Saturday, November 1, 2008

Being Prepared When the Opportunity Arises

So I had been awarded a job capturing names and addresses from Kids Club applications for Burger King Corporation. Burger King had 6,000+ franchisees at the time and each was a distribution point for these applications. This was huge! I was given estimates of up to 20,000 applications per week. I got to work setting up an office in my garage, hiring and training people. We put six workstations upstairs networked into a Novell server. I also designed the data entry screens that we would need to key into and conversion/upload processes we would use. I wrote it in, are you ready, dBase III. This was a DOS based database language (the mother of all database systems today). It was actually very effective. I designed it as a multi-user back-end system with distributed front ends running on the local PC's. It was fast, safe and, as I said, efficient. We used it successfully for many years. My mantra was, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Over the years I upgraded dBase versions, finally moving into OOP dBase for Windows with SQL. I currently use MS Access, VBA and SQL. You might say I was forced into it by the business world, but I have reached an expert level and am very happy with that decision. I design screens that give me an edge in speed and accuracy. I listen to input from the people that are using the screens and constantly tweek and improve the screens and processes.

Okay, we're ready, where's the work? We waited impatiently, checking our details and loose ends. We had set up a PO Box at the post office and were checking each morning. After a couple of days with no work, Bob the Postmaster called and said "You've got some mail here. I think you better come see this." We were excited, and thought, "Oh boy, maybe we have enough to get one or two of these girls working for a day or two. So we went to the post office, and you could have bowled us over when we saw our mail. We were brought into the back mail room, and as we walked in we saw very large orange plastic bags piled up everywhere. Bob the Postmaster walked us right toward them and said "Here's your mail." "OH MY GOODNESS! That's our mail?" "Yes, ma'am."

After we picked ourselves up off the floor, we went home and got the truck and started carrying those big bags back to the garage. We filled up the downstairs of the garage with them. On opening the bags we found a mishmash of applications, complaint letters, letters from crazy people, little gifts from children, photos of Burger Kings loyal children customers, etc. A large part of the job was sorting and separating that mail. I can picture Rhonda, our mail sorter person, sitting with trays in her lap as she sorted through the bags. We also added several Value Added Services to our responsibilities on this job such as answering the white mail and housing a customer complaint phone line.

Our 20,000 weekly estimate turned into 60,000 in reality, but we geared up and got it done. Needless to say, we got all six people started plus more and kept them working for over 12 years on that job. We eventually rented a local office space, as the job warranted. Burger King franchisees considered this their most effective marketing to date. We only stopped doing it after they awarded their marketing to a different company that chose to use their own in-house vendor. We have recently noticed that Burger King is collecting all the applicants directly online. Karen was the account director for the Burger King Kids Club and who we answered to. She is my idea of a great manager. She was no push over and could be tough and tenaciously accomplish her goals while being reasonable and fair at the same time. She gave us a glowing reference that will ever be appreciated.

They were good years, and we appreciate the opportunities that we were given and the great contacts we made. We kept ourselves working and created in-office and at-home jobs for some good people. At one time we had twelve in-house employees and 40 local people typing at home as sub-contractors. We continue to use some of those same people today and enjoy running into the others around town. A good case for always being fair and kind.

Have you had any memorable job experiences you can share?