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Making established business shape up - Long

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I just got a new job at a bakery.  This is my first bakery job, but I've been decorating cakes for 5 years.  When I was hired, the previous manager had just been fired.  The owner (small business, 6 employees and the owner) told me she wanted me to be the face of her company, to eventually do wedding consults, and to help with details as she is not detail oriented.  Great!  I was really excited!

  I show up and the first day the owner isn't there for the first part of the morning.  All I hear is the employees getting together and laughing about the owner, saying she is scatterbrained and stupid, that she has no idea how to run a business.  All right in front of me, very loud.  There are two decorators, two retail sales/order taker employees up front, and a manager who doesn't do cake decorating.  So they spend a bit of time hanging out in the kitchen, whining about everything (why can't we have sweatshirts like XYZ cake company?  Ugh, Owner wants to schedule more cake consults but we are too busy that weekend, so I'm going to turn them down, don't let Owner know).  Also they are not friendly (not saying hello when customers walk in, they talk badly about customers, like really nasty.  Snooty.)

  This week, I saw five cake orders get messed up because nobody cares enough to make sure they are doing things right.  They are paper only, even though they do have computers.  I suggested the Cake Boss software and the owner said it sounded great - then she warned me that people there have been doing things the same way for so long that they might be resistant.  HELLO!  It's not working your way!  You're admitting every 5 minutes or so that things need to change!  You hired me asking me to help you change them!  I really like the owner but she is so introverted that the employees run her, not the other way around.  She even intoned that she needs the people who work there to keep the place running during the busy season but  that during the off season she may find other people.

  Honestly this place is a mess.  Literally.  It's gross back there.  Nothing is in any kind of order and they just leave the buttercream open all day, overnight, whatever.  There is no sanitation to speak of except a bucket of bleach water with rags in it that never gets used or changed throughout the day.  Dishes stay in the drying rack because there is no set place to put them - the drying rack IS their proper spot.  There's a great 3 tub wash basin that I have never seen full.  The cake pans don't get cleaned at all - not even scraped of burnt cake.

  Yesterday was the end of my first week.  I spent half the day scrubbing.  The owner saw me cleaning and joined in while the other decorators were out on delivery.  She seemed really embarassed.  I wasn't trying to embarass anyone, but when I baked from home I kept a tight ship.  It's my personality to be organized and clean - she hired me for those traits.  And she sorely needs someone to help her pull out of this slump.  This is an established bakery- next week there are 12 wedding cakes on top of all the occasion cakes.  The decorators are skilled.

  I really love doing the job.  I'm the resident fondant expert (though they don't do fondant covered cakes because they charge an arm and a lag for them, so they say - they just don't like doing them, so I do figures and toppers and leaves and such.)  I mean, I really LOVE cakes!  The only other person there that loves cakes is the owner - the other people are just there to have a job.  They talk about wanting to go back to school to do other things.  Do I just give up and try to find another job, or is there any way I can help pull this together?  Any advice from anyone who has been here before?

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Tomorrow is always fresh:
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post #2 of 12

Unfortunately you are probably going to have to fire or replace 1 or 2 of those other employees to turn the tide around.  Some of the others might just be following whoever has the strongest personality.  I certainly wouldn't wait for the busy season to be over - start looking for someone now, and get moving.  Otherwise, you will be miserable working there.

 

Even though the owner is introverted, she obviously knows what is going on, and is willing to fire people (last manager).  Clean house and try to start rebuilding. :)

 

Liz

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post #3 of 12
I think you need to have a frank talk with the owner - is she prepared to either fire the people that aren't pulling their weight or let you fire them, and is she willing to let you make the changes you think are needed?

