I was 17 years old and counting all the cash in a small suburban bank vault. Before that I was running the days' receipts on a desk size proof machine. And the day before that, I was in the loan department posting note payments. Through my high school Distributive Education program I landed a great job at the bank and best of all, I landed a mentor like I've never known since. Mr. McGuire was VP Operations, and made certain that I worked in every facet of the bank and knew how they interconnected. He put so much trust in me and in turn I worked very hard to absorb every lesson.
Only two years before, I was sacking groceries at our local Belden's Supermarket. This was probably the primo job for a teen since we were paid a dollar for every hour we worked. If we developed a friendly personality and had half a memory we knew the big tippers and how they liked their groceries bagged. Believe it or not, that trait right there could net a good sacker another dollar an hour in tips alone. My boss, Mr. Atkinson liked me and my older brother - we both worked there. We were good, honest and most of all reliable when he called us for extra help. We worked hard, learned the merchandise, and could stock, sack groceries, and on busy days we could run a cash register faster than most adults could spin a slot machine.
Truth be known, I was a future Architect destined to become self employed at age 23. For years I relied on my quick wit and personality, honed while sacking groceries, to win clients and my 2 1/2 years in banking to keep me out of financial trouble. Most of all, Mr. Atkinson's understanding of staff management and instilling loyalty andMr. McGuire's lessons in work ethics and process served me very well throughout my professional career.
Even our earliest jobs can, in some ways, prepare us for our professional lives that lie ahead. These lessons embed themselves in our young DNA and seem to stick with us for a lifetime. It's a good thing they do.
Flash forward 45 years and I am still learning. I learn from clients, from my employees, my consultants and my friends. Here is the fun part - now I'm teaching and mentoring by sharing my experiences with others and encouraging excellence through a scholarship program for young talented students at University of Houston College of Architecture and Design. Now I'm someone else's Joe Atkinson or Bill McGuire.
If I can help you gain a better understanding of your staff, what they need, or how to cultivate loyalty and success at your firm, give me a call. A lot can be learned over a cup of coffee.
William M. Burwell is a retired Architect and Interior Designer whose career focused on corporate interior architecture in sole proprietorships, and partnerships from 9 to 120 staff. Bill retired in 2014 and began Burwell Consulting a Firm Marketing and Management Consulting firm, to share the wisdom and experience of those 45 years Bill writes articles sharing his experience in four keystone practice areas: Marketing, Design, Project Management and Practice Management. He graduated from the University of Houston College of Architecture in 1971 and now serves the College on the Dean's Committee on Excellence. Check him out at www.burwell-consulting.com