Today was a long day.
Realistically, every day is a long day. Even the “half-day” I spend at the shop most Saturdays seems long. But no matter how long they may seem, weekdays still seem longer.
I’m at the shop and working by 6:30 in the morning and almost never leave before 6:30 in the evening. Despite what you may think, the hours don’t really bother me. I like what I do — most days.
Anyone with an aftermarket address already knows that some hours have lots more than 60 minutes. Some hours are longer and more difficult than others. And today was filled with a bunch of them.
I couldn’t really tell you what went wrong or what failed to go right, unless I exercised a little editorial license and made a bunch of stuff up. I’m not above that. In fact, that is exactly what I had to do when my kids were little and asked what I did for the 12 hours I was at the shop and I couldn’t come up with a “real” answer.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell them what I did that day. I couldn’t.
It wasn’t that I was ashamed of what I did, either. I wasn’t ashamed then, and I’m certainly not ashamed now.
It was just that by the end of a day spent the way you spend yours or I spend mine, one crazy event bleeds into another until you’re standing knee deep in a kind of “Absence of Sanity” stew.
I wish today was such a day — a blurry, bleary-eyed day of not much more than reacting. But it wasn’t. Today, the problems were as clear and unpleasant as they were obvious. The solutions weren’t all that difficult to distinguish either. They just turned out to be as uncomfortable and unpleasant as they were easy to identify.
There isn’t much that can be said for a day that ends with having to let someone go. It is perhaps the most difficult thing a small business owner may have to confront, especially, in an economy like this, especially if the person you have to let go has a family. But that’s exactly how I ended this day, unless, of course, you count the customer who came to pick up his vehicle as we were closing the gate. He wanted to hang out and “chat” while everyone around him was trying desperately to clean up and go home.
That “extra” half-hour, 45 minutes, would have been difficult enough had the half-hour or 45 minutes that preceded it been filled with anything other than the realization that I had no choice other than to end someone’s employment here. Those hours might have been moderately tolerable if I didn’t have to write a final pay check or explain how or why things didn’t work out the way I’d hoped they might just a few short weeks ago. But under the circumstances, that just wasn’t an option. And that’s what was and still is driving me crazy!
There is a recession going on. It’s made all the papers. It’s even been on television. California is dealing with the highest unemployment we’ve seen in decades.
People are out of work, facing lay-offs or just plain scared and we were hiring! I’m not naïve. I am not without experience. I know I can’t motivate someone to do a good job or even to any job at all. I know the individual must want to work. Motivation is all about what’s inside.
I try to hire for attitude, not just for aptitude. I know I can train the right person for ability later on. I also know that if it is the right person, more than likely I won’t have to. They will seek out the training themselves. But, to have a “trained professional” sit on their dignity waiting for someone to tell them what to or when to do it when everyone around them is trying like hell to get things done is maddening. Then to have them fail? Well, that’s just plain unacceptable.
There isn’t room for that kind of attitude in an economy like this. Frankly, I’m not sure there has ever been room for that kind of an attitude anywhere and at any time. And maybe that’s the message. Maybe that’s the point.
If you’re working, recognize the fact that you’re lucky to be working. If you don’t believe me, ask someone who isn’t. Ask someone who wants a job and can’t find one. And, if you are working, don’t screw it up.
Do the best you can. Be the best you can. Try as hard as you can for as long as you can. Make it obvious. Make it clear. Let the guy you work for and the people you work with know that you appreciate the opportunity you’ve been given.
Don’t force someone, someone like me, to end his day the way I had to end mine.
I got home after 7, got washed up and found myself standing in front of the barbecue grilling a couple of burgers as I tried to work my way backward through a very long, very trying day. My wife smiled, slid the screen door open and joined me on the patio.
“How was your day, honey? What happened? Who was in? Who’d you talk to?”
I turned my head and just looked at her for a moment. Then I did the only thing I could think of: I started to make stuff up. I tried to create the kind of day she wanted to hear about, not the kind I had.
Mitch Schneider co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, CA. Readers can contact him at [email protected]