My Boss walked into my office with a big smile on his face, usually when he was smiling it meant that he was ok but he’d just cocked everyone else up, today was no exception.
He handed me an envelope with my new wage structure in it, “I worked hard to get you that” he said, and stood there rubbing his hands together, a quick glance at the new structure and I soon realised that if I signed it I would be approximately £18,000 worse off this year. Either very little thought had gone into this, or someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make sure they sold more cars but at the same time substantially reduced their wage bill, previous experience told me it was the latter.
It was an uncertain time in the motor trade as this year the new registration number wouldn’t be changing on August 1st and it would change twice a year from now on in March and then another new reg on September 1st, This year we would have 3 different reg plates S, T and V I think the reason given was something like to spread sales out over the year instead of having a mad rush in August, try as I might I couldn’t think of a better way to cock car sales up.
I was worried that instead of spreading sales out it would actually create more quiet periods, in my opinion, I thought that February, July, August and December would now be difficult months to sell new cars and January would be quieter than normal as even though it was a New Year it was only 58 days to a Plate change.
Fearing the unknown and hoping for the best but planning for the worst I had taken the previous 10 years accounts home and studied our best and worse months for New car sales, I then averaged them all outnumbered them 1 to 12 and then placed them in percentage order of how I thought the new registrations would affect us. I also thought that our Used car sales would be affected as the majority of our part exchanges would now be arriving later in the year, this was very worrying as my budget was always cut substantially for the last quarter and this year it would probably mean that I would have a smaller window of opportunity to dispose of the swappers and the ones I didn’t sell I would end up taking a loss to get rid of them.
I had taken a lot of time and trouble to formulate my business plan and I had expected to be included in discussions for our my new budget of the unknown, and I also thought they would have the decency to consult me before setting my new Sales Targets and my new wage structure, but as per usual the people I worked for had an “If you don’t like it, you know where the door is” policy and they had ruled this was the structure.
I knew that if I agreed to this I would probably hit my first months target but then struggle the rest of the year possibly if I survived all the rollocking’s and nasty letter’s that Head Office loved to send out I would perhaps recover in September, I thought that would be our busiest month and I also knew that the manufacturer would bring out the new model year specification changes in October and this would have a positive effect on sales.
“Just sign it, I have to fax it back to Head Office,” my Boss said, I’m sorry but I can’t, I don’t want to cause trouble but It’s the equivalent of signing my own death warrant, I replied, I then proceeded to explain why I thought that this plan would probably mean I would miss every monthly and quarterly bonus until September then I would also miss October, November, December and my end of year bonus, I explained how I had come to this conclusion and he knew I was right, he also now realised that if he signed his new pay structure he would suffer too.
Clearly disgusted he marched up the stairs, and I went to reception to watch the switchboard as I expected the light from his extension came on I knew he would be phoning head office, I took the back stairs 3 at a time and opened the door to the board room as quietly as I could, my drinking glass was still where I had hidden it for just such occasions.
My Bosses office backed onto the board room and the walls were made of plasterboard so with the glass pressed firmly between my ear and the wall I could hear every word of his conversation, My Boss was using me and my argument to make sure he would be alright but he was using me as a scapegoat and I was being hung out to dry, I could only hear one side of the conversation but I heard enough to know that I was now on borrowed time in this job, normally this wouldn’t have bothered me but I had put a great team together we were doing a great job and having a good laugh doing it!
I heard the receiver go down and my Boss’s door open, If he came this way he would see me, so I hid in the brochure cupboard till he went past then ran down the back stairs to beat him to my office. He appeared at my door and said “You have until the end of the Month to sign it otherwise you’re out” “Well thanks for fighting my corner I know you did your best” I said sarcastically.
The end of the January came and I had just hit my Target, all the other Sales Managers in the group had capitulated and signed their contracts, I was in no position financially to leave so reluctantly I signed mine too, February was a none starter everyone was waiting for the new reg, my February bonus was out of the window, but If I could make up the shortfall in March I would still get it and my quarterly bonus too.
