We all work with people who do the impossible. As a finalist for our Office Hero of the Year Award, Debra Klemm is no stranger to hard work and productivity. Debra is currently the Operations Manager at House of Kaizen, and has worked in the amusement park and med spa industries. We got in touch with Debra to discuss the pleasure of checking items off a to-do list, why you should talk to your team members, and the importance of treating your customers right.
Name: Debra Klemm
Location: New York
Current Job Title: Operations Manager
What’s your favorite time-saving trick?
I schedule Friday as my “catch up” day. This allows to take care of the little things that get missed due to meetings, interruptions, etc. and allows me to start the next week fresh.
What is your workspace setup like? Is there any tool or device that you can’t live without?
We have an open office and my spot is visible to everyone in the office so they can always find me. I’m very organized and clean up my desk every day. I can’t live without my to-do list and calendar. Nothing is more gratifying than checking things off the list, even if I have to add more than I check off.
“Nothing is more gratifying than checking things off the list, even if I have to add more than I check off.”
In our experience, office heroes are constantly busy and wear a lot of hats. How do you stay focused at work?
I take pride in ensuring that everyone is taken care of. It’s easy to stay focused when you don’t look at your job as a chore (Plus, a part of my job is helping others stay focused).
Office snacks: sweet or salty?
Both—and savory, too. Since tastes vary from day to day, I ensure my team has it all.
How do the personal relationships you have at work help you maintain your office hero status?
I have managed both large and small teams, but I have always been able to have a 10-minute conversation with any team member that has nothing to do with work. This makes them feel valued and that it’s not all about work. It also makes difficult conversations easier if you have already created a relationship.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
If you treat your customers right, both internally and externally, your business will thrive.
Who’s your hero?
My hero is every person who gets up each day and strives to make it a better day than the day before. Not just for themselves, but for others as well.
Office heroes aren’t made overnight. Tell us a little bit about your career path and how you ended up where you are.
I began my career at an early age in restaurants and quickly moved up into management. It was a great place to learn the basics and I took what I learned and moved into the amusement park/family entertainment center business. I started as a GM and rose through the ranks by going into parks, cleaning them up, training the team, making the park profitable, and then moving on to the next park and its challenges. By the time I left, I was running a 14+ acre park and a team of more than 200 employees.
I then went on to run a multi-location med spa business as Director of Operations. While I enjoyed the job, my daughter moved to NY to start her career and after a year of living apart, I made the decision to move to NY as well and support her in her dreams. I gave my job two months’ notice and moved to NY.
I wanted to take a step back so that I had time to offer her advice and support, so I found an Office Manager job at a startup and helped them build out the NY office. This allowed me to use my skills, but have more time for a work/life balance. The company decided to move to Boston after an initial round of investment funding.
I then came to work for House of Kaizen as an Operations Manager. I was tasked with helping the partners create a true community. In less than one year, we were awarded two Best Places to Work Awards.
The winner of our Office Hero of the Year Award will be announced on Wednesday, April 27th. Check back soon for the announcement!