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Follow the Golden Rule – Blog #79

Follow the Golden Rule

In blog  78 I talked about getting organized in the stockroom In this blog, I want to talk about how to follow the golden rule.

In the last blog, Rob left with “Uhhhhh, make sure the stock guy is gone when I come back next week” . 

I fired the stock guy and started to interview people. Jean Claude mentioned I could have this stock guy from upstairs, so I called him for an interview.


Aaron was a guy that grew up in Wisconsin and most of his work experience was in roofing. But he had worked upstairs a little bit and he had a really good work ethic, so after talking to him I hired him.

I walked the backroom with him and went over how it “should look” and expectations. Aaron looked at me and said “looks like we have some work to do”. I chuckled and said “and thats why you are here now, I’m counting on you to get us on the right path”. 

Aaron was a machine, he focused on the task at hand and started from the beginning of the stockroom and in a weeks time that backroom was as perfect as you could expect. He made sure the salespeople did thier share at keeping it up from there. Aaron was like my right arm, If I wanted something done, he made sure it was done and in the right way. I remember a Blake visit was coming up and Aaron spent the entire evening “spanking out” the backroom. When I came in the next morning it was spotless. Even the old gum was off the floors.

He was a very valuable asset to have and was a big reason for our success. We grew pretty close over the next few years and are still close to this day. I later encouraged him to get on the floor and sell and turned out he was really good at it. But thats for a future blog… I will say, *Spoiler alert*, he was an integral part of me coming to Zappos in 2003.


I was also hiring more salespeople as our business was growing. I interviewed Eileen and we hit it off from the very beginning. She had a certain fashion sense which I lacked and would be helpful in growing our business. She worked on our team for about 6 months and she decided her fashion sense was more towards the Salon department, so she transferred to the “other side of the aisle”. 

Funny thing was I still saw her coming into our backroom for items for her customers, so I’d “zing her” with a “Why you slumming in the Plum today?”. She’d laugh and say “you have better sizes over here”.  Over the course of our careers we have always had a great relationship and she eventually moved to Zappos pre 2003 as well ,so she too was a big influence on my decision.


Fred was a Men’s shoe guy. He transfered from the Hawaii stores and had been the new 1st Asst. for Men’s shoes. He saw all the changes we were making for the positive. When I moved down to Brass Plum shoes there was an office behind the Men’s department that was used for old fixtures. I asked Jean Claude if we could have it for an office. He agreed, so the Men’s team and my team used it for office type work.

I got to know Fred during the time we shared an office together. The moments we shared were always short conversations during our lunch breaks when we ate in the office together. It would create interesting conversations and we grew to like each other in the process.

Years later he called me to recruit me for Zappos, also a future blog…

Follow the Golden Rule

My point in this blog is to say that you never know where your path will lead you. By treating other people with respect and kindness will sometimes open your path to many different options on wich road you take. These three people did just that for me because of the mutual respect we all had for each other.

Nothing in the Golden Rule says that others will treat us as we have treated them. It only says that we must treat others in a way that we would want to be treated.



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

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Getting Organized in the Stockroom – Blog #78

Getting Organized in the Stockroom

In blog  77 I talked about The hardest part of the job. In this blog I want to talk about getting organized in the stockroom.

So I got through one of the toughest weeks I’ve ever had in my career. There were so many emotions from that day. I really felt bad for everyone who was let go, but we had way too many people and the crazy thing was, our stockroom was still a mess. Good news was, I still had a week to get it straightened out before Rob came back.

The next morning I get a call from Rob, “Mikey boy, I’m on my way, surprise”. Shit…we had made progress by reassigning the sections in the stockroom and expectations going forward but it was still rough. “Couldn’t wait a week to see what you’ve done, plus you probably need some cheering up after what you had to do, out…” lol got to love the guy, out…

Rob arrives a few hours later as he was based in the Bay Area. He always has a ton of energy and on the move rather quickly. He’d usually come into the store with his shades on and his Nordstrom uniform “Blue blazer”. “Mikey boy, get last weeks notes, let’s goooooooo!”. Always trailed off the last word for emphasis too.

Another Stock Walk

I was up front with him on where we were and what we were trying to do. “Don’t you have a full time stock guy?”. Yeah we do but he’s not that quick. “Get him!” Rob said with authority. I get out stock guy and Rob says to both of us, we are going to do a stock walk. I’m going to look at the sizes in the wall and pullout the ones out of order. You stock guy will carry what I pull out. 

