Take it easy

Dave Wilson recounts the true story of a middle-aged woman who worked much too hard and got the comeuppance that she deserved from her manager.

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity. – Henry van Dyke.

The Director of Marketing of the Small to Medium Sized Enterprise (SME) had a problem on his hands. For a long time, sales in the Home Counties had remained flat. And the Managing Director was demanding to know why.

So the Director of Marketing placed an advertisement for a Sales Representative in the local paper and, against the advice of his colleagues, finally hired a middle-aged lady who had years of experience working for some very hot ‘blue chip’ companies.

The lady in question was delighted with the position having been spurned by several other companies in the area due to her sex and age. Even though the pay wasn’t great – £20,000 basic and 5% commission on sales – she set about proving her worth in no uncertain terms.

Each morning, she woke up at five. She hopped in her company car and was in a breakfast meeting with a client by eight each day. A mid morning call was followed by a client lunch. Three afternoon calls were followed by dinner with yet another client. At nine, she arrived home and went to bed.

As her waistline increased, so did the sales at the SME. After a year, it was a triumphant Director of Marketing who informed the Managing Director that business from the Home Counties had improved by 10% since he had hired the new sales person.

The Managing Director called in the Production Director who was asked to increase the number of shifts in the plant to keep up with the demand.

But it didn’t end there, dear reader. Although the Director of Marketing certainly wished that it had. Because in the next year, sales from the region skyrocketed by another 10%.

The Managing Director called in the other members of his Board for a ‘Power Lunch’. Over a bacon butty, the Production Director told him flatly that if the saleswoman was going to ‘overachieve’ again in the following few months, then the existing plant would simply not be able to keep up with demand. To meet the new production targets, they would need to buy a rather expensive £150,000 CNC machine tool and hire another operator.

With over 40 years experience in the industry, the Managing Director had seen ups and downs before. And he was extremely reluctant to part with all that cash. He told his staff to take a ‘wait and see’ approach.

And they waited. And then they saw. They saw the saleswoman’s salary topping £40,000 per year as orders continued to exceed expectations.

And as they did, the inevitable delays started to creep in. Even operating at 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the plant could not make the goods quickly enough. Delivery times slipped. And then they slipped some more. Customers became irate and demanded to know what was going on.

Frustrated, the Director of Marketing finally called his star sales representative into the home office and asked her to ‘slow down at bit’. Three months later, she left the company.

Maybe the Director of Marketing should have listened to his colleagues after all.

<b>A reader replies:</b>

Sir:

Your editorial reminds me of the story (true, I am assured) of a company making kitchen wares – in particular, potato peelers.

They decided to improve the image of the peelers by changing the dowdy coloured handles to bright, inviting, warm colours.

Sales fell.

So they hired an expensive Market Research outfit to find out why sales had fallen (they could not believe that the change of colour had anything to do with it).

The MR folk came back later, having found out that, as a result of the colour change, people now rarely threw out the peelers accidentally along with the potato peelings.

They changed back to the inconspicuous handles, and sales slowly recovered.

Chris FinnIdeal BoilersHull.