Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let's Get Physical (with apologies to Olivia Newton John)

In my younger days, I worked as an accountant for a shoe company in Akron, Ohio. The office building had a warehouse attached, and we shipped shoes to our 360 stores across the upper mid-west. It was a nice enough office. The accounting department where I worked was downstairs, so we didn’t have any outside views, but it was well lit and open. Cubes were not really the rage back then, so our accounting clerks sat in rows of desks in an open area. There was no real privacy, and only the managers had telephones.

It was nothing special, but it was ok. I had a picture of my wife and children on my desk. That was as personal as it got in those days.

We were owned by another shoe company in Endicott, New York. Three or four times a year we would get visitors from the home office and they would spend a couple of days working with us.

I always found it odd during their visits. Although nothing was said directly to us, I was always under the impression that they were sincerely thrilled to be visiting us. It was not a joke. They LOVED coming to visit and looked forward to it. And, for the likes of me, I couldn’t figure out why. After all, Akron, Ohio is not exactly a vacation Mecca.

We had a lot of young women working there as accounting clerks and I wondered if maybe they didn’t have a crush on one or two of them. But as I watched, I didn’t notice any real flirting in either direction.

It baffled me.

Then one day I was asked to visit them in Endicott. This was a very big deal for me being called to the home office and all. I was just 23 years old and considered this to be a big feather in my cap. I looked forward to this trip for weeks.

I flew to New York and spent the night before at the Holiday Inn, anxiously waiting to see what the “corporate office” would be like. The next morning I took a cab to the office and walked up the steps to the large facility with excitement building inside of me. I opened the door, walked in, and had the life sucked right out of my body.

While I always thought that there was nothing special about our offices in Akron, there was definitely something special about the “corporate office.”

I felt like I had walked right into the middle of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield.

I had walked into a converted factory; although not much conversion had actually taken place. Instead, I heard my shoes echo against the high ceilings as I walked across the dilapidated wooden floors. The lights, what there were of them, hung some 20 feet above me flickering, but not putting out much actual light. I moved from purchasing, through advertising, store design, and finally into accounting without ever passing through a door, or walking around a wall. It was all just open, dark, and cavernous; and as depressing as a graveyard on Halloween.

Soon I was face to face with my counterparts. But these weren’t the happy, upbeat guys who seemed to enjoy their quarterly visits to Akron, Ohio. Instead these were near zombies who spoke in hushed tones, moved slowly, and never smiled. They also didn’t seem to do very much work....

We’ll discuss this topic in more depth in part 2 of this blog, to be published next week.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:

• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC


  1. Dave,

    It is encouraging to see more and more business leaders recognizing the impact that the "little"things have on our teams and by extension our clients.

    What's ironic is that for by saving few dollars in office rent organizations lose many more in sales and productivity.

  2. I agree with John. It is very encouraging to see more and more business leaders recognizing our teams and clients. But my question is what defines the success of a team?