4 lessons I learned from my summer job on a berry farm

By Beth Caron

How is berry picking like “picking” franchisees? Spoiler alert: It’s not, really. But a summer job at a berry farm did teach me some good lessons.

I recently read an article about the lessons learned from a first job. It made me think back to my first job working on a berry-picking farm, and how that experience influences what I do today.* Some of the lessons are pretty basic; some are more significant. Regardless, I think we’ll all agree that those first jobs can have a powerful and long-lasting effect on our work ethics. Here are a few of the lessons I walked away with from those summers picking berries:

1. Speed can’t trump quality.

There was a Russian woman who set the standard for speed-picking strawberries. We all wanted to achieve or exceed her standard of excellence. But, our field supervisors also monitored quality, so if you filled your basket superfast and the quality of the berries was compromised, you wouldn’t get paid for that basket.

FAST FORWARD: These days, I make sure our franchise development team talks to as many prospective franchisees as possible, and that we take our time with each one. It makes a difference.

2. Finish what you start.

With berry picking, you start in the morning with empty cardboard boxes. With a few hours of backbreaking work, you fill them with berries and then load them into the storerooms. What was empty at the start of the day was filled to capacity at the end. I always appreciated that sense of accomplishment after completing a hard day’s work.

FAST FORWARD: No explanation needed—we all love the feeling of knowing you did your best to “fill the storeroom” with something that brings value. That’s how I feel after I talk to a room full of new franchisees at a training workshop who can now see what their future might look like as a Great Clips salon owner.

3. The work is never done.

I remember getting reprimanded one time because it was a slow day due to rain; I was sitting in the trailer waiting for customers to arrive. The farmer pointed out all the things that I could be doing (make baskets, organize the trailer, cut strings, weed the fields, etc.). I never sat idle again.

FAST FORWARD: Again, no explanation needed. There’s always one more thing on the “get it done!” list.

4. Don’t eat too many strawberries at once.

You won’t get paid because you ate the ones that were supposed to end up in your basket. And, you’ll get a stomachache.

FAST FORWARD: I think the closest connection of this lesson to my current job is the drawer full of candy in my office. I’ve relearned the stomachache lesson too many times, so now the stash is mostly to share with co-workers. It’s amazing how often they stop by for a quick “chat.” (Not naming any names but Great Clips President Rob “Sweet Tooth” Goggins is a frequent visitor.)

Coming soon: I was so intrigued by this idea of lessons learned from a first job that I asked people at the office about their experiences. Check back soon to read the memories of VP of Facilities & Franchise Development Adam Husemann (life lesson: Wash the tail lights); VP of Franchise Services & Human Resources Michelle Sack (life lesson: Don’t shake the milk); and, VP of Marketing & Communications Lisa Hake (life lesson: Everyone can float).

*What do I do at Great Clips? I work with the franchise development team, which helps prospective franchisees figure out if becoming an owner of a walk-in hair salon would be a good business decision for them. We spend a lot of time talking to them about their personal and professional goals, background experiences, financial profile, what geographic market they’re interested in, and why they think being a Great Clips franchisee would be a good thing to do. The discussions are thoughtful and focused, but because of our brand culture (and, no doubt, my extroverted personality), the conversations are also friendly and, I hope, enjoyable.

What life-changing lesson did you learn from your first job? I’d love to hear your story. Give me a call!

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