Category Archives: Business

Vocations

Have any of you really noticed at times how people work at their jobs as well as the quality of their work? Also, have you noticed how some people who are in customer service really aren’t cut out to be servants of customers? Having been in supervisory positions in past years, I found myself attempting to re-educate workers in how they should perceive the hours they spend at work. More than once I found myself being quite hard with some of them when I found them slacking off. I re-iterated to them that they agreed to perform given tasks with the best of their abilities for a set hourly rate. I believed and still believe that if a person doesn’t give their best when doing their jobs, then the employer is basically getting cheated when pay check time rolls around. It is a two way street. Perhaps this is why so many companies and agencies take that “us against them” mentality when dealing with day to day problems.

Corporate narcissistic attitudes are creating a backlash of indifference and alienation. I remember reading an article some years ago which spoke about how companies in Germany feel about their employee/employer relationships. The thrust of that article was that most company heads believed that their employees were part of their family and they did everything they could to keep them when their companies were having a bad year. And likewise, their employees felt the same way. If there were employees who didn’t “fit” within the company, the loyal workers were the spearheads in getting them off the payroll. Team work eases the stress of work. Everyone has a bad day, but if there are chronic bad days, there is something wrong. I remember one of my college instructors telling us, “Don’t look for a job, but rather look to yourselves for your vocation.” When we have a love for what we do, it’s really not a job, it’s a vocation.

Bouncing Ball Day

Have any of you ever had one of those days that occur in your life when you feel like you are about 15 minutes behind everything that is happening in the universe? I had one of those rare days today. Not sure how or why it happens because no matter how much you work to catch up those 15 minutes, there is always some intervening circumstance that that pulls you back. The real test of a multi-tasker is when the rest of the world doesn’t notice that you are 15 minutes behind. I remember a loan officer that is now retired who was a master at multi-tasking. You could interrupt him numerous times and he would seem unaffected by it. He seemed to always have time for you. I found out years later that he spent many evening hours at the bank doing his catching up. I know that is the price one must pay when providing services to the general public on a daily basis. I was giving a few suggestions this afternoon to some newly arrived residents of Mason City about what to look for when shopping for goods and services for their home. I am a real proponent of businesses that not only sell their goods for a fair and equitable price but also provide equally dependable customer service. I’ll give you an example. Not too many months ago, I went to a business to enquire about a repair of an item that was purchased some years ago. I was the only one in the store and when I walked up to the customer service counter I found the clerk on the phone. After about ten minutes of listening to a personal chatty phone call likely with a friend of the clerk, I knew it would be an uphill battle to get something done. Well, that is exactly what happened. Nothing was done and I had to go elsewhere to get it fixed. Certainly that clerk could have been having one of those bad days, but none of the general buying public should have encountered it. My advice for anyone in business is to remember that good work travels slowly, but bad work travels like wildfire. So, if you ever feel like you are moments behind chasing after a bouncing ball, then try not to show it. It will be remembered.

Bakery Anyone?

Because I have lived here in Mason City for so long, I can now talk about a most delightful, real, and honest to goodness bakery that thrived downtown for years. It was located just east of Federal Ave. about a half a block on State Street. Because I worked at Norwest Bank at the time, I frequented the bakery nearly every morning. Ohhh the smells that lingered in the outside air. It seemed to set the mornings right. When I speak of bakery, I mean the real thing. The husband and wife that ran that bakery at the time made everything from scratch. The husband would be there very early in the morning and later the wife and employees would arrive. The husband would leave early and the wife and help were left to close up for the day. That bakery was there for years and years. They didn’t close because of lack of business; they closed because they were getting quite old and at that time they found themselves competing with Fareway’s in store bakery which doesn’t exist anymore. The owners of that bakery lived in what used to be the Gildner family house which will be the subject of another article. I know they did quite well for themselves financially during those times. I don’t think any one of us really want to make millions, but rather just have a stable, productive and fulfilling job. My mother’s family we extremely good at creating unbelievable baked goods. Yes, I was spoiled and I know that now because, nearly every time I eat something from a bakery that is supposed to taste good—doesn’t.

I’m sure part of that comes from the ingredients. My mother and grandmother used real butter, real cream, real free range eggs and likely everything that was real for an ingredient. So, let’s get back to the bakery. I hope anyone who is reading this article, knows someone who has vision, talent and drive. There are several perfect spots for a REAL bakery downtown. I assure you, it will be successful.

By the way, here is a link to a bakery that has hit the headlines in New York.

