Thursday, January 29, 2009

Job Fairy, Where Art Thou?

I am currently in a tentative hiring mode. I say tentative because I'm not in a hurry. I'm taking it slow. It is very challenging for me to trust someone else to come into my space, share my responsibilities, touch my equipment, interact with my clients, and otherwise affect the business that I have so carefully and lovingly set up here. Hiring is not something I have a great deal of experience with and not something that I particularly enjoy. I stink at it, really.

And as much as I value the learning process in general, this is one area where I wish the job fairy would just come and deliver to me the exact right personality, skill set, and personal situation to match up with what I need and what I can offer. I also hope that I have the right kind of vision to recognize them when they show up at my door. Perfect fit or not, it takes me a long time to feel comfortable around new people. And my discomfort tends to be contagious.

But I am determined not to work alone forever. One of my original goals for the business was to provide the kind of work opportunities that I was unable to find when I was an employee. I longed for the ability to serve my clients well and fully, to take time to communicate and educate and to make myself available as a resource for anyone who was interested in my perspective. I found myself often in a profit-driven environment, where the primary owner of the business was not involved in the daily operations except, as I saw it, to ask me to lower my standards of care. And profit was driven not by efficiency and increasing value but by circumventing the legal system and avoiding making investments in business-builders like employee education, advertising, client education and better service. My passion was a problem, my efforts were measured in dollars and cents without the option of working smarter, and my drive to share knowledge and help the clients and coworkers around me were met with surprise and sometimes criticism.

I freely admit to being a diva. I am never satisfied and humility is something I struggle to embrace. I'm an idealist, an empath, and an alpha. I get myself in trouble frequently because I assume that others can see that my intentions are so bright and beautiful and good that I give myself permission to speak in absolute, unapologetic truths. I assume that other people realize that I arrive at no conclusion lightly, that I am constantly absorbing and filtering new data and refining my thoughts. Although my thoughts are ever-evolving things, at the moment I speak them, I put behind them the force of my conviction. I'm good at conviction.

I thrive on debate and I enjoy a lively exchange of viewpoints. I don't really know when to quit. It is a challenging perspective, for me and everyone around me, but I've realized that it is who I am. My ongoing struggle is to harness the power of my convictions without expecting to be universally loved for them or driving away those that I would rather keep nearby. But my ideals have allowed me to serve a particular type of pet owner well and in congruence with my own personal fulfillment formula. I chose a good area for an educationally focused business -- my clientele in general is interested and engaged and willing to actively participate in the care of their animals. They recognize and appreciate quality, they value learning, and they enjoy the interactivity I offer. I am constantly amazed at how supportive they are.

My hiring decisions have to bring in more energy and fill in the gaps where my skills and temperament fall short. It's a tall and specific order and one that I haven't even managed yet to fully, objectively define. There isn't a lot of room for error. The position that I'm offering is part-time and entry-level. I don't have much to offer, financially. But in terms of learning, growing, and sheer opportunity to contribute, the benefits are limitless. The right candidate will be getting in on the ground floor, will be part of an environment where creativity is valued and encouraged, where attention to detail is treasured, where challenges will be heaped on as soon as the willingness and ability to step up is demonstrated, and where communication and cooperation are working realities. And more importantly, where skill is recognized, built, and rewarded. Some day this will be a well-oiled, self-propelling machine and I will have room for people comfortable with polishing it for a paycheck. But right now I need someone with an insatiable desire to learn how the machine works, has thoughts about how to make it better, would welcome the opportunity to be taught how to drive it, and is ready to make their career a priority.

Where is that brilliant, ambitious upstart searching for a platform from which to set the world on fire? Where is the wise and resilient soul with the vision to support and enhance my work who is willing and able to add their energy to mine? And when I find that candidate, will I be able to keep up?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Welcome to the Snow

My favorite aspect of the independent grooming shop is the sense of community. I've always believed that grooming should be cooperative -- not simply a service provided but a real partnership that exists to enhance the lives of dogs and cats and the people who love them. I strive to create this in my business, to communicate openly and honestly with my clients, and to share my years of animal care experience with anyone who is willing to listen. My passion comes through in my work, in my words, and in my sometimes off-putting tendency to lecture clients as if they were the merely human custodians of my animals instead of the other way around.

But on a morning like this one, when the winter storms are bearing down and the roads have disappeared under a white blanket, it is a pleasure to call and be called by clients and agree, as a community, that the shop will not be open today. It is official, the referee has called it, it is a Snow Day. Like friends meeting for coffee, the safety of others is a priority. There are no cancellation fees or managers called or policies upheld. There are no excuses, no accusations, no frustrations. The important thing is that everyone is safe and warm. This is the pleasure of owning a small business.

Of course, rescheduling those appointments is going to make the rest of the week difficult, with increased tangles and overbooking and stress. Clients will also be making up for lost time, cranked up and in high gear. Their inconvenient time constraints and the constant phone calls and assorted interruptions as my clientele reboots will slow down the work flow of the shop. And all around, clients and neighbors and strangers on the street will be cursing the snow and the winter and all its trappings for weeks yet to come.

But today is a different kind of day. Today is a day of enforced leisure, meditation, and the easy kind of zen that comes from working hard, building relationships, making decisions and taking responsibility, and then, when the opportunity arises, simply embracing the weather.