doctor appointments.

My day planner for October of 1996 was loaded with doctor’s appointments.

Throughout the month, there are doctor’s appointments, scattered throughout each week, every few days.  In looking at the calendar so many years later, you’d have thought I was a pretty sick dude.

Emotionally, sure.  I was a wreck.  More than one person who knew me both then and now has, after they’ve been reading this blog, referred to what I was going through in late 1996 as a nervous breakdown.  Frankly, I don’t think it was that.  I just think I got a little unhinged, at 27 years old, running a mid-sized company and also trying to build a record label, buy a house and start a family, I believe I simply bit off a tiny bit more than I could chew, and as a result, reacted very strongly to disappointments.

Physically, aside from the ulcer and the fact that I was in horseshit shape, I was relatively fine.

“Doctor’s appointment,” in my calendar, was another term for “job interview.”  I’d schedule an interview and then write it onto my calendar as a doctor’s appointment.  My calendar lived in my office, and I lived and died by what was written in it – I needed to write in the appointments so that I didn’t inadvertently schedule something on top of them, but couldn’t rightly say “job interview.”

I interviewed everywhere.

I had a great interview at the company that was probably our only direct competitor; I thought for sure I was going to have a third opportunity to start a retail product line, this time with a company that had its corporate headquarters no more than ten minutes from my house.  I met with two vice presidents, spent hours with them, and left their building thinking it was a slam dunk.  They disappeared, stopped returning phone calls, ultimately told me they were moving in another direction.

I interviewed both inside and outside my industry, with competitors, vendors, potential customers.  I interviewed with trade media.  I interviewed with completely unrelated companies.

Whenever possible, I tried scheduling my interviews for after hours.  I had a finite number of personal and vacation days, and they watched like hawks to make sure no employee was bilking the company out of even a few hours of undeserved or unearned time off.  During the days, I began to fill the time with meetings.

Meetings with anybody.  I had discovered that Fred would leave me alone if I had a vendor, a magazine, a potential customer, or a sales rep with me.  If I filled a whole day with meetings, followed by a doctor’s appointment, Fred couldn’t get me.  If I filled an entire week with that kind of thing, Fred would see me in the hall and say “Jeez, Al, I feel like I never see you anymore.”

“Just building your business,” I’d say with a smile.

Meetings and doctor’s appointments were like camouflage for Fred.

I scheduled meetings with potential customers I knew I could never land.  Vendors I knew I’d never give business to.  Companies that manufactured products that were completely unrelated to the business we were in.

When I didn’t have a meeting with someone, I would take people in the office out to lunch.  Our salespeople.  Quality Control staff.  Engineers. Secretaries.  Whoever.

Fred started looking at me as his “morale builder.”

All I was doing was trying to avoid him.

Occasionally he’d call me into his office for a “debriefing.”  He’d say “Debrief me on these meetings you’d be having.”

I’d say “Oh, Jesus, Fred – I’ve had probably 20 meetings this week.  I’m just trying to drum up business any way I can.  If I have 20 meetings, and two of them wind up bearing fruit six months from now, then it was worth it.  But I’ve got nothing special to tell you today.”

He got on a kick that I shouldn’t be doing just marketing.  “There’s more to your job than just marketing,” he would say.  “We need to develop new products.”

I don’t think he understood that we had just launched a product line that contained thousands of new products.

Finally, in mid October, a chain of car stereo stores in the Pacific Northwest placed an order for our products.  A few days later, a distributor in the mid-Atlantic placed a much larger order.

I was in business.

I had built a brand new product line, launched it, sold it, and shipped it.  I had lasted more than two weeks in the industry without my prior boss.

Now it was time for me to get the fuck out.

~ by Al on November 22, 2009.

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