In my teens I worked for Winn Dixie. It was the grocery store that was closest to my house. I started out as a cart/bagger boy and I also stocked shelves when I wasn’t busy doing those things. At the time it was a job. A great job too. It allowed me to buy my first car and enjoy my youth even more, because it provided me money. I can remember doing this job with excellence and doing it well, but I did it because I wanted what it provided me. Not because I really cared about the purpose of the job and how it served the company and people.
Fast forward to today. Some 20 years later. I run into Robert at the coffee shop. If I am being honest. Robert kind of interrupted my morning. Well, not kind of. He totally hijacked it. And guess what? I let him.
Robert works at the local Kroger store in my neighborhood. Robert was having his coffee this morning. He had just wrapped up his shift at the local Kroger in my neighborhood. Until this morning I had seen Robert in the coffee shop and after talking this morning, I can now remember seeing him in Kroger as well. He works third shift at Kroger and he has worked there for twenty years. I am not sure if he has stocked shelves the entire twenty years he has been there, but stocking the shelves is truly his passion.
Robert came up to me this morning with his Kroger shirt and khakis on and just started talking to me about the coffee shop. This led into him telling me a story about his shift that he had just worked. This story then led him to tell me countless stories about his job.
So what did I learn from Robert:
Pride: Robert apparently kind of owns the aisle in Kroger that has the coffee in it. I told him that I am familiar that aisle because I buy a lot of tea. He didn’t have much to say about tea, he had a lot to say about coffee though. As I look back on my stocking days I can’t remember ever feeling the kind of ownership over an aisle that Robert did. But it is something we can all learn from him. You must take pride in your work and own it.
Attention to detail: Robert asked me this question: Now as a former stock boy myself, I am proud to say I had a close guess. Robert said how many facings (for those not familiar with stocking shelves. A facing is how many items can a store shelf hold that a customer can see facing them) do you think the coffee aisle has? My guess was 1000. He gave me credit and said your are close. It is 438. As you might guess facings are very very important in the grocery business. He went on to tell me that unfortunately the coffee area where all of the single cup (I am guessing Keurig type coffee) can only hold six items at a time. And apparently these items move very quickly. It is his job and his counterparts job on the other shifts to ensure that those stay full all day long, because as Robert said. People want their coffee and people want their flavor and it is his job to make sure they get it.
He then asked mow how many different Fancy Feast cat foods do I think there are. I said I don’t have a clue. Answer: 37. We both agreed that neither one of us understood why there were that many. Roberts attention to detail, as illustrated above is something I think we can all learn something from. The details matter. When we pay attention to the details we can ensure our jobs get done with excellence and effectiveness. I am sure Kroger sells more because of Roberts attention to detail. I am sure the customers are happier. It is a win-win.
Serving people: As I stated before. When I was stocking shelves, it was really about me and making money to support my life. Roberts approach is different. I heard it the whole time I was talking with him. He said “people want their coffee”, “people want the flavor that they like”, “People have cats that like certain flavors”, “when I stack these items this way, they won’t run out by the time I come back in and restock”. He never once said anything about himself or the company. It was all about people and Cats. I learned a lesson from Robert and it is a lesson we all have to remember. When we serve people first, everything else will work out.
Thank you Robert for your time and your story this morning.
To your success and your future.