Over the past 4 years, I have the opportunity to speak with numerous promotional salespeople and many distributor owners so I guess I have been the recipient of a ton of “perspective”…
Two years ago I put a couch in my office because after talking with so many people in the sales industry, you begin to feel like a therapist. I can assure you, success going down either path does not come quickly nor is it achieved easily. To resurrect an old commercial – “You have to EARN it!” However, there is a consistent theme I’ve noticed. When I compare the quality of life for sales people vs. distributor owners, generally speaking, sales people have the advantage. In fact, as I reviewed notes from over four years of phone calls, it’s not even close.
Personally, this is somewhat perplexing. I spent the first 24 years of my career as a distributor owner and, consequently, thought I was on top of the world, admiral of my own navy, and living the life others dreamed about! What I didn’t realize at the time was the impact ownership takes on you. Many of you can relate – which hats am I going to wear today? Am I answering phones, emails, faxes, paying bills, mailing invoices, working on proofs, managing the production pipeline, arbitrating supplier disputes, building marketing products, managing employees, building presentations, ordering spec samples, going to trade shows, packing boxes, filing catalogs, throwing out catalogs, filing the new catalogs – on and on and on. The list is seemingly and perpetually endless.. But remember, you own your own company and you take a lot of pride in that? Don’t you?
I have to admit, I had the time to look at this through a new lens. What you don’t realize when you are in the weeds is that your company actually owns you. And unfortunately, the company controls your two most valuable assets – your time and your ability to make choices. Not only the between 9 and 5, but the time you have available for real personal growth – like taking time to be a better parent, taking vacations, making time to spend with friends and family, going to see your son’s soccer game or your daughter’s dance recital, taking care of a sick friend or relative... These are the valuable things in life and the ones we always backburner in lieu of the business. “Still think you are living the high life and king of all you survey?” …to borrow a line from a great movie – Coming to America.
Seven years ago, I was forced to change my career path and I went from a distributor owner to a salesperson. To be honest, it was a big hit on my ego and not something I was able to initially embrace. Over time, working for three very different promotional distributors, as well as the perspectives many people have shared with me, I can now appreciate the purity of my role as an account executive. Now that I have had time to let the dust settle, I can tell you without hesitation that the quality of life I have today is far more valuable than all of those so call ownership perks I thought were important when I owned my own company. Because I don’t have to carry the same daily baggage as you still carry, I’ve been able to re-connect with my wife, my kids, my family, my church and my friends. We take family vacations at least twice a year and I am a better husband, father, friend, mentor and person. By the way, I’m also a better promotional consultant.
Today, my only concerns during 9 to 5 are: (1) taking care of my customers, (2) focusing on the prospect pipeline, and (3) marketing and matching my skill set with the needs of new customers. I get paid to focus on sales, and leave all of the other worries at the office for other people to take care of. In case you wanted to know, today I make more money than I ever made as the owner of a $5MM distributorship. Knowing what I know today, I would never want to own a promotional distributorship.—no thanks. Keep all of those headaches for yourself. As for me, don’t worry! I will be the guy calling on the customers you can no longer take care of and loving every minute of it….