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Graeme’s Take on Training: Learning More—and Getting a Workout!

This is the third in Hardware Retailing staffer Graeme Haase’s series of posts about three days of training that he completed at Cardwell Do it Best Home Center in Indianapolis. Haase went through this training program to get a firsthand account of how a new sales associate’s training goes and to share his experience and impressions with other retailers. To read the first post in the series, click here. To read the second, click here. To read more about recruiting and retaining high-quality employees, see our story, “Finders Keepers,” in the January issue of Hardware Retailing magazine.

I’ll tell you what—after today, my legs are sore. I went in at 7:30 a.m. to experience how the Cardwell staff preps the store to open each morning. I met up with Bill Dillow, the store manager, in the back by the service desk and asked him what I could help with. He showed me how to tidy up an aisle by making sure the floors were clean and products were placed in the correct spots and fronted with labels clearly visible.

At this point I had only worked up front at the register. Today I was to be introduced to life on the floor. Garret Retz, an assistant store manager, explained the training process to me like this: It’s like you’re in a mathematics class, and you need to learn how to add and subtract before you can get into multiplication and division.

At Cardwell Do it Best Home Center, new employees typically start at the front, at the register, because it’s where they can get firsthand experience greeting customers and getting to know the computer system. Once you “graduate” from the front, it’s time to head to the back service desk. It’s a different animal, but it includes a lot of the basics you learned up front.

Most of the contractor customers come straight to the back service desk for help. The service desk typically runs the warehouse, which includes shingles, lumber, doors and some rental equipment. But they also help customers cut keys, mix and shake paint, count inventory, handle shipments and answer questions on the floor.

One of the first orders of business, and one of the things I was most curious and excited to learn about, was how to cut a key! Garret pulled out a drawer full of past “mistake” keys, reminding me it could take many tries to correctly learn how to cut a key. That boosted my confidence a bit, knowing I wasn’t expected to be able to cut keys perfectly right away. I watched over Garret’s shoulder as he cut a perfect key, talked me through each step along the way. I’m proud to announce that I was able to learn before running out of “mistake” keys in the drawer. I’ll call that a success!

I was given a tour of the warehouse and helped load an order of shingles in the back of a truck using the forklift. (And by “helped,” I mean I watched other employees load the order. I was not allowed to go near the forklift’s controls.)

I also learned how to mix and shake paint. I started off by picking a color from their merchandiser; of course, I went with my favorite color, blue. Bill showed me how to locate the specific color in the system and print out the directions on how many ounces of each color needed to be added to match the card. We followed the precise measurements, placed the can in the shaker for roughly three minutes, and behold! I had a perfectly mixed can of my favorite color.

As I’m reflecting on my day, I’m taken aback by exactly how many different aspects there are to running and working in a hardware store. I wish I had worn a pedometer to track my steps for today; I feel like I walked enough to finish a marathon.

Today was full of learning opportunities. I was shown the procedure behind cutting keys, mixing paint and getting time to tour the warehouse and interacting with customers on the salesfloor. Seeing the steps behind smaller procedures, such as correctly filling out a rental equipment form, was also helpful. Each task that an employee helped me through boosted my confidence, and I became more comfortable with whatever task was in front of me.

About Graeme Haase

Graeme Haase
Graeme graduated from Butler University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Shortly after walking the stage, Graeme started working as a graphic designer for Hardware Retailing magazine, where he designs different parts of the magazine and assists with other custom publications. Graeme also does video production and editing. In his free time, Graeme is accustomed to trying new things (at least once!), such as musicals, water skiing and bungee jumping.

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