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Randall Kenneth Jones | PHOTO Zach Stovall
Randall Kenneth Jones | PHOTO Zach Stovall

Randall Kenneth Jones  [PHOTO: Zach Stovall]

I’ve always wanted to work. Even now, to this day, I don’t aspire to retire. I aspire to be able to re- tire, but I can’t imagine a life that does not revolve around work. So, I started working very young. At 13, I worked stocking shelves and at the cash register of [what was then] Green Cross drugstore in downtown Columbia, Missouri, my hometown.
I was too young, really, to have that job, but I was big and tall for my age, so I didn’t look my age. On Sundays, the store was open from noon-5 p.m., and I would work the store alone. (How my mother—who I would say bordered on overprotective—allowed this to happen, to this day, I don’t know.) The manager, a much older gentleman named Mr. B, was as close as you could get to Mr. Gower from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Mr. B would show up at noon to open the store, let me in and get the cash register set up. Then, he would go next door to the bar and drink all day long. He would come and check on me maybe once during a five-hour period. So, 13-year-old me is running the store, and what was I selling? Adult magazines and condoms. I will never forget the day a young man comes in and wants condoms. Here I am, pulling out all the different styles onto the counter to show him what’s available, and I’m 13! But, it was the ‘70s in Missouri—it was such an innocent time. I cannot imagine that scenario ever taking place right now.

I worked at a lot of different places in junior high through college, but it wasn’t until much later that I understood the extraordinary lessons of my early jobs. They taught me courtesy and respect and how to communicate, and my whole world is about communication. Everything I do professionally is built on creativity and helping people communicate. But, you have to learn how to deal with different personality types, overcome objections, and deal with obstacles. Well, when you’re 13 and running a drugstore by yourself all day long on a Sunday, there are a lot of opportunities to learn. And you know what? I remember loving every single minute of it.”

—As told to Melanie Pagan

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