People often ask me how I started in business. In this post, I’ll share one my by earliest experiences in business.
When I arrived in the United States, I was 25 years old. About three years later, I was hired to work at an auto parts store. I didn’t speak English very well, so my boss had me keep track of inventory. That way, I wouldn’t have to talk to customers very much: The store’s salesmen would take orders from customers, and I’d find the parts.
Everyday, I showed up at the warehouse and counted parts. While this work may sound very boring, it became sort of an obsession for me.
By nature, I’m a curious and observant person. I quickly began noticing that the store’s inventory system had serious problems. For example, parts would come in, but the store didn’t have a consistent way to keep track of them. So nearly half of the warehouse’s inventory wasn’t even account for.
Unfortunately, my workday was so busy finding parts for the store’s sales team that I didn’t have anytime to fix the inventory system. The only way to solve the problem was to work after hours.
Once my shift was over, I’d go home and eat dinner. Then I’d return to work. By then all the other employees had left forth the evening. I’d gather the auto parts manuals, and I’d spend hours taking inventory. The manuals became my bibles. Within months, I had memorized the store’s entire inventory.
I didn’t have a special gift of memorization. Instead, I reviewed the manuals and the inventory over and over. During store hours I’d keep track of what parts went in and out. After work, I’d figure out what we had in stock. Over the course of weeks and months, I knew the inventory more than anyone else in the store.
Eventually, my colleagues counted on me more than the inventory system they had used for years. By relying on me, they realized how many sales opportunities they’d missed in the past: customers would ask for a part, the sales staff thought it wasn’t in stock, and the customer would go to another store. With my knowledge of the inventory, in-store sales increased, which raised sales commissions and the store’s bottom line.
No doubt that my contribution benefited the company, but my approach wasn’t without flaws. In the next blog post, I’ll share what hindsight has taught me about my time at the auto parts store.