Apprenticeship Week 3

It’s already been three weeks that I’ve worked at Original One Parts.

Projects this Week

Early in the week I finished the Hubspot/Salespad project I was assigned my first week. I have no more paperwork from old orders to deal with!

After I finished that, I was asked to sort a spreadsheet with all of our part numbers and descriptions indicating the type of part it is. Ever single item sku and number code was listed. I had to delete all but one of each letter code and change the description to just have the part that letter code refers to. There were over 1000 rows in the sheet initially and now there are fewer than 200. They were also all in lowercase, so I learned how to use =upper, =lower, and =proper in Excel to change that.

The next day, I was assigned a spreadsheet of Kayce’s previous calls to go through. I have to add the date, her initials, and her call notes to the Salespad CRM tab. When I finish this it’s possible I’ll do the same for old daily call logs but I’m not sure.

Things I Learned this Week

I’ve gotten more comfortable answering the phone and feel confident in doing so. This week I learned how to get information to process a return, pay an invoice, and send pictures of surplus parts.

Other Updates

Thursday on my way home from work traffic was backed up and it was very stop and go. I stopped in an exit lane to get from one highway to another, and the car behind me didn’t slow down fast enough. I got rear ended. No one got hurt, but the front of their car got bent up pretty bad, and my rear end needs replaced and the exhaust is rubbing.

I didn’t go in Friday so I could talk to my insurance company and the body shop that will be handling my repairs.

Next week because of Memorial Day I will be working Tuesday through Friday.

Apprenticeship Week 2

Yesterday I finished my second week at Original One Parts!

Learning Inbound Calls

This week I started learning how to take inbound calls.

Monday I read the training material but didn’t actually answer the phone. Tuesday I took my first couple calls. Wednesday through Friday I took more calls and got more comfortable. I still have a lot to learn but I’ve learned from listening to the rest of the team take and make calls and taking some calls myself.

I was not walked through our process for recording the calls we take, but I figured it out. Tuesday and Wednesday I hadn’t been told I needed to put the calls I take on the log, but Thursday and Friday I realized it’s a great way to show my work in addition to it being important for the team.

We put in our initials, the name of the person who called, the insurance company they’re associated with (if it’s an insurance company rep calling us), the part they called about, the price of that part, and any notes from the call.

Hubspot and Salespad Account Information Project

I continued last week’s project of going through old orders and updating accounts in Hubspot and Salespad accordingly. I’m almost finished going through the previous sales team member’s papers to complete this project.

When I find duplicate accounts in Salespad, which happens frequently, I was emailing Tim, who is able to merge them. There’s a high volume, though, and sometimes he is unable to merge accounts because they’re both/all connected to CCC (a parts ordering platform) and have different ID numbers. To make it easier for him to see what needs done and keep track of what’s been merged and what the new account numbers are, I made a spreadsheet. I have the company name, the new account number, the accounts that need merged, and a spot for notes about the accounts or why they can’t be merged if they can’t.

Other Places I See to Create Value

I found out this week that our marketing “team” is just Kyle. He was working in the sales office some this week and I learned that he gets anything somewhat marketing related put on his plate and he’s the whole department. Once I master my position and am great at taking inbound calls and possibly starting to learn outbound calls, I want to leverage myself to take up some of Kyle’s extra work. I wanted to find a marketing position for my apprenticeship and this could be a good way to get my feet wet and start learning while also freeing up Kyle to do more of his more important tasks.

Apprenticeship Week 1

Monday was my first day at in my new role at Original One Parts! I’m on inbound sales and data entry and I learned a lot about the company from working closely with the rest of the sales team.

My first week was crazy.

