How Do You Eat An Elephant? One Bite At A Time!

My internship at Build-A-Bear Workshop has been a phenomenal experience so far.  Today I was in on conference calls to Mexico, UAE, Denmark, and South Africa and emailed Australia and Thailand, in addition to other awesome experiences.  I am learning a lot, feeling included in the company and that my work is valued.

My two supervisors, Tim and Karen, have been phenomenal at offering me experiences to get involved, learn, participate, make suggestions, and take action.  Both have made a point to sit down with me and discuss my interests and my goals as well as how my internship is meeting them.  I really appreciate that personal touch and the care and concern they show.  Everyone here has a fantastic outlook and a great sense of humor.

I’ve decided that I really like franchising.  As Tim said, it is as though you are on the board for a lot of small companies.  What an interesting perspective!  As I was reflecting on this the other day, I had another revelation:  I really like the opportunity to learn from/about people and work with them to help develop their strengths.  I like to help other people.  I had thought about counseling/psychology/higher education as possible career paths at various points and while I obviously did not go that route, these are important characteristics to me.  Franchising, at least on the operations/training/development side seems to offer that teaching/coaching/guiding opportunity in the business world.  This could be an intriguing opportunity…

Yesterday we had an all day culture class with the interns.  It was a great way to learn more about the company as well as reflect on leadership qualities  in the realm of the business.  We also had a two hour lunch with Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear’s CEO.  It was great really meeting her, learning about her and the company, and getting to share thoughts and questions about Build-A-Bear.  She said she would be happy to meet with us (the interns) at some point.  I took her up on the offer and have a meeting scheduled at the beginning of August.  I’m definitely looking forward to this opportunity.

Below are some thoughts/points/observations that I took back from my experience in the class and lunch yesterday:

  • Important company values: teamwork and guest satisfaction
  • “just because we have been doing it this way, does not mean it could not be better”
  • It is important to feel ownership in/of the organization
    • True leaders take ownership
  • Must change behavior to get a different result
  • Overestimate obstacles so that you are not so shaken when they arise
  • How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!
    • Plan, process, progress
  • Ernest Hemingway: Never mistake motion for action.
  • Impossible is impossible.
  • What you believe today is possible tomorrow.
  • Build-A-Bear gives a lot – i.e. philanthropy
  • Great ideas à execution
    • Go out and do it
  • Look forward, not backward
  • You will make mistakes
  • Look for opportunities to learn, don’t wait for someone to teach you
  • You have the opportunity to learn from people with different backgrounds than yourself
  • Decision making: alignment is about seeing opportunities not obstacles
  • “This is a bear company!  We need to have fun!”
  • Fun begets fun
  • Build a culture of celebration and recognition
  • There may be 2+ perceptions which means there may be 2+ realities.  How do you recognize them both?

This summer has been great so far.  I am looking forward to the next 6.5 weeks.

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About Joel Portman
Network Builder. Diversity and Inclusion Advocate. Social Media Enthusiast. Lover of family, friends, the outdoors, travel, and learning. I have experience working in the healthcare, education, diversity/inclusion, retail, and non-profit industries with organizations ranging in size from five people to Fortune 500. I am an MBA graduate of the University of Denver.

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