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The Best way to Manage Former Peers – Blog 22

The Best way to Manage Former Peers

 So, in Blog #21 I talked about How to handle common foot ailments. In this post I want to talk  about The Best way to manage former peers

 It was 1984 and Jim calls me to his office and was abnormally happy. He was promoting me to the Department manager at Fashion Fair. The other department manager was moving to Ohio, I accepted the job.

 I had to attend a manager training course in Cincinnati which involved classroom time, learning how to deal with problem employees and customers in the correct manner. W  had a bowling tournament with all the attendees from all over the country, I’m proud to say my team of four came in first place. The week flew by before you knew it and I was on my way back to my new home,  Rodders in the Fashion Fair mall.

 “At 50% off size 6’s can feel like  8’s”

My first day in the department, I met my new store manager, she was an attractive lady in her 30’s and very well dressed. “ I have a dinner tonight and I need a yellow dress shoe she said”. She started going through the sale racks and found a style she liked. It was the only yellow dress shoe we had. “excuse me do you have this in an 8m?   “. I double checked in the back stockroom knowing it was the last pair, “I’m sorry it’s been half off for a while, we only have a size 6”  “I’ll take it” she said.  

My jaw must have literally dropped to the floor in disbelief as she laughed at me and said “ don’t worry it’s only for a few hours” This inspired a saying I brought with me to every store I worked in from then on,

“at 50% off,  6’s can feel like 8’s”. 

Managing former peers

After a few months, Bill requested a transfer to my store. I knew he was expecting the job with all the experience he had, plus it was closer to where he lived. I first established my expectations for the team to start off with. This included selling, displays and customer service.

I knew Bill was a little disappointed about not getting the job. We would usually have beers after work at a place called “Reubens”,  so I needed to figure out how to manage him. I tried to include him in some of my decisions to make him feel part of the success. He did have a lot of experience, so I included him in the floor sets and often asked him for advice on handling employee issues. After a few months I could tell he was ok with everything.

Our store was doing great and I made sure that Bill & the team got credit too. Our store manager was really happy with our results and we would always have great visits when Jim came in for his monthly walk.

Bill told me one day he wanted to introduce me to his fiancée, Mary and her daughter Diane. I said “you aren’t trying to fix me up are you?” He smiled and  said “see how it goes, she just broke up with someone”

So we went to have the beers and Mary was super sweet and Diane and I hit it off. We started dating frequently after that.  Little did I know I’d marry her a few years later…

I’s always awkward when you have to manage former peers. Its especially challenging when you have a friendship with them. The best way to manage former peers is to establish your expectations for the team at bthe very beginning.

I like to have a team meeting first, then individual meetings shortly there after to make sure everyone is on board. I learned this method from the training program at Rodders and have also used it at Nordstrom and Zappos.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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How to Handle Common Foot Ailments – Blog #21

How to Handle common Foot Ailments

So, in Blog #20,  I talked about How to motivate people and Improve systems. In this post I want to talk about how to Handle Common Foot Ailments. In the shoe business,you often see many foot ailments on the selling floor. It takes a person with a lot of experience to properly fit  feet of this type. Equally important is to treat the customer like everyone else and not someone who is different.


The most common foot problem you may see on the selling floor are bunions. Bunions are caused primarily by genetics. A  poorly fitting shoe, especially one that is pointy toed, can also be a cause. A bunion is a bone growth on the big toe joint that makes like a large bump on the foot. This cause the shoe to gap if the foot isn’y compltely covered.

Bunions are extremely painful and makes it harder to fit on the foot. A lace up style usually works the best. Soft leather is the best  upper material. The vamp should cover the bunion for the best fit. Depending on where the top line of the upper rests will determine the successful fit.

Hammer Toes:

Hammer toes are when the joint of the toes are “locked” in a bent fashion. This causes the toe to point downward. Because of this the toes usually hit the upper portion of the shoe. An upper with a high vamp  height is the best bet here. These are usually caused by genetics or poorly fitting shoes.


There are many different types of amputations you might run into, the most common are toe amputations. Depending on what toe it is will determine the right course of action.

Its always best to see a podiatrist. They  can guide you into what shoe would be best for your situation. Lace up shoes work the best because without the toe to offer stability you will need laces to secure the foot.

Prosthetic experience

The most unusual experience I had was with an amputee who had two difference size feet because of the prosthetic. I fitted the foot first then the prosthetic next. At Rodders since it was more than 1 1/2 sizes difference, we  charged her for one shoe. I started to fit the prosthetic and then she said “excuse me, this will be easier for you.”  She then took her leg off and I continued the fitting process.

Always treat very customer like you would want to be treated. She already had enough people staring at her as it was. We had a great time together and shared a few chuckles and I made a new personal customer. 

There are many more foot ailments out there these are the most common.

Educate yourself

 Being the student of the game, I’ve always  educated myself on product. Improving customer service is the end goal. Several times I  would go to speaking engagements . I would talk about how to properly fit shoes at a local school that had night group sessions for diabetics.

 One night I spoke to a bunch of diabetic patients, some of which had amputations. I’ll never forget this one lady tell me that all she wanted was to be treated like everyone else. That really resonated with me that day and has stuck with me all these years. Proper fit is important but making the personal connection and making the customers feel at ease is the first step in building your customer base.

Always treat every customer like you would want to be treated


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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How to Motivate Employees and Improve Systems – Blog #20

How to Motivate Employees and Improve Systems

In Blog #19, I talked about how to Pursue Growth and Learning to get Ahead. In this post I want to talk about How to Motivate Employees and Improve Systems .

The following week I started in the Manchester Rodders store. Jim was the District manager and also managed the Manchester store. There was another store in Fresno that was in his district in the Fashion Fair mall. They were lease departments owned by Cincinatti Shoe Co.
The rest of the team at Manchester consisted of four main salespeople, Bill a guy in his 50’s who had been in the shoe business most his life, Louis a great salesman who also had a fireworks business on the side and two college students Sharon and Donna.

Polish Contest

One day, we had a sales rep from Meltonian shoe polish come in to stock the supply. She offered 25 cents per polish that we sold and put “spiff” stickers on each jar. When we sold a polish we took the sticker off and put it on a spiff card. She tallied it up at the end of the month and we earned 10-20 bucks extra if we sold enough of the polish.
This inspired me to create a contest. We would keep track of how well everyone was selling the polish and to motivate people to sell more. I drew a mountain on a poster board and everyone had a car that would move up the mountain each time you sold one.

It was a fun contest that inspired our competitive juices to flow. I can’t remember if Jim kicked in anything extra for the winner but we had fun with it in any case. Based on this success, I made up other contests as a motivational tool later in my career. Funny thing, I was talking to Louis (yes, we have remained friends since Rodders) the other day and he has used similar contests too with his teams.

Bonding closer

Our team became closer as time passed and we frequently went out for beers after work. Sometimes Bill and I would grab a beer or two. Other times just Louis and I. On rare occasions the whole team would go as Sharon & Donna had homework to do usually.

Bill was dating someone he was serious about at the time so most of our conversations were around her but we would also talk about our shoe careers and how to improve things in the department.  I learned a lot from him with those conversations.  Little did I know the lady he was dating would  be my future mother in law one day…

Idea Man strikes

One night, Louis and I were talking about how the transfers took so long to get to the store. Louis said “too bad Donna and Sharon couldn’t just bring the transfers to each other at school since they both went to Fresno City college and Sharon lived near Fashion Fair”. We both turned our heads toward each at the same time and looked at each other for a minute. “That’s brilliant” I said, “let’s ask Jim”. With Jim’s blessing we created a faster “transfer system” which got the shoes quicker to the store for our customers.

Sometimes having a conversation can result in how to motivate people and  improve systems. We had a simple contest that didn’t make anybody rich but sure created a healthy competitive atmosphere. This opened up our communication with each other that lead to putting our heads together. We ultimately improved a lengthy transfer system to better serve our customers.



…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Pursue Growth and Learning to get Ahead – Blog #19

Pursue Growth and Learning to get Ahead

In Blog 18 I talked about My Influencers growing up as a kid. In this blog I want talk about how to Pursue Growth and learning to get ahead.

At the end of Blog 17,  I mentioned that I got a call from a guy named Jim about an opportunity for a full time permanent position at a store called Rodders. . I accepted the position then started thinking “ I’ve never sold this type of footwear before?

At Koby’s everything was down and dirty and self serve. At Rodders it was a commission job and the emphasis was on customer service. The product was mid to upper end with many of the brands coming from Italy.


Commission works like this, you make an hourly wage or commission of 10% which ever is higher. Being on commission you want to give the best service possible. The gold standard was Nordstrom. There were rumors they even took back a set of tires

Nordstrom was known for their broad selection of shoes and Rodders was known for being like a “mini” Nordstrom. Jim stressed the importance of great customer service. This was new to me coming from a self serve store, but at the same time I always encouraged my people to go above and beyond to make people happy, so it wasn’t too drastic of a change.

