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Working at Apple….

“Day one at my new job. Sporting white headphones, I am plugged into a computer watching Ridley Scott’s awe-inspiring “1984” Macintosh ad, reviewing the company history, and getting pumped up about my new workplace. Like most of my coworkers, I’m already a loyal fan of the company, so starting this job will take my interest to the next level. I’m working as a Mac specialist at the Apple Store.

What happens between now and Christmas is the most important time for a very large sector of our economy: The National Retail Federation predicts almost $475 billion will pass between customers and merchants this holiday season, and whether such notable brands as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Gap (NYSE:GPS), Home Depot (NYSE:HD), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), and many others think 2007 was a good year or a bad one comes down to this fourth-quarter finish line. The people most responsible for that success are, in many ways, their retail-store employees.

You can only learn so much about frontline employees as a customer, or even as a reporter. I knew that to find out how the best companies train and indoctrinate employees, I’d have to become one myself. In what wound up as a two-year undercover project, I took a series of entry-level retail jobs, becoming that critical employee who represents the company’s face. I did it to better understand the world of commerce and the corporate cultures that drive it. In the process, I learned that Apple Stores, with their aura of cool, were in fact living up to their mission to “reinvent retail” and setting a high bar for other companies in the retail world.

I knew I’d have competition when I applied at the Apple Store, but I also knew store managers hire from the ranks of the brand’s fans. Apple is surely a rare bird–few companies have such a broad and committed following, let alone frontline employees who revere its CEO. (When I worked at Gap, then-CEO Paul Pressler showed up in the store and coworkers knew he was a bigwig but didn’t realize he was the boss.)

But even companies that have devotees don’t always look as hard for passion as they should. On its hiring application, Starbucks asked briefly about my interest in coffee (“What do you like about coffee?”) but left it at that………”

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October 22, 2007 - Posted by | apple, financial

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