Whoa! Didja get the numbers off that truck?!?

April 24, 2003 - 10:55 p.m.


I feel assaulted. I have never felt like this. Everything in my life right now is under attack.

I was making a lot more money three years ago. I made some bad decisions, and lost my job. I started my job search at the worst possible time, ten days before the September 11 attack. I was doing my job search online while the buildings were falling down. I became quickly convinced that I wouldn’t be able to find a job in the career I had set for myself for fifteen years. I started exploring other opportunities, but jobs were just plain impossible to find. And then the roof started leaking.

My severance ran out at the end of October 2001. I was fortunate that I had a retirement plan from my former employer that I could tap into. That prevented me from real desperate measures and enabled me to keep the house that I live in now. I paid a heavy tax penalty for it but I had no choice.

Then I made a foolish mistake. I decided to get into a sales career, with a guy that had nothing to lose by taking me on. I spent money on two more phone lines; I set up a home office and started researching potential customers. I threw everything I had into this new venture because I felt confident that I could make it work. I even spent money on a plane ticket and flew out to CA to meet this guy for some one-on-one sales training. That’s when I discovered the hollow truth. This guy was and is an excellent salesman, and a successful one. But he lacked the ability in sales management, which is, mentoring guys like me with no background.

After my return I pitched in and did everything he told me to and got no results at all. Talking with people in this area, selling my idea had no effect. Firstly, the people I was pitching the idea to had their own way of doing business and they were reluctant to change. Secondly, I didn’t understand the industry well enough to be able to answer their objections. So I cut my losses.

I folded the business, as much as I could. I disconnected the two extra phone lines. I told my telemarketer that I was through, and that I’d pay her for the work she’d done for me so far. She is a great person and a good friend to this day. (She’s going through chemotherapy right now, think good thoughts for her.) I started my job search again. But this time I focused on low demand sales jobs. I wanted a job where the customers came to me.

I ended up in car sales. I filled out job applications up and down the street. I don’t know exactly how my resume got to the right person at the place that I was hired. I was told to leave it at the “tower.” What the hell is a tower anyhow? So I looked around and found an office with the biggest chair in it, and tossed it on the desk. Turns out that chair belonged to the owner.

I met my good friend Terry, the sales manager. He hired me. Greg was the general sales manager, and I have to say that of all the bosses I’ve ever had, he was one of the best. He is high strung as most successful sales guys are and he had high demands to be met. But he always followed through on his promises and never expected anything more of us than he would do himself. That’s the key to his success; he’s an honest guy in a field of thieves.

I never had more fun or made less money than any time in my career. I enjoyed going into work each day, despite the fact that I had to wear a tie (one of Greg’s demands, he’s old school.) I would go out to meet the customers and endure the stereotype of the “sleazy leech lying car guy”. I discovered that the customers lie far more than the sales guys do; the phrase in the business is “buyers are liars.” It’s true, I heard more stories, and more promises to “come back later”. “We’re just looking.” Car sales are a now business, it’s imperative to land the customer on a car and the test drive is the key to closing sales. I can tell you all the things that car guys do to close a deal because those stereotypical tricks really do work on 90% of the buyers. People fall in love with cars during the test drive because they can imagine themselves actually owning it. Once the love affair begins, it is only a matter of making the payment work. Most people are “payment buyers” and once they fall in love, the finance office consummates the deal. I always kept my mouth shut during the test drive; I didn’t want anything to get in the way of the first date. I answered their questions, but I didn’t want anything to get in the way of the feel of a new car.

I loved the car sales business, but I didn’t like the games that were played, on both sides of the desk. I missed the tech business, and I felt that my skills developed over 20 years were going to waste blowing up helium balloons and making popcorn and enduring the animosity of the car buying public. I’ll bet I was the only guy in the car business with a US Patent in my name. (US 6,310,767 B1… look it up.) When the idiot mechanics went on strike, due mainly to the ignorance of the owner and sales dropped to zero, I’d had enough.

I called my old friend Steve, at the company I used to do business with. I’d interviewed there before making the wrong decision to jump on the sinking ship, but their offer fell far short of the sinking ship’s offer. But now was different. Turns out they had an offer for me.

I’ve had to endure a $30K a year cut in salary compared to what I was making in 2001. But compared to the car gig it was a pay raise and a steady paycheck. When I started working there, I felt right at home. It was the first job I’d ever had where I felt that way.

I barely make enough to meet expenses. But I know that this is a stable company and they have more business than they know what to do with. Sales may have tanked across the country but big firms are still doing research and product development, and we serve that need. I’m home now, and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

Most people that work there have been there for over ten years. I hear them talk, the words of people who are entrenched in a solid career. They take vacations, they buy big screen televisions. I compare them to where I was ten years ago, I was like that once. These people have never faced the real prospect of losing everything, the hopelessness of not being able to find a job. That is their fortune and misfortune all at the same time.

Next entry: I’m getting sued.

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