Salesman

April 11, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Auto-Biography

My father was a salesman with his own firm.  His father was a salesman with his own firm.  So was my Mom’s dad.  That’s what guys did in my family.

The Beatles, the 60s zeitgeist and the Vietnam anti-war movement planted an alternative value system into my psycho-bio operating system.  From 1969 on, I struggled to function both with a businessman’s and a radical’s points of view.  The synthesis could be called something like Business With Integrity.

I started by selling my illustrations as greeting cards.  Other small greeting card firms asked me to sell their lines.  After a year, I was selling perhaps 8-10 lines.  My sister joined me.  After a couple years, my sister and I were joined by three more young people.  I wasn’t selling my own paintings as greeting cards anymore but serving chains like Sears, Montgomery Wards, OSCO and Walgreens, selling the products of other illustrators.

Standing in my booth during trade shows, I’d have ample time to watch thousands of buyers wander by several hundred vendors of American gift stuff.  In the 80s and 90s, I spent untold boring hours in these giant temples of consumer glee.  I’d imagine I was watching the unfolding of Darwin’s principle of natural selection.  Back then I was unfamiliar with sexual selection or Lamarckian principles, but I’d read The Origin of Species in high school, so I thought I understood evolution.  I thought evolution and natural selection were the same thing.  Still, I imagined I could watch the emergence and disappearance of new individuals and species of American gift crud here in the primordial ooze of the American Dream–the trade show.

For nineteen years I ran the sales firm.  Now I run a web development company.

I operate as if each client can see all my actions.  This method has as much to do with neurotically feeling like if I do anything untoward, that person will find out as it has to do with seeking to act with integrity.  Still, neurosis or no, I practiced and practice business with a clean and somewhat unconventional style.

One of the practices of Business With Integrity applies to my work on the Left.  Don’t sell to someone who doesn’t need your product.  Don’t sell to someone who doesn’t want your product.

Encourage someone to share your point of view when you see that the person can profit from what you have.  Don’t take the time to sell points of view to folks with a point of view that they want to keep.

I work with coalitions and movement groups across the country and all through Illinois.  I’m in meetings and conference calls several times a week.  Hours of listening, minutes of talking.  Occasionally, an individual with a different point of view from my own stations himself or herself between me and my particular goal.  Selling that person my point of view is not a prudent use of time.  I listen and move on.

Persistence is the most powerful piece of Business With Integrity.  It does not mean persistently going after the same person over and over, be it in business or organizing activists.  It means persistently going from door to door, store to store, person to person, looking for those folks that can profit from my point of view.  How do I treat the folks that don’t need or want what I have to say or sell?  I move on.


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