When I was in high school, I worked for Liberty Market, a grocery store in East Boston. Liberty Market was owned by the Lombardo family, and they had a few locations. I started out as a bagger in the Orient Heights location and worked for the Lombardos up until college. Over the course of three years I had many roles. In addition to being a bagger, I worked as a cashier, in the deli, in produce, stocking shelves, and basically did whatever was needed, until I became a nighttime assistant manager.
I would come home from BC High and work from 4pm – 9pm a few nights a week and on Saturdays. I knew quite a bit about the store and always could help out any customer or employee when it came to questions or assistance. I also knew the price for almost every item in the store. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s clear to me now that because I worked in just about every department in the store, I became extremely effective and valuable. I understood all the working parts of the organization, and that put me in a position of power.
When I say “position of power”, I’m not referring to a senior or management level position, but that I had the insight to perform at a higher level. The experience in those various areas gave me incredible range and allowed me to be a “go-to guy” when something was needed. That is an enviable position to be in, regardless of your industry.
When I went to Boston College, my schedule changed. I was a lifeguard in the summer and loaded trucks in the winter. Being a lifeguard was the best summer job ever, just from a pure enjoyment perspective, but working for the trucking company was heavy lifting, except when I had to drive a forklift. That actually was fun.
The experience made me realize that the more I knew about an organization, the more valuable and effective I became to that organization in getting things done. So as I went into radio and again at the Patriots, I tried to understand every aspect of the organizations and industries. I also became very familiar with how each department ran and, more importantly, how they should work together.
One of my favorite stories to highlight this “power” happened when I was with the Patriots. We were at the old building, Foxboro Stadium, and relied on Building Services to assist with moving boxes, pallets and other heavy objects. One time, the folks in Building Services were not available to help out when we needed it. I believe they were trying to prove a point, but whatever the reason, they were not there to help us set up. I took it upon myself, jumped onto the forklift, and began moving items into position, much to the dismay of the head of Building Services who was watching from his office. He confronted me, clearly not thrilled that I had taken matters into my own hands. He questioned my ability to drive the forklift; I explained to him that I worked for St. Johnsbury Trucking when I was in college, and if they didn’t have the time to do their job, I would just do it for them.
A few of the Building Services guys got a kick out of the fact that the head of Marketing was driving the forklift, moving stuff around. My staff dug it even more. Because I knew how to drive a forklift, it put me in a position of power within the organization. We weren’t at the mercy of other departments to get our job done and that fact made us more powerful and effective in accomplishing our goals. The lesson I learned when I was working for Liberty Market was that even though it’s important for everyone to perform their own roles, it’s just as important to know the different pieces of an organization. In addition, you never know what experiences you have that will aid you in future jobs. So if you are just beginning your career, be a sponge and absorb as much knowledge as you can about every job within your organization. You never know what aspect will put you in a position of power, making you the most valuable player.