As the facility manager for ACI, my responsibilities are to provide a safe and clean building environment for all employees and visitors. In addition to being responsible for building maintenance, repairs, shipping and receiving, and creating and enforcing fire safety procedures, I also run the shuttle service in the morning and afternoon to transport my associates to and from the subway. In the course of a day, I am in every department and get to see what everyone is doing. It makes for a very interesting day!
When I drive the shuttle van with our “We Make the Magic” Santa logo I get many curious looks and often questions about what I do. I smile and tell them I work for the “big man” up north and I inevitably am asked the same question by all: “What do you do the rest of the year?” What most people don’t realize is that it takes many months of hard work and preparation to help create the holiday displays they see in the buildings, windows and lobbies each year. The magic of American Christmas doesn’t just happen overnight. It is a process that takes all year.
American Christmas is unique because its main function is Christmas décor. While this means that during the holiday season our hard work is on display, the off season at American Christmas is filled with planning and preparation for the next year. Once the holidays come to an end we don’t just kick back and relax. Immediately after Christmas we begin collecting the decorations from client locations and begin refurbishing for the following year to fulfill their expectations and assure complete satisfaction.
At the end of the installation season in mid-December, when most of the décor is on location, we take inventory of all items still in stock. This involves counting every pine cone, ornament, tree and wreath. Immediately after New Year’s Day, the process of removing and transporting the décor to our warehouse begins; what took us over two months to install is dismantled and returned to the warehouse in less than two weeks! This involves a great amount of planning and coordination but usually by January 12th everything is back here at ACI. When the decorations arrive at our warehouse, we begin refurbishing, relighting and replacing décor so that it is ready for the following holiday season.
In January, we plan our purchasing for the upcoming year. A number of our associates travel to trade shows in the U.S., Europe and Asia to look at new products for us to use in our designs. Upon their return, meetings are held to decide what to purchase for the year. Many samples are ordered so we can evaluate new products to make sure they are up to our high standards. In visiting these shows, our sales staff and creative staff gain inspiration for the upcoming year.
While Production is busy refurbishing and re-stocking material, the Sales Department is busy meeting with current clients to see if they would like changes or a new design for the following year. They are also meeting with new clients. They often take pictures of the area to be decorated and these pictures are presented to the Creative Dept., who do renderings of the proposed décor. This is the truly magical part because they bring an idea to life in a rendering created to give the client a visual representation of how the décor will look in the selected space. The process involves many steps, from taking the photos and measurements to the creation of the production samples to the client presentation.
Once the décor is approved by the client, the material is purchased and production begins. The real countdown to the holidays starts in the month of June when seasonal employees return to work to join the full-time, year-round employees. We continue preparations for the upcoming holiday season and by October decorator training starts up as we jump back into the busy season. All decorators and supervisors participate in a very intensive training program where they learn how to put together the exciting displays that define American Christmas as the leader in our industry.
I was brought up with the idea that the holidays are about family and friends and working at ACI not only allows me to be surrounded by Christmas all year round, but also by the family we have built at the company. I am a strong believer that everyone should live the life they were meant to live, including the work they do and I am living that life here at ACI.