I believe Joe and I were both viewed as interlopers and at first the employees seemed to want to ‘train’ us.  I think their loyalty and help to the company while Joe’s brother was sick made them feel ‘entitled’ to run things the way they wanted and they did not, necessarily, want to push the envelope to work any harder than they were already working. 

             I remember when I first started to work at USFSB there were two things that really annoyed me, the lunch time routine and the dress code.  

             It seemed that lunch time started around 10:30, at which time discussion began about where to order lunch.  Then, the menu would be passed around, then someone would finally call to order lunch, then collect the money, then someone would go pick it up, then someone would figure out who received what change, then they would eat lunch, then the change would be distributed, then lunch was finally over—around 1:30.   I write this in such a long run-on sentence to illustrate the process that dragged out this way every day!  Of course, we eventually put a stop to this activity. 

             Looking back on it, it may seem trivial, but I think one reason I was resented was that when I came there, I continued to dress in the professional manner I always did at my previous job.  I didn’t even think about it, I just dressed for work the way I always did.   In this office, we very rarely have any visitors and people dressed very casually.  The dress code was ridiculously casual!  One of the higher level employees wore sweat pants very often and I was quite vocal about this.  This annoyed the employees and I’m sure they thought I was too ‘uppity’. 

             Having dressed in a suit every day for work when practicing law, Joe even started to dress in a very casual manner (jeans) and to this day, it is an ‘argument’ we have about whether or not people’s work demeanor can be shaped by the type of clothes they wear to work.  I did not give in for a long time, but I eventually got to a point where I, also, dressed in a more casual manner.  As our staff evolved over the years, everyone has pretty much adopted this casual style.    

             It was becoming clear that some of the original employees were not working to their potential and over time, we began to hire more motivated people.  I became an integral part of that hiring process, but I, also, had to learn more about other aspects of the business in order to hire people who we thought were qualified.  Over the years, we have had some turn-over with the employees both good and bad, but I believe we finally have the correct mix of personalities and talents that help our business prosper. 



As pointed out, my brother never married and had no children.   He had operated the business from the perspective of a single person.  Once he had grown the business to the extent that it was able to meet his needs, I believe, he was satisfied.   He did not have a family to worry about so the business was there solely to feed his single life style.

His attitude toward the business simply reflected the perspective and priorities of someone who was not responsible for the support and comfort of anyone else.  He and I would often joke about the difference between his life style and mine.   It did not go un-noticed that what he spent on the monthly lease for his expensive sports car was about the same as what Annemarie and I spent on day care for our children.  It all comes down to a matter of priorities.

Once I understood the potential of USFSB, I had higher goals than the needs of just Annemarie and me.   I knew that with the help and support of my family, I would try to continue to grow the business so that it could be of benefit to our children long into the future.

Also, in order to give meaning to the difficult and unfortunate circumstances of my brother’s illness that brought me to USFSB, I felt that it was incumbent on me to use any success I may enjoy from USFSB for a higher purpose.  To that end, as USFSB prospered, Annemarie and I, on many occasions, used the resources of USFSB to provide a helping hand to our friends, relatives, and various worthy causes.

I came to USFSB with some advantages over Annemarie.   I had many years of experience being my own boss while operating my law business.   Yes, contrary to popular belief, a sole practitioner law office is much like any other small business and requires the same planning, decision making, and attention to details.   You learn to be independent and self reliant when you run your own small business.

The one aspect of running USFSB that was a difficult adjustment for me was the fact that I now had to supervise employees who looked to me for direction.   In my law practice, I only needed limited help and was used to the idea of being somewhat of a “lone wolf”.   Now, I had to not only interact with and direct my new found employees, I, also, had to deal with the constant “office politics” that was always lurking in the background.   It may not have helped that all of the employees happened to be women.

Annemarie, on the other hand, came from a large office and was not used to dealing with a small number of employees in the more intimate setting of a small business.  Even with that, I had hoped that Annemarie would be better suited to dealing with the office politics and would be a good buffer between me and the employees.  This proved to be more difficult then I had imagined.

Annemarie, coming to USFSB three years after me, was looked at somewhat as an intruder and was not, let’s say, welcomed with open arms.   She was not readily accepted by the employees as their boss and, in some ways, I found myself having to become a mediator between Annemarie and the employees.   This was disturbing and a distraction in that rather than being a buffer for me from the office politics, Annemarie found herself being dragged into the office politics.

I had maintained all of the employees who were at USFSB when my brother passed away and who had all been hired by my brother.  They had been a big help to me during my brother’s illness and, in many ways, they were very instrumental in keeping USFSB running during my transition from caretaker to owner of USFSB.

Because of their knowledge of the business and the loyalty I felt towards them for their help, I did not feel comfortable, in the early years, letting any of them go even though I soon realized that not all of them shared my vision for the future.  Eventually, over the years, as each employee left for one reason or another, Annemarie and I were able to replace them with people we felt better suited our vision of USFSB.

Annemarie’s transition into USFSB was more difficult than we had hoped; however, she slowly won the respect of the employees and was making a great contribution to the business, particularly, as she took over the management of our largest benefit program which had grown tremendously and needed a lot of attention and nurturing.   This gave me the ability to work on other aspects of the business while being secure in the knowledge that this benefit program was being taken care of properly.

Come back on Friday to hear Annemarie’s side of the story!