It’s difficult for us to show up at a print shop and not cause a stir with the employees. They look up, see us, and break into grins, which slowly dissolve as higher-functioning parts of their brains kick into gear. We stand at the threshold and watch their eyes slit and brows furrow. The look says “Why are you here?” because based on industry knowledge, they’ve already guessed the answers:
- The company is going on the market and will be sold, thus impacting their livelihood.
- Their company is buying another company, thus impacting their livelihood and sanity.
- Somebody in sales is going to be headed out the door soon, either with a long list of things to do or their walking papers.
On that last point, I’ll admit I’ve been hired to ax a sales rep, but I’ve never said “You need to go” after a first meeting. Sales is difficult in the best of circumstances, and in smaller firms there’s often little to no direction, so I provide tools, remove roadblocks, and make expectations clear, in which case sales reps usually ax themselves. In fact when I was a paper sales manager for a large corporation, I never had to fire anyone. They fired themselves.
After twenty years of doing this, we’ve found that Fred wears more hats and carries more titles than we ever imagined. Business owners are understandably nervous about employees finding out their company is on the market. Critical employees might look for jobs elsewhere, or leak the news to the competition, or disclose it to unsuspecting customers. But who is this Fred guy, this new face suddenly showing up all the time and talking to the owner with the door closed? How do you explain him?
- A potential customer.
- An insurance broker talking about changing the company’s insurance provider.
- The fire inspector.
- Uncle Fred, here from out of town.
Given how busy we’ve been this year, Uncle Fred sure gets around!
October 25, 2023