March 17, 2013: Appreciation

a favorite suit from the 80's
(of hose, navy pumps and bold gold jewelry)

My first true accounting internship (one that required a suit) was with LeMars Mutual Insurance Company. When I was notified of this paid internship, I was thrilled. The excitement of the job was high with great anticipation of what I thought a corporate accounting internship entailed. I quickly found out that the job description was less than glamorous.

LeMars Mutual had just purchased a smaller insurance company. My job was to take the files of the purchased company and incorporate them into the filing system of LeMars Mutual. In modern day, this would be classified as a mass scanning project. No debits or credits and definitely not up to the executive level of my newly purchased suits.

Regardless of the the task, I decided to give it my all. Perhaps if I showed the effort, I would get asked to go to the upper floor where accounting and VP's were officed. So I rolled up my sleeves and went to work digging through the mountain of files; converting the paper and color system to corporate standard. It really was a time and motion study in the making.

Jo was the guru of timed process within the insurance company. I don't know her exact title, but watched as she timed people, stop watch in hand, as they performed their jobs around the office. I believe her title in today's world would be Six Sigma Black Belt. She knew lean and she knew how to avoid inefficiencies.

The other employees didn't like Jo. She was abrupt, direct, and had high expectations. Perfect for this role. She sure didn't make friends along the way and subsequently didn't seem to care what people thought of her either.

Jo was in charge of me. On day one, she explained my job from start to finish and then let me loose. It didn't take long for me to catch on and my efforts didn't go unnoticed. Jo brought to my attention that I was weeks ahead of schedule in completing the entire project. I didn't see that coming. With words of encouragement by Jo and a goal put in front of me (beat the deadline by a long shot), I kept cranking on the files; completing the file integration in record time.

I was asked to continue my internship at LeMars Mutual with the desired move upstairs to the executive level. I would be doing real accounting work this second go around. Although being offered this better position was important, that isn't what's stayed with me all of these years. What stays warmly in my memory is a little box of chocolates and a thank-you note.

I have saved this little memento all these years. The empty box and note is in a storage box in the basement. Barring my bad knee, I would have rummaged through boxes today to find it; just for a smile and old-times sake.

The day I had completed the filing project, way back when, I found on my desk a small box with an attached sticky note. Jo had left me a little box of Russell Stover's assorted chocolates with a hand-written note, "Sandy, thank-you for making this big transition happen so quickly. We are all grateful for your hard work. ~ Jo"

I felt so appreciated. That note of thanks and her thoughtfulness in buying the chocolates meant so much. It was completely unexpected. And it's always stayed with me. Never underestimate the value of giving appreciation. The power of genuine appreciation and gratitude is immeasurable.


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