Best Job in the World
Every day people tell me that I have the best job in the world. They wish that they could just spend all day playing with guns. Well for the most part, I must agree. I do have a fantastic job. But I think that things need a little clarification. People need to see behind the scenes of the engine that keeps their favorite “hangout” running. So, here it goes…
I usually arrive in the store no less than 1.5 hours before we open to wrap up any leftover freight from the day prior, take care of processing payments and paperwork, checking the salesfloor for merchandise that needs ordered/organized, building & processing orders, assigning job duties for the staff when they arrive, responding to emails & social media questions/comments, while also trying to eat something and make sure that I have a worklist created for myself as well. I’m getting older and just can’t remember everything like I used to. Also, some things just won’t get done if I don’t look at them on my list 50 times first.
Once we open, the real job starts. We are not a giant “big-box” retailer with 40,000 square feet and 100 employees assisting customers. We just have our little sub 3K square foot building and 7 employees (Usually 3 working at any given time) with smiling faces ready to help. On an average day we probably assist between 50 – 80 customers. Probably 10 – 15 of these customers are “daily regulars” (Some people also refer to them as “Fudds”). They are wonderful people with fascinating stories and histories and quite often they are a wealth of knowledge. But it is a special skill that is developed over time, in how to provide them with excellent service while also determining and making them understand that you just happen to have other customers. The average firearm customer spends approximately 1 hour with at least one member of the staff before making a purchase or going home to do further research. The “daily regular” spends about the same amount of time, sometimes multiple times during a day, with at least one member of the staff informing them of what all our competitors have in stock, how well they shot at the range, what a disappointment the last gun show was, how much better the soldiers were when they were in, how the government is lying to us, cell phones are teaching our kids instead of teachers, the lady who runs their HOA is trying to ruin their life and how they cant drink coffee after 4pm or they will be up all night long going to the bathroom. Don’t get me wrong. These guys are some of our favorite people. They are kind, generous, folks with giant hearts. And, they do have some of the best stories I have ever heard. Once, we even had a customer complain to us that we know more about his dad than anyone in his family because he hasn’t ever talked to them. Apparently, he just felt that we had way more interest in what he had to say.
During the day, I try to spend at least half of it at the sales counter assisting customers and employees and working to create orders on my computer. I think this is probably the most important part of the day because it allows time for training and reinforcing our customer service model. I try to keep close to the computer or my phone so that I can be very responsive to emails & social media as it pertains to business. Some of the distributor’s inventory is very sensitive and time is of the essence. If you place something in your shopping cart it doesn’t necessarily hold it for you, or if it does, there is a time limit. So as I am building order, I am often on a timeline. But I believe customer service always comes first. So, when a customer approaches, I stop what I am doing to assist them. Often this leads to me losing out on the products I had in my cart, and I must start over again. This happens multiple times per day, and it is a constant struggle to ensure that I keep my shelves full, and my customer orders satisfied.
The second part of the day is spent in my office where I focus on our social media, advertising, research of new products, learning new skills/programs, working on content, networking and community involvement. In addition to regular store operations, we are very active in the community. We attend many events in support of local organizations. Most of these events are held during the weekends and evenings. And while it isn’t hard work by any means, these events do tie up what would normally be personal time and usually demand a significant amount of customer service skills. Your average customer doesn’t stop being your customer when you see them out in the wild. They have just as many questions, comments and requests. Only now, you have no way of looking up all the answers or keeping note of the requests. But I find that community involvement leads to the biggest boost in new customers. And, if you treat those folks right, they will be some of the most loyal.
Anyone who knows me personally, especially my family, knows that I never stop working or trying to improve something in myself or the business. My wife fully expects me to spend 15 minutes talking with random strangers on every isle at the grocery store, or explaining why someone’s background check hasn’t been approved for their suppressor while we are sitting at dinner. I really do have the most patient, amazing wife (No, she didn’t make me say that). Even while I’m sitting on my porch with a glass of whisky and a cigar, I’ve got my phone ready to respond to an email or comment. I don’t like to wait all day for a response so, I try to treat my customers how I like to be treated myself.
Running a small business means that most times you can’t just hire a new employee for everything. So, I start my day off as the freight, operations, loss prevention and administrative manager, spend the second part of the day as the advertising/marketing & social media manager, and all the time I have left is spent being the company spokesperson, HR, public relations, customer service support and putting out whatever fires might arise. I never stop building the Umpqua Survival brand. When people see our logo or hear our name, what is the first thing that comes to mind? How do our customers describe us to others? Those questions haunt my thoughts every minute of every day. I guess running a small business isn’t for everyone. But I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
By Carlos Ortegon