It’s a different world . . .

Posted: December 29, 2010 in General Blogging
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If you have been following my blog, I am telling a story about myself and my marriage to my husband, the father of  my son J.O.  If you want to start from the beginning please read my post called Another story begins . . . ,  or to learn a little bit more about my son, read:   And then it begins .

So now the work begins.  There was a lot to be done.  We needed to evaluate the processing plan and determine what changes would need to be done to the structure.  We did a walk-through of the building.  It was a huge warehouse which had been built recently and was located in the town’s new industrial park.  I took the dimensions of the building so that we could draw the changes.  It was our plan to get the processing plant open as soon as possible. To do this we planned on working as the construction work was being done.  This was tricky, but not impossible.  I determined what the set up would be in the interim and then drew a rough blueprint of the changes to the processing plant. 

Our next step was to order the equipment.  It mainly consisted of a forklift, an industrial scale and a packaging machine, which we ordered out of Texas.  I ordered the packaging materials, which consisted of plastic and metal banding. 

Our next big step was to set up the work flow for processing the raw materials.  It  was going to be very much like an assembly line type of set up.  My father came up with a brilliant design for the assembly line equipment, but instead of it being linear it was circular, which was perfect for our operations.  We really believed in using local providers when it was possible.  We took my dad’s design to a metal shop that my father had done business with in the past, and we contracted them to build this circular assembly unit.

Our next step was to buy the raw materials, which was pretty easy. In no time we had a semi-load of raw materials delivered to the processing plant.  It was a very competitive market for the raw materials and the prices fluctuated with the trends in this business.  We really had to be on our toes because there were bigger companies that were our competition.  So our bidding for raw materials had to be very frugal.  The one advantage we had is we knew the market in West Africa.  We had many connections to sell this product, and our partner resided there.

While the functional aspects were being set up, I started the interview process for hiring employees.  We decided we needed about six sorters, one person for packaging set up, and two people for operating the actual packaging equipment.  In addition we designated one of the sorters to also be the forklift operator.

There were not many requirements for the employees.   They needed the the ability to lift forty pounds,  the ability to stand on their feet for long periods of time, and hopefully just be a good worker.  We also needed someone who had fork lift experience and some employees that were used to working with equipment. 

The positions paid slightly above the minimum wage.  At first the only benefits we had were sick time and vacation time, which was awarded after they worked for us for six months.  Later we were able to offer them some medical, life and disability insurance.

Looking back on this, the saying “You get what you pay for” was exactly the situation we were in.  The type of people who applied for the job and eventually worked for us were the dredges of society.  Among our employees we had individuals involved with drugs and alcohol, victims of abuse, a girl who wanted to be a stripper, a woman who was mentally unbalanced, and basically individuals that couldn’t get a job anywhere else.  The one common characteristic each of them had was that they had been in jail at one time or another. 

Initially I had it in my head that I could work with them and make them good viable employees.  I started out with a very optimistic perspective.  I showed them by my actions that we were not a big, bad company and we cared for our employees.  Even though we were a start-up company we tried to provide the employees with full benefits including:  annual raises based on performance, vacation time, sick leave, access to medical, life and disability insurance. I served as their life coach.  It was pretty stressful.  I had been working so many years in major corporations, that I had no idea what it was like outside of that environment, and was a little bit shocked.  Practically every day one employee did not come to work.  Besides having my role as the manager of the operations, I played the role of  social worker, marriage counselor, psychologist, mother, boss, and drill sergeant.  I played this “social worker” role for about six months and then I gave up.  Their situations in life were much bigger than what I could help them with.  I also think I was more concerned about their well-being than they were.  My best employees were a retired manager of a grocery store, and a gentleman from Cuba.

 to be continued . . .

Related topics:

Change in career, another move, and starting something new . . .
Good-bye Chicago, Hello Columbus . . .
Chicago and a time of crisis . . .
A place of prosperity . . .
There are good people in the world . . .
Hard times: a need to relocate . . .
And another story begins .

 

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