The trouble with the motor trade is everyone is always looking over their shoulder and if you’re any good at your job your immediate superior is frightened that you will eventually get his job, this can manifest into all sorts of problems, one in particular that I had was my boss taking credit for my ideas.
I worked for a firm where each car sold generated a horrendous amount of paperwork, from memory every car you sold meant you had 17 forms to fill in, on about half of them you had to repeat the customer’s details. I can tell you first hand that Salesman get paid for selling cars and have absolutely no interest in filling in forms but unfortunately, they are an essential part of the job.
The firm I worked for was part of a large group and every month they sent round the Silent Assassin or the group accountant as other people referred to him, he went through every deal pack and marked them like a school teacher, every month I used to get told off because my salesman’s deal packs were rubbish.
It wasn’t just my problem it was the same throughout the 20 odd garages in the group, I now know it was remiss of me and since working for myself I have discovered how vital paperwork is to the success of the business, but at the time, in all honesty, couldn’t have given a toss.
That was until I was warned by the silent assassin that Head Office was going to bring in a new rule that if the monthly deal pack audit fell below 80%, the offending salesmen would be penalised financially and so would I, Being too busy selling cars was no longer an acceptable excuse.
I had 2 major problems the first being that one of my salesmen was dyslexic he was great at selling cars but his paperwork was atrocious, he once brought an order form for me to sign off, the deal was £16000 to swap, immediately I noticed that the guy owed £19000 on his part exchange, he couldn’t have even bought his own car for £16000 let alone a new one, I worked the deal out properly and the customer would have needed about £35000 to buy the new car, the customer went ballistic threatening to sue us, I must point out that it said on the order form in big red letters “Subject to Salesmanager’s Approval” and I didn’t approve.
The only time that my Sales Team had gotten anywhere near the 80% required was when the dyslexic salesman was off sick and I had done his paperwork, he had had an accident on bonfire night when an aerosol can had exploded in the fire hitting him and burning the side of his face and his ear quite badly, he was a really nice lad but you never get any sympathy from your work colleagues when you’re in Sales, so I told everyone he had been injured when he was doing his ironing and his mobile phone rang.
My second problem was that my Sales Administrator who was brilliant at her job had become very ill and was going to be off work for a long time, she had been replaced by a young lady who looked fantastic but applying makeup and looking at her reflection in the mirror were the only things I ever found that she was good at, she was responsible for sending our vehicle orders through to the manufacturer and we were getting cars coming through which were wrongly specified, wrong colours, etc, One car that a guy had ordered 2 years previously and had waited patiently for arrived minus its leather interior, and then there was the Nipple Pink car incident, it was a truly awful colour and we couldn’t sell it so we eventually self-registered it and I palmed it off on the service department to use as loan car.
I needed a foolproof system, then I had had an idea how to make us look good while at the same time dropping all the other garages in our group right in it! so that night I went to a computer shop and bought the best PC, printer, and scanner they had, our PC’s at work had Microsoft Office installed so I bought a copy of that too, and as I hadn’t got a clue how to use it I bought every textbook I could find in the shop.
The next three months I studied Microsoft Excell and worked every night and weekend until I had replicated exactly every form right down to the last detail everything that was needed to complete a deal pack, order form, sale invoice, accounts invoice, workshop instruction, parts department instructions, workshop instructions for part-exchange check over, px mileage check, vehicle history, paperwork checklist, customer checklist, valeting department instructions, vehicle specification checklist for sales administrator, etc, etc.
All the information needed for every form was already on the original order form and I found a way to link and auto-complete the relevant details just by typing in the details on the Order Form on my PC, once this was filled in and saved all that was left was to press print and a fully completed deal pack which was 100% correct was spewed out, it would save thousands of man-hours per year, this was good news but then I had a eureka moment ‘What motivates Salesmen the most? I asked myself’ it was a bad time to ask the question because at that particular moment it was my Sales Administrator bending over to check her makeup in a car door mirror, but once she had finished applying her lipstick and the lads snapped out of their trance it would go back to being ‘Money’ and I had an idea, I linked the order to my newly inspired Salesman’s Commission form, once the figures were filled in on the order form it would tell you instantly how much the Salesman would earn, when we were working a deal I just filled in the figures and watched the ££££££ signs light up in their eyes.
The next visit of the silent assassin saw us pass the Audit with flying colours, word soon got round to the other under fire Salesmanager’s in the group and I suddenly found myself having a whole load of new best mates, but my motto is “A friend in need is a pain in the ass” and I had spent too much time and money perfecting the deal pack to just give it away, besides the worse, they looked at audit time the more I could slip under the radar and be left alone to get on with my job and the Sales Administrators job as I had taken on most of her duties.
