James L. Cowles


© Copyright 2022 by James L. Cowles


Photo courtesy of Pexels.
Photo courtesy of Pexels.

I miss you, Harry, wherever the hell you are. Why did you do this to me? They made me boss, Harry. They insisted, I resisted, they won. I can't lose my job, so I said, “yes.” Harry, you SOB, you caused me to lose my freedom. I love the field! I love sales. I hate even the thought of Sales Management. They made me a Vice President and gave me some stock, with an option to buy more. They gave me a big office, and kept sweetening the pot; put me in a damn corner, Harry. What the hell am I gonna do? Harry, Harry! If you were here right now, I'd choke you.

There was a time in my life when I awakened every morning and looked forward to my day. I was excited to see what would enter my space, because I knew whatever it was, I could handle it, and I even enjoyed the challenge. Now, I’ve lost my mojo. My mind is warped and it won't fit around anything. I feel okay, at least physically, but the office has become toxic since you retired. I'd be the first to welcome you back, Harry. You can have this big deal they've given me and, damn it, I'll start all over in sales.

I know I could do that, if I wanted to, but I hate to give up everything I have earned. Leaving and going to another agency is a loss for me and for this company. Of course, maybe the best thing would be to start my own agency. After all, the insurance companies know me and it would be easy to get a contract with every one of them. That would mean more money in my pocket, but also, it means I'd have to build an entire agency, pretty much on my own. There are a lot of positives to stay with this agency. All of the Grimes family are good people and they have been good to me. But look; I've got more going for me than a lot of people. If I leave I would start my own agency and maybe I could get Phil to leave his company and partner with me? That way, I wouldn't have to do this all by myself. I think he'd be good at building an organization but I've got to be sure we do it my way. He probably would want a lot of input, too. I don't know. What if we knocked heads? Damn, this is harder than I thought.

Well, I guess I had better get up and get my warped ass in gear. They want me to train those green kids, show them how to sell Life Insurance. They want me to ask these kids to come up with a list of their friends. I hate that. Harry used to end up selling policies to those “friends,” and six months later, he would fire the salesmen because they didn't know how to develop prospects, or to sell to the ones they had. Turnover, after turnover, with maybe one in twenty or so, making it. I made it, but hell, I’m a natural born salesman. Turnover is a big expense and if I stay, one of my goals will be to reduce that. I would want to hire a lot better employee. I think I can do a hell of a lot better than old, Harry.

Now, they will want me to use “Harry's method” of training. Hell, he didn't train anyone. He just used them. They may fire me, because I will not do that. No, I will not use anyone. The bottom line always looked good, I’m sure, and that's all the damned Chairman and the Board care about. First, I will not hire anyone just to get a list of names. Second, you can bet I would, or, I should say, I “will,” only hire people whom I feel have a real shot at becoming a salesperson. Ah, hell, who am I kidding? First, I've got to deal with the ones Harry hired last month. Oh, joy!

Good morning, Mr. McDonald. Would you like a cup of coffee, sir?” Good morning, Sandy. Hey, my name is still, “Dan,” you know. Let's get this out of the way, okay? You have been calling me, “Mr. McDonald,” and “Sir,” for the last week. From henceforth and forevermore, you may call me, “Dan,” just like you always did. And, listen Sandy. I know you have called me a few choice names behind my back. Please feel free to continue to do that, okay? I am still the same, “bastard” I used to be. “Dan, I never, ever called you th….” Sandy, it's me, girl. Don't change because they were dumb enough to promote me. Be yourself, girl. I don't plan to change, so why should you? And, by the way, I'll get my coffee, just like I used to do. How do I know you won't spit in it when you are hacked at me over something? “Like, now, you mean, DAN?” Now you are getting it, Sandy. Welcome back! I'll be in my office if anyone is looking for me.

Let's see. Look here, I’ve already got mail, or I should say, “junk mail. “ No, wait a minute, here's one from our Chairman, Mr. King. “Congratulations, Dan. I am confident both you and we have made the right decision in putting you into the Sales Director role. You are a proven winner and I believe you will improve our sales force and it's results tremendously. You have my complete support to make whatever changes you feel necessary. I've been convinced for some time that we could and should, reduce our turnover problem. I hope you can find ways to improve the professionalism of our sales organization, and as a gesture to help toward that goal, I have approval from the board for the company to pay any educational expense related to their job,for our employees. Dan, that includes full payment of any LUTC course, or CLU class for our agents, with the only stipulation for full payment being a passing grade. We shall also pay the full cost for our employees to attend a convention to receive their CLU designation. If you have any other suggestions, you will have my ear any time you wish to talk. Dan, I appreciate your accepting this challenge. You have a bright future with this company. Sincerely, R. L. King Chairman.” Well, well, well. I'm not the only one who thinks we could do a lot better. I'm starting to like this job, just a little bit.

Hey, Sandy, do me a favor and bring me the personnel files on the three new salesmen, you know, the ones hired by Harry Mills before he retired. “Dan, there aren't three. There's only, one.” What? You're kidding, aren't you? “No, no. One of them went to lunch last Tuesday and never came back. Another one is Chairman King's, nephew, and he took him upstairs to be his assistant. “ Oh, Lord, this is worse than I thought. Okay, well, bring the file on the new guy. “Okay, Dan, but she's not a ‘guy.’ Her name is, ‘Janet Long,’ and she's with Jimmy, on an appointment. Okay, bring me ‘HER’ file. (God, why did You do this to me, Big Guy? I must have done something horrible, either in this life, or a past one. Maybe I should go to lunch and never come back. That guy sounds smarter and smarter all the time).

Let's see, now. Well, she's a college grad, with an English and accounting major. Looks really good on paper. She graduated in 1995, which means she's older, hopefully more mature. Harry used to recruit kids right out of school, so this one's a bit unusual. “Mr. McDonald?” Yes? “I’m Janet Long, sir. You wanted to see me?” Well, yes, okay, come in Janet and have a seat. First, please call me, Dan. I'm more comfortable being him than that Mr. McDonald guy. Janet, tell me about yourself and why you decided to come with us.

Well, Mister Mc,.., I mean, Dan. As you can see, I graduated from Bellarmine University in ’95 and got married a week later. Our son, Randy was born in 1996 and he graduated college 2018, and got married last year. I'm an empty nester.” Janet, I'm guessing you've been a mother and housewife all those former years? “No, no, actually, I worked in an insurance brokerage firm as a sales assistant for the last eight years.” So, why and when did you leave them? “Oh, I just left them about two months ago. Dan, I wanted to be in sales, on the life insurance side, but they didn't have any women agents and they didn't want me to move from my Sales assistants job. The truth is, at least I see it this way; I don't believe they think a woman can do the job.”

Janet, why do you think you can do the job? “Well, I've taken the initiative to prepare for it, Dan. I've had the three courses of the Life underwriters training courses, and I have my CLU.” You are a Chartered Life Underwriter? “Yes, I am, and I learned a lot about sales as an assistant to the agencies top producer. I have even learned how to develop my prospect list, and it's not a list of my close friends.” Tell me about that, Janet? “You mean, prospecting?” Yes, I'm interested in how you do that. Where does your list come from? “My college days have been good to me, Dan. Let me just say, I met a lot of successful people through all my activities, including my sorority sisters, the debating team, sports teams. Need I go on?” No, that's impressive, Janet.

You know, I've got to say, you have really picked up my spirits, Janet. I was the only CLU in this whole organization, but now we have two. ”I already have my license, Dan, so I'm ready to get started. Do you mind if I go on a few appointments? I went with Jimmy today and it made me motivated to get started. I really believe in Life insurance. I've seen it work for several people. I've actually delivered death proceeds and I've seen how beneficial it can be. Of course, I know a life insurance salesperson is second in popularity to a used car salesman.”

Janet wow! I can tell you a story about that. I hadn't been an agent very long, and my wife Teri and I went to a neighborhood party. We were all standing around with a drink in our hand….. All us guys, Janet. Anyway, as guys will do in those situations, this one guy started asking everyone what they did for a living, so he started asking us, and we were all laughing as guys were telling about their jobs. When they got to me, I simply said, “I sell life insurance.” Gradually, one at a time, everyone shifted to the other side of the room, and pretty soon I was standing all alone. If I ever want to be left alone, I just jokingly say, “Hey folks! I sell life insurance. Line up here for appointments. “Dan, that's hilarious. That's the way it is, alright.”

Janet, are there any others like you in your circle of friends? I'm going to have to recruit a few more agents and I prefer successful people like you. “I know a few who might be prospects, but they would be pretty raw.” I don't mind raw, as long as they have a desire to be successful. I've got to develop a training program for those kinds of prospects. “Dan, I am interested in your training. I have a pretty good foundation, but I'm sure I can learn a lot more from you.” Janet, we can talk more about that. I certainly can give you some meaningful ideas and I'll be happy to accompany you on sales calls. I plan to put together a training program and I'll be glad to have any input from you. Go ahead and plan your sales call schedule for the week, then come back in here and I'll go over it with you. “Yes sir! I'll see you in a bit.

Wow. How lucky can I get? That lady has it going. Hell, I might like this job. She has inspired me. I want to hire more like her and I should get started with that and with developing a training program. “HEY HARRY!” Thank you for hiring, Janet! One outta three, though? I can do better. I can do a lot better, Harry, you old SOB.

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