I had pulled as many sales forward and called in a few favours from my zone manager who helped us out with extra product I scraped through and hit March, I got my quarterly bonus and was paid my Feb bonus retrospectively, it was close call as once the quarter finishes it was boxed off and if you hadn’t made up the shortfall the monthly bonus had gone forever, rather than being congratulated I got the feeling I hadn’t made a very good career move.
We had a fantastic accounts department and on the last day of every month head office knew exactly how much money we had made by the close of business, I had my own system I kept a meticulous record of all our deals and although they fluctuated I had a rough idea of the department’s monthly overheads, I knew April was going to be a close one but thought I was just going to hit target, until I got and unexpected visit from my Boss, “Head Office wants you to trade this car to another dealer in our Group” he said, what was strange was that he even told me how much I had to sell it for, this figure bore no relation to Glass’s Guide it was a lot less than the car was actually worth and would mean showing a loss on the sale.
I complained that it was good stock and i didn’t want to trade it, his answer was that we were doing better than the other dealers in the group so I should be thankful and stop complaining. I had a good reason to complain as when the accounts came through the next day and I had missed my target by .2% so no bonus for April.
Last day of May in walks my Boss, “Head Office wants you to trade 2 cars to one of the other Dealers in the group at these prices”, this time I guessed what was coming and low and behold I missed my May target by .5% this was either a terrible coincidence or Head Office didn’t like the fact that I was actually hitting the targets that they had set, I knew the cheap cars were going to one of the dealers who were nowhere near hitting their targets so even with their sudden windfall of 2 very cheap cars would not result in the sales manager getting a bonus, Drastic measures were now called for, if I couldn’t make up the shortfall in June I would kiss my April and May bonuses goodbye forever. I would have preferred to use my determination, and skills to succeed in hitting my targets and earning my employers money whilst being adequately rewarded with my share of the profits, as it was i was going to have to use my skills to outwit my employers,
“Is that my death warrant there, do me a favour pass me my Mont Blanc will you!”
My predicament reminded me of a joke I had heard about the specification for Italian Tanks which were to be built with 6 reverse gears and 1 forward gear just in case they were attacked from behind, I was now fighting a rearguard action myself whilst trying to move forward and keep up the sales momentum, June was going to be a very very trying month and if my plan worked it would probably be my last one for this firm.
I kept my eye on the costing’s and as the end of the month drew near I knew it was going to be another close one, I had thought of just hiding so my Boss couldn’t find me, but I knew that he wouldn’t risk upsetting the MD by not putting any prospective trade sales through, he would instruct the accountant himself, I still wasn’t certain that it was going to happen so I just sat in my office and waited, sure enough, he tripped down the stairs with my instructions to trade a car, he must have thought that it was his lucky day as this time I didn’t complain.
After I had given the accountant details of the losses on the cars that I had been instructed to trade, I watched him enter them into the computer, we had about 5 minutes to go before the end of the month shut down so it was now or never, should I fall on my sword with my head held high, or go down without a fight, I gave the accountant the 2 folders which contained deals for cars which I myself had sold, I also had payment advice slip for a refund from the manufacturer for the extra discount we received for running demonstration vehicles and service loan cars. The accountant knew what I was asking him to do, I had held these back so that if there was anything underhanded going on, it would ruin their calculations and these monies would more than offset any last-minute debits, the accountant didn’t particularly like me and he knew it would be me who was stood up when the shit hit the fan, he had a wry smile on his face as he inputs the data and then closed off the month.
I hit my target, I would get paid June and my quarterly bonus, April, May, would be paid retrospectively, but I was also going to get the Mother of all bollockings, I sat through it using a technique I had learned from reading Andy McNab books, pick a spot on a wall, fix your gaze and concentrate on it, Andy used this to take his mind off the horrendous torture he was just about to endure, I was using it so that I wouldn’t fall off my chair laughing.