You can't sell a secret

What I learnt from casual jobs in my youth

My 14 year old daughter Nicola, just landed her first casual job, as a sales assistant at Priceline Pharmacy. Over a 2 month period, she approached 11 different companies. She managed to secure just one interview. That interview led her to success. She was lucky. As she's already learnt, it's not that easy to just click your fingers and get a job. Much like trying to fall pregnant, you need the right combination of persistence and luck.Photo Secret

Growing up in Perth in the 1970’s and 80’s, I had a number of different casual jobs. Reflecting on them now, I can appreciate some of the great lessons each job taught me.

My first job I ever had was when I was 10 years old. I sold the Daily News (The afternoon newspaper) at the Perth Royal Show. School finished at 3pm. I would race to the showgrounds in Claremont on my bike. I'd pick up a stack of 50 papers, put them in my yellow paper bag, sling it over my shoulder and head off around the showgrounds calling out in my high pitched voice "Daily News". The paper cost 15c. I received two and half cents commission for every paper I sold. That's not a misprint. If I sold 40 papers I made a $1. I learnt two powerful lessons selling the paper. Firstly, you cannot sell a secret. If you don't ask, you won't get. The best question I asked was "Paper Sir?" The second lesson was the importance of customer service. If I smiled and said thank you when someone bought a paper from me, I was more likely to receive a tip. A lot of my customers gave me 20c for the paper, patted me on the head and said " Keep the change son". 

When I was at Uni, I worked part time in Subiaco as a Tele-Marketer for a very successful financial advisor, called Brett. My job was to set up appointments for him. Brett trained me very well. He taught me not only what to say on the phone, but importantly how to say it. "Be polite, be patient and be confident". I can still hear his words ringing in my ears. "Remember Steve, you are helping them safeguard their financial future. You are not selling them anything." He rewarded me, not for the calls I made or the hours I worked, but for the qualified appointments I set up for him. I did very well out of the arrangement. I took away two valuable lessons from Brett. The first one; be open minded to different ways of paying and motivating people. Everyone is different. Consider rewarding people for the outcomes achieved not the hours worked. Secondly; Never underestimate the importance of training people properly. 
Finally, the last casual job I recall was another telemarketing job I had during a very hot summer in Perth. I worked for a guy called Sonny who had a business selling mobile phones in North Perth, called Just Phones. This was the late 1980's and mobile phones were just starting to appear on the horizon. The only people using them in Perth, were corrupt WA politicians and drug barons. The phones were the size of a briefcase, weighed a ton and cost about $5,500, which was ironic, as that was what you paid for a 5 minute call. 
Sonny taught me the importance of segmenting your market." Steve, don't just call anyone. You have to know whom you want to target". Seemed like sound advice. He told me that tradespeople were an ideal target market. They would all benefit from having a mobile phone on them. After the worlds shortest induction program, I started calling tradespeople on their land lines, using the yellow pages as my data base. Everyone I spoke to told me they'd be fine, and that they wouldn't need a mobile phone. I said "Why"? They rightly pointed out, "Well mate, you've been able to reach me on this number so why can't everyone else?" Good point.  A lot of them used pagers (ask your parents) which were more than adequate. I couldn't see a future in mobile phones so I foolishly moved on. My time with Sonny taught me two more valuable lessons. Number one; Whatever it is you are selling, customers will always have objections. Prepare properly for handling them. Number two; Don’t give up too soon. A quitter never wins and a winner never quits. With a little more patience and perseverance, I would have sold a lot of mobile phones.
My wife and I are encouraging all 3 of our kids to experience a range of casual jobs in their teenage years. It's good for them to start to appreciate what their time is worth; we're getting sick of them easily spending OPM's (Other People's Money) and finally, the broad range of people you meet.

Casual employment will quickly teach them the importance of being reliable, independent and being part of a team. These are all great life skills that are much better for them than staring at their phone.

Do you have any memorable stories or lessons you took away from casual employment in your younger days?

Posted in Leadership; Tagged Leadership, Customer Service; Posted by Steve Herzberg

Post your comment


No one has commented on this page yet.

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments