And so…I was laid off by Best Buy
“Someday everything will all make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, and reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” – John Mayer
I woke up yesterday morning with very little worry. There just simply wasn’t much that I was needing to be fearful of. I have a wonderful life. I’m married to a wonderful wife who inspires me every day, and delights me to come home to, share my stories, laugh with, and enjoy all that life has given us together. I have four beautiful daughters that are my pure hearts delight. They make me smile in ways that they couldn’t possibly comprehend. I’m proud of them, and the joy that they have fills me with unequivocal joy in return. I have a home, a couple of vehicles, food in the refrigerator, and I even have one of the Earth’s happiest dogs that wags his tail and barks excitedly whenever I come home, all so that he can be touched and rubbed when I come home from the job that I have. Yes, I have a very good and blessed life.
So as I headed to work yesterday morning, I wasn’t expecting the news that was delivered. I thought my position at Best Buy in Pasadena was secure. After all, I was a major driving force in returning my area to profitable, and exceeding the budgets that I was given. But it was in this that I was found to be incorrect as I was laid off on Monday afternoon, in a surprise that I wouldn’t have ever expected give how I’ve performed. I want to analyze this in a few paragraphs.
First, why the layoff?
To fully understand why Best Buy is laying off employees despite have a fantastic year, one must go back to about roughly 18 months ago when the CEO of the Company was replaced by a Frenchman named Hubert Joly. Living up to his last name, Joly is a happy silver haired man that speaks with a thick French accent and was tasked with turning around a company whose stock had plunged to roughly $11 a share. Despite the fact that the organization performed roughly $14-15 billion in sales, the company was simply not operating profitably, and it was Joly’s duty to turn the ship around so that a huge profit could be made, and Best Buy wouldn’t head down the path of Circuit City or The Good Guys, other electronic retail outlets that had their ship sunk, and closed down for good.
Joly’s first big move came in closing a little over 50 of Best Buy’s biggest locations in an effort to reduce overall costs. The move made the general public and the Best Buy consumers leery of the direction of Best Buy and whether or not the business operating model was sustainable. But the company survived the backlash it was given by the media and the doubting consuming public by overcoming fears with customer service and fantastic deals on consumer electronics. Still the go to store front location, Best Buy then revitalized the business model with a new strategy that Joly rolled out company-wide titled “Renew Blue,” a tribute to the Blue Polo T-Shirts that Best Buy employees have been come to be known by. The revitalized campaign was more of a store goal, and changed the roles of each General Manager to employ several different tactics at each store to better serve the customers. Each store was tasked with the ability to demonstrate the ability to operate more profitably by sticking to the new operating model, and then become “Renew Blue Certified” in the next year. The process wasn’t an altogether easy one, however it was clear what each store needed to do in order to attain “Renew Blue Status.”
At about this time, I was promoted to the Pasadena Store as a Sales Supervisor, and they were in the midst of the Renew Blue Certification process. My primary role was to get a department that was functioning at roughly 65% to budget, up and operating to its potential and within two months, I had everything humming along like a song again, and exceeding our allocated goals. Our store in Pasadena, a flagship store within our district given its size, attained its Renew Blue certification roughly 5 months after I arrived, of which I played a large part in. I watched the company stock soar during my time with Pasadena, as it hit a peak of roughly $43 per share…a remarkable feat for any company to increase its value by roughly four times.
However, our store was more of the exception than the rule as it would appear. While the goal of the company was to have each and every store Renew Blue Certified within a year, there were several stores that simply couldn’t get it done. By the end of the Fiscal Year of 2014 (January represented the end of Q4-FY14), only about 300 of the company’s 1100 or so stores had attained the Renew Blue Status, placing us in the top 30% of the company, and leaving roughly 70% of the company unable to carry out the business operating model.
This holiday season was great for our store, but the company as a whole didn’t fare nearly as well. Perhaps it was the exceptionally cold and brutal weather of the north and north east, and perhaps it was just a slower than usual holiday shopping season, but the company showed a roughly 1% decline in its sales during the busiest time of year, and when the company released its earnings report for the Holiday period, the stocks crashed again, dropping to nearly $14 a share. This, coupled with the news that not every leader was doing their part in the company meant that Joly would revisit his operating model and make some swift cuts to labor costs in an effort to regain the company’s profitability. We began by being told to reduce our employee labor costs drastically in January and in February. There wasn’t a lot of hours to dole out amongst the hourly employees, and it was tough for a few weeks, but we were still hitting budget while operating much thinner than usual.
