One of my all-time favorite memories of “Labor” is my time at This End Up Furniture Store. For me, it was a time of growing in leaps and bounds. TEU/This End Up had excellent sales training, a wonderful environment, solid furniture, and a lot of fun. For years after I left, I dreamed I still worked for the company.
Anytime you can learn something new, a fantastic thing happens, you grow. The story below is my story of Labor and how Laboring and Learning became Profitable.
I am a huge believer that Nothing Happens Until Something is Sold. So, if you want to grow, Learn to Sell; even today, products and services are selling, so for me, that means there is always opportunity.
Portions of the following story are in a book I have taken FOREVER to complete. It is how learning to sell transformed my life. In All Labor, There is Profit.
During the 1980s
I read sales books from guys like Joe Girard, the dynamo car salesman. I learned “all” the tricks of the trade. And little by little, during the 1980’s I would read motivational books written by Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, Dale Carnegie, and others.
August 16th, 1989 was an important date in my life (Thank you, Pam). I started a job that allowed me to try out what I had learned by book and develop my own sales management processes.
I worked for This End Up Furniture Company and had the worse hours of the day and the worst days of the week…. Approximately 10 hours a week at $5.00 an hour plus 1% commission…..Pretty sad. (pretty hungry too)
But I knew there was an opportunity at This End Up. The company “Shared Values” required you to grow; how amazing is that? And what is more Amazing, if you were in a Leadership position, you were required to develop others—what a concept.
In 1989, computers were not used as much in retail. And at This End Up, everything was still paper. Occasionally, we had three-color brochures, but most of what we supplied the consumer was two-color. None of that mattered to me; I was happy to sell.
Laboring, Reading, Learning Sales Communication, and LOTS of Prayers is what gave me the confidence and drive to continue. I had success that seemed to continue, and as I read more sales and positive motivation books about how others grew In Spite of Adversity. My Confidence Increased.
This was my opportunity to try out everything I learned about the sales process and make change. My follow-up Strategy, Red, Yellow, and Green, alphabetize by date and by color, and a thank you note for all the same day the customer walked in the door. Followed up by a phone call on the exact day I said I would call the customer back, the ever-important “Follow Up” phone call.
So, within 30 days or so, I had the majority of the sales…. with the worst hours and days of the week.
Think that was luck? It was a process that worked, and while This End Up did have follow-up phone calls and thank you notes, they did not have the Red, Yellow & Green Ferris Wheel.
By October 1989, a Store Manager position opened up in Parma, Ohio, and I interviewed. By November, I was the Store Manager. My pay was $17,500.00 a year, plus commission. I don’t need to tell you that it was not much money and it wasn’t in 1989.
I was still in poverty by government standards, but I knew poverty was a State of Mind.
This was my big break, a real paycheck, and the Opportunity for the Almighty Commission. One of my favorite words, and soon to be a word, my children would love to hear.
During this time period, my personal life was a “mess” But, My job was my refuge; this was the place I could be who I wanted to be; I could be Ann and use all of the company tools to grow business and make that “commission.”
Even while increasing sales and reading everything I could get my hands on would give me the emotional support I needed to keep going. Typically Norman Vincent Peale.
All along, I kept reading books; I ran to the library to get more books. I consumed these books during slow days at the store, and as I read more motivation and more sales, I continued to talk to God.
I started getting commission checks, and in 1990 my tax return was something like $22,500.00. Not much, but just above poverty! I had made it. I never qualified for government assistance of any kind; my plan was to keep moving forward.
In January of 1991, a Store Manager position opened in one of the best malls in Northern Ohio, Great Northern Mall.
I needed a minimum of $700.00 more a month to make ends meet. I prayed and prayed for $700.00 more a month. Toward the end of the interview, I asked my boss, “so, how much more is the pay for this job than my current job?”
She took out her calculator and said, “$700.00 a month…. plus commission.”
I don’t have to tell you that I had to fight back the tears; even as I type this story today, I have tears in my eyes. But, as I walked out of the mall (for those of you that are local, the interview was at Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio) and into the parking lot, I was smiling big and thanking God. I knew I was going to get that job.
I think you get the idea here and know what I am going to say; I got the new job and continued to increase store sales. I had a sales system that worked.
I continued to read, but now I had money to pay for the Dale Carnegie course.
Sometime in the early 1980s, I learned about Dale Carnegie. I recall seeing the cost for the class was somewhere around $600.00.
$600.00, I did not have, so in 1991 the cost was 900.00; by the spring of 1991, I paid for my class! The Dale Carnegie course was one of the best experiences in my life.
Over about the next three years, I went back as a graduate assistant, so I was able to take the class an additional two times in many ways!
What did I learn from Dale Carnegie?
How to be a Better Parent, Salesperson, and a Sales Manager. I tried everything I learned on my kids, but only after I finally figured out that it would be to my advantage to use Dale Carnegie on them as a parent! I realized I had more patience with the sales staff than my beautiful babies.
So, what is the story here, and where’s the sales stuff?
I use to tell my sales team –
If you can’t see the beauty, something positive in every person you meet, don’t get into sales. A genuine smile is worth a million dollars. Sincerity will take you a long way. Values will keep you grounded.
Listening more than you speak, confirming that what you are hearing is what you are hearing. And, Sharpening your Saw Daily.
I am genuinely perplexed at the idea that learning ceases after schooling. It doesn’t matter what you do in life; there is always much more to learn.
I Won’t Back Down – My Theme Song.
Now the Back Story –
Shared Values are very much like Commandments. In life, there are rules you follow, no matter what your religious beliefs. If you fail to follow those “rules” or “values,” things in life go sideways.
Sometimes you make it out, and sometimes you don’t. I find it easier to follow values.
This End Up Furniture Company in this story is the “old” company. The business that exists today is not under the same ownership. I am now a customer.
While I am forever thankful for the opportunities I received at This End Up, I needed to grow, and my boss needed me to stay where I was, not good for my children and me. In addition, lots of opportunities outside of Ohio came and went. So, I had to leave the company.
What did I learn during this period of time, other than Sales?
That some of the worst management practices are the best things, you will ever learn in life. What Not To Do is Far More Important Than What To Do.
This End Up Shared Values
1. Maximize Sales
2. Happy Customers
3. Individual Growth
4. Honest Communication
5. Participative Management
7. Results Oriented
9. Minimal Red Tape
10. Commitment to Excellence
What to Write About? Writing Prompts
How about a story about how you learned what not to do?
- Learning what not to do will save you a lot of trouble. I know people who continue to grow people even though it is NOT profitable to their success. That is called Individual Growth and the sign of a Real Leader.
- How much harder is it to do the right thing?
- Helping people grow should be a requirement for growth in management.