My father being a fireman I rapidly learned what part-time jobs were available in my home town of Bristol. So from the age of 14 I worked weekends and holidays, stacking supermarket shelves, being a roof tiler’s mate, labouring on the M4/M5 interchange, furniture removals, I even dug graves!
It was when I started to work in shops that I saw the attraction of selling – selling the same shop-faded pair of six guinea Chelsea boots three times in one day at Saxone for the bonus, selling and fitting tyres, batteries and car accessories in a Longlife Battery Depot.
But shops also gave me another interest. I worked as a board man, counter hand and eventually a settler in a bookie’s and, happily only briefly, caught the gambling bug. Seeing married men with kids collect their wages on a Friday night at the bookie’s HQ, then sweep away the cigarette butts, ash and other debris to play craps on the floor of the shop, only to lose it all, did focus the mind. Those who won only blew it at a local casino later that evening!
1968 – this was my first sale achieved in proper sales employment with Sweda, acknowledged by this telegram. Remember them? And the telegram boys who brought them on motorbikes? Clearly flushed with this success, I later that year got married to Jane. We both turned 20 that year, and we moved in to our first home, a tiny flat in Plymouth.
1969 – this sheet announced my second qualification for the Sweda Quota Club. It was of course achieving it that was important – but the prize of a drunken trip with your peers to Vienna was fun too. I learned a vital life skill on these trips – how to play shoot pontoon!
In fact there was plenty to raise a glass to that year with the birth of our first child Sarah, and our later move into our first house in Saltash, Cornwall. I went out to wet the baby’s head from Devonport Maternity Hospital, just as the sailors and tarts were thinking about going home.
1971 – Though I had now been selling for a few years I’d never had any formal training, so I joined Xerox to learn the art – in those days it had to be with Gallaghers, Lever Bros or Xerox. I enjoyed the very focused sales culture. They had over 500 in the sales team, but I earned more praise and prizes than money. Though the year before I joined there had been a ‘Green Shield Stamp’ competition – one guy won enough stamps to exchange for a Ford Capri!
Our second child Matt had come along so I needed to earn to survive! We moved back towards our home town of Bristol, living just outside in Thornbury, Gloucestershire.
2003 – Javea Guide – 30 years later we bought a holiday home at Pinosol in Javea. Not content with finding my Spanish bolt-hole and relaxing in it, instead I had to produce this restaurant guide and ‘yellow pages’ for the town. Selling the adverts took me straight back to those early years.
On re-reading my comment about sales training I should just mention that my district manager at Sweda, Ken Turner, taught me so much by osmosis, not just in selling but in living. He trained me, helped me through some awkward financial periods, even loaned me the money to buy a decent and reliable Morris Traveller, was later my best man, infected me with the Chelsea FC bug – today we have homes about 60 miles apart in Spain.
In reality while my titles may have changed down the years I never felt I ever stopped selling. A small and rather random selection of my other sales roles are shown below: