The Desk

July 23, 2015

About Anna’s Linens

A few days ago I passed by an Anna’s Linens store. To my surprise, the window walls were covered with “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS” signs. Goods and store fixtures were still behind the signs, which indicated the move was recent. I wondered whether it was merely the one store or the entire chain and made a mental note to check news about the business before I spoke of the siting.

Planning for success

Planning for success

Yesterday I found the answer to my question. There are quite a number of news stories about Anna’s attempts to be bought out by a stronger entity rather than file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The talks fell through; bankruptcy papers were filed; the entire chain is closing.

Before reading the news accounts of the business’s status, I speculated about what may have led to the closing. Their target market seemed to be a particular demographic by virtue of the location of their stores. It was typical to find them near or renting space from a discount grocery store in a heavily Hispanic and/or Black community.

Perhaps economic pressures contributed to the downfall. Although in the early days, goods were at bargain or reasonable prices, that practice did not hold true as time passed. The new order showed that the prices of goods were very much comparable to other similar vendors. In fact, it was entirely possible to get the same goods at a Target or Walgreens for a better price.

In addition to pricing, there was the matter of misleading advertising. The print ads lured customers in for the (for example) standard-sized pillow at 30% off. But once the customer entered the store, either the pillows were all sold out or the actual goods on sale were the over-sized pillows that were not on sale and at a higher price point. (A little bait and switch brought back to life.)

With the typical bait and switch, it appeared that was the lead-in training for questionable practices by the staff. They were helpful but it seemed they were too willing to look for that item the shopper really wanted while they no longer had it but something similar for a little higher price. After working in that type of environment, how much of the sales and business ethics practices became a part of the workforce psyche and how far was that cast? Second-hand learning could be passed on to children, friends, and siblings of the workers. Associates of the workers may have fallen victims of the practices used outside of the store, things such as trade items, collaborate on activities, or build terms of relationships. It became an environment much akin to “Big Brother” or “Survivor” and I finally had enough. I stopped shopping there and sought better bargains at places I felt were much more ethical.

News accounts say the company over expanded too rapidly. The act of gaining more funds and committing oneself to to many financial obligations stretched resources too thin. Most likely economic factors such as people no longer in possession of discretionary spendable dollars also contributed to the downfall. The fact that many of those in the business’s target demographic are existing on slightly more than minimum wage incomes probably didn’t help the circumstances for anyone. And now, as a nation, we’re talking about incrementally raising the minimum wage to $15 over the next five years.

The shelves and racks, the counters of every store, no matter the size, were always filled to overflowing. There was even more in the back in the unlikely happenstance that a particular style, size, or color was not on the sales floor. Perhaps that was yet another factor that played into Anna’s demise – too much held in inventory. It costs money in terms of plant space in order to store quantities of things that aren’t being sold. After a time, items become shelf worn and need to be cleared, even at a slight discount, in order to make more space. But when your inventory isn’t moving, that should be a major indicator that you need to re-order in smaller quantities and at less frequent intervals. It seems someone at Corporate wasn’t using that philosophy.

It’s good that they have been responsible and made arrangements for paying last wages to all of their 2,500 employees.

The question in the back of my mind is how to interview those people to legally screen them for the types of ethical practices one should use in your own business. It would need to be the type of screening administered to every person who applies for and is interviewed for a job with the business and at any rung of the hierarchy of the enterprise. That will take some consideration and conclusions based on decisions from HR, management, and legal departments.

So Anna’s Linens is joining the ranks of many other businesses across the nation and adding to the number of empty building walls abutting one another. Anna’s Linens is closing.

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July 1, 2015

On Your Shoulders

Reliability

Reliability Definition Magnifier Shows Trust Quality And Dependability

Taking responsibility for failure to deliver is essential to reaching maturity. Recognizing when circumstances begin to build toward a failed commitment and making necessary, satisfactory adjustments is essential to having the right leadership ingredients. Those involve planning and foresight. Those involve being able to make contingency plans.

Compensation and resourcefulness are important to remember for the sake of projecting professionalism.

Whatever the dynamic, the “slippage” is not the fault of someone else or something else and responsibility for it is On Your Shoulders. Read more about it in the Career Coach Corner.

June 28, 2015

Compensation

Filed under: Career Tips,Morale — Yvonne LaRose @ 1:37 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Compensation has several definitions. While it can mean the amount of money that’s paid someone for the work that they do, it can also mean making allowances to balance things out.

