I’ve been in the pest control industry 30 plus years and to say the least, it’s been a roller coaster ride. Not just in finances however, there has also been– and I guess will always continue to be, huge ups and down emotionally. There are days, sometimes several days where it seems I can do no wrong. That I can sell any account, solve any problem or satisfy every client that comes my way.
Then there are those moments, yes moments, – and these “moments” turn in to hours, days, weeks, (even years I suppose since what I’m writing is still so fresh in my mind yet each example happened long ago) where I get so low, so depressed and have an overwhelming feeling that I have no place offering my service. That I am not worth the room I take up and that no one, not one single person looks at me and what I do with any shred of respect or admiration.
The following are 3 articles of such low times and even now as I write them down I can feel the emotions of betrayal, lack of self worth and the total crushing of my confidence come crashing in like a cold ocean wave of uncertainty doubt and fear. As I stand with my feet planted in the unstable sand of the business world all I can do is turn my back, brace for impact and hope I don’t get knocked off my feet like I did so many years ago.
I had had a meteoric rise through the company but you’d never know it by looking at my sales numbers or more importantly, my check book. But selling a key account at the right time and having a great performance at a region wide commercial sales school caught the eye of our district big wig and well, that’s about all it took. It was a 5 day seminar and wouldn’t ya know it, I soaked up every ounce of information- shined in all the workshops & at the end of it all sold a huge restaurant account to win a contest and beat out all of the heavy weight favorites. My career was unexpectedly set on a fast track and my name was suddenly included in conversations that I could never have imagined.
The big commercial sales push was a company wide thing and National Accounts was also a major focus. My performance at the sales school shot me from residential sales to the only official commercial salesman in Baltimore to National Sales Rep and all in an instant. Within a week I had a brand new box of ‘raised lettered’ fancy dancy business cards sitting on my desk and a congratulations letter from the VP of east coast sales who I somehow dazzled and sparked a huge amount of hope in. The note said something to the effect that ‘Bigger and better things were on my horizon and keep up the good work–I have my eye on you! ’…. I was extremely flattered and completely shell shocked. To be honest, I never felt I was good enough for what he on other tie clad corporate types were saying I was destined for but hey, this opportunity of a lifetime came with a company car, office, suit and tie and one helluva a paycheck. Still, being mentioned was one thing, delivering on some expectations was another. I wasn’t there yet but O so close – just had to have that one big score and I would cement my destiny and my future would be set.
A Year Later
I’ll admit, I was in a protective cocoon provided to me by my big wig angel. He was willing to give me all the time I needed to cultivate big sales and national contacts so he protected me from my own branch manager who was getting tired of the drag I was on his monthly budget. He was looking for numbers. Daily weekly and monthly dollars and who could blame him? He had bonuses on the line and being a top branch was a competitive thing. There was a lot of money and pride on the line. Truth be told, even the big sales I was working on which would’ve been huge for the company, wouldn’t have meant diddly for him. It wouldn’t have counted for our branch because it was not his area, so I did understand his animus.
Long story short, (you can read here) tensions grew worse and worse at my home branch that it seemed any day a fist fight was gonna break out. Not between me and the manager 😉 but between him and his sales board. You see everyday (day after day) he posted numbers at our morning meetings and all the guys were posting $2200, $1510, $4000 and then there was me….. $0.00. This drove him NUTS. He would draw the sllloooowest zero you could imagine. His body would tense as I had to report ‘out loud’ my # and that magic marker just squealed and squeaked as it made its way around and sounded as close to fingernails on a chalkboard as you could get. All the while gritting his teeth it took everything he had not to jump down my throat–some days, he wasn’t so patient. He was all about numbers and even though I had huge proposals working through the channels…. he just couldn’t see I was worth the room I took up. Over the course of that year many a heated meeting took place, but corporate wasn’t budging and more important for me, my angel big wig was always there for me to defend, encourage and keep me shielded from the pink slip I know my manager wanted to give me.
2 Back Door Deals
Lo and behold and unbeknownst to me a deal was made to send me to another branch. I know my manager worked hard to get me out of his office and another branch manager across town must’ve seen the potential and jumped at the chance of getting me. The deal was set and the announcement came as my manager posted yet another painstakingly slow ZERO on the board in the morning meeting. He chuckled menacingly as he said, “this will be one of the last zeros I’ll see in a long time.” Thinking the worst because of his devilish smirk- he continued by explaining and ended the announcement with a half hearted, “of course we’d hate to see you go….oh….. and it’s up to you, I was told you can stay if you want.”
