The Second To Last Day

Today was amazing.  I really do not want this internship to end.  I hate goodbyes – although hopefully this will not be goodbye.  I would love the opportunity to come back to work for Build-A-Bear Workshop after graduation and it seems as though that may be a possibility if a position becomes available.  I’ve got my fingers crossed.

When I got to work today, I had an email from Maxine (the CEO) that she had sent to all of the interns with the subject “You guys rock!!!”.  That’s pretty awesome.  She wanted to thank us for our work this summer and asked us to be in touch.  That seems to be a theme with most people in the company and they genuinely seem to mean it.  I will definitely be in touch.

Laurie, who coordinates our internship program, shared with me a message that Maxine had sent out to Tina (CFO), Eric (General Counsel), Darlene (Chief of HR), and Laurie early this morning.  She had seen my blog post from yesterday and sent it to them to “enjoy”.  How nice!

Today I worked on finishing a few projects, went to lunch with the international team, met with several people, and went to the Bon Voyage Paw-ty for the interns.

At lunch, Cory and I were each given a Zakumi, the World Cup mascot, from Build-a-Bear Workshop International for our work on the World Cup as well as a Build-A-Bear Workshop International portfolio and highly sought after jacket.  I was pleasantly surprised and am happy to be able to take these with me to remember the international team.

At our Bon Voyage Paw-ty, a good chunk of BearQuarters showed up to say goodbye.  It was nice of them to come se us off and showed me, once again, how interconnected we all are.  The company gave each intern a bear with a shirt that had been embroidered with our university name on it, a signed copy (with a personal note) of Maxine’s book, The Bear Necessities of Business, among other gifts.  They are really very kind.

I met with Tina and Eric today.  It was my first chat with Tina and I got to find out her history and involvement in the company and a bit about her personally.  I was able to reflect on the summer and the company’s future with both of them.  Everyone here has such unique stories and perspectives that together give the company a lot of opportunities.

There will be a Bear Builder in town from Denmark the week after next.  Even though I will no longer be with the company, I have been invited to help show him around St. Louis and participate in events with him in the evening.  That should be a lot of fun.

One more day.  I know it will be good.

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Build-A-Bear Catch-Up

Alright, so I have been slacking in my blog posts – but there is a lot to write.  I am going on vacation immediately after my internship ends (!) on Friday though and unfortunately, do not have a ton of time.  As such, I will not be able to go into as much depth on some of these topics as I would have otherwise done.

On Monday, all of the interns gave a presentation on each of our experiences this summer at Build-A-Bear Workshop to the Chiefs and Managing Directors of the company as well as all of the intern supervisors.  We had five minutes to cover a lot of information: who I am, summary of projects, highlight a key project(s) (I selected the International Holiday Toolkit), key takeaways from the summer, and the affect of the internship on career plans.  My presentation went well I believe (I mean, it did include a vuvuzela on the table and a joke about Excel) and I have been pleased with the feedback I have gotten – including from the CEO and from the President!

Yesterday, I had the privilege to sit down for about half an hour with Maxine Clark, Chief Executive Bear and Chairman of Build-A-Bear Workshop.  She was very welcoming.  Meeting with her was not stressful, but rather seemed like a conversation with a very knowledgable friend.  She asked what questions I had about the company or her.  I asked about her thoughts on company growth,the role of international, the importance of philanthropy to her personally and to the company, how she manages time, company culture, when she knew she “made it”, what was the inspiration behind the company/what convinced her to give up her job as President of Payless Shoesource to start Build-A-Bear Workshop, among other questions.  She was very honest and shared some of her personal history with me.  It was a great conversation.  It is easy to see why she is so admired and how the company has grown so quickly.  She is definitely a role model.  Maxine ended our conversation by asking for a hug. 🙂

Today was the quarterly BearQuarters meeting.  I was involved in a few parts for which we practiced yesterday.  They began the meeting by recognizing new associates, including the interns.  We got several shout outs, which was nice.  Maxine introduced the first speaker, a lady from the United Way.  Her story was extremely potent.  Build-A-Bear has a company campaign to support the United Way and this was certainly a great way to get people energized for it.  The meeting included presentations by Tina Klocke, Chief Operations and Financial Bear (CFO), and John Haugh, President and Chief Marketing Bear, about the state of the business.  It certainly is encouraging.  There was also a presentation on corporate sales.