I knew it wouldn’t be long before head office either banned me from using the Deal Pack program or asked me to share it, I knew my Boss would want to make himself look good at HQ and that I would have to be careful not to let him know too much, my Boss used to hover over me when he was bored which was usually after dinner, he would stand looking over my shoulder watching what I was doing and if I was working on a new idea he would rush off upstairs and phone the MD and my idea suddenly became his, It was very annoying and distracting not just because he pinched my ideas but also because he was very fond of sandwiches which must have largely consisted of onions, I had nicknamed him the ‘Grim Reaper’ as I knew sooner or later he would wield his scythe on my career, he was also the biggest ass kisser I have ever come across, I used to joke that if ever our chairman stopped suddenly the Grim Reaper would get his head stuck.
One day I received a funny fax and I passed it around in our morning sales meeting, it was a list of phrases and what they actually meant, ‘You’re my Boss and I respect you’ translated to ‘You’re a F*** Wit leave me alone’ Just after I had passed it around, the Boss came in to give us all a telling off about drinking too much coffee or something equally trivial, to which I answered “You’re our Boss and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we respect you” everyone in the meeting cracked up laughing leaving my Boss Non-Plussed, he wasn’t nonplussed for long as that afternoon our accountant who later became known as ‘AstroTurf’ because he had turned into a ‘Supergrass’ left a copy of the funny fax on his desk. So my Boss made one of his own up which reading between the lines meant “Do that again Barrie and you will be going home on the bus”
My worst fears regarding my Deal Pack program were confirmed when I got a call from one of the other Salesmanager’s who I knew very well, he was based at Head Office and he rang me to say that he had heard a rumour my ‘Deal Pack’ program was to be issued to all the group, he knew how hard I had worked, that I had developed it on my own and it was conceived from my own idea so he was laughing hysterically when he told me that at the board meeting my boss had taken all the credit for it, now I am not, and never have been a Glory Hunter, I have always preferred to try and stay in the background and be the ‘Grey Man’ but I was furious.
That afternoon fresh from eating his cheese and onion butties my boss came and asked me to put a copy of my Deal Pack program on a floppy disk when I asked why he said it was because I was going on holiday shortly and he would be using it to check the Salesman’s deals, trying to keep a straight face I told him there was no need for that as I was going to teach my Sales Administrator how to use it, to be fair to him he had a good sense of humour and we both had a good laugh at the thought of the mayhem that would ensue, I regretted making the joke as my aftershave was being overpowered by onions and the office now needed a squirt of air freshener. When he got his breath back I told him that he could use my PC and then watched as he racked his brains trying to think of another excuse why he needed a copy, he couldn’t and he skulked off empty-handed, while I frantically searched for the ‘Password Protection’ chapter in my textbook.
A couple of weeks later I was walking along St James beach Barbados when I got a text from my fellow Sales Manager which ruined my holiday, “just used the ‘Deal Pack Program’ that was a great idea the ‘Grim Reaper’ had, I bet you wished you had thought of it, LOL”, I had password protected the program so it couldn’t be altered in any way but it could still be copied as a whole, the Grim Reaper had munsonned me big time.
So back to the point of my story, adding insult to injury a few weeks later my Boss and I had to attend a meeting at Head Office, I had to stand there while various different people from the other garages came over to thank my Boss for sharing his fantastic idea with them, it had made their lives so much easier and if there was anything they could ever do for him, Blah Blah Blah,Ya De Yah de Yah everything just became a blur to me, Until we were approached by the Financial Director of the group eager to offer his congratulations.
How did you come up with the idea it’s brilliant he said, I started to reply but my Boss talked over me with absolutely no hint of shame, “Well I was thinking something needed to be done quickly to help Barrie out and take the pressure off him and let his sales team get back to their main priority of selling cars” I thought to myself shit ’Good Answer’ not only did you take credit for my idea but you made me look like I was incompetent and couldn’t cope, next question was “How did you replicate all our forms so accurately” well it took a bit of doing but we got there, in the end, was the reply, right I’ve had enough of this its time to stick the knife in I thought to myself, so grinning from ear to ear I turned to my boss and said, “Exactly what formulae did you use and how did you input it into the program so that it would instantly work out the Chassis profit, the Salesman’s Commissions and fill the rest of the forms in at the same time?”
There was Deadly Silence for an uncomfortably long time and I could see beads of sweat breaking out on to the Grim Reapers forehead! Eventually, I broke the silence and said: “Gee you look hot Boss, would you like me to get you a drink of water?” Let’s see you dig your way out of that! I thought to myself as I sauntered off to the bar chuckling to myself.
The Financial Director eventually discovered the truth and I was given £1000 for coming up with the idea.