Wasting A Perfectly Good Saturday Afternoon

Here I was again, wasting a perfectly good Saturday afternoon.  It was my own fault.  Influenced by my desire for money and wanting to enter the workforce before I was sixteen.  I had been offered a job to help one of my neighbors clean and prepare his rental properties for new tenants every Saturday.  The mornings were great, there was plenty of work to do and the time would fly by.  Unfortunately, the afternoons were a different story.   We would eventually end up at a small apartment complex that he owned where he had odd jobs he would do there.  Not wanting to take me home, because we lived across town and not wanting to pay me to sit an do nothing he would hand me a hose and tell me to spray off the perfectly clean driveway.  He expected this to keep me busy for a couple of hours.  Sometimes I felt like I would fall asleep watering the driveway.  Needless to say I was looking for a better opportunity.   In talking with one of my friends he offered to get me a job at a local grocery store where he worked. He said it paid $6 an hour which was almost twice the $3.25 I was getting. Unbeknownst to me, he was really just looking to hire a replacement.  I guess cleaning the butcher shop at the back of the store was not prestigious enough for him.  After a training me he quit to go work at a yogurt shop.

There were a couple of interesting things about this job.  First, I didn’t have to clock in or clock out.  I got paid for one and half hours every time I cleaned the butcher shop.  I realized if I could clean faster I would be giving my self a raise.  Within a short time I could clean the butcher shop in an hour and the butchers said I was doing a better job than my friend before me.  Another cool thing about the job is that is was flexible in two ways first.  The butcher shop closed at 6pm and the store closed at 10pm.  So, as long as I had the work done before the store closed I could start at anytime after 6pm. This was great because I played sports and if a game or meet when a little long it wasn’t a problem.  Or if I wanted to go out I would be done by 7, which allow plenty of time for fun after work and before cerfew. The other flexible thing about the job is I had to train someone to replace me if I wanted a day off.  I trained several of my friends to cover for me.  And there is only one time I remember during high school were I missed out on a social event because I had to work.  It really was a great job during high school.

During my final months of high school my parents decided to move to St. George Utah.  When I arrived I started looking for a job, as luck would have it I found out the Dixie College cafeteria was looking for a replacement to clean the cafeteria.  I was taking the person about 3 hours to clean.  I talked to the person in charge and was hired as the replacement.  I had been doing similar work for the past 3 year and I was pretty good.  After the person I was replacing quit to go on his mission.  I started working on my efficiency.  Within a couple of weeks I was able to clean the cafeteria in 45 minutes.   I wanted to do a similar deal as I had back in Sacramento.  So I approached the manager and asked if there was anyway I could just get paid for the three hours every night without clocking in or out.  He asked why, and being naive explained that I could do it faster than the person before me and I just wanted to make the same.  He said if you get finished early just find other things to do.  This was not what I wanted to hear and started looking for a better opportunity.

I was making lots of new friends and I started asking around for a great job.  A couple of the girls I met told me there may be an extra job where they worked.  I asked them what the job paid and they said, “between 4 and 5 dollars an hour.”  That sounded better than the $3.25 I was making and approached the company to see if there was a place for me.  I was hired and I soon learned why they said between 4 and 5 dollars an hour.  This job was piece rate, we were paid 1 penny each time two rocks we glued together.  Eventually gluing a enough of these small rocks together would form an arch, which they calle a statue, that would be glued to a rock base.  These statues were sold to pet stores to put in fish tanks.  I wasn’t sure about this piece rate thing but I thought I would give it a try.  Because I was motivated in a couple of weeks I could glue 800 rocks together in an hour.  This seemed pretty good and I quit my job at the cafeteria.  Within a month or so I had changed the production area and had built some tools to help me go faster.  I could now consistently produce over 1500 an hour and many times I could get 2000 done in an hour.  I was making between $15 and $20 an hour in 1988 in St. George.  Even today $15 an hour is a good wage for a high school graduate in St. George.  After working there for about 6 months I quit to serve my mission.  I gave the owner my two weeks.  He said to me.  You have been cranking out the work.  How much are you making an hour?  I told him “Between $15 and $20 an hour”  he said Wow! I’m only paying the forman $11.  And That is how I became a Rock artist!

Interestingly I was able to use these pay-for-performance motivation strategies as a manager for Xerox with incredible results.  In one division I was able to increase profits by over a million dollars a year.  But that is another story.

I invite each of you to look at the business where you work to see if a pay-per-performance strategy can be put in place.  If it is done effectively it can be a literal gold mine for you and your company.

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