I will never forget being a brand new Rack SM and getting the call that Blake was coming. I had heard so many stories that I wasn’t sure how to feel, but the nerves took over and no other feeling had a chance. I planned and prepped as much as I could, but let’s be honest, I had no idea what I was doing. The day came and I’m sure like so many of us, I was lucky if I got 2 hours of sleep. I think I got to my store at 5am to walk, finalize and basically pace back and forth. When Blake walked in the store he had that contagious smile we have all seen and memorized. After greeting me he said, “So, your store is going to drop about $1.5 million this year. Is that right?” GULP. I could feel the beads of sweat dripping down my spine instantly. I wished the answer was no, but he obviously knew the truth and way more than me, so I just said yes. After we talked about a few reasons, both within and out of my control, we began to walk the store. First up, Accessories. He asked me, “How do people know this is your watch shop?” Um, that was an interesting question. I said well, we have 4 spots of watches and all are maximized with frontage. He said, “But why don’t you hang clocks or something from the ceiling so the customers can see it and know this is where to buy watches.” Huh? Is this my initiation? I didn’t know how to answer, I was both confused and also wondering if we were allowed to do stuff like that. Haha. I’m pretty sure I looked at him with complete confusion and said, “Hmmm, I never thought of that. Ok.” We went to the stockroom and he looked at the Neutrogena (our #1 vendor back then) and said, “WOW, you have a lot of backstock in this.” I said yes we do, but we are filling in several times a day and have it to capacity on the floor. He pulled out a wad of cash, placed it on the shelf and said, “Would you leave your money back here?” GULP GULP. All I could say was “noted” and all I could think was, ugh…I’m bombing this visit. He is probably wondering how I got this job in the first place.
The rest of the visit had a mixture of funny, serious and confusing comments. I remember thinking this was the longest visit of my life. When was it going to be over so I can hide in my office and cry. I was really disappointing him. The visit was over, he thanked me and walked out with the same great smile he walked in with.
Well, I’m still here 8 years later so maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Haha. But from then on I vowed to never have another visit like that and to do my best to make him proud to have me leading one of his teams.
I was lucky to have several other visits with him and a few dinners. As I grew in my leadership skills, the visits became easier. Well… maybe easier isn’t the word because anxiety is always running high when you want to impress someone. I always tried to treat the business as if my name was on the building, but his name is ACTUALLY ON THE BUILDING. But I was more educated and prepared for anything.
As I have sat and reflected on these visits over the past week, I realized what I wish I would have realized then. He didn’t want me to hang clocks from the ceiling in watches, he wanted me to think outside of the box… AND I DID. When he put his cash on the shelf in the stockroom he was telling me to maximize, think like an owner and figure out how to sell more… AND I DID. I wish I would’ve realized this when he was here because those moments and a few others I didn’t mention, have really molded me as a leader.
Blake was such an interested leader. His knowledge was amazing and sometimes scary. Haha. He taught me to think like an owner, be inventive and how to take feedback (good and bad). He was the embodiment of our culture and I will try for the rest of my career to impress him.
Thank you Blake, RIP.