Here is the sixth installment of The Trees. It is actually what is the beginning of the second chapter for my first draft. Will this change? Probably, but this is a story I’ve had rattling around my head for a few years now.
If you didn’t read the first chapter, it’s in the “Ergonomic Fiction” section. Please go and catch up. If you are not inclined to do that, no judgement, just know that the character Dan has just told his wife and two of this three children that he has pancreatic cancer and he his dying.
I think many of you will be pleasantly surprised as to where this story goes.
On his way to Evolve, Dan thought, once again, about a conversation he was about to have. Tuesday mornings were always the time for he and his partner, John, to meet for coffee and talk about the week ahead. People always asked, “Why don’t you guys meet on Monday?” and they would just laugh. There was way too much to do on a Monday to have meetings in the call center.
Dan saw that John was already in his office and gave his quick tap on the door.
“What’s up, slacker? Enjoy your three-day weekend?” John’s voice said from behind his monitors.
The two friends had been calling each other “Slacker” since the term became popular in the 90s. It was an office joke, at this point, and always got a laugh out of any employee within earshot of the two.
“I’m dying, John.”
With John, it was best to get right to the point. A serious techie, John was not one to ease into anything. When they decided to start Evolve, John took charge of each strategy session. Dan loved this about him because Dan could stop and think about things forever if allowed to do so.
In fact, the night after their first conversation about going out on their own, Dan sat on the couch at home thinking incessantly over just how to bring the idea up to Jan. He did through an entire slate of primetime Thursday night comedies on NBC which would have been considered sacrilege in their house in those days.
John, on the other hand, had laid out their idea to his wife, Hettie, before dinner had a chance to cool off enough to eat. John and Hettie did not watch television very often, either so there were no Thursday night comedies to get to for them. John would often finish his dinner and putter around with his computer and Hettie would curl up with a good book or do something with the kids.
The two partners complimented each other’s strengths and weaknesses well. While John was the tech guru and understood or wanted to understand how everything worked with some software or operating system, Dan could sell anyone on it without understanding anything more than it worked.
They met while working at Advanced Technology Solutions (or ATS as most of the employees called it) in 1989. Sometimes Dan would joke that it really stood for Always Telling Stories) in 1989. ATS sold office computer hardware and software systems. Dan was about to turn 25 and John was 34 at the time.
Dan had gotten his start in sales working on a car lot in Phoenix after deciding to leave college in the middle of his second year. He didn’t see the point of going into a ton of debt when what he was really good at was talking to people. He was a quick thinker and a good storyteller.
In high school, Dan worked for Sears in the hardware department and was constantly getting people to add a little something here and there to what they needed to buy. His manager, Ted, would always say, “Boy, you got the gift. It’s a good thing I don’t have to pay you commission.”
This had stuck with Dan, so when he got the opportunity to get a job that paid commission, he made it work for him. He got a job at a used car lot and followed his manager, Roy Lemmon (yes, that was his real name and he used it to his advantage), around every day until Lemmon got so frustrated, he said, “Just go sell a damn car.”
Dan was good at it, too, but lacked one key attribute that separates a great car salesman from a good one. Dan had a heart. He and Roy Lemmon would go around and around about it, too. When Dan realized a person probably couldn’t really the car they were looking at, he’d direct them to something less expensive.
This was a thorn in Lemmon’s side, but Dan just couldn’t justify getting somebody to sign off on payments that would end up breaking them. His boss let it slide because Dan quickly became his best salesman but still.
“Think of what your bonuses could be,” Lemmon would say at least three out of every four pay days.
Dan’s paycheck, though, on the day before he turned 21 in September of 1985 was over $10,000. That was a lot of money, in those days and way more than any of his friends were making.
After four years on the car lot, Dan started looking around for something better. Something where he wouldn’t be standing outside in the Phoenix heat as often as he was on the lot. Eventually, he stumbled across an ad for “High End Phone Work” in the Arizona Republic and thought he would check it out.
It turned out to be ATS and he got the job, even though he barely knew anything about computers. At first, he was doing lead generation for a few different sales campaigns. He liked this because he could ease into his new role without the pressure of closing a sale. He just had to get them warmed up and ready to talk to the expert.
Within six months, Dan was the top “lead genner” as they called his team and was again hitting some great bonus numbers. For tele sales, in those days, it was still almost like the wild west and clients were willing to pay handsomely for great leads. ATS did have an inhouse sales team, though, and that’s where Dan wanted to be. Those folks were making great money and Dan wanted a slice of that pie.
When Dan made the jump in mid-1989 to sales, he got to have his first real conversation with John and their friendship (and eventual partnership) began.
“What did you say?” John asked, his voice unsure of itself. He remembered later thinking that Dan was messing around with him or just hungover from an extra day of fun, but sadly, that was not the case. He said it again.
See you tomorrow.
Stolen from the internet...