I was involved in two other pieces of the meeting: the international presentation and the fashion show.  Tim made a presentation at the meeting on news about the international franchisees including new business development, world cup sales, landmark store sales, and awards in Australia.  In honor of the success of Mexico, we had pinatas which we broke during the meeting.  It was a great surprise.

Before Maxine spoke to conclude the meeting (during which time she mentioned the importance and value of diversity!), there was a fashion show to show off the new product that will premiere during the quarter.  Most of the interns helped with this.  It was the first time I have been paid to be in a fashion show! Although, I guess the animals had the fashion…  Be sure to check out the Smallfrys when they premiere in September.  They are awesome and I really want them… all.  I am glad that I had the opportunity to see one of this meetings and participate in it.

I have been working on a lot of projects lately including preparing PowerPoints for the fall International Operations Summit, new business government filing for expansion, evaluation of world cup sales in anticipation of 2014, preparing the FY2011 International Department budget, and more.  I will post my final list of projects after the internship is over.

Today I was putting together one of the PowerPoints for the fall Summit and included the video from the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For”.  If you watch it, you will see several people I have ben working with closely this summer – including my new dog friend, Heath.

Tomorrow, Cory and I are going to lunch with the international team.  I’m looking forward to it, but it also makes me a bit sad to realize that the internship is ending.  I have several other meetings tomorrow though.  When I met with Maxine, she suggested meeting with a few other people before I leave so tomorrow I am meeting with Tina (CFO) and Eric Fencl (General Counsel).  I look forward to those meetings.

It was clear from today’s meeting that we have been appreciated and our work recognized throughout the company.  I will certainly miss working there.  Two more days.  Wow!

Five/Six Weeks Out Of Ten

Well, I am now more than half way through my internship at Build-A-Bear Workshop.  I cannot believe how fast this summer is going.  It seems as though I just got home from Denver, yet so much has happened.  This internship has been a great experience so far and I am looking forward to the second half.

Below is a list of the projects I have been working on so far.  Some of these have been more involved on my part whereas others were more being a part of conference calls/meetings and offering my thoughts and suggestions.

  • Updated Merchandising Assortment Guide (MAG)
  • Updated and branded prospective franchisee materials
  • Prepared Board of Directors PowerPoint presentation
  • Compiled international store profit/loss analysis
  • Analyzed seasonal global sales by country and product
  • Created a “toolkit” to assist franchisees in driving sales during Quarter 4 / 2010 Holidays that involved compilation and creation of resources from across the company
  • Helped plan the 2010 International Operations Summit
  • Organized store information (pictures, blueprints)
  • Researched 2011 International Licensing Opportunities
  • Analyzed international supply chain/inventory flow and product loads by country as a tool for assessing the international franchise model
  • Assisted franchisees in developing inventory forecasts, turnover, and ordering projections
  • Reviewed new store proposal/design and real estate opportunities
  • Offered feedback on business plans submitted by prospective franchisees
  • Communicated regularly with franchisees worldwide

I have also met with, spoken on the phone, and/or emailed people in every continent except Antarctica.  I’m pretty excited about that.

As I have been developing the Holiday Toolkit, I looked for resources to use in writing introductions to each section.  One such resource is Maxine Clark’s book, “The Bear Necessities of Business: Building a Company With Heart“.  Here is one quote I would like to share:

Bosses are in charge and dictatorial.  Leaders listen to what their employees have to say and create a climate of reciprocal respect.

I have been lucky to work for leaders.  I hope that trend continues.  I am excited to see where the rest of this summer will lead…

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.