Going to work with dad

Discussion
Apr 23, 2015

Today, as I sit writing this article next to my seven-year-old daughter who is hanging with her dad as part of the national "Take Your Kids to Work Day" event, it takes me back to a time when my father, then an assistant manager at a supermarket, would take me with him to work. I’m not sure I realized it at that time (our trips started when I was about five), but I learned a lot about retailing and, more importantly, about my dad in the process.

One of the earliest lessons I learned was that retail is hard work. With the stores closed on Sunday because of blue laws, my dad used the time to build displays and fill open spaces on shelves. I wasn’t just an observer — I had to help him. And while stacking cereal boxes was no big deal, large cans of crushed tomatoes wore a little guy like me down.

[Image: Take Our Kids to Work Day]

I also learned retail hours stink. Here we were on Sundays sweating away in a store while my friends were out playing. Why did we have to work on Sunday when no one else was? He explained to me that people would be coming to the store looking for food the next day. How would I feel if my favorite food — hamburgers — were not in the store to buy? It was his job to make sure that people got all their favorites so they wouldn’t be sad or mad.

Speaking of mad, I also learned people skills were essential to success in retail. When speaking with customers, many of whom were not very happy, my father spent a lot of time listening and nodding his head before speaking. In the end, both the customers and my dad were smiling.

My dad had a great smile and a giggle laugh that was hard for anyone to forget. He displayed both a lot while he worked. I think it helped make customers feel welcomed and broke down boundaries with the people he managed.

Many years later, before he passed away, we spoke about the days when he took me with him to work. He smiled and told me those were fond memories. He also told me he wanted to show me the value of hard work and, hopefully, discourage me from following in his footsteps to work in retail — unless, he said, I really loved it.

Are retailers taking advantage of “Take Your Child to Work” day to recruit future generations of workers to the business? Can you relate any lessons you learned from going to work with Mom or Dad?

Braintrust
"Thank you George for a great article and helping all of us parents to recall the special times of with our own children on "go to work day.""
"I hope everybody who has had a similar opportunity (including today’s "tagalongs") has the same kind of experience."
"ll I can say is that retail is a tough business. Always has been, and as long as you deal with the public, always will be."

Join the Discussion!

14 Comments on "Going to work with dad"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

Thank you George for a great article and helping all of us parents to recall the special times of with our own children on “go to work day.”

Even though my children are grown now, they often talk about those work days as very special days for them.

Despite what I thought I was teaching my daughters at “work day,” they took away entirely different things. It is valuable for your children to see you in a role other than parent.

After one work day with me, all three daughters quickly decided that they did NOT want to become a consultant — probably a good thing!

Dick Seesel
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

My dad (and my grandfather before him) owned a specialty department store, so I had many exposures to the family business while growing up. (And my retail roots go back five generations.) Superficially, the chance to work all over the store as a teenager and college student caused a spark that led to my own retail career. Nothing was more gratifying at that early age than “making a sale” while dealing with customers face-to-face in the men’s department — something of a lost art today.

But the biggest life lesson was to observe a great role model (my dad) in a professional setting outside of the bounds of daily family life. The mutual respect between his employees and him made a lifelong impact. I hope everybody who has had a similar opportunity (including today’s “tagalongs”) has the same kind of experience.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

All I can say is that retail is a tough business. Always has been, and as long as you deal with the public, always will be. And the challenges with attracting talent highlight how tough this business is. I do remember my mom taking me to downtown Chicago in the 1960s to sit with her as she worked the reservation desk of a major airline. And it showed me that working on a PC (although we didn’t call the computer terminal on which she worked a “PC” yet) can be a rewarding career and can leverage one person’s talent far greater than a single physical body can. Especially as I sit working at a PC today some 50 years later. Smart lady, she was. I love you, Mom!

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
2 years 11 months ago
My mom took me to work a couple of times. It required donning a clean suit and spending hours examining gallium arsenide wafers through a microscope in a QA role to make sure the last process applied properly to the surface. What I learned is that even high tech jobs can be incredibly boring. I think it’s funny, though, to have the question posed as one of retailers recruiting future generations of workers. As parents of teens now, my community of friends is focused on pushing our kids to get a part time job — certainly a summer job if possible — so that they get experience with having a work ethic and meeting an employer’s expectations. And retail is at the top of our lists as a potential area for our kids to work. It’s not just me — it’s all the parents I know. But not one of us is suggesting that they may like it enough to consider it a career move. Hmmm. But just to show how times change, my kids are begging… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

I think the idea is more than “lessons learned” about business. It is more about the dynamics of a family. Dads and moms leave the home early in the morning and are off to someplace called “work.” What is that thing that they do? Is it like school? Or do they just play all day? And the kid thinks, when I do “work” it’s bad stuff. Do mom and dad suffer like I do all day?

The message to the children is that “work” is a part of life. It is one of the keys to a complex puzzle of family life. It does not have to be bad or good (but mostly it can be good). It is evolution. It is maturity. In a family, it is how we all fit together.