At this point it was welcome news to me- I think it was the same for all of us so I told him I’d be happy to look into it. To make the deal sweeter, (for me) I met with this rival branch and was told they had a huge account just waiting for me there, kind of a signing bonus. $50 plus k if I remember right.(actually there were 2 bonus contracts)– If I took the deal–it was mine and all it needed was a signature. As far as this day was going-what was not to like? I didn’t know it then, but that’s about the day my superstar career came crashing down around me and, some three decades later I can still recall each and every detail.
I had packed up my desk and was sort of in a hurry– I had that huge contract to go get signed. My manager met me at the front door and we sat down in the lobby. He had something to say.
“Jerry” he said as he squirmed a bit, crossed his legs and folded his hands over his knee. “I had high hopes for you and I really thought you might have made a career of pest control but I can’t see you going very far. You really don’t have what it takes to be in the sales game and the last year or so you have been a REAL disappointment, you should’ve stayed a tech. At least there you would’ve made me money.”
Like I said, I can remember this like it was yesterday and his words still sting as I put them down. But so far, he was right, I wasn’t much of a salesman and if not for the shielding of a man who was higher up then him, I would’ve been out long ago. Besides, my mind was still on that monster ‘gift’ sale I had in the wings. (which he didn’t know about) At this point I was silently smirking knowing he’d hear about this huge sale the next day and then he’d be sorry, then he’d realize what a mistake he made…… but then he made his last remarks and these are the ones that have stuck with me all these years.
“Jerry– he said again as he took a deep breath, I believe in the grand scheme of things, I believe you are just lazy! You’re just afraid to work.”
WOW! I’ve been accused of a few things in my life but never, NEVER in my life had I been labeled as lazy. I’ve had a job since age 16 and in most of that time 2 jobs and cleaning gutters or mowing lawns on the weekends to boot. LAZY? This just flat out stuck me right in my heart. I couldn’t believe this guy was going there and to be called LAZY was just about the worst thing you could ever say. His words– though in my opinion not true, cut like a knife and I still am fueled to this day by them.
The Day Wasn’t Over
In a daze I went down the stairs of the Baltimore branches front door never to come back again. It was somewhat surreal because I left a TON of great memories there. But I had one thing on my mind, go and get that big money signature.
As I raced across town I had a ton of emotions running through my heart and head. Years I gave to this branch as a tech who resurrected 3 or 4 routes that were in total shambles. In sales I was for sure not the greatest but I had my moments and I never missed draw. Never, that is, until this supposed opportunity came my way. I was pretty mixed up but the thought of a $ 8000.00 commission check for one sale was a little bit consoling. Admittedly, the announcement of such a big sale and my ‘former’ branch managers surprised face as he heard the news was even more appealing. I know that’s bad but it’s the way I felt.
Well, it wasn’t that day but about 2 weeks later when I finally was able to get the information I needed to land my big “signing bonus.” Pulling into the huge office complex of this massive account I found a parking spot. I knew exactly where to go and the precise person to get to who had their copy of the contract. Once the two were put together and signed, well, it was a long awaited payday for me.
Barely in park and I hadn’t even opened my door and I saw a man in green pants and white shirt strolling by. I recognized him instantly form my new home branch, it was one of the salesman I had seen when I visited. I got out and greeted him and asked him why he was here? He was carrying a small thin folder and had a huge grin on his face. He said he had just made $ 750 bucks and all he had to do was come and get a piece of paper signed. My heart sank and I believe tears welt up in me but I’m sure I wouldn’t have…couldn’t have let show. I knew right then and there that the one thing in my life that I was so sure of, the great success that had been right there in my hands had slipped away. Like holding water, it was there and then it was gone and there was nothing I could say, do or change to get one ounce of it back. It was my first and perhaps my greatest disappointment in my career.
Back at my office I confronted my new boss about the sour deal but got no answers. None that were satisfactory anyways. I called my ‘big wig angel’ but very strangely I never received a call back. It was as if I was led to a dead end street and told to drive straight. I almost did.
For the next year or so my career careened off course and I couldn’t believe that the job I loved so much was something now I was seriously considering leaving. Sales? Just forget it–I had no heart– Passion? It was gone pretty much the moment I walked down those stairs…. My next career move was based solely out of desperation, completely born of frustration and sent me through another year or two of complete career centered hell. Had this article been titled the 4 Hall of Fame disappointments…I would’ve included the story. It was close , but sadly, it was not. Stay tuned for #2.