Categories
Growth

Seven Years

Today is my seven-year anniversary working for Home Zone Furniture. While I have loved all the places my career has taken me (maybe a few short-lived exceptions), Home Zone is tops.

Pre-HZ

Years before I heard of Home Zone, I was a customer, which I think in some way led me to get the job.

My wife had found a smoking deal on a mattress which we picked up in the shady section of south Euless. To make the situation even shadier, the store entrance was not in the front of the building, you had to go around back through a tight alley. It felt like a drug deal.

At the time I was working at SUCCESS magazine, loving what I did but loathing the commute.

My best friend Nathan had recently been on an interview, received an offer, and was given a counteroffer by SUCCESS to not leave. I went to the right-hand man of the VP I was under and asked if I could just get a counteroffer without having to interview elsewhere.

I was laughed out.

Even after that, I didn’t think about looking for another job. Also, my skills were varied, in so many directions, I assumed a business would want someone more specialized than I was. I had designed emails, and coded websites, made print ads, and tinkered with servers but wasn’t dedicated to any one thing.

Who would want this jack of all trades? 

Years before, I had unsubscribed from any job posting sites. By chance, I received an email later that week for a place less than 3 miles away from my house that needed someone to help create a new website and work on print ads. Delilah told me that we had bought a mattress from them before. 

I checked out their website and knew I had the job.

Interview

I spent the next few hours designing a resume and sent it in at 8:30 PM on May 8th.

At 8:31, I received an email through Zip Recruiter requesting a phone interview, and another direct email from the company at 9:01 apologizing for emailing so late and asking again if we could have a phone interview the next day. 

During the phone interview, we hit things off, until I mentioned the salary listed. My exact words were, “Were you looking for a high school intern?” …said in the nicest way. The guy in that interview became a good friend and would retell that story a few times. It would always blow me away with the sheer confidence I can summon on occasion.

When negotiating a salary, they asked how much I made currently. I always stuck to, “I make more than you are offering, and less than I am asking.”

“Whoever Mentions A Number First, Loses”

We had Nathan’s going away party where I drank a pitcher of cider and then met up with the owner for a final interview.

I got the call saying I got the job and “see you on Monday”. I called the owner back and said “Oh hey, Monday is Memorial Day, so…” the response I received was “It’s fine, we will all be here.” 

It set the stage.

Work

When I first got to Home Zone, I asked for whatever the latest iMac was and the Adobe Suite.

Instead, I received the very first iMac (not really, but it was very old). It couldn’t run Adobe Cloud at the time. Frustrated, I told the owner I would have a lot to do to get such old equipment to work and we went to buy what I had asked for originally.

I learned unlike other jobs, we work every holiday with the exception of Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas. I say Easter but we had that off anyway.

Having never worked on my birthday, I mentioned that I would be taking the day off. My boss smiled and said to come in that day. Having only been around a few months, the cryptic way he said it made me think that they would do some special party on your special day.

I was totally let down.

When talking about Good Friday my boss would mention that “we will celebrate it at the office this year”.

I’m not scared of work though and find comfort in the routine so it wasn’t something I ever complained about.

The Website

The website they had when I started was static, with prices locked in the images. They knew it was bad. It was a WordPress site designed by a brother-in-law or something.

Before I had come aboard they had contracted a guy to create a Magento theme that was mimicking a competitor. I was to design print ads and work with the developer on fixing any bugs.

The bugs were numerous and eventually, I proposed that we scrap the whole project, get a premade theme and modify it. I priced everything out and executed the plan. We then had a website with up-to-date prices. 

At the time we went live with the website, I was asked to remove the ability to place orders online. On October 25, 2015, we decided to pull the trigger and start taking online orders. Later, I would celebrate this date as the birthday of the website.

Projects

Basic IT Stuff

When I first arrived at Home Zone, excel spreadsheets were emailed back and forth between parties. We used Yahoo for our email service and it was incredibly clunky. I brought us over to Google Apps for email and started sharing the files on Google Drive. There wasn’t a customer email program so I set us up with Mailchimp to send out a weekly newsletter.

SPREADSHEET LOVE!

Before working at Home Zone, I once scoffed at a coworker mentioning how spreadsheets were so useful. Once I started Home Zone I learned the power of spreadsheets and now use them for projects all the time.

There are spreadsheets that integrate our pricing to InDesign to print signage. Spreadsheets that enable customer service to work with the parts department. Spreadsheets to track and graph sales. I redid our delivery system and warranty system, automated setting up product data with spreadsheets. If I have to modify text on a large scale or create a ton of HTML for an email, I do it by spreadsheet.

I once tracked the beers I drank, ABV, IBU, and country/state of origin with a mega functional spreadsheet.

I would have never found my love of spreadsheets without having worked at Home Zone.

HR Department?

Also, I have had the chance to hire a few people during my time here. We decided it would be better if I focused on the website and have someone else take over the print. I hired a very talented graphic designer fresh out of school who does a great job to this day. I also found a video producer, a social media manager, and my assistant.

