Dealing with the men who could not keep their word was, for me, a lesson in dealing with treachery.
I am a full-time author in 2014. For a time in the 1970’s, I lived in Los Angeles, working as an independent sales contractor for a small company that was selling a new brand of product to chiropractors and to individual buyers. One man developed their product, and it was a first: a freeze-dried calcium-magnesium powder that helped bodies maintain calcium levels, and also brought quick relief from nerve stress and muscle cramps.
I steeped my early days with the company in learning basic data about the product and its ingredients. My new understandings about what the product could do for people, led to the idea of introducing it to the health food industry, its retailers and distributors, which I did do. We were something brand-new in that market.
My study of trade magazines not only led me to contact advanced-thinking retailers — Sandy Gooch was one of the first to pick it up, but also to trade shows conducted on the East and West coasts annually, which would provide an opportunity to present the product to scores of retail buyers in one weekend. In order to do that, we revamped the product’s packaging along with its ad copy and text.
Sensing an enormous opportunity for repeat sales commissions in a growing industry, I put together market research surveys, conducted these myself and translated the data from the questions’ answers into new product offerings approved by the company president. We made a new “travel pack” box of 10 packets that slipped into travel bags easily, enabling travelers to have individual packets that fit neatly into their pockets and purses for use any time.
The design, packaging, texts and coloring of the new product sizes were all of my doing and all based on market research surveys.
The company fronted money for me to enter two trade shows and put up a graphic display booth of our product. I represented the product at the show’s venue hall in Anaheim. The result of the coordinated efforts was that in two days we sold more product, dollar-wise, than almost a year of sales prior outside of the industry; about $8,000 in orders at the show… the first day!
The follow-up using business cards taken at the show from interested buyers netted another $3,000 in orders. The cost for the show was about 10 percent of the $11,000 in sales total.
The second trade show a few weeks later netted enough sales in two days to bring the four-day, two-show total to well over $23,000 in sales. A long history of sales of that product had begun with that venture; we had only created the tip of the iceberg.
Unfortunately, when the billionaire owner of the company found out my sales numbers, because we requested an infusion of his cash to set up more health food trade shows and place ads in the market’s trade magazines, his initial response was a complete non-sequitor: he boasted in person about how he made his billions; that he had so much money coming in that several generations of his family members were set for life financially; and that he still had more money than he knew what to do with.
And then he denied our request, saying, “You did so well at these shows that you don’t need any more of my money.” He had not invested a dime into the trade shows we had done to that point.
(ASIDE: Having earlier been an artist’s manager in the recording industry, and having seen first-hand how a foreign label used its top-name U.S. act as tax a haven by suppressing their incomes… and how much they were unhappy when their artist’s career exploded and money began to pour in… I suspected this billionaire owner would be unhappy if we started to make some serious coin!)
I stayed on and built up product sales in the new industry for a few more months. When another disagreement arose, this owner “fired” me without any authority to do so, which I countered with a suit that had standing based on a written contract that I had signed with the company, not with the owner.
Arbitration produced a settlement. They handed me a five-figure check, which I took reluctantly because, out of a job, I needed the money.
However, knowing that I had a complete write-up in my pocket of a plan I’d written that set out in detail how to make more than $1,000,000 annual sales of the product, for little cost, I was not ready to totally give up. I asked if they would sell the company to me.
Surprisingly, the owner answered, “Yes.”
So, I went out and found an investor with the $100,000 they were asking.
As soon as he saw I had the money, the owner and his partners reneged on the offer to sell to me. At that point, I had no alternative but to walk away disappointed and bitter about the men who could not keep their word.
Fast-forward in Time
This year, I found a similar product and opportunity. The company behind the product has a track record of international sales for more than 30 years in another country. The U.S. company has sold the product for 10 years here, but only to individuals and doctors, not to the health food stores and distributors.
Yogi Berra would call this, “Deja-vu all over again!”
Of course, even though my activity today is authoring books, I could not pass up the opportunity to recapture the magic of what might have been had I been able to purchase the first company and market it as planned. I walked into the U.S. company and created the position of New Business Development Manager. With exclusive authority I have now introduced the product into two health food stores in the Tampa Bay area. Distributors will receive our supplier/vendor applications very soon.
We have not even take the product to a trade show, yet. Watch out, world!
If the story above interested you, please come back in about a week for another installment. Bookmark this page as a reminder.
I’ll work on making the segments interesting reading with even more details. At the end of the story we’ll sum up the highlights and offer suggestions for why this successful launch of a new product category worked so well, and will work again.
P. S. Did I tell you that the first product and my surveyed packaging is still being sold and bought all over the States even today?