HOW TO NEVER, EVER BE “THAT GUY”
When I was a young lad, barely out of high school, I moved from small-townsville, on the west coast of Canada, to the bright lights of Toronto. It was one of those “have to get out of the town I grew up in” moments. My intention wasn’t to find a career. It was to find loud music, plentiful supplies of alcohol, and girls who wanted to take their clothes off in front of me. I found all of those things, and, in spite of myself, I also found a career.
Shortly after I arrived in the big city and realized how much money was involved in paying rent and eating, I decided I better find a job. I got lucky and found a position as a lot-lizard at a dealership that sold recreational vehicles. Little did I know, at that point, that the writing wasn’t just on the wall, it was sky-written amongst the clouds. I was destined to stay in the recreational vehicle business for a long, long time. And yes, I will tell you what a lot-lizard is. Automobile and recreational vehicle dealerships and I suppose motorcycle, and boat stores, too, usually have a lot-lizard in their employ. My job, as a lot-lizard, was to clean the motorhomes and trailers and arrange them on the lot, as well as do other basic chores while the salespeople tried to help prospective customers pick out their new RV. I actually enjoyed the work, and I respected the fact that the salespeople were trying to make a living, but, as I watched one of our top guys, Starvin’ Marvin, try to close a deal one day, I told myself I would never, ever become a salesperson. Fast forward twenty-five years and I’m still here, in the recreational vehicle business and of course, I’m in sales. I’ve held many positions in different dealerships but mostly I’ve managed and trained salespeople. Funny how life works isn’t it. Starvin’ Marvin is laughing somewhere right now. I’m sure of it.
You know, now that I think of it, my personal prejudice against becoming a salesperson began earlier than that, even before I met Marvin. When I was ten years old I was with my parents in a large department store as they were trying to find an inexpensive television set. My folks didn’t have a lot of money but with four kids in the house, television was important. The salesman told my father he was going into the back room to take a look at what they had.
We waited a few minutes and then my father looked at my mother and said, “He’s not coming back,” and we left.
I remember saying to myself, “I’ll never be that guy”. I’ll never be the guy who doesn’t respect people enough to come back. And, fortunately, even though I did end up becoming a salesperson, I’ve never been “that guy”. An early mentor, in fact it was my boss at that first dealership in Toronto, told me something that has always stuck with me. He said, “Being a salesperson isn’t about telling lies. It’s about being brave enough to tell the truth”. So, in my career in sales I’ve always tried to do two things. I’ve always made sure I’m not “that guy”, the guy who doesn’t come back, and doesn’t treat his customers with respect. And, I’ve always tried to be brave enough to tell the truth. Now, there is a reason that I’ve given you this long, wordy preamble. I do indeed have a point. My career in sales changed recently. I’m no longer a full-time salesperson. I’d been working as a General Sales Manager for a very nice family-owned dealership in western Canada for the past few years but last September I left them and I started writing full-time.
Yikes, yikes, and double-yikes. Yes, I took a chance that there’d be enough readers who would put their hands in their pockets and pay money for my words. Now, I do have a safety net. I’ve been very blessed. I self-published my first novel, MY TEMPORARY LIFE last year and it has been very good to me, but now, it’s no longer temporary. Now, it’s part of my full-time, regular life. Instead of getting up in the morning and going into the office every day, putting in my eight hours, and then heading home, I’m here, with you, typing away.
Like a lot of folks I’ve been working at some kind of job or another since I was ten years old, and I believe I have a strong enough work ethic to give this a hell of a shot, so I’m sure it’s all going to turn out fine. I’ll be blogging more on my website, I’ll continue to write for the good folks at Indies Unlimited and if possible I’ll sneak in the odd article in other publications too, like the ones I’ve written for the Georgia Straight newspaper. Plus, I’ve been asked to give a talk on self-publishing at an online conference this Spring. And, I’m sitting on a panel at the North Shore Writer’s Festival in April. That will be a huge honour. And, just after I released my new book at the beginning of this year, my former employer at the family-owned dealership asked if I’d mind coming back a couple of days a week and doing some relief work for them. I said yes, of course, and I’m back at the dealership on the days I’m not writing. So, I’m going to be busy, in fact, probably busier than I’ve ever been. So, Marvin, wherever you are, laugh away. I did it the way the old Italian crooner said to do it. I did it my way, and whether I’m communicating with my readers as a writer or dealing with customers on the dealership lot, I’ll continue to roll the way I always have, and I will never, ever be “that guy”. Never.