At one point in my career I came within a whisker of quitting pest control altogether. What started out as such an adventure and my ‘high calling’ had suddenly turned into this free fall of one bad experience after another. In the space of just about a year and a half I went from National Account/Commercial sales to a tech without enough route work leaving me no choice but to knock doors in the dead of winter. Actually now that I think of it, with the timing of things it turned out to be two harsh cold winters that I spent almost begging for work. (ugh-this article just got more depressing for me to recall) This is the first terrible winter.
I had just made what I thought was a good recovery after tumbling off my high and lofty perch as National Grand Poobah. (Jerry Schappert a legend in his own mind) This new company that hired me on for sales wasn’t a national power but none the less was a HUGE company in the Baltimore area. Busy was an under statement for this company and when the branch mgr. showed me to my desk, there was a stack of leads just waiting there for me. It wasn’t uncommon to get 15 or more leads per day and it got to the point I had to just pick which ones I could get to in a timely manner and literally blow off the rest. This company had sales contests each month where the top salesman would get a jacket with the company logo. It wasn’t like the green jacket you win at the Masters but considering where I came from it felt real good when I won my first one and wore it proudly in the warm Maryland sun.
A Fun Place Turned Bad
The office was a fun place to be and the mgr. was a huge cut up cracking jokes almost all day. He had been a tech for this company back when initial services were $16 bucks and now worked his way up. By the looks of things, he was doing nicely with big gold bracelets, wads of cash, a real player. My worst days were always commission paycheck days because even though my sales were off the charts my checks never showed it. My mgr. would smile and tell me he’d call corporate to straighten it out and then somehow he got the office rolling in laughter and we all forgot about our lighter pay. One day I arrived at work only to find corporate had invaded the office and our beloved leader was gone. What should have been so obvious for anybody to see was he had been embezzling and this time his charm couldn’t keep the consequences at bay for another month.
Under A Microscope
It was a bit awkward trying to get much of anything done for a few days but in came a new manager who according to the big wigs “would straighten us out.” He was an arrogant man and even though he was about 5’6, 135 pounds soaking wet this guy was plain scary. He ran the place like a dictator and just sucked the life out of the office. I’m not the kind of guy that works well under people like this and it wasn’t really a secret he and I weren’t getting along. I think corporate was doing a quasi investigation on the rest of the staff and they scrutinized everything we had done up unto that point while our new task master put his thumb on our present daily activity. The only reason most of the guys (techs too) hung around is that we were promised they’d get to the bottom of all of our missing commissions. They never did. Still, the leads were pouring in (won another jacket) and I didn’t want to lose this job knowing my mgr. from hell was looking and waiting for just one screw up from me.
He Got His Wish
Sometime in the fall of that year my wife and I were on our way home from an appointment downtown. The Baltimore beltway can be a lot like a Nascar track even on a good day so add some rain, a merging funeral procession and a teenage driver doing 95 mph and you got trouble in in turn 3. My car was totaled and and my wife and 1 year old son and I weren’t so great either. Suffice to say I was out of work for about 6 weeks and by the time I was cleared, both my wallet and the trees were bare. Winter time was here and I was about to find out just how cold it would be.
My first day back and everyone was happy to see me, everyone that is except the tyrant leader who I had hoped beyond hope had somehow had moved on. Not a chance. He called me into his office and told me in his matter of fact tone, “Don’t even bother to sit down. You’ve been gone for quite sometime we’ve made some changes. You’re NO LONGER receiving any leads and you’re only to sell commercial accounts in the city. You don’t like it? Tough Sh*^!” and he turned his back to me to fumble in some files which was I guess my clue to leave. It was a very dark day and since I am the worlds worst cold calling salesman, I could only see darker ones up ahead.
Not Dead Yet
With a new house and a baby there was no way I could afford to be without work any longer. I could’ve went searching elsewhere but my wife & I decided it would be our quickest way to recover by going with what we had. I don’t know about you but I’m married to the greatest woman on earth because not only did she help devise the plan, she worked it too. She was still another week or so from being cleared to go back to work and rather than sit around she actually got on the phone and set up appointments using a script I had given her. We started with restaurants and I sold a few, then warehouses and so on down the line. I could barely afford gas so Renee set appointments as close as she could & I would park and walk through the wintery streets. I got more ‘No’s’ than I ever had in my entire life but with a steady flow of places to go we got by each month by the skin of our teeth.
That winter I didn’t miss draw at all and in fact I somehow made a couple hundred extra bucks each month. I didn’t win any sales jackets but my manager just grit his teeth every time I brought in a signed contract for new work. Looking back I got way more than any award. Besides all the lessons of perseverance, hard work, determination and belief that if you just do right good things will follow. I also found out that my best friend & I were truly a team and that together, there was no mountain high enough we couldn’t over come. Besides, it was a freezing winter that year and up until then the jackets I thought I could depend on, never kept me warm.