Since its founding in 1978, Bob's Red Mill has seen many changes, but for the past 30 years there's been one constant: Marilyn Ames, who started as a receptionist and today manages order entry and traffic, ensuring that hundreds of thousands of pounds of product get where they need to be all around the world. That's why Marilyn is the latest addition to our series of interviews spotlighting Bob's Red Mill's fantastic owner-employees. Read on to learn why Bob has a special chair at Marilyn's desk, and how they accidentally made IT work extra hard one day many years ago!
Bob's Red Mill: How long have you worked at Bob’s Red Mill?
Marilyn Ames: It will be 30 years in July!
BRM: Where did you work before?
MA: Before working for Bob’s was so, so long ago! Let’s see, I started just out of high school sewing swimsuits at Jantzen Swimwear. After a few months of that I got a job at Tektronix out in Beaverton. I was there for five years building and inspecting circuit boards until we started a family. After the kids went to school I worked at The House of Almonds at Clackamas Town Center part time. I worked a little from home assembling fishing lures for a local tackle company. I got back to full time work at NW Record Service (we copied medical records that were requested mostly by attorneys). I did the billing.
BRM: What was it that attracted you to working at Bob’s?
MA: My job before was located in Tualatin and Bob’s (known as Moore Natural Foods way back then) was five minutes from my home in Milwaukie. My children were in grade school and I really wanted to be closer to home. A coworker and I both applied for the job (it was her idea) and I got it (sorry Suzanne)!
BRM: What was the original job you applied for here, and how has your career progressed over the past 30 years?
MA: The job I applied for was Receptionist/Customer Service/Order Entry. Back then I answered the phone, entered the orders, billed the orders and worked with accounting. There were three of us in the office when I started. As we grew, I still did the order entry, which included mail order when it first came about, then added the trucking arrangements and started working to find the best carriers for the best price. I had the opportunity to manage customer service but never was interested in a management position. I love my job and have been happy for almost 30 years!
BRM: Can you describe your current day-to-day job?
MA: I am the Order Entry Coordinator and Traffic person. I receive all the orders from our big distributors like UNFI, Kehe, Kroger and the like, as well as wholesale orders from smaller companies. They come in via EDI (Electronic Data Interchange—it’s magical!), email and some—but not many—still send them by fax. I work with various logistics companies to get our product shipped all across the country. I have built long standing relationships with many of the trucking representatives we work with.
BRM: What’s your relationship like with Bob himself?
MA: When I started back in 1990, there were only twenty some employees and Bob was right in the middle of everything! I liked him right off since he had the same name as my dad. He has a special chair right by my desk so he can sit and catch up on my life. He cares about all of us and likes to know what’s going on. He used to sit right on my desk, sometimes on top of my work, so that is why we got the chair. LOL!
He is very dear to me.
BRM: Do you have any funny stories from your years working here?
MA: The best one is from way back in the day when people were still using Word Perfect. I had just taken some classes and Bob wanted to see what I’d learned. He sat down by my computer and I attempted to show him a thing or two. He saw all this funny looking writing all over the screen and said “What is all that? It looks like a little kid sat here and was trying to type. You should clean that up a bit.” We started deleting stuff, line by line until the screen just went black! We had deleted the entire program code! We just looked at each other with a bit of panic on our faces and called the computer guy. Thank goodness everything was backed up on tapes every night!
BRM: What is your favorite part of working at Bob’s?
MA: The people, the product, the environment. It’s nice to come to work each and every day!
BRM: What’s one of the biggest challenges?
MA: Not eating all the great food and goodies that come from our test kitchen and end up on the table just 20 feet away from my desk!
BRM: What skills do you think are most important to succeed at customer service?
MA: Being friendly, paying attention to detail and always thinking in any crisis situation with a customer “What would Bob do?” We need to keep the customer happy, we wouldn’t have jobs without them!
BRM: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
MA: I live for road trips. Anywhere, any time! I also enjoy photography, gardening, reading and spending time with family and friends.
Our thanks to Marilyn for taking time out of her day to answer our questions. Are you a big fan of the Irish Soda Bread? Make your case below!