Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ingrained

My first job out of college was as a Sales Admin for a local software development company in Gainesville. It was a decent first job. I learned a lot but I strongly disliked the first person who was my boss there. I moved up and around at the company before leaving five years later.

The company was run by a special man. And by special, I mean, well, unusually peculiar and all together quite impossible to describe.

(No Wicked fans, I have no idea if he was blonde in his more youthful days.)

He had order for everything. Without order there was chaos. Chaos was scary. He painted a ridiculously expensive (and kind of ugly) mural in the lobby that hailed his personal motto. "Do what you say. Say what you do. Prove it." He later added "Improve it" to the end of that expression. I liked this motto actually.

We had kind of an awesome corporate digital documenting system that made ISO compliancy a drop in the bucket. It was one of his brain children and could have been, at the time, one of the best solutions on the market. The problem? It never went to market. It was kind of like his tinker toy. He made changes, set guidelines to the point of such rigidity that it was impossible to adapt to any other way of thinking/corporate culture. You either adopted it as gospel or you didn't get it. He truly, truly believed he had superior brain power and therefore everyone should follow in his most efficient way of doing things.

Examples? There were rumors at one point that he was going to require everyone keep the same desktop icons in the exact same places as him on their desktops. And if he happened upon your computer when you weren't in the office he was known to rearrange your files to the *proper* order. Keyboard Hot Keys? You know, CTRL-C or CTRL-V. Inefficient. Highlight, right click and copy or paste that way. Hot keys were bad. It was easier to not use them when he was around instead of listening to his thought process. (Unless you were Pate. Pate thought it was funny to agitate that man.) He also insisted that trash cans be kept under the desks, not to the sides, lest paper inadvertently fall off and be collected with the garbage run.

EVERYTHING had order. Every policy, methodology, and action was required to be documented in the network system. Nothing existed unless it was first defined in the software. Nothing. (I am not even remotely joking on this. Believe me we had countless circular "which came first the chicken or the egg" conversations about this.)

The people who delivered our office mail had to follow an exact walking route through the company hallways.

If you were using a stapler and the staple clip was more than half empty you were to remove the partial staple clip, throw it away and then replace it with a new full strip. Broken staple strips were inefficient.

There was a policy regarding personal hygiene and when it was appropriate and not appropriate to wash your body parts. Yes, there was a section that included washing your private parts. (That part of the policy was removed when H.R. got involved.)

One policy stated how many spritzes of air freshener you could use after having a bowel movement in the bathroom.

For all the insanity there (and there was more) this company owner did have a generous spirit too. The company paid for everyone to get flu shots each year for instance. They contributed to a medical flex spending plan for you each week. There was monthly profit sharing for every employee in the company (cough - when there was profit). Our vacation/sick leave was by far the most generous I've ever heard of. If you got married while working there you got a week's vacation as a wedding gift added to your time bank. (Score, hubs and I were both working there when we got married!) Everyone had a private office with a view of either interior courtyard gardens or lush green fields with old Spanish moss trees.

There was so much drama there. But it was a fun place to work and I made some life friends in the process.

But what inspired me tonight to think about this job and business relates to the project I am currently working on tonight. I am in the process of scanning about 1200 business cards in to my computer to be read and imported in to Outlook. (snore, are you sleeping yet? I want to be sleeping this is so boring.) When you are the only marketing person and are trying to build a database of email addresses and contacts, well, you have to do the grunt work sometimes. I digress (again).

What makes this project tonight partially slow going is that I have to FIX every part of the address that does not adhere to the USPS STANDARD ADDRESSING SYSTEM that was beaten in to my brain when I was an admin at my first job. For instance? Street suffixes could not be spelled out. Nor punctuated. So Street was "ST". Not "ST." nor "St" nor "St." Road was "RD". Circle was "CIR". Suite is "Ste" and had to be on the first line of the address after the building number and street name. No # sign in front of the Suite number either. Northwest had to be "NW" (etc.) So he took this great standard from the USPS and applied it to everything else in the customer database. Corporation was "Corp" and Incorporated was "Inc" and there couldn't be punctuation. Dear Lord NO PUNCTUATION. IT IS NOT STANDARD. THERE MUST BE ORDER! Someone checked all new customer database entries and order entries EVERY day and if she found a mistake you got a lecture on the standard and had to go back and correct it. No, she couldn't correct it on the spot. No. You had to have a lesson.

You'd think it'd be easy to remember this and after a while it was. But at first? ugh.

You're going to have to come in on Saturday, mmmkay? That'd be great.

So as I scan these cards tonight and the OCR bridge recognizes characters to help me out so much by telling me the company name is something like *^A(a)-ER, I also have to change the street suffixes, take out the punctuation and make it all standard. STANDARD.

Because if it's not I start to twitch.

I start to twitch.