If she says she will let you do all this are you willing to do the work that is obviously needed? Or is it just easier to get a job elsewhere and let her deal with her own mess?
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elsewhere.
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post #4 of 12
Some people are just not meant to be business owners.
post #5 of 12

oh i think this is a potential gold mine for you--the owner might be introverted but she's moving the ship forward--hang on tight--bite your tongue --be there to back her up as she plows this rock strewn field--

 

she knows things need to change--if she says she needs these folks for now--figure out how to work with them for now--she needs your support--i don't think she needs you to spell it out to her--

 

oh heck yeah stick it out--looks like a great spot to be in--one week--you ain't seen nothing yet i'm sure--she needs to know she has some solid employees to stand behind her--be that solid employee--is my thought for you

 

a lot of businesses 'get paid' this upcoming holiday season--she doesn't want to train a whole new staff at this point, right before her potential 'payday'

 

she's getting her ducks in a row...


Edited by -K8memphis - 10/27/13 at 8:56am
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post #6 of 12
This sounds like my last job, except for the dirty kitchens. The problem was poor managing. Our chef was apparently under the impression that just because he was the boss and he had people there to do the job, he could just say, screw it, the cooks will take care of it. He was rarely around and when he was, he wasn´t doing his job. It was so irritating that people started to resent him and the business started to suffer a LOT. Employee turnover was through the ROOF. It was a nightmare.

I would suggest making a list of everything that you see that needs improvement. Then sit down and talk to her about each ítem on the list extensively. Everything from cleanliness to customer service. It´s good that she´s open minded and wants to change things, and that she admits there´s problems! Problems are a part of every business, but she also needs to step UP.

Then work together to try to fix each ítem on the list. Cleanliness is important! To be honest, I don´t understand why the bakery is dirty. I´ve never worked in a bakery where cleaning wasn´t a part of my job. And not just cleaning my station, but sweeping, mopping, cleaning and sanitizing equipment, etc. The employees are not going to like it, but tough. (maybe if the budget allows you can eventually hire someone for overnight cleaning)

As for the employees, that´s a tough one, but I would start out by regularly holding staff meetings. I´ve never worked a job that didn´t have its fair share of ***** sessions, but there´s a difference between complaining that the boss is making you work on Christmas, and being vitriolic and insulting in front of a NEW employee. That is crossing the line and they obviously don´t respect her. Does she work with them? How is her relationship with them? Is she around them enough?

Reminders through the bakery. Wash your hands signs. Don´t let product out. Assign different tasks to different employees and rotate them. Give them rewards for good work. Rewards go SUCH a long way, it´s ridiculous. They want shirts with their company logo? 30 full days of smiles to the customers, clean kitchens, team work, open communication with the management, etc, etc, and you get your shirts. Keep it going and you get other little rewards (coupons, whatever little gifts. I had a chef once who randomly gave me a new spatula and I don´t know why, that was awesome. Just makes you feel like your boss cares, and it makes you care in turn). I´d also look into warning system. Not greeting a customer when they walk through the door is inexcuseable to me.

Tighten the loose screws and you probably won´t have to fire anyone. Those who care about the business and their jobs will stay, those who don´t will go.

I agree this sounds like a potential gold mine, but it´s NOT gonna be easy. You may have to end up leading this woman by the hand. Just make sure you´re paid properly.
"Life itself is the proper binge." - Julia Child
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"Life itself is the proper binge." - Julia Child
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post #7 of 12
Quote:

Originally Posted by PrivateNameHere View Post
...she wanted me to be the face of her company, to eventually do wedding consults, and to help with details as she is not detail oriented...

 

 ... You hired me asking me to help you change them!...

 

  Yesterday was the end of my first week.  I spent half the day scrubbing.  The owner saw me cleaning and joined in while the other decorators were out on delivery.  She seemed really embarassed.  I wasn't trying to embarass anyone,...

 

  I really love doing the job.  I'm the resident fondant expert (though they don't do fondant covered cakes because they charge an arm and a lag for them, so they say - they just don't like doing them, so I do figures and toppers and leaves and such.)  ...

