormous sense of pride and an increasingly strong desire to do better the next month.



Sometimes, all I can think is how to sell more.

From the beginning of June to the present, I have approached each day or work and climbing the same. I want to be better than I was the previous day. It may be better in a different way, but I want to be constantly improving. Statistically, July was not as absurdly off the top of the charts, but for the second straight month I was number one in the two most improtant categories. This was the point where I wanted a personal goal of being the number one salesman in the company for the year. It will be February before I know for certain, but the numbers are looking as if that goal could be attainable. To be the best in back to back months made me realize that I was not a fluke salesman and I had dozens of customer testimonials to that fact as well. Unfortunately, my hours were being drastically reduced until somehow I was left with only four hours in the first week of August. How could this be? Why me? How did I slip through the cracks? What would I do?
Well, I came forth with an earnest and sincere plea. How can I be treated like this after I have done everything that has been asked? My boss' boss decided to give me full-time status and benefits, but I would have to travel between three stores for the hours. This was not exactly what I wanted, but it was better than no job at all. Two more months passed and I continued on my torrid pace at work and climbing. Every day off I would make the hike at Lincoln Lake for my sanity, and each week would end with me wondering what the other top sales associates had produced. By the end of September, I had sunk no lower than 10th in shoes, accessories, and socks for the entire summer. These numbers were posted under various managers at three of the five stores in Colorado and covering various retail seasons. Unfortunately some things do not change.
As of today I am back to working as a part-time employee at the three stores in order to accrue enough hours to be classified as a full time associate. Again, full time associates have been hired and fired/quit in the past 10 months and I have never really been given a chance. There has been a great deal of introspection and questioning on my part and for the most part to no avail. When you are at a point where it is almost impossible to improve what, then, do you do? I guess this leaves me with a suggestion that came as a byproduct of surviving architecture school, which was my last ordeal similar to this and my first serious strife in life. When you feel you have given all that you can possibly give, step back and realize that you must now begin to work smarter instead of harder.
Lincoln Lake photo courtesy of gregmionske.com

3 comments:

Said said...

David!

Your approach to life is inspiring my friend. It's rare to find someone with your qualities, insight and perspective.

"Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself"

"Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are"
- James Allen

Said said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Little said...

incredible.

good for you man! while i don't personally know your struggles, i feel that at some point in my life i'm going to be facing similar dire circumstances. this has helped me prepare for those. thanks.