There are many times when we find ways to put responsibility for shortcomings on the shoulders of others. That is called blaming.

Compensation, on the other hand, is coming up with ways to meet the goal when there aren’t sufficient resources to do it alone. That’s also considered being resourceful. Read more about several prisms of Compensation in the Career Coach Corner.

June 21, 2015

Dispelling Myths: Timeless Lessons

What was the day like on June 20, 1926 in Beggs, Louisiana? Out of curiosity, let us look at a remodeled farm house from that period that’s now standing in present day standards. Simply switch out the dish washer for a stand with a place for a tub, a wood burning stove, and humble plaster on the walls, and you’ve pretty much transported yourself into the time and place. Let us compare and contrast that the updated appearance to that of the period. Consider The Creole Cottage. Aside from the appliances and an abundance of windows, the appointments are not drastically different.

It was the height of the Great Depression and the Summer. By necessity, industry was predominantly agrarian, the house filling with children. There were many hands contributing to the burgeoning amount of work to be done. We’ve gone through several economic revolutions in that time but some things are just as timeless as the cottage.

There were many lessons to be learned and passed on to the next generation. Lessons with regard to business matters and roles of the individual sexes. There were many teachers in many disciplines. But discipline and etiquette were primary for all, no matter what age or race. Abiding to strict rules of protocol and respect was expected of everyone toward their fellow humans. Pre-pubescents did not speak to any adult as though the adult was an inferior, no matter what the race. Likewise, children did not dismiss adults from their presence because the child was through talking to the adult.

Being articulate and well spoken is another trait of the Louisianan. Those skills represent one’s station as well as the status of the family. Expect the candidate from Louisiana to take humble pride in their speaking skills. In fact, don’t be surprised if there’s astonishment at a compliment paid to their articulateness. It’s a matter that’s taken for granted.

Even before there were human resource departments in urban areas and before the establishment of the Social Security system, a form of collective benefits fund in the form of a Creole Social Club was established in order to provide for emergencies. These are resourceful people who do not rely on handouts for survival. It is insulting to characterize them in any inferior way.

Animal husbandry was just part of the daily grind. So, also, was weights and measures and negotiating a fair price. Sundays were spent listening to Grandfather preach. Weekdays were constant exercises of how to speak to others with diplomacy, in a well modulated voice, using reason as the higher bargaining skill in order to negotiate the sought-after goal.

It was Great Depression America. That meant knowing how to be self sufficient. But it also meant having the wisdom to gain favor with all neighbors in case of need or emergency. Which takes us back to communication and persuasion skills. Speak; don’t speak. It takes a discerning mind to know when words are necessary in order to accomplish something and what priority the “something” has with regard to advocating for it.

There were social skills to learn. One realized that no matter who you were, you were an example of your family. That meant being circumspect in all manner of things. To bring shame upon yourself was to bring shame on not only your family but also your neighbors, your community. So being polite, knowing the rules of etiquette, and knowing your place were supremely important for the community to heave together and survive.

Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. Before making judgments about anything, evaluate as much of the situation as possible. Gather all the facts. Judge the person by their acts and deeds and use a point system in order to rank whether they have earned being in your company or if they are begging for exclusion. If the words don’t match the actions, if they don’t have the right number of points, they need to be removed from consideration. Maybe they can redeem theirself sometime in the future. But there are many things that need to be accomplished. Better to not waste time and energy on one who will be a detraction. So keep them on the fringes (maybe) for future consideration and allow them to prove they are worthy of earning trust and inclusion for building resources and skills.

Things have changed since 1926. It’s called modernization and progress. But some things are constant. Before we fall on trusting the generalizations about classes of people, we need to realize that the character of a person and the foundations upon which they were raised are as ingrained in them as their DNA. Take them out of the place of origin and they will resort to the practices that made them who they are. Many are what we desire: circumspect, hard working, discerning, reliable.

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June 7, 2015

Repetition

There's no course on job search

There’s no course on job search

Not long ago I heard a complaint from one of the industry’s more vintage and distinguished recruiters. (I’ll paraphrase.)

“This business would be a lot more interesting if we could get past the how to write a resume and cover letter stuff. And it would be much better if we didn’t spend so much time on how to interview. Why do we have to go through this so much? It should be obvious!”

True enough, it should be obvious to those of us who’ve been around the block several times. But there are a lot of dynamics that are driving the actual need to have this “wisdom” regurgitated on a regular basis. Let’s look at a few of them today.

Babies

For some reason, people keep having babies. Then they send them off to school to learn all the basics – except for how to write a resume and cover letter, how to interview, how to go to work. Somehow, that information is supposed to get distilled before graduation from high school but it doesn’t. So we have these quasi-adults meandering around looking for meaning that’s associated with their existence and wondering where they belong. Some of them get recruited to things such as gangs, sports, lured into competing for a slot on America’s Got Talent or The Voice or any number of other things that bring some form of recognition and prestige. And some of them try to figure out how to get on Survivor or Big Brother. The thing of it is, no one told them they’ll still need to pass the interview to get accepted on the entertainment scene.

We need to keep doing the stories about how to write a resume as well as how to write a cover letter because there are millions added to the next generation on a daily basis. None of them know this and it essentially isn’t taught in school – not middle school, not high school, and sort of in college but that’s a bit late.

Technology

The way we do things in business is constantly evolving. At one time, you just walked into a business and asked whether or not they were hiring. If there was a possibiity of a situation, someone in charge would talk to the person and do some informal screening. Provided the conversation went well, there was a get hired on the spot moment with a start date that ranged from that instant to maybe a couple of days later so that appropriate clothing could be gathered.

Today, things don’t work on the same principle. We’ve stopped walking into the business and asking for work. We’ve, for the most part, even stopped scouring the classifieds for “Situations” because they’re now online at various websites and company Careers sections. Networking sites now offer information about open positions, with details about more specifics.

The rules of the game for submitting applications have also changed. Even with temporary staffing agencies, you now set up an interview time online. Going into the office is a necessity for the sake of completing some of the paperwork and taking the computer administered tests to assess where one’s strongest skills are. (Yes, the screening process is still intact.)

Actually, there’s a very subtle reason for continuing to have the applicant come into the office. Those who show up, and show up on time, have demonstrated an genuine interest in pursuing the opportunity. Those who do not show up, have an excuse about why they aren’t there, are running late, need to reschedule, have lowered their seed position and will need to make a very strong showing when they do get to the office for the in-person screening and interview. And getting into the office is yet another way to evaluate how well the applicant follows instructions.

Fashion

Because we’ve become more accepting of cultural differences, styles that are acceptable for interviewing are beginning to change. What used to be proper attire for Sabbath and not for the office has become appropriate for either venue. How many applicants as well as recruiters and human resource managers are aware of this fashion evolution is still to be determined. However, it is a certainty that finding some lawsuit that challenges failure to hire based on wearing traditional garb will be easy.

En Masse Education

It isn’t always the applicant who needs a verse or so of the hiring mantra. Recruiters could stand a refresher course in what is acceptable. Those who are new to the industry would do well to take time for getting refreshed on what is involved in sourcing, screening, and hiring the right person. Even the government is trying to work out that formula to everyone’s satisfaction. And there’s still the ‘know thy industry’ caveat.

There are a lot of factors that go into the formula for making a successful application for a job. With each advancement in technology, with each new birth each year, there will be more people who need to learn how to apply and more who need to know how to select the right one. Suffice it to say that for each employer or recruiter or manager, there are that many people who have their own idea of who a resume and cover letter should be formatted. It’s all subjective; it takes a lot of sifting in order to get to the standard and then to get to what’s right. And for those who have been at this for a while, it’s important to have refreshers. Today we briefly looked at three aspects of the job search and why these topics keep coming up as repetitious coaching subjects.

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March 22, 2015

Developing Good Mini Habits

Filed under: Career Tips,Education and Training — Yvonne LaRose @ 5:16 AM
Tags: , , ,

There was a recent question posted on Quora where the person wanted to know some “mini habits” that can be practiced everyday for about five minutes. Now that was definitely a good question because it focuses on building in small steps to be more efficient.

Read more of Developing Good Mini Habits in the “Ask Yvonne” folder of Entrances Bulletins.

March 18, 2015

Fitting into the Environment

Having a good relationship with the co-workers (whether autonomous work or team) is important. Being mindful of how all of the processes fit together to create a cohesive whole unit is useful for making sense of the job and what you do there. Getting along with your co-workers means you have the rapport to be considered part of the team.

Read more of Fitting into the Environment on Career Coach Corner.

December 24, 2014

When in the Course

Filed under: Career Advancement,Career Tips,Management — Yvonne LaRose @ 8:12 PM
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Maybe you’re also a fan of The Amazing Race, a TV reality show that has contestants conquer tests and obstacles around the world in order to win $1,000,000 (in addition to various segment prizes).

A few years ago, a middle-aged couple had the task of counting beads and reporting to the gatekeeper the number they’d reached. Mind you, there was a factory room filled with these beads. Just the sight of them would make your head swim. Counting them, while daunting by the sheer volume, was doable. The husband of the middle-aged team began counting. He kept getting the wrong number and had to begin again. In one clip, there was a record of his losing count by ten beads.

So it goes when you’re standing alone and dealing with an overwhelming amount of content. Things need to be brought into perspective. Things need to be organized into manageable chunks. Some things need to be delegated, if possible, to teams that have more hands, more ideas about how to effectively organize things, more experience in managing the scope of the project.

Sometimes it doesn’t really matter where you start nor what you choose to put first. It’s simply a matter getting an idea of how to organize the project and then choosing what will be the first line of attack. Just stick your hand into the mosh and make it the starting point. There are many great examples of dealing with the jumbled chaos of a huge project.

Bringing order from chaos.

Bringing order from chaos. (from Kozzi.com)

There will be times when the greatest distraction proves to be external circumstances that need to be resolved before starting the project. If they’re ignored, they prove to be like an elephant in a 4 x 3 room. Every time you try to do something, you find yourself bumping into a blockage. Clear up some of the distractions. Take care of the external; resolve it. Handling it in small bite-sized chunks won’t do because it’s still there being a distraction that needs to be settled. It’s like a burr in your shoe. Just not having it waiting in the wings will be a relief and free your mind to focus on what needs to be done.

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December 15, 2014

Detours

Filed under: Career Advancement,Management — Yvonne LaRose @ 6:15 PM
Tags: , , , ,

As we look at the close of a year of striving to fulfill our desires of reaching our goals, as we consider the steps necessary to do something about turning the goals into accomplishments, there are a few other things we need to examine and ask.

Are you guilty of taking the road less traveled?

Quandaries of the road less traveled.

Quandaries of the road less traveled.

There was this detour sign on my road. I took the detour and kept the map. Then there was another detour so I took it and kept the map. A whole bunch of detours kept coming up and I kept taking them while keeping the map.

Now the map is weather worn, travel worn, and just worn and there’s this new detour sign in front of me. I’ll admit it; I’m lost. So now I have a few questions for you and for me:

  • Just when do I get back to the highway?
  • Where the heck is it or did it run out?
  • What happened to my map?
  • Do you still have yours?

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November 28, 2014

Attitude Adjustment

It takes a lot of nerve to be controlling and to marginalize another. But it happens. Those measures are used to discourage what could be perceived as competition or merely one who has a better edge that will result in dampening the esteem of the controller.

Controlled Identity

Controlled Identity

On closer inspection, the lack of control and authority will be discovered. The control, manipulation, and threats of various types are simply masks used to play on one’s vulnerabilities that were discovered during harmless interaction. When the source of the discouragement is discovered, it’s easily overcome. There are several effective techniques. A few will be discussed today.

A simple objection to the impediment will result in attempting to create guilt. The goal is to shame one into accepting the pressure. Ignoring the pressure is not an effective way to handle it. It’s important to acknowledge the subterfuge in a very subtle way. To do more would be overkill. Tactfully brushing aside the attempt to plant fear or doubt by talking about the ineffectiveness of cowering in fear or avoidance tactics doesn’t help one reach the goal.

Avoid making accusations of attempted harm. The result will be aggravation of an already negative situation. However, do not cave to accepting the abuse. Speak softly; be assertive. Say “no” in an indirect way, such as, “That doesn’t seem like a good option. I think I’ll try something else.” It isn’t necessary to define what “something else” is. In fact, being abstract can work as well; simply say you haven’t thought of an alternative you want to use just yet. It will take a little more consideration of the circumstances.

Getting upset and losing control is a sign of weakness. It also lowers one’s professional image (unless, of course, you’re in a drama). If you’re not delivering an emotion-packed motivational speech or not in a dramatic play, losing your temper is not effective for talking through the sticking point. Point out what is unacceptable and refuse to accept it as your normal.

These are just a few ways to avert being stopped or have your growth retarded while others pass you in attaining a similar goal. Get an attitude adjustment. Assert yourself. Then be glad of yet another opportunity to rise to being yourself.

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