The Three E’s

eeeThese past weeks of summer have shown even more activity in the central business district of Mason City than what I have seen in past years. I believe part of this growth in visitors and shoppers downtown is that the Farmer’s Market seems to be gaining popularity with North Iowans. I think that comes from the help of Jodee O’Brien who is the new Director of Main Street Mason City. She is filled with a great deal of energy and shows real commitment towards getting the Historic Business District a place where everyone wants to visit and shop. I wish her the very best. We need people like her who are not afraid of pushing forward. There will always be those crotchety business owners who are nay sayers to just about everything merely because they are negative about themselves and their community.
There are three words that we all should remember when it comes to lifting up our communities.

The first word is Envision. If we don’t have people in our lives that share their visions, then we have puddles of flat liners. The next word is encourage. We all have people in our families and workplaces that are pesterers. They just don’t stop! They see someone else’s vision and push, tug, pull, and badger until the the group finally understands and then goes into action. The last word is enhance. We all know people who seem to be like ghosts in their surroundings. They appear to keep everything new as well as old in near perfect balance. They don’t talk much, they just do. I admire these people as well because they are the ones that quietly clean up messes as well as put the finishing touches on the neighbor’s surprise birthday cake. They move the slowest yet they are equally as much needed in this triad of community building. So, which of the three E’s are you?

The True Mindset of Community

mason city ia skyI have lately been comparing what used to be and what is now. Many things are better now as far as health care, information technology, and opportunities for career advancement. On the opposite side I find a more distancing of real human interaction. For example, just these past several years, I am finding that more people that I know are texting or e-mailing me rather than calling me. It appears that people tend to isolate themselves into their own sub-groups of society. Personal interaction with society in general is more distant and guarded. I find that with buyers as well as tenants. But, if I look a particular person up on Facebook, I find that they have numerous friends with whom they freely interact. The real problem I find in this movement towards people searching out people who they share common interests and goals, is that they are attempting to exclude the crosscut of the general population. I have always encouraged people to investigate and learn about people’s lives and their cultures. From that, we find more of a balance whenever we interact with someone that isn’t “just like” us. With that said, I come back full circle and say that we in our community of Mason City and greater North Iowa, must work towards re-establishing the real mindset of community. We must truly learn to care as well as share. The fabric of our nation is woven with fibers of many different cultures that allowed themselves to be woven together as one. Let’s work at that mindset a little each day.

Soap on a Rope

Something I am getting more and more disturbed about these past years is the language that is being used mostly in public and I’m sure even more in private.

What precipitated me to write about this is that about three weeks ago I was verbally attacked by someone who is a businessperson. The language coming out of that person’s mouth was not only appalling, it was shocking. I insisted the conversation was finished and walked away because that type of vulgarity for me is totally unacceptable. So much of the language used by the young comes from what they see and hear on the internet and television. I find that excusable because it is the copy cat way of the world we live in, but for older people and supposed to be mature people, using that type of language I don’t excuse. I’m no angel or saint but I continue to work at treating everyone the same or better than I would expect to be treated. It seems that in our times, the people that are the loudest and pushiest get where they want to be and don’t even have the credentials to deserve where they are. I have lived and worked by the words that came from a professor I had in college so many years ago. He said, “Talk is cheap but actions speak.” So, I would suggest that the next time you are in a store that sells soap on a rope, buy two of them. Purchase one for yourself when you’ve found yourself verbally out of control and the second one is a gift for the next person you encounter that has slipped into the abyss of vulgarity.

You’ve got to read this

Several days ago I was working with repeat customers. While we were going from house to house we ended up on a conversation that was a repeat from too many years ago. We were talking about contractors. The wife giggled and said to me, “I remember, you always said you never hire a contractor that drives a big beautiful work truck.” I got a really good laugh that day because I couldn’t believe how she remembered a conversation from so many years ago. For me, that statement has held more true than not. Having been involved with so many projects, it seems to have become a standard for me. Just think about it. Why would anyone who is supposed to be more focused on doing the absolute best in their work be so possessed with a vehicle that is nothing more than carrier of equipment and tools?

Case in point. I had hired and referred for many years a gentleman and his son who were the most talented frame carpenters and finish carpenters that I had ever seen.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that they were more focused on doing the best job for their customers than what their vehicles looked like. They belonged to a group of very few who I never even asked for a quote or bid — I trusted them as well as they trusted me. I really do hope and very soon, that all the specialized fields of contractors learn that it’s not about what you drive or what you own, but rather the legacy of quality that you leave behind. By the way, that builder and his son drove a very simple white pick-up truck that was two weeks past needing to go thru the car wash.

Think about it…you’ll find comparisons.