Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Working Proud

Right or wrong, my Dad often judged a man by his work ethic.  If you worked like a dog, weren't afraid of getting your hands dirty, and never watched the clock, Dad had a very high opinion of you, indeed.

In fact, when I reunited with my high school sweetheart, Alan, ten years after we graduated, Dad was not pleased.  He was remembering the smart-alecky, black concert t-shirt wearing, long hair sporting seventeen year old that I had dated a decade before.  I wasn't concerned, however, because I knew JUST what to do to change Dad's mind about Alan.

I wrote Dad a letter and told him I understood his concern, but that he needed to know about all the things that Alan had accomplished since we last saw him.  Then I wrote about Alan's four years in the Marine Corps, followed by the four years that he worked a full time job as a waiter so he could pay his way and attend college, full time, at the same time.  I mentioned that he worked so hard, he didn't have to take out any student loans.   He made the money that was needed each semester in pure sweat by busting his hump.  Guess what?  Dad was convinced.  He welcomed Alan into his home, and eventually walked me down the aisle to meet him on our wedding day!

But there was another area of the job that Dad always talked about:  pride in your work.  He taught us that any job we were performing, no matter how big or small, should be done with an enormous amount of care and pride.  He led by example in this area.  In the summers when school was out, he had a carpentry business doing remodeling work.  He did it all, kitchen cabinets, back decks, even hand crafted frames for paintings.  His small business ad in our local paper simply displayed his name and phone number, along with one quote:  "No Job Too Small."

His clients were often stunned when he'd tell them the date in which he'd begin his work, then actually SHOW UP on that day, ON TIME!  This was unheard of in the construction business.  Except, of course, in my Dad's business.  Because Dad took pride in his work, and it showed.  More than one stranger came up to me at his wake, took my hand, and said, "Your Dad remodeled my kitchen!  He did a terrific job!"  Amazing, right?

That being said, my Dad would have loved my new nail technician, Tommy!  As you know, we've just moved to our new home near Nashville, TN, and that means starting all over with doctors, vets, hair stylists, and of course, nail techs.  I decided to check out the salon closest to our house, especially because it had a huge sign over its front door reading, "New Management!  20% Off All Services!"  When I walked through the entrance, a smiling, short Asian man approached me and shook my hand.

"Hello!"  he chirped, "I'm Tommy!  I'm the new owner of this salon!  What can I do for you?"

I explained that I was new to the area and needed a fill.  He grabbed my hand and looked at my nails, running his thumb over the surface of my index finger.  "Oh, yes!  I'd be happy to!" he said, "I can make these look BEAUTIFUL!  Come, have a seat!"

Still holding my hand, Tommy led me to his work table, pulled out my chair, and walked around to the other side.  But before he sat, he asked, "Would you like something to drink?" He then listed several beverages, including water, soda, and wine.  After I declined, he sat down and got to work.

Tommy asked me a few questions about moving here and how I liked living in Tennessee, and I answered them all.  But I was really curious about this energetic, nice man, so soon I was the one asking questions.  Tommy answered them all, that enormous smile never leaving his face.  He told me he had been a nail tech for over ten years, always working in the shops owned by his cousins and other relatives.  He'd work for one until the business was up and running, then he'd move on to the next one to help with THAT opening.  About two years ago, the opportunity arose to own a shop of his own, and Tommy considered it. But in the end, he said, he felt he still had a lot to learn about running a business, and decided to wait a while longer before taking the big step.

Two years later, when the shop in which we were currently sitting became available, Tommy decreed that it was time, and took the big plunge!  The next thirty minutes were filled with Tommy's exited explanations of all he was planning for his brand new salon (he had only owned it one short week!).

He pointed out the walls he had painted ("That red was too harsh, the light brown is much more relaxing for my customers!"), the new pedicure stations he inserted ("It was more expensive for the glass foot bowls, but they look MUCH nicer!"), and the brand of nail acrylic he insisted on using.  He said it was more costly than the kind the other salons carried, but that it looked nicer on his clients, and would last longer, so that's ALL he was going to use.  Tommy talked and talked, and I began to say a silent prayer as he worked, asking God to bless this awesome man and this business that he clearly cherished so much.

I'll soon be rejoining the work force here in Nashville.  I have a BFA in Musical Theater and am ridiculously unqualified for just about everything but performing onstage. I'll also be looking for a job during the worst period of unemployment in our country's history since the Great Depression.  But as I set out in my business suit and pumps, briefcase in hand,  I'm going to try to remember Dad and Tommy.  I'm going to try to convince my potential employer that if they hire me, they'll be getting someone who will show up on time, will work extremely hard, and will take enormous pride in each aspect of her duties (even if that involves flipping burgers!).

