Challenging times and a massive learning curve.

For once, I’m not going to blog about my favourite subject. I am dedicating this blog to my favourite reader, George, who is struggling with his health at the moment. Not only is he my #1 person for commenting on my blog, both George and his wife, Thea are our favourite customers. They bring a ray of sunshine every time they visit. Sadly, George has not been well enough to visit and enjoy his bacon roll, and for Thea, her fruit scone. Get well soon, George, we miss you.

So, for a change, this is about retailing. That was George’s speciality before retiring. We have had many a conversation about the challenges of running a business. The Green Welly Stop is in the middle of installing EPOS, provided by Micros / Oracle. That is, Electronic Point of Sale. Most businesses have this. Up to now, we have been reliant upon manual tills, which, in fairness leaves a lot of room for error. Phase one is done. The Filling Station has been upgraded to a new system; all that’s left is installing EPOS in the main business. Not much, really. Only 4 shops. EEK!

The biggest issue has been running the business whilst still attempting to get training done. Every member of our team, about 40 staff, have to be able to navigate their way around the screens. It’s been, and continues to be, a big task for our two trainers, Susie and Christine in the Filling Station, which is the only place to do the training.

Whilst driving (*note, not riding) to Edinburgh, bored, I had my eureka moment (I am never, ever, bored whilst on my bike). I was wondering how on earth I was going to get all the training done. It’s challenging at this time of year, fewer staff, even though there are fewer customers. Everything is run quite close to the bone. So, that was my eureka moment. I had to suck it up and get down on the shop floor. I had to get myself to the stage that I could train our team when this new technology arrives the last week in February.

I have been going through a massive learning curve, and it’s all been good. It’s been educational and eye opening. I am invigorated, knackered, but at the same time, extremely satisfied. I have to say that Karen, our talented Office Manager is also facing challenges, she, in conjunction with Ed-the-negotiator are dealing with the install of the equipment. Go team!! Karen, keep up the excellent co-ordination!

There’s nothing worse than having impatient customers coming up to the counter. I was serving a trucker, he wanted a lottery scratch card paid out and was ‘in a hurry’. The damn lottery unit is a complete pig. The touch screen is crap and every time you are getting somewhere, the screen whips out your hand and flips back to face the customer. It’s so frustrating. The trucker wasn’t very patient. His comment was, “I know you’re are getting training, but can you hurry up!” That was a red rag to a bull. All of a sudden, what had been going badly started going to hell in a hand cart. Steam was coming out my ears as I fought gallantly with the unit, stabbing the screen with the rubber of a propelling pencil (top tip). Eventually, I got his winnings paid out. Then the cheeky bam asks for 3 other scratch cards and proffers his coffee, declaring, “Trucker’s coffee,” there’s a wee (historical) discount for them. I couldn’t help myself, out of my (sometimes) uncontrollable gob fell the words, “So, you want me to hurry through my training AND then you demand a discount on your coffee, you’ve got a cheek!” He stopped in his tracks and pretty much left with his tail between his legs. Something about his tachograph had stumbled at some point into the conversation. I wasn’t listening. In the meantime, Susie was hiding behind the counter, bright red, trying to hold in a gaffaw. Customer service at its best?

So, between learning how to serve on the front of house till, I have also been doing some stock taking. It’s amazing the diverse things we serve in the Filling Station. Did you know we sell Shewees, Bog-in-a-bag and just to top it all, disposable toilet seat covers, for those who maybe have to, well, suffer a portaloo? For every other sensitive butt, we have wipes, sanitiser and just in case your toilet, cable attachments or hose pipe falls to bits we have jubilee clips, which for some reason have been randomly filed in the computer. So much so, we made a dent in the floor checking that we didn’t have most of the sizes. The words, “Bloody jubilee clips,” have been uttered on numerous occasions over the last couple of weeks.

Everything from motoring essentials, pens, bouncy balls, wetwipes, cat food and toilet paper has had to be counted. That’s NOT an easy task, given the size of the shop. Just to be really sure, we have to do it all over again, to make sure that we didn’t get it wrong the first time out. Then we had to do the housework. Clearing out the stuff that a) doesn’t actually exist; b) put on the computer incorrectly; c) just a great big mystery. All 9 pages of ‘Inventory Health Check’ had to be up to date before the 31st of January. Phew. We did it. High fives all round.

At this point, I have to compliment my team for 1) their patience; 2) the fact they got their heads down and did it; 3) the training that they have all (so far) contributed towards.

