22 Jan The Blessing of a 2 Hours’ Notice
At 1:45pm on a recent Friday, I was getting ready to leave work and head to O’Hare to catch my flight to Miami, where I would be spending five days with my business mastermind group, Zing Train Round Table.
(This is a group of small business owners who have supported me unconditionally for the past two years – and vice versa. If you’re curious to know what they’re all about, check out the list at the bottom of this post.)
My suitcase was empty at home still, unprepared to leave freezing Illinois behind. Just as I was about to hop on a last-minute call with my tech support company, my Office Manager (who had only been with MMD for about five weeks at that point) sitting directly across from me, looking extremely nervous. “I need to tell you something,” she stammered, “and you’re going to be really mad.”
“Tell me,” I responded, feeling my throat go dry. “Today is my last day here,” she informed me. Her face was bright red, and wouldn’t make eye contact. And who could blame her? She was literally giving me two hours’ notice!! Not two weeks. Not two days. Two measly hours. I was pissed – but what could I do? It was at that moment my gut feeling was confirmed: our Office Manager was not a good culture fit for MMD.
I sighed in frustration – admittedly, at myself as much as at her. Out of respect for the employee, I’m not going to go into detail, but the red flags were there, and I was in denial. I would drive home at night and wonder how this person was going to be part of MMD. How was this person’s energy affecting the small team that we have? Was it going to be possible for her to get to a place where she could thrive at MMD, and really start to know her own worth, like our other staff members? Her energy just wasn’t in sync with the rest of us, and giving two hours’ notice was a pretty clear indication of that. No other MMD staffer would do something like that if they had decided to leave the company.
I realize now that the culture we have at MMD is actually very difficult to integrate into. We have staff members who have left, and who are now out in the world with fond memories of working at MMD. I know this because they stop in for visits, or text me during the holidays just to say “hi.” MMD is a culture of selflessness, doing the right thing vs. the profitable things at times, a very open environment where family comes first, a place where innovation enhances the bottom line, a place of fun, and a place of working smart, not hard.
We are a down-to-earth, friendly bunch who own up to our mistakes with each other and customers… and believe me, we make many of these throughout the year. I do all the hiring, and I love my millennials… cell phones and all! It feels good to introduce them to the working world, teaching them about structure, finance, and fun in the workplace.
MMD is a place that cultivates relationships between existing and new staff regardless of age, race, gender, etc. Needless to say, not everyone is comfortable with the transparency and personal responsibility that I ask for from our staff, but those who are, turn out to be the absolute best coworkers I could possibly ask for. They end up having an awesome experience that sets the tone for their future careers. #teammmd
So back to the Friday when I was given two hours’ notice by my Office Manager. I was a mess going to the airport, beating myself up about the mistake of hiring someone who wasn’t a good fit. Thankfully, knowing that my delivery driver Paul would be running the office for 3 days in my absence gave me a sense of calm, because Paul is GREAT with customers.
With only 30 minutes before I had to leave for the airport, Paul and I came up with a plan that focused on him being OK running the office first, and making sure our customers were taken care of second. Because Paul and I can do every job at MMD, we were able to throw together this plan with minutes to spare. Now that I’m back from Miami, I’m proud to tell you that the plan was successfully executed. Paul truly saved the day. #paulrocks
Now for the silver lining. The good thing about the timing of my Office Manager’s departure was that it gave me something fresh to bounce off of the other members of my Zing Train Round Table. While in Miami, my fellow Round Tablers told me many stories of similar situations they’d found themselves in, and I feel privileged to have had the chance to hear them. It was amazing to be surrounded by business owners who care about culture. It reminded me that I’m not alone in this, and I’m not on an island!
… Which brings me to my final point for this post. I realize that not everyone is familiar with the notion of “culture fit” in the workplace. I’ll say more about this in future posts, but for now, I’ll just touch on what a good culture fit looks like.
I have a fiftysomething male delivery driver (AKA Paul) who shows up on time every day to work, has a positive attitude (even when it’s freezing out), cares about other staff members and customers, and communicates with me openly so that I always know what’s going on with him professionally (and more importantly, personally).
I also have a 19-year-old female recycling manager who possesses the exact same personality traits. When I go into work, I see their smiling faces, and if they’re not smiling, we’ve already had a conversation about what is going on via phone call or text. They know I have their backs, and I know they have mine. That’s a good culture fit. It’s about reciprocity and realness. And of course, recycling (www.flatcanrecycling.com). 🙂
In closing, I believe I was blessed by receiving 2 hours’ notice – and even by the shitstorm it caused. My Office Manager quitting unexpectedly corrected a major error in culture fit that was never going to work in the long term, and that ultimately, could have damaged what we’ve built with MMD. That being said, if you know anyone who possesses the qualities I’ve talked about in this post, please have them a) read this post, and b) contact me if they’re interested in working small with a crew of great people who seem like they’re “just” selling surveying supplies, but who are actually changing the world, one wooden survey stick at a time.