One of the things that I talk about a lot is to think outside the box. Come up with ideas and actions that are “outside the norm”. Do things that other people won’t do, or are afraid to do. When I talk about thinking outside the box, a get a LOT of people all telling me that they also think outside the box. Well, maybe they do, and maybe they don’t. But, what I will say is that if you “think outside the box” and come up with answers and ideas that everybody else also comes up with, you aren’t really thinking outside the box.
When I speak of thinking outside the box, I am thinking of coming up with ideas and solutions that few other people would think of. I am thinking of doing things that are right on the edge of even being considered ethical or right by others. Let me be clear, I consider myself to be ethical, and I try to do right at all times, but I am also willing to go to the edge while remaining on the proper side of that line.
My business roots are in retail management. I started working in retailing, as a stock boy, at age 15. I did that through High School, then during college, I moved into the sales end of retailing. After only about a year of that, I moved on to retail management.
While I was a retail store manager, the first store that I was assigned was in a neighborhood that was pretty tough. It was a ghetto store. I don’t say this in a racial sense, it is just a fact. If you ran into problems in this neighborhood, you could be killed in this neighborhood. People got killed there almost every day. Usually, when a person was sent to manage this store, it was a not-so-secret message to that person that the company wanted you to quit. It was a tip-off that they wanted to fire you, but by sending you to manage this particular store, they were giving you a chance to bow out instead, saving face, so to speak.
I did not get sent to this store as a warning sign, though. You see, I was a Merchandise Manager, one step below being a store manager. When I heard that this store no longer had a manager, I jumped in my car and drove two hours to where our Regional Manager was. He had promised me that the next time a store manager was needed, the job was mine. I decided that when this ghetto store had a manager opening, I wanted the job. So, I chased down the Regional Manager and told him I wanted the job.
You must be crazy
That is what he told me. He said, “that is where we send people to get rid of them.” “I know,” I replied. “But, I want the job anyway!” He asked, “why?”
I told him that if I could take that store and turn it around, I could then get any job in the company that I wanted. “I can even ask for your job next, if I want, provided I can turn around this store!”
He chuckled and then said that the job was mine if I wanted it, but I was crazy to take it because he had something much better planned for me. I told him that he had been telling me that for a couple of years, and I was tired of waiting, and I knew that I could make a success out of the store in question. The store had not made a profit in over a decade.
What did I do?
I made some changes, and I started thinking outside the box. I continued my hard work, that is what I was known for. I not only worked hard, but I also worked smart. I did things that nobody expected me to do. I did some things that I had been told not to do. But, when I made a profit on those things that I was not supposed to do, how could they punish me, as I had proven that I was right by earning money.
Over the next few articles, I want to focus on this part of my business life. Things I did, how they turned out, and why I feel that these years formed me into the businessman that I am today.
Tune in again, read more, maybe you will learn something like I did!