Call in the Smoke Jumpers!

It takes a special kind of person to work as a CMSI transition crew.

What typically happens is that we get a call from a client saying that they have a retail operation (one site, ten sites, 250 sites) that is in trouble and they need our help to contract manage it until they can decide what to do with the assets.  Although we would like to have a week or more notice, more often than not it is an emergency and we are given a day or two to respond.

Once we get the go ahead several things start taking place simultaneously.  Permits are applied for.  Utilities are transferred.  Accounting books are set up.  Vendors are notified.  Price books are created.  IT systems are staged and computers shipped out.  Bank accounts are opened.  All of the dozens of moving parts that are required to operate a successful retail business are set up and delivered in a short time.

I am very proud of all of my CMSI colleagues.  They do an outstanding job of providing customer service to our clients, support to our stores, and professionalism in times of difficulty and uncertainty at the stores.

There is, however, a group of people that I would like to highlight today – our transition crew. These are folks who are willing to spend extended time away from home, long hours in the stores, and overcome the countless obstacles (large and small) that get in the way of providing a great retail experience.  They live off the adrenaline created by going into a new market, discovering problems, and putting out fires.  Their satisfaction is in turning bad situations around and empowering employees to be the best that they can be.

We affectionately call them the “Smoke jumpers” after the fire fighting crews that parachute into a forest fire to control the blaze and avert disaster.

These are teams of operations, marketing, training, and IT folks whose job it is to go into a new market or group of stores, assess what the problems are, come up with solutions, and transition the employees and stores from the old system to the CMSI system.  Believe me, they are the best in the world at doing this.

The average transition has them heading to the market while they are still programming the store locations into their GPS machines.  Each store is visited and inspected.  A training center is usually set up locally with enough computers to train each store manager on our accounting and store reporting systems.  This training usually lasts up to ten days with the managers bringing their store paperwork to the training center every day and inputting the information into our system with the hands on help of our trainers.  At the end of the training period the computers are transferred to the manager’s store and they continue putting in the information.

While the training is going on we do a store inspection to identify immediate and optional repair and compliance issues, oversee an audit of the store inventory, gather vendor information at the store level to make sure that everyone is covered, check the internet connectivity at each site, and answer the multitude of questions that our head office staff have about items such the number of phone lines or what kind of coffee program is in the store.

The modus operandi is long days and short nights.

The entire CMSI team does an amazing job and I am grateful for each team member.  But it is our beloved Smoke Jumpers that make us the best because they are the best.