My stock guy looks at me like “ is he kidding?”. We went down the first row and the guy was already carrying 20 boxes. “You get the point now?”. Put these away now in order and then start from the other end of the stockroom and start fixing this mess”. He leaves and I said “that was brutal”. Rob laughs and says we aren’t done yet. He starts pulling out more shoes out of order and now I’m carrying them. “Ok I think you get it”. 

“Compliment Sandwich”

“Mike, the stockroom is a direct reflection of how you run your business” . This is where retail Rob kicked in. He always had great things to teach me and the longer we were together the faster he talked. It was incredible. “Compliment sandwich” at its finest, alway start out positive, then slam you, but end on a positive note.

Some people call it a “shit sandwich”. So good advice as above, then this, “you aren’t going to make it, if our visits are like this too often”. Don’t forget to end on a positive note Rob…”but that’s why I saved you from kids, because I knew you could do it”. Bingo….Have pride in your Stockroom and your business will improve. 

He was right again, if they can’t find the shoes it’s harder to sell them. The salespeople will have pride too so it’s a lot deeper than just have things neat. It’s getting people in the right mindset too.

He started to leave, then stopped and turned around. “Uhhhhh, make sure the stock guy is gone when I come back next week”. Wasn’t sure what he meant by gone. “Gone?” I said. “Yeah fire him, you’ve had enough practice now”. I think my mouth hit the floor, so I got rid of the stock guy too and started to interview. Jean Claude said there was a guy in “The Rail” clothing dept. upstairs we could have. The Rail was junior clothes for guys. 

I’ll talk to him tomorrow..

Getting organized is a sign of self-respect.

-Gabrielle Bernstein



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

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Hardest part of the job – Blog #77

Hardest part of the job

In blog  76 I talked about how hard work pays off. For this blog I want to talk about the hardest part of the job.

So I have had a pretty good run with Nordstrom so far. Turned a kids department around by taking some chances. Hired some great employees and they made a difference. Now, I get promoted into an area that was run by a great salesperson who got promoted to the Manager/ Buyer position. Being a great salesperson doesn’t always translate to managing people as I would soon find out.

Thought process

I survived my first stock walk with Rob and it was brutal. Nothing was in order. It was a wonder people could find things in the stock room. Where to start. Rob gave me a three page yellow legal pad that kinda told me where. But the buyer in me wanted to see about the mix of merchandise first. Mistake number one…As I’ve said in previous Blogs “people are your biggest asset”, I didn’t spend enough time with the people part the first week, mistake number two.

Jean Claude

Jean Claude calls me up into his office on the third floor early in my first week. 

“You have 30 people but the budget calls for 15, you need to make some changes…

“It’s my first week, I don’t even know everyone yet”, I said. “ well that’s why we put you down there, to figure out this mess; congratulations on your promotion”, he said with a wry grin. 

I knew Jean Claude had faith in me and I didn’t want to let him down. Rob gave me some good starting points but to get rid of half the team in the first week was brutal.  I called Rob and he reiterated what I already knew “ Dude that’s brutal”. “Start by the ranking, that’s all you got”. So I sat down with my Assts. Managers and told them what was going on. We went over the schedule which was ranked by who was the top to bottom team 1-30. 

Hardest part of the job

The day that I had to terminate people finally came, so I made sure I had a little office area for the day and called each employee in ranked #1-30 but by alphabetical order to mix it up. Each person would come in and I would say one of the two things:

“Based on your ranking in the department I have to let you go”


“I want to thank you for all your hard work in our department based on your ranking, we are keeping you on, be mindful of the fact we are adjusting our size of the team.”

This day was brutal. I was sworn at, cried at and thanked. then I had one lady call me and said 

“ Are you the asshole manager that just let my son go?” “I thought Nordstrom was a great place to work?”. I apologized but also said I couldn’t discuss the specifics and if they had further questions to contact our HR dept.

It was tough. Letting people go is never easy, even if they deserve it. But when you don’t know them that well, it’s tough. There’s a pit that forms in your gut that doesn’t go away for awhile. Being in management for awhile now it wasn’t like I haven’t done it before but it’s never easy. You are affecting people’s lives. I tried my best to be compassionate but they heard one thing and one thing only. 

I went home that night, went out to the backyard and had a few beers. Wanted to be alone for sure..


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

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Hard work pays off – Blog #76

Hard work pays off

In blog 75 I talked about how to be the change driver. In this blog I wanted to talk about how hard work pays off.

