DECATUR, GA., - My Story, Part XI.
This episode begins when I arrive home to my apartment after my employer and I have an argument about my relationship with one of our ex-employees. I had none, but my employer was convinced otherwise. I got the boot! He owed me around $4,800 dollars. The next week I went back when I knew the client had mailed him the check, and he claimed he didn't have the check, but I knew differently. I told him that I would go immediately to the county courthouse and have a warrant sworn out; he relented and stroked me a check. This was the week after Thanksgiving, and I had set-up a card table in a bedroom and I had begun to make cold calls.
I chose Omega search out of thin air. I liked the simplicity of the name, and everybody then had no trouble spelling it. That left my last name which always required careful spelling. Brevity and simplicity in leaving messages was important in leaving search messages. I had already ordered the two key references sources: The Thomas Register, and the National Advertising Directory for about $400.00 dollars. Those were the essential tools to make cold calls in the food industry, and develop new orders and clients. Each one of the books had at least the top six executives in the business, their titles and names, and some brief job description.
Obviously I had to find new clients, and I would have to develop a rapport quickly. Fortunately, my new reference books arrived in a few days. I began cold calling to develop new leads. In those days I worked on contingency, like attorney's do. No results no pay! That means you have to have 8-10 deals in the hopper to be able to count on closing at least one. Talk is cheap when it comes to telephone sales of this nature. I had a years experience in executive search placement, so I was fairly confident that I could make a go of it. When I located an Armour meatpacking plant in Texas that was is desperate need of a plant manager with frozen food experience in a top-line packer I thought I would be able to fill the position.
In about a week I located several candidates which had the required skills, knowledge and ability to do the job. My number one choice was from an Oscar Meyer plant, and needed to go to work soon. When the client heard about his credentials, he decided to fly him in right away without delay. The interview went well, and he offered him the job on the spot. It was one of the quickest sales I ever made in the business, and it came at a time when I needed it most. My bills were covered for January and February, and I had 60 days to put a couple of more deals together quickly. By the time the check came I was down to my last dollars. No sooner than I had deposited the check I got a telephone call from an Atlanta executive who had been the founder of Scripto Pen, and got my name from the lady I had met and negotiated a contract with for my former employer. Unbeknownst to me the franchise owner and this person had had some conversations about my skills which I thought were unknown, but it turns out that they were not unknown at all, and I actually had done business with this person when I was buying cosmetic components to manufacture my own line of cosmetics.
We got together for a lunch and he invited his attorney to join us as well. I told them that I really was not looking for a partner, that I owed back taxes from my last venture, and that my child-support and alimony made me a terrible choice for a partner. The lunch lasted late in the day, and I was finally sold on his proposal. It would be a 51/49 deal until I could pay back the 50% investment which included an office rent in Buckhead, Atlanta (high rent prestigious location), furniture, salaries for draw for 6 people, and my commission of 60% of my own production and 50% of the people production. This man was 20 years my senior, rich beyond imagination, and well connected to the CEO's of all the major Atlanta corporations. He knew people all over the country, and after he ran a background check on me through a heavy-weight agency his attorney knew, I accepted the deal. We rented the space and in a few weeks we were operating. I hired my old bridge-partner as our secretary, and we were up and running.
During the first few months things went along well. We were paying the bills, covering the overhead, and due to the fact that I had four or five frozen food clients that I renewed acquaintances with I was able to close two pretty good-sized deals in January and February. The annual national food-show was coming up in May and I made arrangements to attend it for the first time for the purpose of client development. Up to now people only knew me as a voice on the telephone. This was my chance to screen potential candidates and circulate in the cocktail parties that were open to those invited. I managed to get invites to more than I had time to attend. The trip turned out to be very successful, because I generated some serious interest in my search services with 10-15 major food-service manufacturers. I joined I.F.M.A. (International Food Manufacturers Assoc.) and met a very key executive, a Sales VP, for the leading Food-service publisher, Lemar Friedman. He became a very profitable client, and also a supplier of leads, and candidates.
As good as things were going, my partner was thinking that we could grow by a leveraged buyout. He had not generated a single productive lead, and I was tiring of being the Colonel, and my partner being a Five Star General. I listened and observed. He stayed out of the day-to-day operations, but he clearly had a more aggressive agenda. I wanted to establish a sounder reputation, but he thought we could grow faster by LBO. We disagreed on this point, and when we had a few slack months he contacted some broker friends and the ganged up on me to try and convince me I was wrong. None of them had any experience with this type of consulting, and my partner tended to listen to what they had to say. We had not found a reasonable fit, and during this time I made up my mind that I would turn-over the company to him, and not claim any part of it. I had not paid for my shares yet, and I was engaged to my current wife, and wanted to be settled in my business affairs before proceeding with my partner into the unknown. We were married in August and I started my own venture under the name of Charles Bernard & Associates, Inc in September. I had already done some split deals with the fella I had trained in my first executive search venture. In fact I rented a small suite from him, and his wife was out secretary. That lasted about a year. No more splits, I rented an office 2 miles from our home, and I stayed at that location for 30 some years. Omega Search was no longer mine, and it dissolved when my former partner died a few years after we split up.
Final chapters will be about Charles Bernard & Associates, Inc. and its development as a mini-Information Services' Business with three separate corporations.