It can be a bumpy run!

Life has it’s bumps. It’s hurdles. Obstacles. Whatever you choose to call them. My feeling has always been that if you never have a bad day you cannot really appreciate a truly great day. If life was a string of one great day after another then wouldn’t “great” quickly become “average”?

That’s what it is like around here sometimes. You want everything to go smooth all the time with a business and as an employee. But then it would just be the same mediocre existence day after day. Right? I cannot answer that because it is not smooth every day. It is a bumpy ride. Some days still are better than others.

Does it have to be like that? Maybe not. Maybe a business can go through growing pains and it can have a history of days. And we can then have all great days here if we remember how it used to be when it wasn’t this good. Maybe Perspective might just be the key?

I don’t know but I would like to find out some day. In the mean time I believe that trying to constantly improve is important. It is my own personal and professional goal for sure.

And we do surely try to improve every day.  How do we determine how well we are doing? What are the measuring sticks? let’s look at a few things that might be indicators.

Boot Satisfaction. Do people find that they love their boots after buying them here? I think we are pretty good there. Fifteen years ago we sold 400- 500 pairs of boots per year. Lot’s of them came back for additional work after being skied. Enough that we would work on a dozen or more pairs after work some days. A few dozen pairs would end up being traded out for entirely different models or different sizes because we couldn’t get them to fit well. Last year we sold about 1400 pairs of boots. We swapped out six pairs. That is a little less than one half of one percent. We work on a few pairs a week to modify and improve them. The rest seem to simply be out there on happy feet. High scores for boot satisfaction.

Yelp. Not scoring quite as high here. We were all 5 star reviews for a long time. I still remember the first “bad review” we got. It was very upsetting. Now our score has dropped to 4 stars over all. We have several bad reviews. Actually a number of them from last spring alone. Still very painful and upsetting, but I have learned that it simply happens. The Yelp service people have talked me off the ledge a few times when I felt we were being unfairly judged. But I must admit that many of the complainers have a valid point. We are not perfect and as it gets busier each year, we make more mistakes and use poor judgement from time to time. Room for improvement on Yelp.

General business in terms of dollars and cents. Well if you measure in gross dollars alone we are doing well here too. At 29 years old we are doing three times the gross business we were after the first 10 years. We have been on a steady growth rate the whole time. After adjustments for inflation and the like we still look good. Profitability is different than gross revenue. I could do a better job being more profitable but I can only say that all my problems are “first world” ones. I am not going hungry, and I didn’t get into this line of work to make a lot of money. I did it because I am passionate about it.

Fun meter. Are we having more fun? Well that is a hard one to measure – and super important! On the one hand there is more stress as we have a lot more pressure to get a LOT of work done in this little building. It is more crowded and more intense in the store on a busy weekend than it used to be. We have gone from 7 to over 30 employees in the last 15 years. We used to have two boot fitters on staff. Now we can have 8 working on any given day mid winter. We have more titles, job descriptions and other “corporate” type stuff going on. Someone is “in charge” of rentals. Heck we have an I.T. person on staff. Monthly management meetings? Really? Yup.

But we have enjoyed it too. Change and challenge are good. It keeps us on our toes. We still have the same type of eclectic employees. There are just more of them. A cool thing is that we are now on the radar of the brands we sell. We get to do a lot of prototype testing on boots and skis. We don’t pay
for the gear and we get to keep it- always nice. They also pay for us to go to meetings (many times with their European counterparts) for retailer feedback. These meetings happen in places like Jackson, Park City or Austria. Skiing is always involved. That is a heck of a job perk. We may or may not be any better at what we do, but we seem to be getting more recognition due to a long track record and sales numbers that are noticeable to the big wigs. Fun meter is probably a draw. I loved my job then and I love it now. It’s just different.

Job satisfaction. Awesome scores here. I get to deal with most of the problems. so I see that stuff. It happens most weeks that I need to deal with some sort of customer feedback that involves a complaint of some manner. It is minor though compared to the warm fuzzy stuff. Customers are constantly letting me know how happy they are with whomever they got help from. It happens every day. The staff here is simply great. That is a wonderful feeling and it happens about 20 times more often than any negative stuff. I tell people often that I love my job I mean it.

And most days I get to sit down and introduce myself to someone that needs boots. A few hours later I put their feet into the chosen boots for a final time after doing what I do to make them fit great. And after slipping them onto their feet, I look up. And I wait for it. And there it is- a twinkle in the eye followed by a big smile. And I know what they feel. And I smile back. And that is why I come to work in the morning.

I always did like the bumps!

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