So I didn’t call Rob. I decided to finish the year and have the best year possible. We were on a roll, Jack was already past his Pacesetter goal and others were close to it. The department was having one of its best years ever and that made me happy. I still missed Women’s shoes and the team downstairs but there wasn’t any openings anyways.

 One month later…

Out of the blue Rob calls me. “Mikey boy, I’m going to save you”, “I have a Brass Plum Buyer job open downstairs, you interested?”. Without hesitation I said “Yes!”. Brass Plum Shoes was the Junior Shoe Dept. for Nordstrom that was right next to Women’s shoes. Do you need to think about it all? Nope, I’m ready. “Good, I’ll be in tomorrow we can go over the details”, “Out”…he always ends phone conversations like that lol. 

Rob rolls in bright and early and walks me over to Jean Claudes office. “Congratulations young man, you deserve it”, Jean Claude said to me. “Let’s go down to your new department” Rob said with a grin.

As we were going down the escalator Rob said “ I’m not going to lie, you are going to have your work cut out down here”. After Kathleen left, who was the first buyer for the opening it’s been on a downward slide. When we got down there,  Jim congratulated me as did a bunch of the people I used to work with. I was going to be in BP shoes though which was the juniors area. I still knew a few people there.

Stock walk

Rob tosses a legal pad at me, c’mon let’s do a stock walk, you take notes then the next time I’m in we’ll check the progress. We got to the back room, it was a disaster. Sizes depleted, messy. Rob was right, I had my work cut out for me. We spent the whole day going over the inventory and the PO book. He made some great suggestions and I think I was three pages deep on the legal pad.

This should get you started, congrats again, you’ll be great!

Before I left for the new position I wanted to say good bye to my team upstairs. At Nordstrom there wasn’t a waiting period. We had some good chats and I felt good about leaving the team.

There was a sign downstairs when you left the stockroom that said  “Are you ready?”

I think I was…

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” — Henry David Thoreau



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

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The Interview at Nordstrom Arden Fair – Blog #54

The Interview at Nordstrom Arden Fair

In Blog #53 I talked about about Life changing Hard decisions to make. In this blog I want to talk about the interview at Arden Fair.

I was supposed to meet with the Buyer whose name was Steve. He was the type of guy that you felt you knew already. Very warm and super friendly. After meeting him, I liked him immediately. “ So what makes you want to open up a store in Sacramento?” He asked. my immediate answer  was starting a family Loved the company and wanted to get into management at some point. “ The atmosphere in Sacramento is more conducive to raise a family” I said. “That it is” he agreed. Let me introduce you to Rob our Merchandise Manager.


A few minutes go by  then this big guy comes up to me and gives me a big handshake, “ I’m Rob” he says. He starts talking about retail 101 and how important it is to be successful. The longer he talks the faster he talks. It was amazing, lol. I liked him right away.

Didn’t know what it was about this guy, but I wanted to learn from him. We talked for awhile then they asked me if I wanted to meet the store Manager who was nearby. 

“Mike, this is Jim Nordstrom”. I thought I was hearing things, a Nordstrom was going to be the Store Manager. Wow! He was very soft spoken but also very confident in himself. he was also easy to like.  I was hoping I wouldn’t like it for some reason…

I told Diane, “Martha’s been so good to me”. The fact was I could probably buy a house here at some point but in the Bay Area it would be awhile, so I decided to do it. Plus it would be a neat to experience open a new store.

Arden Fair was scheduled to open in October and it was middle of August, so I had  to see how fast I could transfer over. It was going to be tough telling Martha and Michael what I wanted to do.

San Francisco

The next day, I got back to the store and asked Martha if I could talk to her. I could sense she knew what I was going to say because she was super intuitive. Especially when it came to her people. Thats what made her so good. “So how was Arden Fair?” she asked. I told her I liked the area and thought it would be a good opportunity for my family to eventually buy a home out there. She understood.

The Counter offer

“You know, Michael and I would love for you to be an Asst. Here”. That was such a compliment coming from her.  I told her it was purely a move to improve our way of life. She understood. 

People like Martha come into your life for a reason. She made me realize the importance of being organized, thoughtful and having a great team. I have carried this with me my entire career. It’s important to let people like Martha know how much they mean to you as it’s the biggest compliment a mentor could get.

Fast forward to 2020

Recently, I had the good fortune to re-connect with her after 30 years. When she called me, I felt like a star struck fan meeting their idol for the first time. We had a great conversation and it was nice to catch up with her. After the initial how are you’s I told her how much she meant to me and I could tell she appreciated it. She had kind words for me too, so it was something that really made my day.

Thank you Martha, I appreciate you…


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

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