Monday I was logged in as a recently-moved-on sales team member. I had my own email address but it was a while before I had a login for the software we use – SalesPad and PartsTrader. So I spent most of my first day watching the Friday Fast Facts videos on the company’s Youtube channel, looking around the website, and practicing the PartsTrader orders on my manager Herb’s computer. After lunch I received login information for SalesPad and PartsTrader so I was able to work on my own a bit more.
PartsTrader is a website that car repair shops use to source refurbished, recycled, and OEM parts for their customers’ vehicles. Original One Parts is a supplier of refinished OEM parts. They’re parts that have previously been on vehicles, but we have a rigorous inspection process to ensure they’re the same quality as the original. Then we put a new finish on the part so it looks brand new. Our customers request quotes for parts, which go through automatically, and put in orders for parts.
When they put in an order for a part through PartsTrader, I check the VIN and the part number for a match with our customer service portal. Once I know I have a match, I pull up the repair shop in SalesPad, check that we have the part in stock, and write the invoice.
Between the PartsTrader orders, I learned how to enter information about contacts and companies in Hubspot and SalesPad so we have a database of our customers. I also figured out on my own how to merge duplicate companies in Hubspot, because that is a common problem with the information we have on Hubspot.

Tuesday I was set up with my own login to the computer instead of the old team member’s. I didn’t have SalesPad on my desktop at all. So I spent a few hours just working on updating the information in Hubspot from printed out copies of previous orders. After I got set up with SalesPad I caught up with the PartsTrader orders.
This was the first day I had a problem. I ran into some surplus parts on orders. These vary a lot more than other parts, so we typically send the customer pictures to verify that it is correct and they’re okay with the condition. I put an order through for a surplus part without knowing this. One of my coworkers, Kayce, informed me and then called the customer at my desk so I could listen in.

Wednesday I mastered processing orders from a different platform called CCC. These come in already partially invoiced, so I have to check for the part in the inventory and fill out the shipping information.
I had the first order on PartsTrader that I had to cancel because we didn’t have the part in stock. Herb had me listen in on a call to the customer letting them know that we were canceling their PartsTrader order for (part) on (vehicle) because we didn’t have any in stock.
I made a lot of progress on the customer details I was entering on Hubspot and SalesPad. I almost finished the file folder I was working through.

Thursday I finished the first stack of paperwork. Then it turned out all the other papers in the desk drawer were the same thing and I have a heck of a lot more still. I didn’t run into any problems that I remember. It went really well and I got a lot done.

Today, Friday, I had more than half the sales for the day! I had one order for two mirrors on a Chevy Tahoe that was around $650! We were slower and the other sales team members were not having much luck with their outbound sales calls.
The best part of the day was when Herb called one lady and she said she was going to transfer him to the voicemail of the person he needed to talk to. She transferred him to her own voicemail!

My first week was crazy. I learned a lot and got a lot of work done. Monday morning I’m going to show up and kick some more butt.

Learning the Digital Design Tool Easil

Alyssa Wright shares her experience learning Easil and the fun she’s had with the tool over the last two days.

For this week’s value prop, I’m designing social media posts. I was initially planning to learn and use Canva, but was turned off by the price barrier. I did a search for free alternatives and found Easil.

For the moment, I’m actually not using the free version. I have a free trial of their premium with all the advanced features that includes.

The tool has a quick, simple tutorial to explain the basic functions. Beyond that, it was easy for me to figure out how to do what I wanted.

At first I built off of their templates. The first image I created I didn’t even change the background image. After that, though, I changed the images, the text, often the fonts. If I used a template it was for a specific element that I knew how to create myself but could save time by not.

Yesterday my blog post was “Robin Hood’s First Theft,” a short narrative poem I wrote in January 2015. In only 20 minutes, I found an image on Pexels that I liked to represent Robin Hood and created a storybook cover for the poem. If you follow the hyperlink at the beginning of the paragraph you can see that image.

I’ve had a lot of fun making graphics for this value prop and for my blog. I’ve temporarily taken a step back from writing for Over the Invisible Wall, but I’m going to make the images for the blog posts in addition to continuing to help edit. The first one will be up tomorrow, so be sure to visit the blog to read the new post and check that out!

