People would tell me that starting in this industry at 17 years of age would be tough, and they were right. But it was something I wanted to get into, the family business, and was determined to make something of myself. It was a struggle at first. I was young, and looked even younger for my age, which was a big stumbling block to overcome. But I had confidence, and that was the key. It allowed customers to look past my age and believe what I was telling them.
Before I embarked on my first lead, I spent weeks with my dad who showed me the ropes well. I studied hard to know as much of the products as quickly as I could. Luckily I am a quick learner so this wasn’t too much of a problem. It was in July when I started the job properly. The first lead I had was for two doors in Eastmoor, not the most welcoming of areas. But, I stuck with it, and managed to get them to come to the showroom later that week. During their visit I got the job, I was over the moon. At that point leaving 6th Form College a year early was the best thing I did!

The next few months passed without great trouble or stress, until I met a couple who I can best describe as being creepily friendly and smothering. They lived in Rothwell, Leeds. I stepped through the door at 10am in the morning and was greeted very warmly and confidently, a good sign. We eventually got sat down after spending copious amounts of time being introduced to the pet parrot. They wanted to replace all the windows and doors in the house, and wanted to build a small porch on the front of the house. So in terms of size it was a great lead. We spent the next hour or so going through the usual discussions, which went well, and knew that we were going to get this job as we were getting on so well. They were one of these customers where you could tell them that the pope would be popping round later and they would believe you. But we aren’t a company to take advantage. My opinion of these people at first was that they were a nice couple, mothering me a bit but that was probably because I looked so young, and just a bit lonely. But that changed immediately when they brought out the homemade calendar! I’d not even turned 18 at this point and I was being shown pictures of a mid-50’s woman, riddled with half a dozen debilitating diseases, dressed in Mrs Santa Claus outfits, in disturbingly suggestive positions! I’ve never felt so uncomfortable! Now I knew why they were ignored by most of their neighbours! You come across customers who feel compelled to tell you their life history, and these were prime examples. But they were also people who perhaps felt too comfortable around me and forgot their boundaries! I managed to leave at about 2:30pm, starving. Needless to say I got the job and a large conservatory about 9 months later.

About nine months into the job, I thought it would be interesting to find out how the competition operated, more specifically the details of their showroom. As I was relatively new, it was unlikely our competitors knew who I was, which meant I could go into showrooms posing as a nobody, without getting caught. Which is exactly what I did. Me and my girlfriend at the time went into two of our bigger competitors’ showrooms in central Wakefield posing as a young couple shopping around for replacement windows for my sick parents who couldn’t leave the house! It seemed to work. I was able to establish how their showrooms were set out, look at product spec, pick up literature and see how customers were dealt with as they entered the showroom. If I was to give my honest opinion, I wasn’t too impressed. Customer service seemed lacking, layout was ok and there seemed to be a lack of buzz and energy about the places. We left unnoticed, still undercover, with my knowledge a little sharper.

The next year or so was the steepest in terms of my learning curve. The experience I gained from my first year I was able to apply to my next year as a salesman. It proved useful. I found myself being able to deal with more difficulty questions and customers easier. I found that my conversion rates were going up, the money I was earning became more significant and my confidence was more abundant than ever. Everything at this point was going smooth. My decision to come into this industry at 17 was proving fruitful, and I was enjoying it, which for me was the most important factor. This stayed that up until about late summer 2008.

August/September 2008 was the beginning of a long, arduous, stressful road, for us and the industry as a whole. For the first time I was having to realise that money would be harder to come by, leads would be harder to convert as more and more people were looking to reign in their spending. As a company we also had to make some crunch decisions. We decided to put a number of staff on reduced wages and reduced time. We have a great workforce and we didn’t want to make anyone redundant. We also had to look at our overheads, and what we could afford to lose, we did. We had to. Everyone had to. Over the next few months the whole of the economy seemed to grind to a very abrupt halt and we had to get used to the reality that people weren’t buying anything in all industries. What was particularly tough for me was trying to earn money. We are paid on a commission only basis, which breeds a great work ethic, but if tough times come around, life becomes hard. There was a period at the very back end of 2008 where I had not been paid in three weeks, and Christmas was a matter of days away. This was easily the toughest time of my short career so far.

We got through the winter, not easily, but we got through which meant we survived. The early spring of 2009 brought a very gradual recovery. But it was enough of a recovery to allow us to put our staff back on full time and full pay, with a small pay rise to boot. Personally, it meant I could stop worrying about my money situation and start to relax. Being worried to such an extent that I was definitely affected my work and the way I operated. Luckily for me I managed to secure the jobs of a few large scale installations during winter 2008 and early 2009, these managed to see me through the most difficult times.

In terms of weird customers, I’ve managed to stay clear of any other major embarrassing moment. One thing I can say thought is that I am extremely popular with the older generation. Again I’m assuming it’s my young looks and my politeness which attribute to that!

This year has been a busy one for me. I started this blog in March 2009 and have stuck with it since. A lot seem to start blogs then let them fall by the wayside. I was determined not to be the same as others and wanted to get this one established, which I think I have…sort of! It’s received more comments and page views as the months have gone by which has been pleasing. I also started to re-design the company website in the summer of this year. It was a long, tedious task, but got it finished about a month ago. Unfortunately, when it was uploaded, we hit quite a few snags. After looking into the problems, I very quickly realised a lot more work was yet to be done, work that I wasn’t qualified to even think about doing. Two people on this blog told me to get a company in to do it, and in hindsight they were right, but I enjoyed the designing phase of it so it wasn’t a huge loss.

In my near four years in this industry, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every minute of it. From the time I began at 17, to the over-friendly customers, of course the money earned during the better times. Strangely I’ve also enjoyed the tough times over the past 18 months. I’m a person who thrives on pressure and challenges, and the recession has been the biggest challenge I’ve ever experienced. After coming out of the other side, I feel more knowledgeable, more experienced and better prepared to take advantage for when the better times come back to our industry.

This is my last post of the year, and hopefully lots of you will continue to read my posts during 2010. I’ll try to keep the content as useful and relevant as possible. Thanks to all that have read during 2009. Have a great New Year and a successful 2010.

Double Glazing Blogger.