Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Rash of Tragedy

I want to explain to my readers why I have neglected my blog for so long. About 6 months ago, my husband's friend in his 40s died from a battle with brain cancer. A month or so later on a Friday, I attended 2 funerals. One, a dear friend in her early 90s, who left me all of her beautiful clothing. The second, a 23 year old man who died suddenly in a car wreck, who left behind a young wife. The next day, my sister called saying, "You need to get over to Grandma's house, because Grandpa is probably dead."

What is "probably" dead? Well, Grandma had come home to find him napping, but was unable to wake him. Moments later the fire department had arrived to the scene and I received a call from my brother, who was out of state on a jobsite. He confirmed that Grandpa had indeed died. My husband & I were only a few blocks from the house. Everyone seemed to arrive at once--mom, sister, aunt, sheriff. The coroner arrived shortly thereafter.

He had been up for breakfast, and had shut up the house, turned down the covers, and laid down on the bed for a nap (he frequently took naps). It was a rough patch for all of us, but at some point a friend of the family joked that he would've preferred to die with his boots on. Unfortunately, it is difficult to die in your bed and with your boots on.

Most recently, my aunt was killed in an airplane crash. Several other acquaintences died within this time frame. And it seemed that I would never have another funeral-free weekend again.

My faith in the resurrection has kept me on my feet and functioning despite the multiple losses I've suffered.

The most difficult part is forcing aside your own grief in the presence of friends and family suffering the same losses. It seems that your own internal grief could be endured, but being in setting after setting, funeral parlor after funeral parlor, witnessing the tears of so many others is nearly unbearable.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Time to Move On

I have gotten a good taste of what this new job is all about, and I’ve decided that I need to develop an exit strategy. I love the work, but that is no reason for me to stay. I always love the work itself. I have always been able to say that at every job I’ve ever had, and I will be able to say that at my next job. It just means that I love to work.

My brother’s new business needs me. I could almost justify staying for that reason. Almost. Unfortunately, my job description has been altered so much that my skills no longer have any practical application to the tasks I’m being assigned. It really doesn’t matter that my expertise is internet sales and marketing when 50% of my time is spent cleaning up after the production team. I’m not allowed to do anything meaningful, at least not for long enough to see it through to any success.

I don’t believe that the business can survive. The co-owners are constantly at odds about their business plan, or they have no business plan, or the business plan changes from week to week. My brother wants to depend on word of mouth and just cruise along with a wait and see attitude. From his point of view, the lease is month-to-month and if something develops, great; and if not, they have their other business to fall back on. It’s more of a comfortable hobby to him. Having thrown my lot in with them, I’m uncomfortable with his lack of ambition. Then there is his wife, whose ambition is to be in-charge of employees. She cares nothing for customer service, quality control, or success. Having employees and a business to run gives her an excuse to leave children with someone else and affords her a measure of self-importance that she desperately needs--but then my brother berates her in front of her employees which sabotages her enjoyment completely. Every other week she “doesn’t want anything to do with the business” and then she returns with new office chairs and big remodeling plans—plans that have no money or manpower to see them to fruition. They have not put up a sign on the building. Yes, a sign shop with no signage. This does not bode well for longevity. Having a brick-n-mortar, equipment, and employees does not constitute a business.

The longer I stay, the messier this job separation will be. I’ve had very bad job separations before, but working for relatives increases the potential for a painful ordeal. I’ve gotten what I can out of this job and I have been able to learn a lot of graphic design software and how to operate special equipment.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I Was Testing You

My brother and I are very messy throughout our creative process, while his wife and her best friend (my coworker) require a neat and orderly workspace. Naturally, these different approaches create some tension in the workshop.

Well, my brother wrecked the place while working on a very involved project, scattering sawdust, scraps, and tools everywhere. I considered that he might appreciate some help cleaning up, but ultimately chose to concentrate on pending client projects, reasoning that billable work ought to take precedence over cleanliness. After a day or two, I realized that no one had tidied up the mess, and suspected that there was some power play afoot. Not wishing to become the resident janitor, I decided not to clean the mess, but resolved not to add to it myself. Finally, on the fourth day, my brother (and boss) announced that he had purposefully left the mess to test out which employee would take the initiative. Which really meant that he wanted to see who would cave under the pressure—and my readers know that I’m no push-over. Then his wife (also my boss) rolled out the new cleaning schedule which they plan to discuss with us at length come Monday morning.

Although I think that all adult employees ought to be responsible for their own messes, I wish to appear cooperative. If they want to pay me a graphic designer’s pay for sweeping, then so be it. I’m not too proud to push a broom. The part of this that I find disturbing is that they are purposefully trying to stir up competition between their two employees. The best friend and I have overcome many of our fears and competitive drives and have settled into a comfortable routine and divided the workload fairly. She admitted to me that she worries that as the only non-family employee, that she might not be given the same opportunities. I admitted my concern that as the best friend and former coworker of the main decision maker of the business, she was chosen for her skills, while I was merely chosen for my connections as a relative. Now that we’ve become familiar, neither of us feels particularly threatened by the other. So, why do the owners want to bring that spirit of competition back? If they’re seeking a winner and a loser of these tests, it would seem that they only intend to keep one of us long-term.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Commission Sales Debate

The bosses of this new business met with us to discuss an arrangement to earn commission on sales. I was very excited that this was going to be offered, since I’m not comfortable with outside sales, I was glad to have a reward and incentive for extending myself in this capacity. Afterall, it is a small business, so we all need to be involved in sales.

