When I left the shop three weeks ago, the owner said good-bye with a handshake and a door left ajar: “If you ever want to come back to the maintenance hangar or the helicopter school, just let me know.” From the outside looking in, it’s a lovely offer, one many would jump at. I am not, however, on the outside looking in and I would never jump at that offer unless it was the last offer that existed on this planet.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful to have standing offers of employment with two of my previous bosses. Very grateful. But I would never work for this man on a bet. There are so many potentional pitfalls, it makes even entertaining the prospect of future employment with him laughable. Here’s why.
Firstly, while there is the probability I would be working with other people on a daily basis, I would still be forced to deal with the owner on a daily basis, because he cannot keep well enough alone with his businesses and is too cheap to hire extra people to run them properly. The number of problems caused from him trying to dip all his fingers into his many pies at random moments was massive.
In order to help modernize and streamline the operations of his maintenance division, I implemented two different management software programs and fully populated their databases only to see one phased out (because it was too restrictive and not at all user friendly, though I was finally able to fly through it fairly effortlessly) in favor of another program (which was more accessible but even more restrictive and never got updated or repopulated once I returned to the shop full time). But because he decided to run around between all his businesses, that maintenance program got buried under a backlog of invoices and information, which should have been input months ago by an on-site administrator, because he couldn’t be bothered to hire someone to do it and preferred to save the money and have me do it once the backlog piled into a mountain, bringing me to my second point: The backlog.
I don’t want to repopulate a database for him for a third time only to have the same thing happen again. When I was pulling double-duty for him, running the aviation supply shop three days a week and his maintenance hangar the other two (with a sign on the door asking anyone wanting to buy something right then and there to call a number and wait five to ten minutes for me to show up and let them in, because that’s a smart business practice, dontchaknow), the director of maintenance and myself devised a business plan that would shift that operation away from servicing the owner’s personal and flight school aircraft toward one geared toward public aviation repair (ya know, to actually generate revenue for a change). Part of that involved hiring either a full-time or part-time office manager who would be in charge of ordering, receiving, data entry, payroll, and inventory management. When we presented this to the owner, he actually seemed receptive.
Then nothing happened. I was returned to the shop by the director of maintenance with a bright outlook only to see nothing happen. The director left a few months later, frustrated by the owner’s lack of movement, to be replaced by a more shop-focused, computer-repulsed director. And I was then buried, again, under mountains of files and paperwork to help do everything that should have been done months ago, all because he was so hard-headed and egotistical, which brings me to my next reason: His ego.
I REFUSE to work for anyone who refuses to listen to my advice. For the three years prior to my leaving, the owner would come by once every month or two to look around the shop and complain about the need for increased revenues. The problem is that aviation supply is a pretty static industry that is in danger of being left behind in favor of digital products, especially charts and textbooks. Hell, you can already get digital versions of FAA publications FOR FREE on their website. (I’m not even kidding. If you’re looking to take up aviation, go on there first, especially if you’re a more digitally-inclined learner.)
So, while I understand the need for product to rotate better through the store so that we could replace it with product that moves better, the problem really is that there isn’t really any major new innovation in the products we carry and sell, aside from slight modifications and new editions. He didn’t listen any of the times I attempted to explain that.
There was also another little problem: NOT ENOUGH CUSTOMERS! Here’s where my gripes really begin in earnest. Over my four years there, the shop was moved out of the main terminal building into a temporary building for two years and then from there back into the newly remodeled terminal building. Combine that with the previous two locations over the five years prior to my arrival, and that leaves a whole lot of confused customers, which is horrible for business.
But there are ways to bring them back. We call that “advertising”. Apparently, the owner, a BUSINESS OWNER, mind you, didn’t see conventional means of advertising as worthwhile expenditures. I’m not even kidding. I floated every tried-and-true method in the books, and he scoffed at them. (This is an English major telling a business owner how businesses work. Welcome to my life.) And When I say “every tried-and-true method”, I mean exactly that. I’ve never taken anything beyond a basic intro business course, or two, in college, and even I know the value of things like signage, flyers, and print ads. I also know that, while they take money to produce, they pay dividends in the end. But that wasn’t worth anything to him. Instead, his solution: Put in a sandwich counter.
You read that right. I’m not even kidding.
We didn’t even have a sign by the road or on the building, and his big scheme was to incur more overhead and more costs on a gamble that selling sandwiches would save that shop. Now, I understand the thinking (yes, I really do), and it all stems from the fact that, years ago, there was a restaurant in the terminal building. It was a little cafe with a view of the runway and ramp where pilots could come get a bite and watch airplanes takeoff and land. I would get customers every now and then inquire about it and if there were plans to open another one.
So, I get where the owner was coming from there, but here’s why it’s idiotic: A sandwich counter is not a restaurant, and we don’t have views of any airplanes at all. We have wonderful views of two parking lots. Yippee. That’s not what pilots want. Pilots become pilots because they love airplanes, and they love flying. And that’s beside the fact that the expenses to start up and operate a sandwich counter were a ridiculous gamble. Plumbing would need to be routed to the suite. New counters and displays would need to be purchased, assembled, and installed. I would need to be trained and certified in food handling and sandwich assembly (which I absolutely was not going to do because that is not what I signed on to do for a man who refused to listen to me). New stock would need to be purchased and monitored closely. It’s literally putting two businesses in one space to be run by one person. It’s asinine.
This is a man who was unwilling to put up a sign for a business, because it cost money, but open a sandwich shop was apparently free? This was my life for the past year, my hand to god. I say that, because I barely even believe that it happened, that that was reality. No one could possibly be that stupid and egotistical, right?
So, when August rolled around, and he first floated the idea of shutting down the shop, which terrified me to my core. It was a complete jolt to the system hearing that the shop I had kept afloat through the negligence and incompetence of two owners for three and a half years wasn’t worth saving. It was jarring. And then infuriating. I made my plea to him, arguing the need for a good aviation supply shop in the city, that it had been viable in the past and could be again; we just needed some advertising. His response: “Why didn’t you send me a proposal before?”
I wanted to hit him. I did. He just lobbed me under the bus like this whole thing was my fault. Why would I waste my own personal time to create and submit a proposal for something that had already been shot down a number of times before only to have it shot down again? If you’re not going to listen to my advice verbally, why would having it in writing make any difference? I understand that it could. I don’t, however, understand why it should. Does that make any sense? I shouldn’t have to write out something for you to listen to my advice. That’s at least how I feel, that verbal communication should be the embarkation point for furthered correspondence, especially with someone you meet with on a regular basis. And when that verbal communication breaks down and is outright disregarded, what incentive is there to continue along that same course?
So, I made a proposal with industry research and price quotes, everything from the value of roadside signage to a mock-up of print/digital ads we could run in aviation magazines. The two things he zeroed in on from it were the print ad and search engine optimization for the website. He never followed up on anything else. And beyond my initial follow-ups to those two options, he never pursued any of them. That’s when I put on my “Fuck It” hat, updated my resume, and started looking for other jobs.
The overarching reason for why I will never go back to work for that man ever again can be best summed up by saying I refuse to be underutilized and underappreciated ever again. My new boss here said to me the other day, “I still can’t believe [the owner] never utilized your intellect.” I hadn’t received a compliment like that from a manager in nearly a decade.
Thinking about that honestly makes me want to cry a little. That means so much to me. It really does. To the shop’s owner, I was an expenditure he could never fully justify. He couldn’t be bothered to try to make things work, hoping instead that they would just repair themselves on their own somehow. When that didn’t happen, he completely ignored our lack of advertising and went straight for alternative fixes. I refuse to try to work with someone who would rather sit in an empty room and listen to himself talk.
That’s why I’ll never go back.
-The Retail Explorer