The biggest difference was “selling” a pair of shoes that was over $200. It really was just a mindset shift. Product is product, so to sell it, you have to know “why” it’s worth the money. 

I soon became an expert of the why. You have the better leathers, leather soles and great fit. At $20 you don’t care about that as much.

My Learning Path

I learned the fit is determined by the last it’s built on. A last is like the mold of the shoe and there is a different one for each size and width. Picture this: if a style of shoe has sizes 7-10N,  5-12M and 5-10W, that’s 33 different lasts for one style. It’s common for the same brand to use different lasts for different types of shoes.

Obviously a high heel will use a different last than a flat but you could use the same last for different styles of flats by the same brand. So you can buy the same brand and it could still fit differently because of the lasts that are different by each style. 

At this time the technology wasn’t what it is today, so leather soles were superior than the man made soles of the 80’s. In today’s world, technology has made some man made soles very comfortable and some almost like athletic shoes but with a dressy upper.


 A lot of the better shoes were made from calfskin which was also better. There are different grades of leather too and the way they process the leather is also a big factor. There are so many different types of leathers used in footwear it’s mind blowing. If you want to sell with authority though you need to know what you are talking about.

There are so many different factors in shoe making its incredible. Hard to believe all the different hands that actually touch a pair for it to be made. I actually went to shoe factories later in my career which I will speak to in a later Blog.

This information was great as selling points to the customers. With the product knowledge we shared and the attentive service it was a whole different world for me, and I liked it…

Knowledge is Power. Pursue growth and learning to get ahead is a great stategy to be an expert. By being  the expert in your craft,  it will help you in servicing your customers.



…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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My Influencers Growing Up as a Kid – Blog #18

My Influencers growing up as a kid

So, in Blog #17,  I talked about that Things happen for a Reason. In this post,  I want to talk about My Influencers Growing Up as a Kid. It’s hard to capture the essence of all these wonderful people in a paragraph so hopefully I do them all justice.

Grandma Si

Grandma Si made all her grand kids feel like they were the favorite. She was amazing. Seriously she was the most incredible person I’ve ever met. Talk about the best Armenian food, from grape leaves to pilaf which I still try to replicate now. Always in a good mood except when grandpa would beat her at cribbage.

My Grandmother was gentle, kind and very attentive to listening to you no matter what age you were. When we went to the cabin my brothers and I would want to go fishing, my grandpa in a very gruff voice would say “ you can’t catch fish in this lake right now”. My grandma in the most calm and compassionate voice would say “oh Bill, take the boys fishing”,.

He akways did too.  She taught me the box step one afternoon ( which to this day is the only thing I’m confident of lol). Many years later, I danced with her at a wedding and she asked me how I learned this step.  I proudly told her “ you did grandma”. It made her proud.

 Wonderful outlook on life was her trademark, humorous always. She was empathetic to others and made everyone feel special. My grandmother called me every Sunday at 10 am. The call would always start out with a “Michael…” in the most cheerful voice you could ever hear.  She did this until she passed away at the amazing age of 95. I miss those talks.

Grandpa Bill Normart

Grandpa Bill Normart was all about the details. My Grandfather was a machinist by trade, which I always found fascinating because his hands were so big. Picture an old timers catchers mitt with the big fingers and that was his hand. Yet he could do the most intricate detail.

He would always explain everything he did, he was an amazing teacher. Part of that also was he had a very gruff voice sometimes. Seriously he would scare the hell out of you when he raised his voice but he was also a gentle teddy bear.

Every Easter, the family tradition was to color Easter eggs for the egg fight. You had to color your own hard boiled egg. The rules of the game was one person would hold the egg with just the top showing. The other person would tap it. If your egg cracked you were out. You had both sides of the egg you could use before you were out.

My Grandfather loved this. He would hold the egg in his big hand and you could barely see it. He would laugh his signature laugh. Think of the cartoon  “Dick Dasterdly and Muttly”.He had the same laugh as Muttly.

One stay he taught me to clean a fish, bait a hook, split wood, use a jig saw to cut wooden fish and bears for his cabin. He also played a mean game of horseshoes. I spent a lot of time with him every summer at their cabin at Huntington lake. I think fondly of those summers even now.

