IMG_0132Ties mean opportunity for me – something I took for granted for most of my life and probably still do. For the first 3.5 years after high school, I worked in various sales jobs to save money for Bible College and I wore a suit and tie every day.
Job #1: Was working for Wayne Mansfield. He ran a public speaker agency and was a speaker himself. I sold sponsorships for the seminars and was a general gofer to help plan the events. I worked for Wayne for about 18 months and received an eye opening education. The company was “Mansfield Pacific Corporation.”
“Why are we called Mansfield Pacific Corporation?” I asked Wayne one day.
“Because it sounds SO BIG.”
There were 3 of us.
Job #2: was selling gym memberships for an express gym that had state of the art Nautilus equipment. I couldn’t get behind the sales practices and later learned that the place was run by a weird Christian based cult. But it was my first experience at city partnerships. I built a relationship with state’s Kidney Foundation and got some media exposure for the Gym having teenage kidney transplant recipients come work out while news cameras rolled. 2 months working for the Gym and then fired for lack of performance. They didn’t care about media exposure, they wanted big dollar sales. Weird “Christians.” Shady place.
Job #3 was selling newspaper subscriptions. The City’s Chamber of Commerce newspaper decided to move from free to paid subscriptions. Selling people something they used to receive for free is no small task. Every time I hear NPR do a fundraising drive, I think of this job.
As I was going door to door, I sat at the desk of a man who built and sold spas and hot tubs. He had a red phone on his desk that just kept ringing and ringing, interrupting my little sales pitch to convince him to pay for what was free yesterday. The phone was a “Yellow Pages” phone that tracked how many calls came from his Yellow Pages ad. (At the time, Yellow Pages would put a phone in some companies and only publish the unique number in the Yellow Pages ad and then track the number of calls the ad generated.) The phone literally rang every few minutes and Ray, the owner of the company told me, “You should work for Yellow Pages – they’re easy to sell!” I took his advice, applied for Yellow Pages and quit the chamber newspaper. 6 months at this job. I served as a Sales Manager for a few of those months. I was a terrible manager and had no idea how to care for a team – I micromanaged and exacerbated them. I was 18.
Job #4: Yellow Pages Australia. Ray the hot tub guy was right, YP was pretty straightforward to sell in those days. The main challenge was that our country was in a significant recession and small business owners were feeling very pinched, so when we’d call them their initial reaction was to cancel their ad and save some bottom line. My ‘soft sell’ approach was just the ticket – lots of listening and care and then slowly help them see how their ad generates revenue. I made YP a ton of money for the 18 months I worked for them and I won all sorts of sales prizes including an all expenses paid trip to USA which is how I remembered Johnson University, driving on Interstate 40 from Nashville to Asheville. My preacher’s son, David Timms, was a Johnson graduate and someone I deeply admired and that simple sign on the interstate spurred me to move my focus from a college in Sydney to one in Tennessee.
YP really wanted to keep me around – I was a top performer, but my face was set like flint for Bible College after 3+ years of dreaming about it. My manager Julian had a wonderful, dry sense of humor. When I handed in my resignation, he called me into his office and tried to convince me to stay and move into management. I explained my call to ministry and his last words to me were, “Cuss, in my mind, you’re not a ‘has been,’ you’re a ‘never was!'”
I have fond memories and tremendous life lessons from the first and last job particularly. They helped shape who I am today, but as I reflect on 4 jobs in less than 4 years, I reflect on opportunity and the freedom I had and have to gain a job, leave a job, get fired and still find another job.
I wear a tie for the month of December to raise money for those trapped on trafficking to also have opportunity.
Thanks so much to all the generous folks who have contributed to Dressember. Links to donate are in the comment section.