At 12 my first boss treated me like a man

I wasn’t prepared and I learned quick.

pic taken one metre away from my first job at twelve years of age forty three years later with my cousin, my first boss, he was nineteen at the time.

I was given my one square metre of responsibility, all I had to do was answer the phone at my uncles fish & chip shop on Friday evenings.

How hard could it be?

I had to wear a clean white T-shirt, pants and covered shoes, not negotiable.

Everyone in the shop had to look groomed and clean. The cooks had white aprons like a five star restaurant and the men had a white hat slanted to the side. Not me, I was the apprentice at the phone and wasn’t to move outside my one square metre of space.

Answering the phone wasn’t that easy, I needed to speak clearly and listen intently to minimise mistakes.

Abruptly my uncle or cousin would ask what the order was and if it wasn’t clear, I got told to write clearer, listen more carefully, don’t assume. (My cousin and uncle weren’t interested in pleasantries, they just said what they thought)

As I mastered the art of answering the phone my confidence grew and I started drifting outside my one square metre of space, until.

One Friday evening while waiting by the phone I noticed a crackle of fish fell on the counter top from my cousin’s serving basket. The evening was busy, everyone was moving around behind the counter like ants. Cousins, Aunty, Uncle. After a couple of seconds I don’t know what I was thinking but I went to the counter took the morsel of fish crackle and ate it, thinking nothing of it and went back to my corner.

Within moments my cousin who was nineteen years old asked me to come to the back of the shop for a chat. He asked me why I ate the crackle in front of all the customers? (My cousin didn’t miss a beat, he noticed everything). I was gobsmacked, completely embarrassed as he continued to dress me down giving me my first lesson in customer service. My uncle walks by and affirms my cousins discipline, he being the master of perception is everything, image is everything when it comes to branding.

From that day you can imagine I quickly understood the value of discipline, stay within your space, master what you’ve been assigned to and don’t assume anything.

I earned my five dollars of a Friday evening and worked with my relatives for years learning many valuable lessons that I adapted to this day over four decades later.

Equipping the next generation with discipline mixed with empathy will go a long way.

I shared the above story today with my cousin while visiting the shop that we both grew up in. We laughed so much, he was surprised how much impact he made in my life.