Uncle Joe & Aunt Linda

My Uncle Joe was always someone I looked up to, mainly because he was huge. Just a big muscular guy who loved the outdoors. Definitely a gentle giant and man could he bbq! My Uncle  would make the best tri-tip ever. He never raised his voice except if there was a story going on he was passionate about.

His career was at PG&E and did well for himself. His mindset was work hard and it will pay off. It worked for him as he could do all the things he loved. I always admired him for that and think part of my work ethic I have now I learned from him too as well as my dad. 

My Aunt Linda is the nicest person I’ve ever met. She is always calm and has the personality that always makes you feel loved and welcomed. She was very close to my dad so we saw each other frequently growing up.

She’s the type of person you immediately feel comfortable talking to, which is why she can talk to anyone with ease. I learned a lot from her on how you should treat people with kindness. Always thoughtful of others especially around the holidays. She is an amazing cook as well, keeping with the traditional Armenian cuisine my grandmother would make. 

Grandma Doris

My grandmother Doris taught me to enjoy life. My grandmother usually played second fiddle to my grandfather who was a master story teller. She would sit in her recliner and give me a  nod for truth or a shake of the head for “not so true”.

Usually once a month she would call me up and ask me to go on a “date”. I was only 8 at the time this started but it went through my teenage years. We would go to lunch at a nice place like the Velvet Turtle and a movie.

My grandfather didn’t like to go to the movies so this was her way to do something she enjoyed. We would talk about life stuff and all her adventures since they travelled extensively.

Grandpa Bill “Doc” Osterholtz

I spent a lot of my time with my grandpa Bill “Doc” Osterholtz working on cars. Like I mentioned above he loved to tell stories about his years as a veterinarian for the federal and state government. When I was younger our interactions were mostly just listening to grandpa telling his stories in the house.

Car talks

When I got my first car he helped me work on my car with tune ups. Finally when I got the 73 Gran Torino it was rebuilding a hot rod. We would first go to the auto supply store where he would flirt with the young cashier which was awkward and embarrassing.

We would get our supplies then go to his garage. He would always light up a cigar and explain the whole process. I learned to work on cars in large part because of him and he had a great sense of humor. His favorite stories were when he was dating my grandmother. He would take her with him when he had to inspect cattle.

Apparently my grandmother was a free spirit and a little headstrong. He told me on several occasions about how he was inspecting a bull and told her to stand off to the side or the bull might go after her. As you could imagine she was running for her life moments later and luckily was fast on her feet. We would always have a good time in that garage sharing laughs and stories.

Uncle Gary & Aunt Brenda

My Uncle was a lifelong Air Force man. He lived in Texas so I didn’t get to see him as much as I would have liked. He had many stories like my grandfather and his, were mostly around his travels in the Airforce and fast cars. His car stories were so interesting, I think I got the Muscle Car bug from him.He was a great guy and I looked up to him with awe, being a dedicated servant to our country.

His wife was really easy to talk to and like my grandmother, let my uncle do most of the talking. I’m sure it was different at home. They had a daughter, Shauna who also lives in Texas today. Sadly my uncle passed away at an early age from MS and his wife from diabetes. 


While my Father was my mentor as I explained in blog 14, I learned alot from my mom too. She was very artistic being a Teacher for art class in Fresno. Unfortunately she let her credentials expire but she still enjoyed painting.

She was also talented in making flower arrangements. Mom made all the decorations we had in our house. And they all looked amazing. My brother Dave and my son James must have recieved her Artistic gene as they both are artistic too.

Loyalty trait

My Mom was very loyal to my father and later was my brother Doug’s champion when he got into mischief. Always there for him no matter what. Probably some interesting stories she hasn’t told us yet and not certain I want to even know. 

Enchiladas and Meatloaf were my favorites that my mom made. Her Enchilda casserole will end up on my website as part of the favorite recipes tab. It’s still one of my favorites.

She was a “Shoe Dog” for a minute. She finally worked as a shoe salesperson when my parents got divorced. She sold kid’s shoes at a Stride Rite store. Her stories were pretty comical because I lived them too in my own career.

Muttly was our family dog growing up and the bond between my mom and her was unbreakable. More than likely, it’s what kept that dog around for 16 years. Mutt had a comical personality just like my Mom so they were perfect for each other.

