Now that the shock of accepting the fact my life-raft was about to sink I started contacting some of my high-level executive acquaintances to test the waters. This was new to me, and it was not without some trepidation that I began this chore, and a chore it was.
Getting through to CEO's and the like is always fraught with some feelings of insecurity no matter how confident one is of their ability. The key is what the person you know or knew a while ago will remember about you. After a couple of days of leaving messages with secretaries and explaining myself to the telephone answerers I felt like I was climbing a mile high mountain. But waiting, wondering, and hoping was part of the game.
Finally, the call backs started to dribble in and I got to practice what I was going to say to each one. Fortunately, I had my little routine down before the main person I wanted to talk to got back to me. About a year previously, I had turned him down when he offered me a national sales position in Canada, because the volume and salary was not to my liking. Also, I thought I had everything under control at Max Factor, but little did I know that my world would be turned upside down. As my friend came on the line I had a pit in my stomach, but it turns out that I had nothing to fear. An open friendly chat ensued which left me very optimistic.
We decided to meet in the center of the country, St. Louis, the next day, and after several more meetings in New York I accepted a national sales management position at Shiseido, a Japanese cosmetic manufacturer, that was larger than any other cosmetic manufacturer in the world. The company was just introducing the line into the U.S. I went to work immediately with more salary, expense account leeway, and bonus potential than I currently had.
Everything went well for about 18 months. My new boss and I were getting along well, I was productive, and I had begun to relax at my new position. Well, one phone call later upset my apple cart again. My new boss was resigning and taking over as president of Chanel/Dior. He wanted me to become national sales director, but, I would have had to move to New York to live and commute to downtown Manhattan. I said, "No way, José." He immediately said, "that if I stayed at Shiseido that I would be let go." Why I asked? "Things are changing in Tokyo, and just believe me." I didn't and stayed another 2-3 months. Bingo, I was fired on the telephone summarily by a total stranger who came from a New York ad agency I found out later.
When was this? I remember it well. Richard Nixon had just resigned the presidency which turned the country upside down in many respects, and it was not the ideal time to start job hunting. It is one thing to job hunt when you are employed, but it is entirely another matter to do so when you have your hat in hand looking for any port in a storm. So, you're forced to take the first offer, good, bad or indifferent. You really have no choice if you want to feed your family.
This time I was really hurting financially because of some heavy duty medical bills. Now I have no heath insurance, and no income. After about a month of diligently talking to all of my friends, former bosses, many buyers in the department stores around the country of which I knew most of the key players at Federated, Sears, Penny's and others. Now I am feeling a lot of pressure from myself and my wife who is hounding me to no end. I had one ace in the hole, my former boss who I turned down, and that would mean I have to go to him with my tail between my legs, and put myself at his mercy.
Call him I did and after a very long conversation he finally came up with an idea. It meant I would have to move down to Florida, he would pay for it naturally, and I would become a salesman for the southeast with a smaller salary, but I had no choice. Health care, a company car, and an office allowance, helped me make up the salary shortfall. The big reason for having to move to Florida, which upset my wife, was he wanted me to liquidate around $30 million dollare worth of Chanel and Dior cologne and perfume in South America. In those days all name brand cosmetics were fair-traded. That meant a retailer was not allowed to discount the merchandise, and the manufacturer would take it back to avoid discounting any of it. Apparently, the former management of Chanel just accumulated these products and when new management took over they discovered this huge cache of merchandise.
So, yours truly was tasked with the quiet disposal of all this cologne and perfume with the proviso that it was not to be returned to the U.S. under any circumstances. I was able to get about $.20 cents on the dollar from the blackmarketeers operating in south Florida. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I had had enough of south Florida, the Cuban culture, and covering the southeast from this akward geographic location.
Something had to give between my kids unhappiness with Florida schools, the mafia neighborhood I had rented a house in, and my wife's dislike for the whole setup. About this time one of my old salesmen who worked for me in Las Angeles came into some money and approached me about starting up a Rep. Agency. I told him it had to be in Atlanta. He said, :That was fine with him."
I resigned from Chanel/Dior Monday after Thanksgiving and ordered the moving people on the next Friday to load us up. The story continues next week as my partner and I build a Rep. Agency together. My Story, Part IX.