Outsourcing

One of the other things I am proud to have learned was the ability to resource global talent to slash production costs of things as simple as clipping photos to developing custom website plugins.

Relocating Corporate

Eventually, we moved our corporate office from Euless to Grand Prairie. At the time I didn’t care to move as I was walking or riding my bike to and from work. I was told by the owner I could stay and my friend talked me into moving. I was given what I think is the most impressive office in the building, even though I asked for the smaller one. My commute takes about 16 minutes so it’s not all bad.

I once dropped mail off at our Euless store before it was closed, and realized I was glad we had moved.

Perks I Experienced

Remote Work

Shortly after I started Home Zone, a VP I had worked with at SUCCESS had asked me to come back and work with one of the speakers. Having become accustomed to the short commute, I couldn’t imagine what would bring me to work for SUCCESS again. The one thing I thought of was a few months out of the year I could live in Costa Rica. I didn’t think I would get it but it was accepted right away.

At the time it was my dream to live in the mountains where I had spent a few summers in my youth and asked if Home Zone could match it. Which they did. 

In the end, it wasn’t what I wanted, my grandparents were too judgemental of me and my wife, I worked all the time for Home Zone wanting to prove myself, and the rest of the time I redid my grandparents’ website. I was still very grateful for the experience. 

Vacations

Before the pandemic, Home Zone took the employees of the corporate office (and a spouse) on three separate trips to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico (Cancun, Cabo, and Cancun respectively).

If you don’t make the photo, you will still be in the photo. (Far Right)

We all had an amazing time, going to the dance club, watching me karaoke, doing some excursions, watching me karaoke, and of course dancing with the bachelorette party after karaoke.

Dress Code

I think the first day of work I dressed up kind of nice but noticed my coworker wearing shorts one summer day. I was shocked and asked, “Can we wear shorts to work?”

Besides a few days that dipped below 30°, I have been wearing shorts ever since. 

The vacations, relaxed dress code for corporate and the fact they have put up with my pranks and antics have made this the best work experience tailor-made for me.

Pandemic Response

When COVID broke out last March, we were told we could all start working from home which had always been frowned upon before.

After two days from home, I talked to the owner, who said he and the operations manager were hanging out in the conference room and if I wanted to come in, lunch was on him.

I was in the next day and stayed working in the conference room for months until things started going back to normal. Being in the conference room, I was in all the meetings and overheard all the phone calls that impressed the heck out of me what a great businessman the owner is.

During this time we revamped the way the deliveries were handled and were doing all types of things to drum up business. Normally I would go in pretty early but during the beginning of the pandemic, I would stay late, too. Working diligently kept my mind off of things.

Online sales increased to a degree that made my previous charts with huge peaks and valleys appear to be little hills in comparison to the mountain of sales now.

Website saves the day!

My Boss

Coming from a company with a slightly more corporate vibe, I was always trying to understand the hierarchy of this new place and where I fit into things. Initially, I created an org chart that was extremely flat, with most people, including myself, reporting to the owner. I showed this to a coworker who told me to delete it.

Early on, the owner told me he wrote a book that would answer all my questions about life. It was basically a small word file.

It didn’t answer my questions.

But I really liked his philosophy and where he came from on a lot of things. Many people I work with are terrified of him, but to me, he is one of the funniest and smartest guys I have ever met.

My wife once told me of this giveaway where you write about someone who has influenced you and they would give them some groceries. I like to do writing exercises (obviously) and love the idea of putting gratitude out in the world.

I wrote about my boss and his philosophy of how free-market capitalism has helped elevate other countries in the world, the way he cares about his employees, and how through having a company he is able to do more to affect customers, his employees, and the community at large. Having learned of his unsung philanthropy efforts, supporting orphanages and individuals, along with his more public efforts and seeing first hand how he has helped numerous employees with personal issues over the years.

I’ve always been impressed with the guy.

I ended up throwing away the article I wrote because, number one, he doesn’t need the $250 in groceries, but number two, he hates a suck-up. So I sincerely hope he never ends up reading this.

Looking back at seven years, I am proud of how far the company has come, everything I have learned so far, what I have been able to contribute to growing the company, and I am grateful for all the relationships I made along the way.

My assistant asked me recently if I dealt with imposter syndrome, which is common in our industry.

While I have felt what he is talking about in the past, the atmosphere at Home Zone is so forgiving (and whatever the opposite of bureaucratic is), that it always gave me the confidence that I could do whatever needed to be done.

With the exception of one project that has eluded me. I am still trying to create a Home Zone jingle.

Behind the scenes

This is where the magic happens. Hover over the “i” to view a description and click the “i” to see a detailed view.

My office has gone through many iterations. At one point the shelves were covered with beer bottles. In the end, it was 3 bottles deep. I called the design choice “Frathouse Chic”.

By Sam Watson

I'm pretty good at Microsoft Excel but a freak in Google Sheets.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

4 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Glenna
Glenna
3 months ago

As always, a welcome highlight to my week. I feel as though I am getting to know you all over again!! Leaves a smile on my face! Great job Sam!!!!

Erika Lee Kline
3 months ago

So cool Sam! You’re a true creative!!