Exploring SEO

I’m just learning about SEO and will be updating my website and sharing what I’m learning very soon.

Yesterday and today I started introducing myself to SEO. It seems more and less complicated than I anticipated.

The concepts are simple, keywords, quality up-to-date content, backlinks, website loading speed, the amount of time people spend on your site.

Harnessing them, though, is more complicated.
To that end, I watched a couple videos about tools, both free and paid, that allow you to analyze your website’s performance. From that analysis, you can improve and get more traffic to your website, rank higher in Google, and see what content should be updated or deleted.

I will be curating a playlist of the internet marking and SEO videos I’m learning from on my Youtube channel. If you want to learn along with me, be sure to check that out here.

Over the next few weeks I will be exploring SEO and implementing it here. This won’t just help me, it will improve your experience on my site. I’ll be creating more of the content that you and others want to see by using SEO strategies.

Focusing on Projects

I can be very easily distracted. But I can also sit and write for hours without realizing.

I start the day with a list of activities I need to do. I set out exactly what I plan to accomplish with the day at the beginning so I know how to spend my time. The specific amounts of time on each task isn’t important, it’s crossing each item off the list by the end of the day.

I keep a glass of water at my desk. I take care of my physical needs, then I get to work. I think only of the writing.

I sit down to write my blog post and I think. Even when I have an idea, I take a moment to think about it before writing anything. I don’t jump in immediately.

I stare at the blank page, let it stare back at me before writing words. They don’t have to be the right words, they don’t have to be organized, they just need to get on the page. I can fix them later.

I can’t go from blank page to masterpiece if I never start writing.

At first, I have to force myself to write. I force out a few sentences before I get into the flow. I have to get in the “zone,” that place of mental concentration if I want to build momentum. For a blog post draft, I might need only about thirty minutes.

Once I cut out distractions, I get to writing. I put one word after another, and keep going. I think about what comes next and the overall message. I pour out words until I reach the conclusion. I don’t look at the clock to see how long it took. I work to silence and the clacking of my keyboard or the scratch of my pen on paper.

I try to write as long as I can without a break. Sometimes that means staring at the page trying to find the words.

For a longer project I work as long as I can, then take a short break. If I can’t finish that in one go that’s fine. What matters is I put in the work and got in the zone.

I cut the distractions I can control. I make sure I’m awake and need nothing. I stare at the tauntingly blank page, then force myself to write until I’m not forcing it. My thoughts hone in on the the work and topic at hand. The words start to flow and I get in the zone. I make it last as long as possible or as long as needed.

Then I take a break and come back to do it again.

Why I Committed to Daily Blogging

I could have written this post when I started my blog back in July. The reasons for my commitment are the same. Now, though, I have over 140 blog posts since July 2 and over 60 days of daily blogging.

I’ve had times in the past that I committed to daily writing. Every time I eventually missed or skipped a day, and that made it hard to start again. I wasn’t writing publically, but I was writing.

I haven’t let that happen to my blog.

I write every day. I’ve made it non-optional. I am obligated to myself to write a blog post. Every. Single. Day.

The internal motivation is just as important as the results. If you can decide to do something and come through even when it’s just for you, what could you do for others?

I said on Twitter at some point, “I set out to write every day and I stopped doing it. Now I’m going back to that habit. I’m not a writer if I only write when it’s easy.” There will be hardship and trouble. I have to be willing to stand up and push on when that happens.

I have read a lot of writing advice, blogs, books, watched videos, etc. The one piece of advice I’ve seen the most in the last seven years is to write every day.

The best and quickest way to see improvement is to write every day. There’s no way around it. That daily practice applies to other art forms as well.

To demonstrate the improvement, compare my early post Struggling to Organize my Poetry Manuscript to my more recent post Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned. The first is not a great blog post at all, and not great writing either. The second is a better blog post and better writing more generally. I picked those two posts because they are on the same topic, making them easier to contrast.