Ben Ball
Guest
2 years 11 months ago
Sure! He taught me my work ethic in no uncertain terms. Going to work with dad was a non-starter as he worked operating large equipment in a textile mill. But like most of the men in rural WNC who worked at “the plant,” Dad farmed on the side. The cash crop of the day was burley tobacco. Cut on the stalk in the fields and then “speared” onto five foot long sticks — five or six tobacco stalks per stick — to be hung in the tall burley barns to dry. The sticks weighed about 25 pounds each and had to be hoisted up into the upper reaches of the barn and hung to dry, one layer after the other. A burley barn is a maze of “racks” made of “tier poles” and the men would form a human conveyor belt on the successive rungs to pass the sticks to the guy on top. Think an old-time fire bucket brigade. Dad always made sure I was on the very top tier and directly above him. That way,… Read more »
Ron Margulis
Guest
2 years 11 months ago
Rather than a story about my parents, here’s one about my grandfather. For a few years starting when I was about 12, my grandfather used to pick me up at my house one Saturday a month to go horseback riding (my mom took me for the other lessons). He’d always have to leave at noon, even if we were having a great time (which was most of the time, I’m happy to say). I finally asked him why he always had to leave at noon and he said the next month he would take me with him. The next month after my riding lesson we went to visit one of our family’s supermarkets. I think it was the ShopRite in Rockaway, NJ. When we got there, he went right to the produce department and grabbed a big bag of Kirby cucumbers the manager had waiting for him. He then scouted the store and found a women pulling and pushing two shopping carts loaded with groceries. “Mrs. Smith (I forget the name, sorry it was 40… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
2 years 11 months ago
Thank you for this article George. I enjoyed it. It took me back so many years with many fond memories. The first memory is with me and my dad. He owned a delicatessen at Va. Beach. A summer resort more than a residential place back then. If he was to make his nut it had to be between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If I wanted to see my dad I had to be in the store. So I learned the trade at a very young age. I was the cashier so math became a strong suit very early in life. My dad taught me commitment. He taught me why “the customer is always right.” Even today I tell people when I grow up I want to be a deli man. Next is spending time with my son as I was growing an earlier business. He would come with me on weekends as we did what we called “add-ons” for increased revenue. He is grown with a family but still tells me how much those… Read more »
J. Kent Smith
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

Aside from my day job, my son and I run a racing team. The exposure there to complexity and making informed decisions around ROI (cost of upgrade versus speed or reliability gained) I think helps more than if I dragged him along to board room meetings.

David Livingston
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

My dad owned a supermarket. He put me to work at 13. It was hard work and I knew I didn’t want to be doing this. Some days he would take me to the Wetterau warehouse. Guys with suits and ties, making good money, nice offices. Helping retailers be better at what they do. This looked good to me and a decade later I was sitting in a cubicle at Scrivner, helping retailers. Been helping independent retailers ever since. I think I would have been good at running a supermarket. But I’m much better doing site location analysis. Instead of working at one store I’ve helped open hundreds of them. Thanks to my dad for the trips to Wettereau.

Tony Orlando
Guest
2 years 11 months ago
Great story George. As most of you know, my Father was a believer in working hard and all of us as kids started in the family supermarket at very young ages. I was 4 when I first started wiping down the bottom two shelves, and facing up everything the way he told me to. I was too short to get the top shelves, but it took me 2 months to do the entire store, and boy was I proud to help my dad everyday. He was always pushing me to learn math, looking customers in the eye and shaking people’s hands, and told me customer service is #1, and always will be. My mother taught me how to run register at 7, and had me doing fractions plus making change, so when I was 8, I could run the register by myself, and again I can not thank my parents enough for doing this for me. Life changed when my dad let me start working in the meat room at 10, and by 12 years… Read more »
Roger Saunders
Guest
2 years 11 months ago
Thanks George, for bringing back the pleasant memories of going to work with my parents. They were not retailers. Dad was an ironworker. Mom had a maid service she set up to serve executives who were being transferred into Chicago to new homes into households that were in the bosky North Shore and western suburbs of Chicago. Mom had me sweeping garages, cleaning toilets, sorting out basements at the age of 12. Later, Dad’s role as an ironworker opened up the door for me to get a permit at age 18, to walk the iron high beams of buildings and bridges of the Windy City in the summer. The earnings were more than enough to pay my way through college. What I took from those lessons—both the verbal coaching and the physical challenges—including the great values of work ethic, team orientation, thinking and planning ahead, the job was never a success unless all performed at peak performance. You learned to understand who might be the weak links in the chain, know if you could help… Read more »
Gordon Arnold
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

Retail is very well known for taking advantage of many things regarding employees. Take your child to work day is an opportunity that is largely overlooked for many affront reasons. This level of indifference towards the employees strongly nurtures the agony of apathy in the employee ranks. But again that’s just what I think.

Marie haines
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

This article made me smile. My dad was a self-employed surveyor. Going to work with him meant spending a Saturday standing in a field full of thistles and cow pies struggling to hold the “stick” (a very tall measuring pole) straight. Or traveling for hours in his rattling Suburban over country roads looking for pins and corner stakes in fields and new housing developments, longing to find a bathroom.

What I learned from him was:

  1. I wanted an indoor job!
  2. having a job is a full-time commitment. He spent most evenings sitting at the kitchen table writing descriptions and working on plats. He showed his children that in order to do a good job and meet a client’s expectations you have to put in 110 percent.
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Thank you George for a great article and helping all of us parents to recall the special times of with our own children on "go to work day.""
"I hope everybody who has had a similar opportunity (including today’s "tagalongs") has the same kind of experience."
"ll I can say is that retail is a tough business. Always has been, and as long as you deal with the public, always will be."

Take Our Instant Poll

How important is joy in your work to being a great retailer?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...