In closing

Part of growing as a person is learning from the people you are close too. My Influencers Growing Up as a Kid doesn’t do them justice. But I lived it and the memories are still fresh. Memories can be good or bad sometimes and fortunately for me, most of mine were good. I learned different things from all these great people and it has helped mold me into the person I am today.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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Things Happen for a Reason – Blog #17

Things Happen for a Reason
In Blog #16 I talked about how to handle a bad boss, in this post I want to talk about how Things Happen for a Reason.
“If it’s to be, it’s up to me” 
Six months went by since Al got fired, Clem had settled into his store.  We would talk during the week sharing stories on  how to deal with certain things. Clem and I  had a great working relationship.

The Call

One day, I get a call from the VP of operations from corporate and he informed me that Koby’s  sold to Payless shoe source.   I had the option to stay and work for them or take a severance package.
It took me a moment as I stood there stunned. Why is it when things are going good the bottom falls out? My belief though was that things happen for a reason and maybe it was time to move on.
 Over the last few years I just didn’t gel with LA except for my job. I loved my team and the store and made a few friends outside of work but just wasn’t feeling the vibe. Time to take the severance package and move back to Fresno.  

Maybe a different direction

My decision was to leave Koby’s/Payless Shoes source. This lead to a thought. Look  into getting a degree in Computer Science.
My dad had moved to Idaho and was on his second marriage. His second wife I didn’t particularly like. My dad and I were close so I thought it would be nice to be closer to him. Secondly to get a degree in this new field everyone was talking about now was intriguing.
The next day I called him up and he said he’d have to check with his wife first. After I hung up I felt that my dad seemed a little funny about it. We were pretty honest with each other, so I was sure it would be a yes. A few days went by, so I called him to see what the status was. He said that he was okay with it but “she” wasn’t. “So I guess thats a no then” I said. He said “I’m afraid so.”
Then he said I’d feel better about myself if I figured out how to do it on my own.  What was best for him was to keep her happy.
Ok then…

Plan B

First I was a little butt hurt, my dad left the family right when I graduated high school. It seemed he was more interested in his new wife than his kids. My mom didn’t make it easy for him though, so it was kind of hard to understand his real viewpoint at the time.
For a few years none of his boys wanted anything to do with him…He said “One day you will all understand and we can have a life together again”. That day came finally and I decided I wanted, actually needed, a relationship with him. My dad had always been my mentor and I still needed him for guidance.
It made me a better person and showed me to live by the quote “If it’s to be it’s up to me”. 

Big Decision

Another major decision that came out of this was I  decided to stay in the footwear industry.
Right away I landed a seasonal job in a shoe department. Shortly after I got a call from a guy named Jim about an opportunity for a full time permanent position at a store called Rodders. Jim said that it could lead to management down the road. I accepted the position…
Things usually happen for a reason and you need to learn to trust your gut on what’s best for you. If I stayed in LA I wouldn’t have been happy in the environment and would not have had this new opportunity at Rodders. You also have to take control of your own life .
“If it’s to be it’s up to me”.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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How to Handle a Bad Boss – Blog #16

How to handle a Bad Boss

So, in Blog #15  I talked about how people are your greatest asset,  in this blog I want to talk about How to Handle a Bad Boss.

 Al was increasingly getting hard to deal with. He was not very nice to the team when he came to the store. Most times he would be verbally abusive to myself and the team when things weren’t up to his expectations.

In addition he would go off on a tangent when we would stray from corporate displays, which Alicia prided herself on. Some companies like the look of a Planogram, so all the stores looked exactly the same. One day, Alicia got fed up and quit. She told me she wanted to spend more time with her family anyways. I really liked her, she was part of our little family. 

The Plan

Clem was a huge help in dealing with Al’s bad behavior. With his experience he helped craft the “game plan” of making sure things were looking good for the visit. I noticed the hot spots for Al when he came to the store, so before each visit I made sure each employee took one of the hotspots and dialed it out. I also made sure the employees were very engaged with the customers, so he couldn’t interrupt them with mean quips to make himself feel better about being in charge.

This worked perfectly the next visit. “Bubba, this store is humming” he said, “nice job”. When dealing with Bad managers you have to figure out the “why”. What is it that sets them off and why are they acting this way. It could be stress from upper management or maybe this Manager is a perfectionist without the people skills to convey a positive message. In Al’s case it was both, he was getting a lot of pressure from corporate and he had weak people skills.

Putting the Plan in action

My new game plan was to try to help him manage his stress. I asked questions like I was trying to learn as much as I could.  We determined I was correct about corporate adding to his stress. I’d say “ if they are getting on you for these things, let’s make sure the stores are focused on the solutions”. He would say “sounds good in theory, Bubba but not all my store managers are focused like you”. Wow, finally a compliment. I think I figured out what made him tick. I think I can work with this.