Finally a couple of weeks ago, Joly released a vague email that specified the need to adjust the company operating model, and it involved making some cutbacks in positions and redesigning the leadership positions within the company. The cutbacks were to be all at the upper management level, for me it was all of my district support team, or people that would come into the store about once a month or so to make certain that we were carrying out the companies initiatives. But there was no mention of any real impact at the store level.
That was until I received an email from my General Manager on Friday that outlined a one-on-one chat with every leader in the building scheduled for yesterday. It gave me the weekend to ponder, is my job in jeopardy? Every article that I could find seemed to state that I’d be fine, as the cuts were to focus on roughly 1% of the company employees, and all within management. So I felt secure when I went into work yesterday, knowing that I had a job that I enjoyed and performed well within.
How it happened:
Firstly, my GM sat me down and we made some small talk. We laughed about something of little consequence that had happened with our hours from the overnight that we’d worked the night before, and the fact that I had left at 4 in the morning, and had to be back at 1pm that same day. The hours that we put in for retail are indeed taxing to say the least. He then proceeded to tell me that he was going to read from a script so that he could carry out the company message as it was intended to come. It began with much of what I had written above, and then went into say that given the changes that would be implemented to the operating model, that the position of Home Business Group Sales Supervisor had been eliminated, and the employees would not be retained.
To say that I was shocked would be a massive understatement.
He further went into detail about how the company would be offering me a severance package, which would include the ability to continue my employment at Best Buy through April the 4th, and then receive a severance for a period of 2 weeks for every year that I’d been with the company, with a minimum of 6 weeks severance. Given that this coming June would have marked my 3 year anniversary, I was in line for the minimum.
He also went on to say that there would be four new positions created from the new business model that I would be welcome to apply for, but that the positions created would be for a significant pay decrease. In my case, it meant an hourly wage decrease of slightly more than $4 an hour, which would equate to a roughly $8,000 a year salary decrease. My GM then asked if I had any questions.
What was I supposed to ask? At that moment, completely with complete unexpectedness, I was without any emotion other than shock. And I said to my GM, “well, what would you have me do?” I think that the question took him off guard. We chatted about his last few days, as he’d been at a company seminar that prepared him for having to give out the news. I was the last to go into the meetings with him that day at 4 in the afternoon, and he’d been meeting with people since 10am. It’d been tough on him, and you could tell that it had. But he handled himself very professionally and admirably. But he also didn’t have any great suggestions for me either. I was faced with a very difficult decision. Do I apply for a position within the company for a significant pay decrease? Do I accept my severance package and then try and find a job at another company? My head was spinning all the while trying to get over the fact that I still needed to relay the message to my wife, and to my kids. And I wasn’t certain what my future with the company or my working future held.
My GM encouraged me to take the remainder of the day off so that I could deal with the news. I took him up on the offer and broke the news to my wife over the phone on the way home. I told the kids later what they needed to know, and then I made a post on Facebook to let my friends know. I then called my dad to let him know because I didn’t want him finding out through Facebook, and realized that one after I’d made the post, but I still got there before he found out online.
My friend Tim traded texts with me and then offered to take me out to dinner. I took him up on the offer. Later in the evening another friend of mine Brett, reached out and called and we chatted about the interest level that I’d have in working with Wells Fargo, of which I said that I’d be open to the possibility, knowing that I was now a free agent…so to speak.
But I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do now. I have a few months to figure it out. For the short term, I’ve got to update my resume because as it turns out, I’ll be needing to interview a ton to get some position with someone somewhere. I’m 35 years old, and not exactly on the brink of retirement.
At the end of the day, I’m still very happy with the life that I have. While I enjoyed my time with Best Buy, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to be rewarded with my success with a layoff, I can’t say that I’m altogether disappointed with the termination. Having it happen the way that it did has given me a few hours to really reflect on the company as a whole, and question its sustainability if they continue to let go of good people, and feel that there only means for survival is to underpay their employees while still growing a $14 billion a year company. Perhaps, this is as good as it’s ever going to be, and if there is no more room for me to move up, then it’s time to simply move on.
I still have a lot that I need to decide. I’m going to apply for the positions within the company at multiple locations, because as it turns out, I still need a job. But I’m also going to aggressively step up my search to find employment elsewhere as well. I have a feeling that with the rebounding economy, the job hunt can’t be as difficult as I’d found locating a job as 3 and 4 years ago, when it took forever for employers to get into the hiring mode. But for now, I’m just handing over the next move of my life into God’s and fates hands. Something will present itself from my work. I’m just curious as to what that something might turn out to be.