Now I See… A Tale of Two Salespeople

I looked at my glasses, which had just previously rested on the top of my head. With one of the temples (the arm of the glasses frame) turned at a 90 degree angle, I contemplated the chances of the temple surviving my attempt to bend it back into place. Even as it withstood the bend back, I could see the break, and knew the temple would soon snap into two detached pieces.

I have always taken my business to RX Optical, and as I talked to the salesperson at the location nearest me, I reiterated my loyalty to the store, and explained my current dilemma, and my request for a new temple.  

“I’m sorry,” she explained. “We can’t replace a part; we have to replace the whole frame.” After looking at my purchase history, she continued. “You purchased your frames in May of 2018, so your 2-year warranty has expired. You will also want a new eye exam since we request that they be made every two years. You have insurance for that right?”

She then continued to schedule an examination for me for a month down the road, even with my insistence that my frame wasn’t going to make it another 30 days, and I feared having to wear taped-up glasses. I hung up the phone, realizing that I would now be down hundreds of dollars for what I had hoped would be the replacement of a simple part.

Something wasn’t right here. I knew there was a better way for this tale to end, so I picked up the phone again. But this time, I called the RX Optical located in the Oakwood Plaza, and had the pleasure of talking with Paige Miller.  

“I’ve looked up your records,” Ms. Miller said. “And it shows that your 25-month warranty ends in just a few days, so you’re good! We have your frame in-stock so come on in whenever you want, and we’ll switch it out for you.”

I won’t remark on the first salesperson because I don’t know if she is the product of bad sales practices or more aptly, poor training.  I will however applaud the actions of Paige Miller, who didn’t feel the need to sell me a car when all I needed were new tires.

Sometimes it helps to be that squeaky wheel.

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Women’s LifeStyle. Look for her debut novel, Chasing North Star in the fall of 2020. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.net and facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

Starting new, Starting over, Staying the Course. 3 Bad-Ass Women, 3 Questions…

Imagine riding the high of being a businesswoman with a new store that is due to open. You research everything, making sure that the inventory is being delivered, the bookkeeping is up-to-date, and your staff is in place—ready to go! Then the pandemic hits. It was enough to knock some off their feet. But it was not enough to stop  Jessica Thompson.

While much of the country hunkered down, restaurants switched to take-out only, retailers ramped up online sales, and women everywhere discovered the true color of their roots. This is the snapshot into the lives of three women who are a part of our community, and learning how to succeed while adjusting to our New Normal.

We’re talking to:

Jeannie Henderson:  Owner of Jeannie Cleaning – Home & office sanitizing and cleaning services.

Katie Timber:  Executive Director at SPCA Southwest Michigan – a not-for-profit no-kill shelter.

Jessica Thompson:  Owner of Bee Joyful Shop, Michigan’s first zero-waste market.

Q – What about opening your business turned out to be much harder to accomplish than you expected?

Henderson – One of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome is to create a positive, rewarding, and engaging work culture that attracts the best talent and improves employee retention. Business is always about the people and having the right people in the right seats. At Jeannie Cleaning, we started to get on the right track by defining our purpose and our values and we put them up on our wall for everyone to see. We live them out in every decision, every plan and every action. It has been so rewarding to work with our team now that we are all committed to the same set of values and headed in the same direction. Our business went from frustrating to joyful – just by going through the process of defining our values and then living them out.

Timber – I think the challenging part is that most people assume we are part of the ASPCA or a nationally funded organization. We aren’t! We are your local No-kill shelter that exists thanks to the generosity of our community. Animals do not qualify for funding from most corporations and foundations. Partnerships, donations, adoptions, and volunteerism are the driving force behind the success of The SPCA of SWMICH.

Thompson –  Obviously, the COVID-19 outbreak presented an unexpected roadblock because it kept the store from opening when I had planned. But I know that’s only temporary. Before COVID-19, the answer to the question would have been finding vendors who are strict adherents to a no-plastic philosophy, particularly when it comes to shipping their product(s). I’ve been occasionally surprised when opening a box of plastic-free product to find it wrapped or surrounded in plastic shipping material. Being plastic-free is intentional because in many cases, it’s not what we’ve been trained to do. So when I get product that is packaged and shipped plastic-free, I know that vendor and I are on the same wavelength.

Q – Share with us, an unexpected bonus about running your business?

Henderson – The unexpected bonus of running Jeannie Cleaning is meeting so many great people throughout Kalamazoo and seeing parts of our beautiful county where I had never ventured before. Our customers are so friendly and kind, and it’s a joy getting to know them and to help them to have more free time to do the things they love to do. The additional networking that I’m doing has also been a blessing as well. I love all the new friends I have, and how we are able to help each other succeed. One can NEVER have too many friends!

Timber – Relationships—I have a pretty nontraditional family. The SPCA makes up mine. My board, the staff, volunteers, and our partners are all very close. Some people may think that looking at our pets as members of our family is odd, but fortunately for me, my family is not only supportive of my relationship with animals, they also feel the same. The support of my SPCA family inspires me personally and professionally every day.

Thompson –  Community support has been great! First, the local business community has been helpful and welcoming. To have so many neighboring small businesses offering advice and support has been very encouraging, and sets an example for me to follow in years to come. Also, I’ve been happily surprised by how many have reached out to me on my social media pages to offer encouragement and to let me know that they plan to shop at the store as soon as we’re able to open. There’s a demand for plastic-free products in our community. I know because people are telling me every day!

Q – What advice would you give women starting a business today?