But the structure of the arrangement was very disappointing. Handing someone a business card does not constitute earning a commissionable sale. Any leads resulting from the signage on my personal vehicle do not constitute commissionable sales. Since my job description requires me to promote our products online, those sales are uncommissionable. Prospecting must be done on our own time and any orders that we collect while on the customer site will be paid out at 10% commission. They will not pay commission on any sale under $100.00. If they assign us to prospect during a business networking event, we may collect our regular wages, plus 2% commission on a qualified sale. Also, each of us would be responsible for tracking our own commissionable sales, by documenting and justifying how we earned each sale.

The root problem is, they want to create an incentive without actually having to pay out commission. Who is going to walk into a place of business and stay until they complete a sale? Prospecting is more casual than that. If I do any prospecting, I’m going to simply hand the customer a business card, tell them a sentence or two about what we do, and suggest that they contact us when our services are needed. According to these rules, any resulting sale would not be commissionable.

Sadly, the entire policy was created after this incident: I over-heard the bosses lamenting that they would not be able to attend the Home & Garden Show due to another obligation. I assumed that it was a business networking opportunity, and decided to take the inititative (they are always preaching about how they encourage their employees to take the initiative), sacrifice my weekend to attend and network. I passed out 50 business cards to prime members of our target market, and returned with several solid leads. When I asked how to record my time, I was told that I would not be paid for the time spent prospecting, since the owners had not requested that I do so. They were thrilled that I took the initiative and was so successful, and they hoped that I might earn enough in commission off of the sales to compensate for the time spent. The problem with that is I can’t use work time to work the leads or my commission rate will drop from 10% to 2% and I have no free time to spend outside of work for this. Not much of an incentive, huh?

After the new commission policies were explained, the other employee remarked that she would be happy to have 2% of a sale now and then and would view it merely as a little bonus. I pointed out to her that their objective of offering commission was to incite us to do more than we usually would do, to generate real, substantial sales--which view neither of us had adopted. And even if I could somehow achieve a “qualified sale,” I certainly have no intention of having to argue why I should be paid out commission on each sale.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Another College Graduate

My mother-in-law is a Hispanic American who speaks English with a Spanish accent. She is white-headed at 60-something. She is very protective over her money, always pays in cash, and always counts her change at the register because she has caught so many cashiers short-changing her. Well, she went to pay her cell phone bill at the local office. The bill came to $30.60. So, she handed the clerk one twenty dollar bill, one ten dollar bill, one quarter, 3 dimes, and one nickel. The cashier took one look at the coin change and demanded another nickel, "you owe another nickel; this is only 55 cents. My mother-in-law asked the clerk to recount. She put her finger on the quarter and counted, "twenty-five". Finger on one dime and counted "thirty-five". Finger on second dime "forty-five." Finger on third dime "fifty". Finger on the nickle, "fifty-five." Then she repeated, "You still owe 5 cents." My mother-in-law was baffled at the woman's error. The clerk grew impatient and told the crazy old tightwad to "Nevermind, I'll put another nickel in for you." So, my mother-in-law again insisted that she had already paid in full. The clerk pointed out that as a college graduate, she was certain that she was capable of counting down 60 cents in change. Finally, the clerk realized her own mistake and felt rather silly for having been so argumentative. I told my mother-in-law that if I had been there, I might have reminded her that you don't learn to count change in college, you learn it in 1st grade elementary school.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Job, New Challenges

Now that I have accepted a job working for my brother and sister-in-law, I face all new challenges. For one thing, my husband is really uncomfortable with my decision to work for family. He feels that my brother only offered me the job out of pity. While that didn’t seem consistent with my brother’s personality, I considered that husband might be right. But after hearing the job description, I was certain that I could earn the position and please my new employers. Basically, they acquired equipment to run a sign shop, but have little time to devote to growing a second business. They want someone to help them with their online marketing, production, customer service, and graphic design. They need a self-motivated person because they cannot spend mass amounts of time supervising and directing. So, I have take initiative without stepping on toes. I also have to familiarize myself with a lot of software for graphic design. There is all this complicated machinery that I have to learn how to operate and maintain. My brother is an excellent trainer and my sister-in-law has a handle on the book-keeping and general business operations.

I basically have two bosses who are vastly different in temperament and expectations. My brother is easily impressed. My sister-in-law has higher expectations, but is not unreasonable. She is often frustrated with results that fall short of her ideal, but she is to blame for not being available to direct projects hands-on. She has clearly defined ideas, and my brother works in a more general direction and is therefore more flexible.