Clem gets promoted

Clem got a call he was promoted to Store Manager of the Lawndale store. We were all very happy for him but sad to see our friend go. “I’ll be down the street, so we can talk frequently”. He was a good man and I learned a lot from him too.

A week later corporate called to inform me that Al was let go and the region would have to run without a DM for awhile. Clem and I worked pretty closely bouncing ideas off each other, since Al was now gone and we got through it.

 It’s funny how much better the moral of the crew was after he was terminated. It’s too bad Alicia left when she did. I called her to let her know Al was gone but she said she already had settled in to her new life with her family and was content. 

Susan had to leave soon after because her boyfriend was getting increasingly jealous, so we ended up hiring Becky’s brother Ron to replace Alicia and Ron’s friend Jerry to replace Susan. Things went pretty well for the next six months. Little did we know what was coming up next…

 So many times people quit bad bosses. If you are in this situation, you have to have a game plan on how to handle a bad boss. People like to be acknowledged in a positive way and don’t really mind constructive criticism if it helps them grow. A constant barrage of negative comments doesn’t do anybody any good. Figuring out what makes a bad boss tick is the first step.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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People Are Your Most Important Asset – Blog #15

People are your Most Important Asset

So, in Blog 14 I talked about how my father was my mentor in life. In this blog, I want to talk about how People Are Your Most Important Asset

So I had been in the store for awhile now and I’ve realized how each person played a role in the store.


Alice was a lady in her 40’s and she took a liking to me. By that I mean she made sure I was in good spirits since I was away from home. She would help me make sure the store was being run properly and was very dedicated. She also tried to keep fixing me up with young ladies she knew in her friends circle.

The one that comes to mind was this lady that invited me to a family dinner because she wanted me to meet her daughter. I arrived at their house and she immediately brought me into a parlor type room. She asked me to sit down. “Maybe if you marry my daughter I will provide you with either a medical  education or buy you a “turkey farm”. I sat there dumbfounded. Let me think about my options here, Medical school or a turkey farm? Wow…Mind you I had not even seen or talked to her daughter yet, maybe this was encouragement. I told her I’d think about it.

I met the young lady at dinner as she was coming from work. She told me she worked in a Dr’s office 5 days a week and hands out religious pamplets on a street corner on her days off. “This is going well”, I thought to myself.

She was very attractive but very shy. A thought to came to  myself studying books or working at a turkey farm, while she was on a corner somewhere handing out pamphlets. Probably not a match but intriguing to say the least. I wonder sometimes if I took the offer if I’d have a huge turkey business today? Lol, I never, ever think that…


Alicia was a mom in her 40’s and worked in the store during the day. She was also the “store mom” too. She made sure the schedule was always covered and always called people for me when adjustments needed to be made. She was really good at displays and was constantly changing them when new items came in. She didn’t like our District Manager Al as he made comments about the displays changing all the time and she took it personally. “They look great”, I’d tell her, don’t worry about him.

She was a very kind hearted person and I really enjoyed coming in the mornings with her getting everything ready for opening. I let her have the weekends off to spend with her family as I worked most Saturdays and Clem opened the store on Sundays.


Gladys was the work horse of the store. She was constantly in motion. She was an immigrant with a thick accent. She would comment quite often how she thought young people were cuckoo as she called it. She was the type of employee you would have to force to take a break, she would say “okay Mike, you a little crazy” rolling the r dramatically. She didn’t understand why I would make her take a break but it was the law so I made sure she did.

She had a very funny personality and made me laugh quite often. She would often be roaming around the store singing or humming and always busy.


Becky was a young lady with a great personality. Her smile would captivate anyone and was great with the customers. I hit it off with her boyfriend as he had a ’67 Camaro, so we talked about fast cars a lot together. He installed nitrous oxide and showed me one time on the street, unfortunately a cop stopped him which wasn’t good for him. We became friends pretty quickly and would often do things together outside the store.

Becky always made sure I had a place to go for the holidays too, which I appreciated being from out of town. Her dad made the best tamales I’ve ever had during the Christmas season. They also turned me on to home made chicken mole which to this day is still one of my favorites. When Alicia eventually left due to Al’s attitude, I hired Becky’s brother Ron who was also a good spirited guy that fit right in.


