Monday, October 09, 2006

My Meaningful Learning Experience by Gelfand Asya

“Asya- always try to put yourself in the customer’s position- and form their work backwards” was one of the many words of advice I received from my former boss and good friend Andrew (Andy) Hauerstock. “An Important Lesson I Learned in School” was neither one lesson, nor did it take place in a school building: instead, it was a period of time while working with Andy during the two years that I studied at Tel Aviv University. Upon recently finishing my job at Andy’s retail store, it began to dawn on me the magnitude and impact he had on my life - on several levels. Prior to being his employee, I had known Andy for a few years through my boyfriend; because of his friendship with my boyfriend I never felt comfortable with the idea of working for him as a sales manager in his store. Further, I always believed that I was too naïve to be a salesperson. However, Andy influenced and encouraged me both on professional and on personal level. Indeed, as I left Israel to study in San Francisco, he was one of the people that it was most hard for me to leave.

Andy owns a retail business in Israel and for a long time we have been debating should I work there or not. The business is directed mostly towards tourists and consists of a store and a web site that sell Israeli-oriented t-shirts and memorabilia. Andy’s store has been an icon for generations of tourists, since its opening in the late seventies. The business had gone through many changes, adapting to political and economical situation in Israel, yet retaining its patriotic core. When I started working there I had only a vague idea of what I was really getting into.

While working with Andy in his store, I encountered and serviced a variety of people that I could never imagine I would meet: people from different religions and cultures, tough customers as well as “too nice” ones. With Andy’s “hands-on” guidance I learned the basics of business not only through a loss and profit tables, but also by knowing how to approach each person in the best way. Andy taught me that not only price matters, but more importantly - attitude. Some customers like to be asked about themselves, others like to hear your own personal story, while some simply prefer to be left alone. Reading people and their characters is one of the most important features that a salesperson must posses and implement. Watching and learning from Andy- as to how he addressed and read customers, I began to gain the confidence to employ such sale tactics. Even more importantly, over time, I created my own style and found my own selling methods that resulted in an unexpected success. Andy had taught me the essence of sales and work better then any business school.

On a personal level Andy essentially became both a role model and symbol of hope as I saw him battling a fatal and rare form of cancer- while at the same time remaining a family man and dedicated business owner. Having lost my own mother to cancer a few years ago, I was not sure if I could deal with watching someone else for whom I deeply cared about also fall victim. But actually Andy’s approach towards his disease was unique- he refused at any cost to let the cancer beat him. When I met Andy, he was already more than 5 years with the disease and explained to me how he had done research on the internet, had gotten involved with support and medical communities and had essentially created his own roadmap for various experimental and cutting edge cures. Instead of letting other people- doctors included, to decide his own fate, Andy took his fate into his own hands. By all medical statistics, he has lived many years beyond what anyone would have predicted and continues to remain vibrant and healthy. Seeing such hope and determination has taught me an important lesson for life: to be less fatalist and pessimistic, never to give up and to enjoy life as much as you can.

As I now enter a new phase of my life here in America, there is no doubt that from a personal and professional level, Andy and his lesson are always over my shoulder. We remain in close contact and I still find myself confiding in him whether its regarding which courses to take, what type of job to look for, or simply adjusting to life in America. As Elie Weisel wrote, "Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings", indeed, Andy is one of my primary sources source of hope, light, and confidence.

1 comment:

Fabrice Peresse said...

This is with a deep sorrow that I have read about the death of Andrew. We had been dealing together for two years now, and in many occasions I did appreciate the immense qualities and shining personality of Andrew. I will miss him. Please pass my greatest condolence and affection to BatSheva and Anushka in these difficult times. With kind regards.
Fabrice from PARIS - Headlines