Then there is the problem of logistics and lack of proper tools inherent with a new business. We have no land phone, and I was given a used cell phone. The fully charged battery goes dead after one phone call and the zero button doesn’t work. We rectified that problem by trading phones. Now that we’ve added my phone to the service, we are going over our contracted minutes. We’re working from our own laptops, which we take to our prospective homes. So, it seems that whenever you need a particular customer file, it went home with someone else on their thumb-drive or their computer.

Monday, February 28, 2011

March Deals!

To introduce you to some talented Colorado artisans, and to help you save money, I have put together a partial list of Etsy shops offering coupon codes for the month of March. Here they are in no particular order:

Coupon Code: FRST2BUY1
Discount: 10% OFF

Coupon Code: KINSBLOG10
Discount: 10% OFF

Loyes Vintage Thread
Coupon Code: INTRO10
Discount: 10% off

By Still Waters
Coupon Code: marchmadness
Discount: Free Domestic Shipping

Green Beansie Cards
Coupon Code: MARCH25
Discount: 25% off everything except "Extras" Category

Whiskey Darling
Coupon code: FREESHIP
Discount: FREE SHIPPING (domestic U.S. only)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!

After being told that I would be reduced to a one day work week, I put a shout out on facebook so that my 11 friends there might alert me to possible job opportunities. My brother responded immediately and offered me a job with a new business that he and his wife are starting. They already have a very successful business and are expanding into a related field. I will be handling their online sales and marketing.
(BTW, I’d love for my readers to visit and

I’ll tell you all more about the new job soon. I explained to my brother about the possibility that I might have the opportunity to continue working at the auction house one morning per week to assist with their weekly events for a really high wage. Although he is offering me a very good wage, he can’t compete with $75 for 2 or 3 hours of work. So, he agreed to give me that morning off each week.

So, having secured the new job, I waited for an appropriate moment when the ladies in the office had gathered about toward the end of the day, and I made my announcement. "Well, ladies, I have accepted a position with another company." I expected that my boss would have one of her classic dramatic-heart-attack-jaw-dropping-shock-and-surprise moments. Instead, I got no response from anyone. They all just stared blankly as if it meant nothing to them. After the silence became awkward, one gal finally said very half-hearted, "well, good for you." Then my boss mumbled in careless agreement, "yeah, good for you" after which she changed the subject to the ring-tone on her new cell phone. I managed to utter a few polite words of goodbye to everyone before leaving. The only explanation that I can think of is that the HR director had already notified them, but I hadn’t seen the usual gossip train travel through the office.

The conversation that I had with the HR director earlier that morning was ridiculous. I told her that I had taken another job and would only continue to work the auction event if Corporate approved the pay rate adjustment. She snapped back with, "Well, they’re not going to make a decision immediately," and then threatened, "if you don’t show up next week you’ll terminate your own employment." I said, "Well, it makes no difference to me, since I have already replaced this income. But I made an arrangement with my new employer to accommodate you. I will only do so under the terms we’ve discussed. So hopefully, for your sake, Corporate will respond in a timely manner." She was very rude, but I tried to be very matter of fact and flippant about it. She was still trying to wield my employment as a weapon, forgetting that she had just whittled said weapon down to nothing by reducing my income to a measly day’s wage per week.

I was certain that I’d never hear from her and did not plan on attending the event the following week. But the night before the event, I received a frantic phone message claiming that Corporate was going to approve of the higher pay rate afterall. They were desperate to have me cover my usual position. I would just have to finish out the pay period under the current pay arrangement, and then I would have things my way. The HR director even left her personal cell phone number so that I could contact her with an answer after business hours regarding the matter.

So, I am now working two jobs. And my new job is 3 minutes from my home! And I didn’t even have to job hunt! Having my cake and eating it too!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Labor 3 Hours for $75 or 8 Hours for $80?

Yesterday, the HR gal told me that they were cutting my hours down to one day per week. That stinks, but there's more to the story.

I work at an auction house. I was hired as an auction block clerk. I simply came in one day per week for the auction event, which lasted 2-3 hours, and I made a quick $75 flat rate. Well, I applied for several regular full-time positions without success, so the HR gal found work for me helping various departments with clerical work throughout the week. The arrangement was that I would work for $10/hr whether working the block or doing anything else. So, I sacrificed $25/hr for only 3 hours for $10/hr for 28 hours per week. But no sooner than I struck this bargain, the hours started to dwindle and each department started sending me home early or quit using me altogether.

So, when I was told that I would only be working on the auction event day, I asked the HR gal whether I could return to the earlier rate of $75. She jumped at the chance since it would relieve her of the task of finding more work for me. "You bet we can do that," she said in a you-asked-for-it-now kind of tone, "but then you won't get additional hours in any departments since your rate of pay will be too high." I reminded her that she had just told me that there were no hours available anyway. Then she realized that I would not work the counter after the sale for her best friend's department and she panicked and started pleading for me to continue on with the old arrangement. I politely declined.