My First Job: Michael Wynn

The president of Sunshine Ace Hardware learned all about hard work and customer service at his family’s long-lasting grocery store.

Michael Wynn

“My first job of getting a regular paycheck was as a bag boy at Wynn’s Family Market, when our store was down on Fifth Avenue (in Naples). I was in high school at the time, and my core responsibility was what you might think of: bagging groceries for customers and taking them out to their cars. However, there were a lot of other duties that were part of it, that helped create a pleasant and convenient shopping experience for everyone. I was responsible for sweeping and mopping the floors, facing merchandise during slow times, refilling drink coolers, sweeping the parking lot, helping clean up the departments and miscellaneous things like that.

As I look back on that first job with the family, there are a couple of different lessons I took away from it. For one, I learned that every single member of the team matters, and has a much larger contribution than what you often see on the surface. For example, one or two people missing from the front-end can literally bring the business to a halt and create a very negative experience for the customer.

I also was able to look at my uncle, who ran the store, and his leadership. He ran the store as if everyone was part of a larger extended family, and that helped everyone feel important and valued. Everyone in the company – regardless of what their job was or what level they were – was a reflection of the culture and brand of the business. So, whether it was someone making $10 an hour or $40 an hour, when the doors open, it’s showtime, and everyone is on stage, playing a part in the overall experience.

As a family member, I was expected to work twice as hard as everyone else and lead by example to avoid any idea of favoritism. What made that a lot easier was watching my dad, uncles and aunt, because they all did the same. They were all incredibly hard workers, they worked alongside the team and there was nothing they asked of anyone that they weren’t willing to do themselves. That has been a great model of servant leadership that I’ve carried with me to this day in how I lead our companies.

I also recognized that many entry-level positions really do create the last impression customers have of your business. For example, in my first job, we were taught that smiling was part of the uniform. You may not always be having a great day, but you wouldn’t let that detract from what would be an overall warm and welcoming atmosphere that your customers had come to expect for their shopping experience.

We were encouraged to remember, where possible, customers’ names. What was interesting was that no matter who the person was – whether they were a visitor or somebody that might be more prominent in the community – their face lit up when they knew you took the time to remember them. That is something that has stuck with me as well: taking the time to remember people’s names, whether it’s at work or whether it’s in the community. It was something that was important, and [that] we still make an effort to do.

Even though I might have been the lowest person on the totem pole, I always felt the sense of purpose and accomplishment in seeing people come into the store and often leave in a better mood than when they first came in, because of all of those elements we worked hard at.”

—As told to Melanie Pagan