2021 Star Women in Grocery winner Michelle Blair (Q&A)
Canadian Grocer staff
How did you get into the grocery business?
I’ve been with the Metro family since 1992 and my first job was at a Save A Centre location. I was 15 and hired as a part-time cashier and continued working that job throughout college. When I completed college, I was asked to help at a new store opening to train cashiers and front-end staff, and from that experience things really just took off. While I was training at the opening, I was approached about an assistant manager position. It’s funny how things work out because it definitely was not my plan, but I can say I have been very lucky to have worked for the same company and continue to progress with Metro throughout my career.
What are your career highlights/greatest accomplishments so far?
Over the years, I have had many career highlights, from becoming a store manager in 2007 to winning various merchandising competitions, to leading a team to win the Platinum Award for Foodland Ontario eight years in a row. In 2017, one of my accomplishments was winning a customer service excellence award at our store managers conference, which was a pretty amazing experience as I believe that is the heart of what drives this business. My greatest accomplishment is helping others grow in their leadership skills to advance their own careers.
What was your proudest moment?
My proudest moment throughout my career was personal and professional at the same time. In 2007, my life was all happening at once. I had recently got married and was pregnant with my first child when I was offered a store manager position at my first store. There were so many emotions happening all at once, but to receive that position at that time was definitely my proudest moment, as I knew my hard work had really paid off.
What do you like most about your job?
Mostly it comes down to the people: the customers, the vendors and the overall team. I love coming in to work each day and hearing people’s stories from all stages of life and watching people that are growing personally and professionally. The fast-paced environment with this position and not knowing what each day may bring helps keep me motivated and challenged. It is also the fun of merchandising and being able to pass on any knowledge that I have learned along the way to others to become more successful in their own paths and become their best self.
What is your best quality?
Empathy. It is strange because I used to look at this as a negative quality in some ways. However, more and more over the years, I believe it is what has gotten me to where I am today. During the past year especially, with the pandemic, I believe empathy has really helped me and my team in the store. I’ve had to really sit back and understand people’s fears, emotions and figure out what is best for both parties, work with that and come up with the right solutions for all.
What is the best advice you received?
Stay positive. This is something that I continue to preach and pass onto others including my own children. It is easy to get caught up and take the other path in certain situations, but if you can stay positive in any situation I really do believe you win all around.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Just how appreciative I am to have been able to work for a company that has allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I believe Metro had strong leaders and for that I am grateful. I am also very lucky to have had such a supportive family who supported my career decisions and time devoted to it. I could not have been successful without all of their encouragement and support along the way. I am very honoured and humbled to have received this award. Thank you!
Click here for the full list of 2021 Star Women in Grocery award winners.