How long had it been since I was there? The time scale evaded me, and since my return to the UK from the USA, the passage of time had been in events rather than dates; Resumed my education, accepted a job for a brewery, and rose through the ranks to line management. I had then felt that odd stirring, the feeling of “what next?” This was coupled with the risk-averse part of me that craved security “ You’ve got your own office, for goodness sake” That restless churning came to the fore, and I searched internally, trying to placate the need for security. An opportunity arose for a secondment, I joined the sales team equipped with a company car and a mobile brick with a battery the size of a suitcase. I went to each account on my printout, armed with an A-Z , USP’s and ABV’s of every brand in our portfolio. At my first team meeting, it was my turn to update the all-male team of my first two weeks. It was a mixed report: five accounts no longer existed, two more had been firebombed and razed to the ground, and another was in the progress of being firebombed on my visit. I was denied entry to a golf club and had to make an appointment three months in advance to see the chairmen of four social clubs. I had only got into one committee meeting as they thought I was the stripper and even complimented me on dressing so classy; it was a good gimmick, the designer suit and hair up, apparently.
I walked out with no garments removed, but this was not the case for our competitors’ brands. The other pubs and clubs that had let me in, I had converted to our products. There was complete silence around the table, which made my blood pressure pound with greater ferocity in my ears. The sales director broke the interminable quiet with, “ You went to Ferkin Moss Side?” All the men around the table had been given this area to cover at some point in their careers, and none had been, as it was deemed too high risk. My printout had not reflected this fact!
The secondment became a permanent position. I gained hotel chains, nightclubs and football clubs to my account base. I could deliver a professional presentation from board level to sole trader, but I found my greatest assets were my instincts, humility and humour. I would build relationships on trust. I observed arrogant area managers walk up to a crowded bar and bark at the staff, “ Go get the decision maker!” I would sit at a table, watching the way of working and the clientele, and when it was quiet at the bar, would ask, “ Are you the owner?” Everyone should be appreciated, bar staff are an important asset, invariably a gateway to the owner, and I would incentivise them to offer my brands first to their customers. I treated everyone with respect, whether they spent thousands or millions of pounds. I remember winning a prestigious national sales competition, even as I was holding my crystal trophy aloft at the glitzy presentation; that familiar restless feeling was present, and I knew another stage of my career was waiting in the wings.