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Or the hazards of judging a book by its cover
September 30, 2012
EDITOR’S NOTE: Twice a month Shawn Brown will write a column that will, in his words, ‘engage the reader on a journey of (business) discovery’ by using his real world experiences from the beginning of his corporate career to his transition to entrepreneur and business owner. Each column will eventually be a chapter of his book Rules of Behaviour. The book will be available in 2013.
EDMONTON, AB, Sep 30, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Events at my new company in Saskatoon were unfolding well. The relationship among the four partners and three cities were obviously strong, and there was a profound feeling of optimism and excitement, despite all of the changes that were occurring within the industry itself.
My office was a great blend of youth and veterans, led by one of the true pillars of the industry in Saskatoon, Trev Yager. Trev was in every sense of the word a true gentleman. He worked hard, had developed an incredibly strong relationship in the industry, especially with Federated Co-operatives Ltd., and had built and developed a great local team.
Not long after I came on board, he asked me if I would have interest in taking the next step forward in my career, learning and managing a Key Account. The Key Accounts are typically the head offices of any retail chain, where all of the decisions regarding the listing of new products from the manufacturers would occur, plus all advertising and promotion components. In essence, it’s where everything started and was truly managed from.
I of course said yes, and was assigned the Codville Company, which at that time was the local head office for the I.G.A. chain. Trev said I would learn under his tutelage, but forewarned me that the General Manager of the company was one of the biggest arse-holes on the planet. Aside from basically ruining the lives of every one of his employees, he had absolutely no interpersonal skills of any kind, was grossly overweight, and hated mankind in general.
What Trev didn’t tell me was that he was actually being kind and shielding me from the truth! This guy completely re-defined arsehole. And after my first meeting with him I felt the best thing I could do for him, and society in general, was to just stay at home and never show my face in public again. And for the next day or two after that meeting, I too thought that might be the best option for everyone.
Fortunately Trev, and others said I was actually treated well, and that this guy must actually like me! So I carried on and tried my best to put aside the personal insults about my height, breath, and every other thing he disliked about me, and learn what I actually could about Key Account management. I have since often thought that had Krispy Kreme actually entered Canada about 10 years before they did, a lot of that abuse could have been avoided. But alas, one must always look forward . . .
A few months into my indoctrination at this level, we were really getting the sense something major was under foot within our own company. Trev, who to this day holds the title for the most optimistic, glass half full person I have ever known, seemed even more ‘something’. I, and the rest of my colleagues, couldn’t quite put our fingers on it, but we sensed something major was at play.
This didn’t go on long. One day after we returned to the office from doing battle in the trenches, Trev called a staff meeting. It was official. We had merged with a firm from Alberta and one from B.C. to become the largest Food Brokerage firm in Western Canada, and the second largest in all of Canada.
It was incredible. Just a few years earlier I was working in an environment where the changes that were taking place within the industry were literally destroying a company from within, to a company that seemed to not only embrace the changes but were actually welcoming and preparing for them. The feeling in the office that day was something I will never forget. This news, even without knowing what the impact would be for each individual person, was met with tremendous excitement. I think, ultimately, everyone knew that to survive moving forward, this type of structure and geographic presence was absolutely necessary. For me though, it meant much more.
The dust had barely settled on this news and what it would mean to the company and to the staff when Trev called me into his office and asked me to close the door. ‘Shawn, would you be interested in moving to Edmonton to lead the team and operations of our new company there’?
I packed my bags that night.
Shawn Brown is the Founder and President of Forest For the Trees, a boutique business advisory service headquartered in Edmonton, AB. http://www.forestnow.com/
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