Did You Know?
Maybe I'm Not Cut Out For Business
This was what was going through my head the other day. This and what felt like about 60 PSI of blood pressure. I wondered if other people who were in business, let things bother them so much. Obviously they couldn't allow themselves to get so upset or how could they keep going? You would just explode.
First I will say that I was in the middle of working on a post about using social media as a business tool when this all came about. Gerri told me that I needed to write down how I was feeling at that moment so I wouldn't forget what it was like and not let it wash out to where I would maybe make light of it later. I didn't write it down but I did make a mental note not to let it blow over.
So here I am. I will first mention a little about what I envisioned this business was going to be like.
So in my mind there is a utopia that exists most of the time. In it, there are people who want to work for me because they see the potential of a job that is generally stress-free, where everybody who works with them treats them with respect and kindness, and they all look out for each other's safety and wellbeing because at the end of the day, they all really enjoy each other's company and can't wait until the next day when they get to work with each other again. It's beautiful and it's real. Inside my head.
In my head, we all sit down for a monthly staff meeting where everybody is open and honest about how they feel and everybody brings in treats to share. Gerri and I don't have any because we are off the sugar but we share a smile at the amazing group of people we have gathered around us. Every three months I take the employees out for breakfast and have a one on one meeting to see what we can do to improve the company as a whole and to make sure that they feel valued and respected, and that they are fulfilled in their job. Occasionally someone feels a little bit bored and it happens to be when there is a new opportunity available in the company that will challenge them and reward them with a sense of wholeness that we all need once in a while.
Every year, when we rent the Cameron Lake Outdoor Centre for a long weekend and have a staff family extravaganza, we see the smiles on the kid's faces and we know that we did the right thing in giving everyone a shot at being the best they can be. We grow old with these people, our chosen family, and we retire, leaving the company to them to carry on the legacy.
On Monday I got a call from a TCP with twenty years experience. She wanted to work and wanted as many hours as we could give her. I explained that we didn't have any hours right now, as I hadn't put a crew together but if she was interested, she could definitely have a job and we could let the people know that we were ready for business. She agreed and said she would come over the next day to meet me and go over things.
Twenty minutes later I got a call from a company that I had been doing work for on a fairly regular basis. They needed some traffic control done and asked if I could help them out. "Hold on", I said. "I will call you back in a few minutes."
I called her back and asked if she wanted to work for a couple of days and boy, did she ever. It sounded like she hadn't worked in a while and that maybe she could use some help. I told her I would print the tax papers off and drive them the 45 minutes to the motel she was living in. After that, I could scan her tickets and licenses and she would fill out the hiring papers and bring them the next day when we would get the truck rigged up to go to work at 6:30 AM.
The whole drive was spent dreaming about how her experience, combined with my desire to do an excellent job for all of our customers, was going to propel us to greatness. Sure there are always red flags when I see someone in their sixties living in a motel but I am the king of starting over and could only think about how it was encouraging to see someone trying so hard to get a job and turn their situation, and now mine, around.
I got there and she was really nice and eager with all of her credentials there for me to scan and file away. I gave her the papers to fill out and told her that I had a doctor appointment later in the afternoon the following day but would be home after supper and I could give her a few hours of organizing and preparing for our first flagging job. How exciting is that?
On my way to the doctor's I got a phone call from a friendship centre asking if I was hiring her. I replied that I was and that she was going to be the traffic control supervisor. The lady asked me to please email that to her as the woman was asking for some gas money to get to our town for the job. Okay good. She at least will have enough fuel to get here. Excellent.
5:00 PM the next day and I am just finishing up in town when the phone rings. She is there and ready to get to work. I tell her that I will be leaving soon and should be there by around 6:30 and that I will call as soon as I get to town. I was impressed that she was early and ready to get her hands dirty. I was so pumped. The last four months have been building up to this and it's going to be epic.
As I get home I call and get told that she just stepped out for a bit but her stuff is still there so she can't have gone far. That was at 6:40. I start taking all of the brand new equipment out of the boxes and setting the truck up. She is probably on her way here right now.
8:05. I call back and am told she hasn't been back yet. I call her cell and leave a message asking when she would be coming over. I get a call back at 8:30 saying she forgot her diabetes medication and had to go back and get it but she thought she would beat me back to the house. She said she had the medicine and was on her way back. "Okay", I told her. "I will be waiting." She asked what the job was and I told her it was a simple setup on a not very busy highway. She thought that sounded good. I charged the AC on the truck while I packed the finishing touches in.
10:00 PM and now I'm getting a little worried. Had she been in an accident on her way back? It's only a 45 minute drive. Had she gone into a diabetic coma and veered off a mountain or something? Maybe this was too much for a senior citizen.
12:00 AM Gerri can feel me vibrating from several feet away. She tries to get me to relax and I try but I can't. I fall asleep by 1:00 and am awakened by a phone call at 3:00. Okay, she is calling to say she is going to be waiting at 6:30 for me to come out. I am happy that we will be able to do the work but I am already prepared for the talk we are having when I tell her that communication is the most important thing to me. Oh, nope. It's a spam international call and they hang up when I answer.
I lay awake until 5:00 AM when I got up and start to fill out my Traffic Management Plan in hopes that she would pull up and I don't have to go to my first job alone and explain that we don't have a crew and that their permits are wasted now. At 6:00 I phone the superintendent and explain things to him. He's not too worked up but I feel like I have had the guts kicked out of me. I am deeply disappointed in myself for jumping the gun and accepting work when I have no idea who my only employee is. After I get off the phone I call the hospital to see if she is there and have a strange conversation with someone who seemed to be hinting something to me but couldn't legally tell me anything.
And that was it. It's almost a week later and I have still not heard from her. I did hear from others who may have mentioned that this wasn't the first time she hadn't shown up for a job.
It's hard to put into words how badly this affected me. I guess the last time I felt like that was when I promised to film the Remembrance Day ceremony at the kid's school and completely forgot about it being a few days before Remembrance Day. Don't worry, the irony isn't lost on me. This was maybe even worse than letting those little kids down but it probably just feels like it because that was ten years ago and the dread has faded a bit.
So do I think that I am not "hard" enough to run a business? It's possible. The thing is that I have always dreamed about working somewhere that everybody is treated with dignity and respect and we are all valued members of a team that strives to go the extra little bit to make people happy to have us on their site. It is going to take a lot of gut-wrenching episodes before I give up on that. Even when they told me the training courses had been cancelled and nobody had let me know when it happened, I just bit down on my tongue and deleted Domcor from my phone while emailing other instructors to try and arrange training myself.
What else can you do when you live several hours north of any training facility? We just grin and bear it. Well, "grin" might be an overstatement.
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