 

i think you should roll softly and carry a big spatula --if this is your first bakery gig you have a lot to learn from these chicks--i think you need to blend in and retain your integrity--

 

you need your job description defined for you--are you the new manager that will set the new course or are you the fondant expert who will be integral in the new team being assembled? it sounds like the latter to me--

the only way to see the rainbow is to look through the rain

 

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post #8 of 12

You need to have a come to Jesus meeting with the owner and lay it all out. Then have the same type of meeting with the employees if the owner is on board. If she isn't then there's a reason that you're seeing what you're seeing, and nothing will change no matter what you do. Sounds like all of the employees need to be put on notice that they need to shape up or get out.

post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar View Post
 

You need to have a come to Jesus meeting with the owner and lay it all out. If she isn't then there's a reason that you're seeing what you're seeing, and nothing will change no matter what you do.

Find this out first. Just how committed is she, maybe she says she is but she never really works toward fixing things. There's no need for you to fix everything if the owner isn't fully committed to change and backing you. I've met a lot of people who talk the talk but don't take any steps to make things happen.

 

Was the last manager supposed to straighten things out, tried and the owner didn't back them up so she couldn't make changes.....and that's why she got fired?

 

You could be set up for the same situation.....the owners behavior makes the big red flag wave in my head......things are so bad that employees don't care about getting in trouble bad mouthing her in front of you. PLUS the place is dirty and poorly run.........

 

I'd be having a long hard conversation with the owner before I invested my efforts trying to help her.

post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar View Post

You need to have a come to Jesus meeting with the owner and lay it all out. Then have the same type of meeting with the employees if the owner is on board. If she isn't then there's a reason that you're seeing what you're seeing, and nothing will change no matter what you do. Sounds like all of the employees need to be put on notice that they need to shape up or get out.

Absolutely. You can make all the great suggestions you want, but they won't make much of a difference if the company's culture doesn't change, and that starts with the owner.

There's nothing necessarily wrong with an employee who is just there for the job, the owner just needs to find out how to motivate them (usually compensation) and tie in meaningful rewards with measurable metrics of employee performance that improve the bottom line of the company.
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you for all the replies!

  The previous manager practically ran the company for the owner for many years (5?) and the owner got to the point where she only showed up regularly on Thursday - Saturday to do consults and decorate a few cakes.  Then she noticed that the company was losing money and checked into other things and found out the manager was deliberately running the company differently than she was instructed to or something.  Pretty much, the owner got lazy and felt comfortable enough to leave the details to this other person.

  She came in every day this past week, and spent most of the day Wednesday around the shop and Thursday-Saturday in the kitchen mostly, decorating and cleaning.  I think she plans on being in full time again and not allowing that kind of thing to happen again.

  You are all right though, I need to have a CTJ with her about what my position is to be exactly and what she wants to do.  What we talked about when I was hired made me believe that she was in need of someone to help pull her business up out of the rut it has been in and I would be perfect to help her do that.  That could mean different things to everyone though.  There is a meeting Saturday of the staff so I guess I will find out what kind of things are going to be addressed and go from there.

  I definitely would love to gain experience and knowledge from these ladies - they are really talented!  The "main" decorator has had to just take over all the scheduling of what needs to be done with the cakes at what time to get them ready (and has been doing incredibly well!) and the other lady is incredibly skilled at airbrushing.  I just think they have been beat down by the negative atmosphere and have had all the fun of doing cakes pulled out of them.

  Thank you all again for your suggestions.

Tomorrow is always fresh:
There are no mistakes in it.
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Tomorrow is always fresh:
There are no mistakes in it.
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post #12 of 12
Why work on the owner when you can work on the employees? You can lead by example - come in with a great attitude, offer incentives (if you're in a position of authority over them) to do better, be so damned chipper it will irritate them. If you have a great singing voice - sing happy songs to yourself. I can often be stupid and wear a silly hat or tiara, have "5 minute dance parties", or offer to buy lunch or a $10 gift card for the first person done with their production list. You don't have to do fun stuff every day - but you really don't want to come in like Gordon Ramsay fussing that no one is competent except you (if ya know what I mean). Be on their side - SEE their side and then show them a better way.

People are more inclined to improve with an offer of reward instead of a threat (being fired).

Just a thought.
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