I’ve made improvement just over the last few months, as you can see. Other Praxians found marked improvement in their writing just from the beginning of the 30 day blogging challenge to the end. This isn’t just my experience, it’s the experience of Praxians and of the authors you know and love.

There were promised benefits of daily writing from the creative writing communities I’ve engaged in. Writers aren’t joking when they say if you want to be a writer you need to write every day. The most frequent complaint is that doing it every day without fail makes it feel like work.

Anyone who is seriously pursuing art will have to work. It is work, it will feel like work, but it is the most rewarding work I have ever done. Anyone who wants to have a shot at making money doing their art probably has to practice every day. The only writer I’ve heard about that made a lot of money and didn’t write every day is F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s the exception, not the rule.

If you want to be any kind of artist, practice your art!

 

What I’ve experienced:

More inspiration more often — ideas and motivation for writing. Spurts of energy and artistic genius that are fleeting. That’s actually how I started this post. I read the Praxis email welcoming me to Module 3 and just knew, I needed to write about why I committed to daily writing.

Greater ability to write without inspiration. It’s not always bad, but I sometimes go into my blog posts without knowing what I’m going to write about that day. Sometimes I’ll get struck with inspiration, other times I have to fend for myself. It’s harder, but I can, better than before.

More ideas for blog posts and creative writing. By committing to daily writing, I’ve had to find ideas when I didn’t already have any. I’ve drawn on Recap posts for this, but I’ve also set out to write those intentionally. There are so many potential ideas, I just have to find something to unlock a new idea in my mind. Sometimes it’s for a story, other times a post for my blog, or for Over the Invisible Wall. It’s gotten easier to write when I didn’t go in with an idea.

Increased sense of productivity — not because I was being unproductive before or that it allows me to excuse wasting the rest of the day. Writing every day has encouraged me to do more every day. I started blogging daily, I should revamp my daily poetry writing. If I can do that, why don’t I work on other projects every day? It escalates. The more you consistently do every day, the more you can do every day. As soon as I gained some efficiency in daily blogging, I found myself with more time and wanting to write more.

Clearer writing — it’s easier to follow my topics and I’m better at keeping a blog post focused. Instead of ultra-casual topic switching like a conversation with an old friend, I have a focused discussion with the reader on the topic at hand. My recent series on self-publishing is a great example of that. I stay on task, keeping the post exactly where I intend.

Clearer articulation of my thoughts. I can more easily express what I think about a given topic. I had a lot of trepidation, but I wrote and posted Why I’m Not a Christian. I had an on-the-fly, unexpected conversation about religion with a co-worker yesterday. I was able to eschew fear. I’d already publicly shared my position anyway. I’m in the middle of writing a tough post on eating meat for Over the Invisible Wall. I have to write down exactly my line of thought so I can refine it into a cogent argument. It’s hard, but I’m getting there.

 

Some notes on it:

I knew going in that my writing would improve. I’d read about other improvements as well. Now I’ve experienced them. Every experience I read about from other people who did the 30 day blogging challenge had this in common. Without fail, writing every day improved the quality of writing.

I chose to go into an endless daily blogging challenge because I am a writer. I want to turn my passion into my career, and I have to improve as much as possible. I have to treat it as my job even now when I make no money. Sure, I’ve sold 3 copies of my poetry collection, but I spent more self-publishing than I got back from that.

I’m building up my body of work. The more I have made, the more I have to draw on later, and the stronger a signal I send that I can deliver. I write and publish every day. I have some work that took longer to make, and I’m open about how long it took to do it.

I’m teaching myself that I can do it. I’m giving my brain a lot of positive experiences. I wrote a blog post yesterday, I can do it today. I finished my poetry manuscript in two weeks, I can make another poetry collection in that time. The more I do this, the more I can beat imposter syndrome, the more I can conquer harder, more daunting projects.

Practicing my craft every day is the most valuable habit I’ve built recently.