I've been back to Tommy's salon three times since that first day, and on each visit I've noticed that it's always much busier than the time before.  Dad wouldn't have been surprised.  He knows that if you take pride in what you're doing and give it everything you've got, success is sure to follow.  In fact, after that first encounter with Tommy, if you had asked Dad, "Do you think this guy's business will succeed?"  Without hesitation, his reply would have been Classic Dad:  "Is the Pope Catholic?"

Thanks for Reading!!


Sylvia K said...

Good to see your post this afternoon and I'm glad you've gotten the move over with that you're settling in! Don't you love to meet someone in business like Tommy! Hope things continue to go well! Enjoy the rest of your week!


Carrie Van Horn said...

Joan...your Dad certainly has wise words to share...i can see why you have him as an inspiration to your whole blog...hope things go well for you in your working venture...i know you can do it....thank you for stopping by my blog with a smile. Hope you have a great Thursday! :-)

Unknown said...

I loved this post! so true!


I like those "old school" values where people said what they meant and meant what they said.

Liz Mays said...

That's such a nice example of hard work paying off. I enjoyed that and good luck with whatever job you end up finding!

Kyna said...

I'm sure you won't have to flip burgers. Any degree at all gets you a better job than that ;)

I do admire your work ethic though. My parents instilled the same into me. When I'm at work? I work my ass off. Even if everyone else is coasting. I'm a manager at my booksstore. The harder people see me work? The harder they seem to work. I believe that good old fashioned hard work will get you where you want to be in life. Whether you work at a store or in a high-powered suit job. No cutthroating necessary.

I really, really enjoyed that post. Especially since I'm in customer service. Going that extra mile for people makes them feel good, and oneself feel good. I'm glad you had a great experience, and that it was inspirational to you.

Linda Myers said...

I've had people working for me recently who were wonderful at what they did, but they showed up late and their estimates were way off and they always had excuses. When they ask me for a reference, I don't give it. I must be old fashioned.

ReformingGeek said...

I love hearing about your dad and about the new salon. I wish more people had that kind of work ethic.

Good Luck with your job search.

TILTE said...

awwwwww, i LOVE Tommy! that's such a great story and i hope his business stays successful.

i usually try to make conversation with my nail technicians too (when i can afford to splurge, that is), but they usually have absolutely no interest in talking to me. oh well. :)

Sandra said...

You had me at the title of your blog!
But this post about your dad is really terrific! And I think I love Tommy now!

Jean said...

Joan good luck on the job hunt. I too am doing it over here in London. Right now I am temping in an office and grateful for it but I have that same feeling. I have a BA in Drama and no qualifications other than being on stage. We will make it and we'll make both of our dads proud!

Kathy B said...

Wow, Joan. Your writing gets better and more powerful all the time. LOVED reading this, Sweetie. You are so talented.

Copyboy said...

I'm sure any company would be happy to have you. Try an ad agency as a copywriter. That's what I do. You definitely have the writing chops for it.

Shady Del Knight said...

The harder you are on yourself (in terms of work ethic and discipline) the easier life is on you. I believe in that philosophy. It has worked for me.

Hi, Joan! I want to thank you for subbing to my SDM&M blog, thereby completing our York-York connection. I love your intelligent writing style and I look forward to following your life. Please stay in touch!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

All of that and great service and it's a winner!!

Hope you are finding your new home better than the last.

Glad to see you back to writing we've missed ya.

-Sam I Am- said...

I loved this story! So inspiring. And your blog is wonderful, I can't wait to keep following :)

Rachel said...

I think I would have liked your dad too!

And isn't it amazing how refreshed YOU can walk away feeling when someone cares to do an excellent job for what you've hired them for? :)

DeniseinVA said...

This made for a great read Joan. It made me smile all the way through.

Pearl said...

Smart Dad! Sounds like mine!


Cheeseboy said...

Your dad sounds like my kind of guy. We teachers appreciate a good work ethic. Great post. I liked learning about awesome Tom.

Shan said...

Best of luck as you go out in your business suit and your pumps. I'm so happy to hear already about nice people in your new home town. *So* much better than what you had before. Hope you're settling in well.


Looking for Blue Sky said...

Your Dad was such a sound guy, it's great to have that example, and the best of luck with the job-hunting x


No job is small and all have equal importance. Often we forget that more than result, it means that hold much importance.

Is the Pop Catholic!!! Ha ha ha..this is very intelligent humor.

Together We Save said...

Your dad sounds like a wise man!!

Kelly L said...

You made me cry! Thank you for sharing this story. I would love to meet Tommy...

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