What Amazing Leadership Looks Like - A Thank You to My First Ever Retail Manager "Namroo"
Mar 21, 2023
I had a couple of quite negative experiences last night. One I have to continue to deal with sometime today. However, I want to start the day on a positive note with sharing a story about the amazing person who was my first retail manager, Namroo. The story starts with how he asked me to work at the local Hasty Market corner store when I was in middle school.
During middle school, my family would frequently eat at the local Italian restaurant that was in the strip mall just a few minutes walk from our home. One day the owner asked me if I wanted to work as a waitress on the weekends. I jumped at the opportunity to make even more money than I was in my Toronto Star paper route.
However, when I gave him back the new employee tax paperwork he realized I had just turned 13. That was years too young to waitress in a restaurant that served beer and wine. I'm tall and had already reached my adult height of 5'8", so he thought I was in grade 13, not starting grade 8. He felt so bad about the mistake that he still gave me a job bussing tables and washing dishes. I also got free pasta on breaks!
There was a Hasty Market corner shop in the same strip mall that was very popular with local kids and teens as well as families. (For those that don't know the brand, Hasty Market is a chain of convenience stores in Ontario. They tend to have a much wider range of products than the typical "corner shop" and are more like a mini grocery store.) Most have fresh produce, deli, hot food, baked goods, magazines and paperback books as well as the typical convenience shop stock like junk food, lotto, tobacco, and a bank machine.
One day when I was picking up something at Hasty Market after working at the Italian restaurant, the store manager Namoo asked me if I'd like a job there. He needed some help on the weekends and had been talking to the Italian restaurant owner, who said it was ok if he offered me a job at Hasty Market. The restaurant still needed a new waitstaff. So the next weekend I started my first retail job.
I was expecting to just be sweeping and mopping floors and cleaning up. I was in middle school after all. Instead, this amazing man with over 40 years of retail management experience treated me like an apprentice. I got trained on every single last part of grocery retail, as well as general retail skills. Before even starting high school Namroo had taught me:
- Cash register operation including taking end of day readings
- Cash handling
- Credit card processing and how to interpret the card numbers
- Opening and closing store procedures
- Reconciling receipts and doing bank deposits
- Inventory and stock rotation
- Loss prevention - anti-shoplifting, preventing stock damage, and how to calculate "shrink"
- Safe food handling
- Tobacco and lotto sales laws
- Customer service and sales and that the best customer service helps the good customers, while at the same time prevents shoplifting
- Emergency and safety procedures
- Even eventually helping train new staff
I was having so much fun being given such an unexpected education and level of responsibility that I didn't want to take my breaks. But Namroo made me take them. Most times he made sure that I knew the importance of getting some fresh air and relaxing. He also helped me become less shy and more confident. Anyone who knows me now finds it hard to believe I was ever terrified to speak in public and was extremely shy. (I used to hide my face behind my long auburn red hair so people couldn't make eye contact. Though it was hard to hide as a tall redhead!). Now I'm totally fine with speaking to any size group of people, and love meeting new people and helping them.
What he did for me went even further. My sweet Border Collie Rough Collie cross Mittens had to be put to sleep because she was so sick with a degenerative nerve disease. We went everywhere together. I was supposed to work that weekend. But when Namroo saw me he gave me my pay check, sent me home and said he was still going to pay me for the weekend. Then I lost my pay check (I don't loose things. I still have my Social Insurance card from middle school - with the bubbly signature). Namroo replaced it.
I worked at Hasty Market until the beginning of grade 9 when Namroo retired. I got a job at a new 50s 60s diner style restaurant "Blueberry Hill" with another great manager/owner Jeff an entrepreneur from South Africa. Namroo set the bar really high for what an amazing leader looks like. I've been fortunate to have had a series of great managers in the retail jobs I held throughout high school and university, as well as now to help pay the bills while I'm switching careers.
What He Helped Me Achieve
Here's what Namroo helped me to achieve since he treated me like an apprentice in middle school:
- I was the only seasonal staff at The Body Shop kept on as permanent after the holiday season in grade 11.
- By the time I was 16 I was supervising retail staff
- I've always had the highest, or one of the highest sales records due to the customer service skills Namroo taught me (as well as the Kiwi culture of helping others and being friendly)
- A soccer mom at The Body Shop made me cry when she told me I'm become part of her family's Christmas.
- I was offered the store manager (not assistant manager) position at The Body Shop in Calgary before the start of my second year of university
- I was a key holder at several places during university
- When I applied at Godiva Chocolates in their flagship store in Yorkville for a summer job they offered me the assistant manager position. (Which I couldn't take because I was in university.)
- I had the highest customer email capture in the district when I worked at Old Navy in Burlington in 2009-2010*. The district manager had a meeting with me to figure out what I was doing and she implemented it at all the shops. (I took a partial break from special ed as I'd lost a student to an overdose.)
Loblaws 2021 - Present
I've been working part-time at Loblaws then the Loblaw Companies franchise City Market since I finished university courses in 2021. It's helped pay the bills as I work on my frontend web development skills. But it's not "just a job". Food is essential! It's a way to help people and have some in person time after years of online grad and postgrad courses in New Zealand from here in Toronto. Yet again, the impact of what Namroo taught me is showing though:
At my first Loblaws store I ended up driving the stores metrics for positive customer service surveys.
On February 2nd, 2022 I saw some code showing in the PC Optimum iOS app:
“Get excited. /nGet more points. Earn extra points during Points Days. /nOnly until February 2!”
So I sent a LinkedIn message saying "Your code is showing!" and screenshots to a couple of the Loblaws iOS team and Navati Jain, iOS Engineer and Leadership Fellow at WomenWhoCode Mobile replied. We've been in touch ever since. I've sent her some feedback from customers, promoted the app to customers by giving a face to the people who make the app, and we just finally met for coffee.
I transferred to City Market last summer because it's walking distance from my home and do self checkout. But instead of just sitting there, I actually talk to the customers and have gotten to know many of them. It's both a nice thing to do, as well as a way to decrease theft and fraud.
Here's a few of the many comments customers have sent in. I wouldn't have had the confidence to be so outgoing and help these people if it hadn't been for Namroo:
"Liz goes above and beyond every day. She's extremely attentive; not only will she be there to help before the blinking light tells her I need ti, but she will even anticipate needs, such as offering bags if she sees I don't have them. She makes great recommendations about products I haven't tried based on my purchases, especially when it comes to cat related products. She let's me know about relevant sales and important store announcements; for example when the store was getting rid of plastic bags she made sure I knew ahead of time so I could remember to bring bags next time. She's always friendly and helpful and deserves to be commended for doing her job so well." March 20, 2023.
"Liz! she was great, helpful and understanding and most importantly patient. As a newcomer to Canada, this was an excellent welcome." February 13, 2023
"Liz. She was amazing at helping a struggling single mother like myself talk to my child while mommy was having a breakdown! She is amazing!!!!" November 14, 2022
Note: Screenshots and pictures printouts of these comments from the Loblaws system are either on my LinkedIn under Work Experience, or will be uploaded this week.
So thank you Namroo for both everything you taught me and how kind you were when my dog Mittens died!