When I was a kid growing up on our dairy farm in Thunder Bay, Ontario, we also had about 25 acres of potatoes and a couple hundred chickens. The potatoes and eggs produced were sold to the local Safeway, a couple of corner stores, two restaurants, and a bakery, plus we had a route of home delivery customers.
My job was to grade the spuds and fill the 10 pound bags and wash, weigh, and grade the eggs. My dad told me that when filling the potato bags, throw in one extra potato when the scale said 10 pounds, and when weighing the eggs, make sure that they were well over the margin for medium, large, and extra large.
When I suggested we were throwing away good money by doing this, he told me that our job was to serve the customer and to always give the customer just a bit more than they were expecting. If we made the customer our focus, the money would come. More importantly, we would earn their trust and make them our friends.
And they did become friends. I remember many of our home delivery customers keeping in touch for some years after we stopped doing the potatoes and eggs route.
Some time after high school, I got a job in retail sales in a large tire company store. I served as a floor sales person, service coordinator, commercial sales manager, and office manager during my six-year stint there.
When I started with the firm, the focus was on customer service. The customer came first and our job was to make sure they were satisfied when leaving the store. Some even became friends—a few were police officers and their friendship saved me a few speeding tickets.
Things changed during my third year at the store. Head office got new management whose focus was profit. All of the staff literature slowly changed from a focus on customer service to a focus on profitability.
Customers went from being someone to serve to someone to profit from. No more freebies when a full set of tires were bought—everything was charged.
This new focus changed the relationship to the point where I felt I needed to quit. Not surprisingly, the company failed some years later and was taken over by another firm.
After getting married, going back to school, and graduating with my degree, I started my career as a CLAC representative. My focus was on the membership and how I could best serve their needs.
CLAC’s focus continues to be on our members. How can we, given what CLAC stands for, serve our members’ best interests? We want the work our members do to be not just a job paying the bills but a job that provides meaning. We view the workplace as a community of people who provide a service to society—and do so with pride in their work.
One thing I have come to learn in my more than 70 years is that success can be measured in ever so many ways. During my career as a CLAC rep, I measured my success by how well I was able to serve the members for whom I was responsible.
For me, the world is a better place when we look out for and serve one another—rather than serving our own ego and needs. When companies focus not just on profit but serving their customers, when managers focus on serving their employees so they can do their jobs to the best of their ability, when employees focus their work on the recipient of their labour, then to me the world is a better place.