I’ve had about a thousand jobs. I’ve handed out cheese samples in the mall. I’ve hawked frozen pizzas in the supermarket. I’ve taught skiing and windsurfing. I’ve been a grape-picker, a maid, and a lifeguard. And, before I got into the plumbing industry, I spent a lot of time working in restaurants.
Perhaps the job that had the biggest impact on me was waitressing at Foxy John’s, a coffee shop in San Diego, CA. The owner of Foxy John’s was a woman named Jackie. Keep in mind that Foxy John’s had an average ticket sale of $2.69 and the employees’ average age was 19 years old.
On day one, Jackie told me that my employment was dependent on three things…
1. Telling the truth. Lie, cheat, or steal and I was gone.
2. Doing things her way. Jackie has a system, and it works.
3. Wearing the uniform. Employees MUST wear the uniform.
Of course, the uniform was awful. It consisted of yards of thick polyester, the color of poop, and horrible, bright white, nurse’s shoes. Ugh. On my first day, I showed up wearing the dreaded uniform, and promptly tested the limits.
I cornered another waitress, Alyssa, while she was filling saltshakers.
“So, what’s Jackie really like? She talks a big game, but would she fire you if you didn’t wear these awful shoes?”
Alyssa said, “The money is so good. The work is easy and fun. Why risk it over the shoes? What’s the point?”
Suddenly, I felt petty. What was the point? Alyssa said kindly, “The shoes bug everyone at first. Jackie has weird taste. Still, I think you’re going to like it here.”
Every day I bought more of what Jackie was selling. She was a fanatic about numbers. Everything we sold was documented on this huge white board. Listed were the total sales, average sales, and number of customers. Selling was the game… and there were contests everyday. What a competitive bunch of women! Once, I bought a brownie myself just to break the tie and win the dessert contest.
In exchange for wearing the uniform and doing things her way, Jackie made good on her promise. I made lots of money and I had a blast. She also taught me about sales. Here are the sales tips I learned from the coffee shop:
- Smile. Show some teeth.
- You might just be the best part of someone’s day. Talk to them. Give them something to talk about after you’re gone.
- Ask questions. Listen. Answer questions. Give them what they want.
- Only offer nice options. No need to push anything.
- Support the people who support you. They make your life easier.
- Take responsibility. At some point, you are going to screw up. Apologize, and resolve the problem.
Can you make the connections for the plumbing, heating, and contracting world? Sure! Jackie taught me about sales and discipline. Most importantly, Jackie taught me about leadership. If she could get me to wear that uniform… well, what wouldn’t I do for her?
Six months later, I graduated and moved away. Now, I appreciate what she taught me. At the time, I was clueless. I assumed lots of businesses operated like Foxy John’s. I thought it was just a coffee shop. I didn’t realize how extraordinary it was.
Imagine what you can do with your company…