THE BLOG

Work Smarter, Not Harder, and Other Lessons Learned In Pursuit of My Dream Closet

03/17/2015 10:50 am ET | Updated May 17, 2015
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We recently moved into a new (old) house and one of the most exciting things for me was getting to design everything. I thought my favorite part would be designing my dream closet (à la Carrie Bradshaw in the first Sex and the City movie -- although that didn't work out so well for her, either).

We looked at a few companies and the company we ended up choosing seemed terrific. They made their own products -- very high end and sturdy and the man who came out to do the measurements was extremely professional. He provided us with all the right answers and architectural quality drawings of my closet to be. That part was lovely. As I browsed the web looking for the perfect chandelier and fuzzy rug to compliment my dream closet (after multiple hours on Houzz.com, I had a very specific vision), I was completely unaware of what was to come.

The first installer who came to install the closet did so begrudgingly, as he was quick to inform us that he was about to start his own company. So perhaps it was not a surprise that he never came back to complete his work. The next guy they sent out criticized the work of the first guy and although he was supposed to finish the closet, it turned out that he spent most of the day sitting around, since several boxes that were in the closet needed to be moved out and although he called his supervisor to let him know the boxes were in the way, he neglected to mention that to me, even though I was right there in the house. When I finally realized what was going on or not going on as the case may be, he told me very rudely that he was leaving and could not finish that day.

Both of those interactions with the closet company spoke to lessons that are evident of things you don't want to do or have your employees do -- criticize your company, slack off, produce what you know to be shoddy work. Obviously.

But the next guy they sent out really taught me a lesson. He was supposed to be the finisher. He also criticized the other two guys' work. But then he proceeded to work really hard all day long. He set up a table saw outside and spent hours and hours going up the stairs and down the stairs, not even breaking for lunch. My mother, who was visiting in an attempt to help me get things organized, remarked several times on how hard he was working. I did notice that for a lot of the day, he seemed to also be talking on his Bluetooth, which gave me pause, but I was just so happy that my closet was finally about to be done. At around 6:30 -- after a full day -- he declared he was finished. And I went to take a look.

He had worked for a long time. That was true. But he had done a very careless job. My dream closet, although functional, had all sorts of things wrong with it, from having to squeeze your hand through the shoe rack to turn on the lights to sloppy caulking dripped around the woodwork to non-matched up finishing. I thanked him, but refused to sign the work order.

I called the company for a supervisor to come out and take a look. He agreed the work was unacceptable and promised to send someone else out.

Here's what I have learned from this experience:

1. Working hard does not mean working smart. Just because you are putting in the hours does not mean it is time well-spent.

2. Stay focused on what you are doing and do it to the best of your ability.

3. Make sure that the people who work for you are ambassadors for your brand and company. In this day and age, when the reviews of peers carry so much weight and it is so easy to see what people think of your work, it is more important than ever that the pride in your company starts with the people that work there.

4. Take pride in your work. Whatever you are working on, make sure that it is the best it can be. Don't just slog through to get it done. Get it done right.

I'm still not sure how long it will take for my closet to be done. A new finisher came out today who informed me after asking me if I wanted my closet done right, that there was no way he could finish such a huge job today and promised to be back tomorrow. But as I wind my hand past my shoes to turn on my closet light, I am reminded that working smart, staying focused and taking pride in what you do is always the way to go. And in the meantime, I have a little more time to find the perfect chandelier for my dream closet.