What I Learned Working Undercover at a Job, by Shirley George Frazier. All rights reserved.

It was grueling, overwhelming, and stressful on my joints. However, what I accomplished uncovered a tremendous amount of education on what happens behind the scenes at a specialty store.

I’m talking about my decision to work at a part-time job during the worst time you ever want to work for someone else – the holiday season.

My mission was to learn how information was gathered about customers (the marketing side) and how a large operation designed and displayed custom and pre-made gifts (the gift basket side).

The goal took a mere eight weeks throughout November and December, but it seemed much longer even though the gig was 20 hours a week.

The decision to work for someone else is not for the faint of heart, especially if you’re an entrepreneur who makes her own rules. I knew, however, that what I’d discover would support my clients and provide me with knowledge not available any other way. I was not disappointed.

Digging for details

Sometimes you have to go into the trenches for real-life experience. You can’t always sit in your office and think you’ll learn everything or think what you need to know will magically come your way. Get your mentoring through on-the-job experience when you can.

That’s what I did years ago before I launched my business. I visited my job’s library during lunch times, sifting through journals, books, and magazines not available on newsstands. Depending on where I worked, I also went to business libraries (no longer open today, unfortunately) offering periodicals exclusively for specialty markets. I learned a lot about marketing, segmentation, and making sound decisions. My time in those places was spent wisely.

Now that I’m on my own, I realize that everything I need to know, the processes and information that change over time, isn’t readily available online or in publications. That’s why the opportunity to work at a job on a temporary basis proved insightful. If you have the chance to do it, I encourage you to apply.

Three triumphs

Capturing names and email addresses are a priority. You know this, but perhaps you aren’t placing as much importance on it as you can. Physical stores ask customers at the register if they are part of the store’s rewards program. Make sure you track your site visitors through online forms in the capacity that’s best for you (newsletter subscriptions, entrance and exit pop ups, etc.).

People love samples. The store put plates of crackers, cheese, and confections throughout the store to encourage sales. Think about what you can offer site visitors that convinces them to buy. An audio, book excerpt, instructional video, customer testimonials, and bonuses with orders are a few ideas.

You see order forms and other paperwork. Insights that uncover internal operations and how to make yours better is a huge benefit. I’m not saying that big stores are run perfectly (totally untrue!). The ideas you develop can be golden, and remember that you get a paycheck for the education.

Three challenges

Dealing with customers can be tense, as interactions are usually to solve problems. This is also true about co-workers and supervisors. The bottom line is that you get first-hand experience to better manage your own service.

Time away from my own business broke my heart even though it was temporary. I made sure to automate my business in every way possible while documenting what I learned at the job each day. Looking back I’d do it again.

Be mindful of your ailments. I sprained my right ankle while in fifth grade, and that weakness showed up at the job due to extensive walking and standing. Limping while walking became mildly painful even though I wrapped my ankle tightly.

Working behind the scenes at a job for insight on how another company operates can be worthwhile. It may not be practical in your industry, or it may not be for you due to time constraints. There is potential, however, to turn what you learn into a knowledge bank on how your industry or profession manages business today. That may lead to business and opportunities in new ways for additional revenue.

  • Share details in your membership club
  • Create a course
  • Offer a webinar
  • Make a video series
  • Write a book
  • Speak at an event

How will you turn my experience into your own knowledge bank and lucrative revenue stream?

Shirley George Frazier

Shirley George Frazier is recognized worldwide as one of the foremost experts on marketing strategies for small businesses and creative professionals who operate firms without employee assistance. In business since 1990, Shirley is president and CEO of Sweet Survival LLC®, a firm specializing in creative business and marketing support. Shirley transforms systems by assisting professionals to start and manage productive work environments, For more information or to invite Shirley George Frazier to your next event, call 973-279-2799 or email info@solobusinessmarketing.com.

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