Henderson – Whenever someone asks me about starting a new business, the first thing I suggest is to find a great coach or mentor who has been there before you. Someone who has been successful and who enjoys helping others achieve their dreams. It took me a year after starting Jeannie Cleaning to find my coach. I had to fix a lot of mistakes which could have been avoided. Having a coach has inspired me so much that I am now in the process of becoming a certified Cleaning Business Fundamentals Coach so that I can use what I have learned to help others find success and fulfillment in their businesses.

Timber

  • Adopt a cat or dog. We all need the emotional support.
  • Listen and be realistic while being passionate.
  • Be willing to learn, and include the opposite perspective.
  • Be confident, and know that sometimes things aren’t going to go your way.
  • Be humble, but also remember what President, Lyndon B. Johnsons said. “I’d rather have him inside the tent peeing out, than outside the tent peeing in.”  YOU can do this.

Thompson –  As trite as it sounds, I would say, “go for it!” If you have a strong passion for something, find a way to make it work. Do your homework and have a good plan, of course, but don’t let fear stop you from giving it a shot. That’s what I’m doing!

Here’s a thought… as the economy rebounds, it will likely do so at a slower pace than we would all like. Not only will it be helpful, it will be critical that we do our part in shopping local, and supporting our locally-owned businesses. At the end of the day, we need them as much as they need us.

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Women’s LifeStyle. Look for her debut novel, Chasing North Star in the fall of 2020. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.net and facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

What if Hillary had won?

November 8, 2016 – As the country sat in front of their TVs and computer screens, we watched in real-time as Politics as Usual was turned on its head by a man promising to “Drain the swamp.” But this isn’t about him…

This is about earlier that day when a mother brought her 10-year-old daughter with her to the neighborhood church serving as the area polling station. As the mother picked up her voting ballot, she turned to her daughter and asked her to remember that moment, because in all likelihood, they would both be witnessing the first woman becoming President of the United States. While the daughter shifted her feet in boredom, the young mother smiled as she filled in the oval next to Hillary Clinton’s name. This was a defining moment for many women who were excited to being a part of history.

That was four years ago. As television anchors and news pundits reported the voting numbers rolling in as the map behind them turned red, a large segment of the female population across the nation slowly realized that they would have to wait yet another four years, if not much longer before they could show their daughters that they really can be anything they want to be, even President of the United States.

But, what if Hillary had won?

Politics aside (Yes, I know I’m reaching here), what would it have meant for the college-aged woman to be able to point to President Hillary Clinton as the reason for going into law or politics? Women have crashed through the glass ceiling in virtually every single profession. They are running companies, traveling through space, and serving on the Supreme Court. They just haven’t cracked the ceiling of the Oval Office.

Locally, we have achieved a greater balance of a diverse government, with several women having served as Mayor of Kalamazoo, and Karianne Thomas is currently Kalamazoo’s first Public Safety Chief. One only has to look at Michigan’s current governor to see that, overall, women have attained recognition for having leadership skills. These women can serve as inspiration to ALL young people wondering if they have what it takes to serve in the police force, for our city and state’s government, and beyond.

So, what if Hillary had won? The earth wouldn’t have fallen off its axis as many were predicting. No, life would have gone on as normal, but I would like to think that she would have straightened it out just a bit. Girls deserve to have a role model in every facet of life. They can be firefighters, football coaches and farmers. In 2020, there should be no shards of glass on anyone’s shoulders, yet, here we are. While she didn’t win, Hillary Clinton was a trailblazer, smoothing the road for the next generation of women daring enough to travel down it.       

Here’s a thought… let’s hold out hope that we will see a woman become President of the United States in our lifetime. Not because she’s a woman. Because she deserves to be there.

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Women’s LifeStyle. Look for her debut novel, Chasing North Star in the fall of 2020. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.net and facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

Little Movies Everywhere

As our New Normal continues, I sat down to watch a miniseries recently added to the online streaming service, Hulu, starring Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. Having read the best-selling novel two years ago, I was looking forward to seeing this film adaptation featuring an affluent dysfunctional family. After all, nothing is more entertaining than reading about a rich family falling down a dark rabbit hole.   

The story opens with the torching of the Richardson’s home. (No spoiler alert here, this major event literally happens on the first page of the novel.) Refreshingly, with five of eight episodes now online, the miniseries remains loyal to the novel’s storyline and subplots.

I  have a rule when it comes to watching film adaptations. If I have any plans of reading the novel, it must be done prior to seeing the movie. There are two reasons why the order of this is important…

  • Movies are based on books, not the other way around – I’m sure there has been a successful novel based on a movie, but I can’t think of one. There’s a reason why the book comes first, and I’m not going to mess with the natural order of storytelling.  
  • When reading a book, it is important to draw my own visuals based on the author’s narrative – I don’t want to picture Reese Witherspoon as I sit alongside the main character while she watches her daughter walk into the school, wondering why her daughter isn’t following the metaphorical map she so carefully laid out for her. As I get lost within the pages of a novel, I am able to “see” the mother as she sits in her car, in full makeup even though it’s 6:30 in the morning. I am able to visualize this because of the author’s rich narrative, not because I’m envisioning Witherspoon’s interpretation.

While many movies fail to rekindle the fire of the novels they’re based on (I’m talking to you, “The Glass Castle.”), there is the occasional surprise film that eclipses the written word. “The Bridges of Madison County” film adaptation brought a simple story to life with strong performances by Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, while being directed by Eastwood. But this is an exception to the rule.

And rules are made to be broken. Many years ago, after being captivated by the raw performances by Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte in a 1991 drama based on a best-selling novel, I sat down with the book, “The Prince of Tides,” and fell in love with the Pat Conroy story for a second time.

So, how do I feel about the “Little Fires Everywhere” miniseries after five episodes? I am hooked on following the sad lives of those two families from Shaker Heights, Ohio all over again.