Susan was great with the customers, She was a very pretty young lady with a nice smile.  She was often moody as she had an over bearing boyfriend who was extremely jealous. He had major trust issues and would call her constantly to check on her. This drove her nuts. I would try to joke around with her to cheer her up but somedays it just didn’t work. She eventually quit because of him, so I hired Ron’s friend Jerry. He was also kind of nutty, so we had a good team. It was tough to lose both Alicia and Susan because they were both great employees.

People make the difference

People  are your most important asset. Everyone is different too, so it’s important to treat them as individuals. Let them learn from their mistakes. Having a happy team improves your service to the customers. I read the book:  Fish which talks about how an unconvential fish market keeps customers coming back. I really believe in having a positive work environment and it starts with you and your team.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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My Father was my Mentor in Life – Blog #14

My Father was my Mentor in Li

So, in Blog #13 , I talked about how a Bad Boss can be Detrimental. In this post I want to talk about how My Father was my Mentor in Life. He was born today October 19th. 1936.

My Father, William “Bill” Normart Jr., died Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, he was 78. I remember Tamara calling me while I was at the gym. “Your dad is being rushed to ICU!”.

My father had survived a triple by pass three months earlier and the doctors thought he was strong and would be ok. “Do I need to fly out there?” I said. She said the Doctors thought he would be ok. 30 minutes later I get the call, “Michael, he’s gone…” I was crushed. How could this be. We had so much more to do together. Luckily I have no regrets as we were really close.

My dad’s parents were Sevart “Si” and William Normart and his sister is Linda Garvin who still lives in the Fresno area. He attended schools in Fresno and served in the U.S. Army, returned to Fresno and attended  Fresno State College.

Sears Roebuck and Co

In 1959, my parents were married and my dad went to work for Sears Roebuck and Co.  This was also the year that I was born December 18th. He worked his way into management and was a loyal employee for 40 years.

My parents divorced in 1979 and my dad moved to Idaho as manager of the two catalog stores, one in Lewiston and one in Clarkston. In 1987, Sears built a new retail store and he chose to stay with the Lewiston location and moved from catalog back to the retail division of Sears.

This was tough for my brothers and I. I tried my best to have a good relationship with my father but at this time it was a little strained. I would go to Idaho and see him a few times and we would go fishing together which was one of our favorite past times together.

He married Roberta “Tamara” Rose in 1993. They were very happy together which made me glad my father found someone he truly enjoyed. He retired in 1999.

In 2006, my dad agreed to manage the Habitat Store that was opening in Lewiston. He planned to spend a year and loved it so much he worked until June 2010.

He was a Sportsman

My dad loved tennis, having played with the 6 a.m. tennis group since the early 1980s. He was also an avid fisherman and golfer.

My dad planted a garden every year and was always delighted at harvest time. He loved living in Lewiston because sports/fishing was only 10 minutes from home and tennis only seven minutes. There are multiple golf courses to choose from in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.

My dad shared his love of fishing, tennis and golfing with his family and friends. He also enjoyed spending time traveling with his wife, Tamara, visiting friends and family across the country as well as attending U.S. Open tennis tournaments. He would often “stop by” in Vegas on his way to Indian Wells tennis tournament as well.

I remember fondly all the fishing trips we had, he would often say at the beginning “we’re gonna murder em!” Sometimes we did and other times not so much. The best part was just spending time with him all day. He loved black licorice and before his heart problems he would get a bucket of KFC mixed original recipe and crunchy.

When I was younger he would take me hunting, ducks, dove, pheasant were the main ones. We would get up at 4am, he would make piping hot tomato soup and put into a thermos and get the KFC he bought the day before and we were off. We had so much fun together and he was a great teacher on how to do things.

He was good at Everything

The fact is he was good at almost everything. He could fix anything, whenever he used to visit when I purchased my first home half the time he would help me install things like ceiling fans or fix the plumbing or electrical. Later on I would tell him what I needed as I just wanted to spend time with him.

My dad was super competitive too, when I was a young man in my twenties I was able to keep up with him and we shared beating each other equally. As time went on I didn’t play as much but he still continued playing in tournaments almost every year.

I started playing a little bit in my 50’s and I remember him calling me out one day while he was visiting from Idaho. He said “ I bet you won’t even get one game on me today”. Problem was I feared he would be right. I had been taking lessons to get my groove back but he knew how to run me around, dinking shots here and there to get me winded.