So, now I can pretty much deal with the front of house tills. Back of house, it’s another challenge entirely, however, I can take in a delivery, log it on the computer, amend prices, amend VAT, change descriptions, add a new product. I can print bar codes. That’s challenging, you don’t want to waste precious paper, so the first time, I hung my head in shame and took the knock on my own salary, having totally misjudged the entire page. Susie and I snuck it into the pile of scrap paper in the hope that Ed didn’t do a spot check! Quite right. After that expensive ‘oops’, I worked it out. Today, I got 3 x high fives for getting the printing spot on.

Susie calls me on the walkie talkie when there’s some back of house computer work to be done. So far, the biggest improvement has been my touch typing. I can type pretty well, however, using a number keypad, I have always had to look. After 2 weeks of inputting into the computer, I can declare I can now touch type the numbers. Go me. One call today, I should have known it was a challenge. Susie was taking in a huge delivery from Nisha’s who provide (bulk) yummy (budget) snacks. Susie muttered, there’s a few challenges there for you. Aye, that will be half the (large) delivery. Half of the products were new. Aye, I can do that too now…. Yes, that’s why I have been looking slightly ‘fried’ recently!

I am thoroughly enjoying the learning experience. Every day I am stunned at what I am able to do. Yes, I am tired, but I know that it’s all worth it. We have even been able to sign off training matrices as we go, which is important to those who like to see a ‘tick in the box’. It’s great being able to work with a team that, previously, I had only had contact via a daily chat, and an, “Are you OK today?”

So, today, I was catching up with Ally, one of our hard working Team Leaders. We had breakfast together, catching up on how he had got on at the big trade show in Birmingham. I opted not to go. I felt it was far more important to keep going with my and the teams’ training. As we were talking, I watched two young girls walk in with food, wrapped in white paper bags. I watched them sit next to us, unwrap the food. One had a pie, the other a focaccia sandwich. One thing that I knew, the bags were not ours, the second thing, the food wasn’t ours. I just had to say something.

“Good morning; tell me, would you go into KFC with a McDonald’s carry out?” Much shaking of heads. “Well, why are you coming in here, with food bought from somewhere else and think that it was OK to sit and eat it here?” Silence. “Could you leave please.” Nothing. The offending food was still hovering at their open mouths. Still nothing. “Sorry if you think I am being rude, however, you are sitting there, using our table, our facilities and expect my team to clean up after you. There’s a bench you can sit on round the corner.” At that they left. That totally boils my pi$h. Sorry. I felt 1) slightly guilty at my abrupt approach then 2) glad that I had got my point across. The table still got wiped. Why do people do that? Fair enough, if they had a dietary requirement we couldn’t cater for, crack on. Just don’t take the piss.

So, work is good. I feel I know about a part of the business that I didn’t really ‘need’ to know about for the last 20 years. Really, it’s been all that time that it’s taken me to ‘need’ to know how it works.

In the meantime, there’s still snow outside my house. My beloved Smoggy is in Edinburgh, having had a much needed (expensive, it seems) service. I am missing my stress-relief-mechanism. Next week; rain, hail, or shine, I am going to collect my wee faithful steed and ride the tyres off of him. I can’t wait, it’s been too long. The last few weeks, I totally appreciate what an escape it is, riding a motorcycle. Sunday is normally my day off. Right now, I’m tempted to just go to work and continue ticking the training boxes and getting the job done. After all, if I do, it means that I can take an alternative day off, to ride my bike.

So, before I go, have a think about the team that take your money. They don’t just do that, they also have a lot of other things to do, other than just doing the ‘cha-ching’ of the till. Beware, if I’m behind the counter, taking your hard earned dosh, if you give me cheek, I’ll give you it right back. Just because I can. I am not looking forward to my first experience of 200+ bikers coming in and having to work out which fill-up is theirs. Not to worry, I’ll do it. Top tip: pay attention to how much you pop in your tank, it helps the team behind the counter!

Good night, from a knackered learner EPOS driver.

7 comments on “Challenging times and a massive learning curve.”

  1. craig says:

    Epos – I cannie wait!!! Woop woop – 21st century!!!!!


    Your training will be appreciated Fi 😉 Cx

  2. Fiona says:

    Does that mean I get to train you?!

  3. Oh Fiona…..that made me laugh this morning! So enjoy reading your blogs…..keep up the great work! And best wishes to everyone at the GW……see you in the better weather! X

  4. Fiona says:

    In fairness, there are so many stories from this diverse place; I should blog more about it!

  5. Ken says:

    What a good read! Kx

  6. Fiona says:

    Thank you, lovely man….

  7. George says:

    How kind of you to say such lovely things ,Fi. We hope to be up with you again soon . I am suffering from withdrawal symptoms!

    22 years since I retired – but Istill remember our EPOS transition at JM . A nightmare to carry out , but once established – what a bonus to running the business . I am sure you will find that too.Anyway good luck with the live roll out . Love from us both.

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