Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm A Company Gal

I used to work at Pottery Barn Kids. No, I used to live Pottery Barn Kids. I was one of the original hires before the Manhattan Beach store opened. I was hired July 10, 2002 and the store opened July 20, 2002. I LOVED my store. I would talk about it to anyone - how amazing the management was, what high quality the products were, how MY company, MY store was such a great place to work. I worked there for that summer, then left for college 70 miles away. I knew I was coming back to work the Winter Holidays and so I signed up for the catalog. Sent to my dorm mailbox. Pottery Barn KIDS. Who knows what they thought... But when I went back, I knew all the prices and all the new products and I knew what kind of wood the Kendall bed was made of, too. I knew everything. Which is pretty much the most comfortable position Katie can ever be in. :)

After winter break, I went back to school and then! It was summer! Time to go back to work! Halfway through that summer, I made the decision to NOT go back to UC Riverside and to stay at home for school. So, I kept working. About a year and a half later, I was promoted from sales associate to Customer Service Associate (CSA) and wow, how I loved that power! I'm a power girl, a manager, someone who thrives in inside information and access to the boss. I became incredibly good friends with my managers (technically an inappropriate relationship) but guys, I was also SO good at my job. I knew customers by name, knew their kids' names. I knew their bedding choices! I knew SKUs by heart and if you needed a price, you asked me. If you couldn't find something, you asked me. If you had no idea what you were doing, you asked me.

In late November 2005, a few days before Thanksgiving, I was promoted to manager! It was exactly what I needed then - less time with my family and more at work. I woke up every morning happy and energized! I LOVED meetings and brainstorming, budgeting, making schedules, coaching associates. Somebody once said to me (in spite), "You're a great middle manager." You know what? Middle managers - good ones - are the backbone of an organization. Our moods, our ideas, our designs, all of these things could make or break a day/week/month. If I was excited to be at work, so were my associates. If I came up with an innovative way to inform my team about new products or promotions, we all reaped the benefits - the team, me and the company. PBK is not commision-based, so the joy my associates felt when making a big sale was genuine. They wanted to contribute to their company and I like to think more of it was that they had just helped somebody.

We found great joy in helping someone complete their dream nursery, or finding the perfect gift for their new niece. Sometimes we knew about the baby before Dad did, because Mom stopped in on her way home from the Doctor to buy a silver rattle she was going to put on Dad's dinner plate. Sometimes, we helped divorced dads create new home-y rooms for their daughters and I swear I taught a kid to read. When I worked there, PBK was a fun, amazing place - to shop in and to work. When they partnered with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, I made it MY cause. I bought candy, soda, and snacks at Costco and sold it in the breakroom for a profit. All of that money went to our registers as St. Jude donations. I told my dad I didn't want a Christmas present in 2006 because I'd rather have a donation to my store. He showed up the next week with a check for $2,000. Our store raised over $15,000 alone for St. Jude.

In the summer of 2007, things started changing. Management began leaving, Christine got her teaching degree, Renee moved to the new Apple store, Ricky left to write the great American novel, Amy was on a never-ending maternity leave and Toni was moving to Florida. I didn't like the direction the store was moving in and I didn't think the new management had the same ideals that I associated with MY company.

It's still MY store and I haven't worked there in more than 2 years. I built that store - literally - and I grew up in that store. I was freshly 17 when hired and almost every important thing in my life occurred while I worked within those walls. I rarely go to the Manhattan Beach Mall anymore (it's tiny and geared mostly towards women with small kids), but when I do, I involuntarily glance at the window decorations and notice the quik-ties, the dust, the lopsided banners - all things I would never have let fly. So many mornings of my life were spent right there in front of those big doors, waiting for a manager to show up with a key. So many others were spent there, waiting for my associates to show up so I could let them in.

I still get the catalog, as well as Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma (they're all a part of Williams-Sonoma Inc.) and I leaf through them. Granted, none of it is as exciting without the 40% discount, but I still feel a connection with the company. If they had let me, if they hadn't changed what they stood for, I could have worked for Williams-Sonoma Inc. my whole life.

*Can you find me in each group picture?*


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