It worked…It was 0-5 my serve, if he broke me again he would be right. I dug real deep. Imagine the deepest cavern in the ocean deep. I aced him with my power serve 3 times in a row. I knew I had him. He got the next point but I wanted to put him away so I did. I cant believe even to this day I was so happy to prove him wrong.

Funny Story

My dad was pretty frugal too. I remember one time I was coming up to visit with him and I bought him a bottle of Grey Goose vodka. He loved my vodka drinks so I thought I’d treat him. I knew he was still drinking the cheap stuff so I told him I was bring some premium vodka for him. We get there and he tells me he has Premium vodka. I looked at him kind of bewildered like “since when?” he pulls out a plastic bottle that says “Premium vodka”, always the comedian


My dad was pretty funny. I think my father was my mentor in life especially in the humor area. My younger brother David also took on this trait. He would often send me jokes by email and preface it by “who sends me this stuff?” he liked comedy records and I loved watching him crack up at the Pink Panther movies.  

(click the link for a good laugh)That was the best.

My Father was my Mentor in Life

I learned a lot from my dad early on as I stated in Blog 6, teaching me the value of attention to detail. He also taught me to believe in myself and “if it’s to be it’s up to me”. My dad was my biggest cheer leader.

It made me happy when he was proud of me, I tried my best to make him proud often. I would often call my dad especially the last 5 years, on the way to work. We would talk retail and life stuff for twenty minutes each day. I miss those talks….

I often get choked up now when I think of him. He was such a strong force in my life, I think that’s why I try my best to do the same with my kids and my extended family at work. This usually happens when I have a drink outside and am barbequing something as he loved to BBQ.

Love you Dad, Miss you even more…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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How a Bad Boss can be Detrimental – Blog #13

How a Bad Boss can be Detrimen

So, in Blog #12  I talked about building a life and not a resume, In  this post I want to talk about How a Bad Boss can be Detrimental.

The house I was going to rent was being delayed, so I had to figure out what to do with my new dog. Becky, one of my employees, offered to keep him at her parents’ house. Lucky for me her dad loved dogs. This Husky was such a handsome dog too, piercing bright blue eyes. He was magnificent.

Theft problem

So my first day in the store I was working out on the floor to get a sense of where to begin, when this lady started yelling at her kids rather loudly. “If you kids don’t behave you won’t get any dinner tonight!” Right about the same time, I noticed a kid walking out the store with new shoes on, I ran over to where the shoes were located and sure enough his old shoes were in the box.

So was the loud lady creating a distraction? I wondered…

Out of instinct I ran out the store and told one of my employees, Gladys to call security. I caught up to the kid and grabbed him by the collar, “you need to pay for those” I said.  I started walking him back with no resistance, all the while, him pleading with me to let him go. Security soon arrived and asked if I wanted to press charges. The kid started crying and said “please mister don’t press charges”, I stopped to think about what to do.  Finally I said “sorry kid, you have to learn not to steal”. 

Theft Solution

This was a weekly occurrence, so I created a system, if someone bolted out the store, I’d yell out “code 7”, which was short for the security extension which was 7777.  One employee would go upfront and call security, another would stand by the entrance to make sure others wouldn’t try to do the same thing. After a while the guards got to know me and it stopped happening. I guess word got out I pressed charges every time. 

How a Bad Boss can be Detrimental

I got to spend more time with my new DM, Al and figured out rather quickly he was part of the problem. He was very short with people and talked down to everyone. Whenever he came to the store, everyone was on edge. This is often the case when upper management makes visits but it was magnified with him, as he wasn’t very nice to people. Looking back it reminds me of the coffee scene in the movie  

“ Swimming with Sharks”

There is a difference of being on edge because you want to impress upper management and another when you are afraid you will either be yelled at for something or put down.

“What’s this?” He’d bark out at Alicia. A pair of shoes were not laced properly. “Glady’s, why is your section missing shoes?” “we just sold them Mr. Al”, Gladys would respond. “Well then fill them back up!” he’d snort.

He would have me follow him around like a little puppy dog and then finally leave. It was usually only a few hours but that was 120 minutes of pure hell.  I need to figure out a solution for this and fast.  

By the end of the week the guy that was going to rent the house out decided to sell it instead, so back to looking for an apartment. Becky’s dad fell in love with the Husky, so I gave it to him. My search shifted to an apartment instead.

Companies spend an enormous amount of money on training and benefits and one bad manager could waste all that effort. I always tried to treat my employees like I would want to be treated but the light bulb didn’t really go off until my Nordstrom days, but you’ll have to wait a little bit for those stories…


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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