Puddles in the Parking Lot

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It was a cold October morning in Dayton, Ohio and as I left my house at 7am the skies opened up and it began to pour.
It wasn't cold enough to turn the rain into ice but it was still chilly enough that I turned on the heater.
"Today was gonna be a great day, I just knew it!" That thought just kept running through my head.
I was full of confidence.
We were prepared.
Today we were having customers in.
Not just any customer - General Motors was visiting our branch and we were going to make a presentation trying to secure all the distribution business for two of their local manufacturing facilities.
We had a plan and we had rehearsed our game plan over and over.
This wasn't small potatoes.
It could mean a $4 million increase in our business.
We were ready.
I was 31 years old, the youngest Branch Manger working for the largest steel distribution company in the world, but I wasn't nervous.
Scared, a little bit, yes, apprehensive, a little bit.
But, I was confident.
One of my most cherished mentors always said, "If you're gonna be a bear, you ought to be a grizzly.
" I was gonna be a Grizzly today I told myself.
We were hungry! Three General Motors muckety mucks came that day.
The Director of Procurement; he was a tall lanky man with that corporate pin striped look and the division buyers of each of the two manufacturing plants.
One buyer was short and thick with huge hairy hands and it looked like he didn't have a neck.
He reminded me of Danny Davito but he was just a little taller.
The other one was average height, average looks and average dress but he was built like Arnold Swartznager.
Looking at the two division buyersreminded me of the movie Twins where Arnold Swartznager and Danny Divito were twin brothers.
Looking at the the three of them brought to mind the spectrum of emotions we face as salesmen in this business.
Pin Stripes intimidated me--Danny D.
made me laugh and Arnold scared the heck out of me.
The morning went ok.
My top sales rep and I walked through much of the presentation before lunch - back then we didn't have PowerPoint.
We were following our plan.
I was young, but Bud Hurst was an old pro, a lone wolf, with over 25 years of experience.
During a breakhe told me we just didn't seem to be reaching them.
Something was missing.
We weren't in a zone.
We decided to break for lunch a little early hoping with the help of a couple of Martinis (Martini lunches were OK and common back then) we could break down some of the resistance and make them feel a little more relaxed, hoping to close the deal after lunch.
So, off we go to lunch.
We grabbed our suit jackets (back then dark suits with white shirts and ties were mandatory - there was no such thing as casual days - this was the late 70's).
Little did I know I was about to set a new standard of dress.
Out the door we went-it was beautiful out.
The rain had stopped, the sun was shining and it had warmed up a little.
The five of us, the Director of Procurement, the twins and Bud Hurst, my top sales rep followed as I led the way to my car.
As I rounded the corner and approached my car I noticed that between me and the car was a huge puddle of water about 6 feet across and at least 3 inches deep.
It really didn't bother me much, I'd seen it before on rainy days and, in fact, I had been meaning to get it fixed.
It was just one of those expenses (fixing the parking lot) that always seemed to get pushed to the bottom of the budget priority list.
Besides, it was only noticeable when it rained.
It was a slight indentation or minor sink hole as we say in Florida in the black top.
No big deal, RIGHT -- no big deal - until that day.
As I turned, a little quick I might add, to go around the puddle, I stepped on a rock, no bigger than ½ the size of a golf ball.
But it was big enough to turn my ankle, twist it and there I went, face first, doing a belly smacker right into the 6 foot puddle.
I even scraped my chin causing blood to trickle down my chin.

I was in shock I didn't want to get up My face was as red as a baboons behind I was stunned I laid there for a few seconds--an eternity I was hoping this wasn't real Finally, I turned over, propped myself up on one hand and my two feet to keep the seat of my pants dry and I looked up at four suits, the three muckety mucks, Danny Divito, Arnold Swartznager, the Corporate Pin Striped suit and Bud, the old pro who probably thought I was wet behind the ears even before I fell into the puddle.

They were trying not to look at me Mr.
Pin stripes was covering his mouth trying desperately not to laugh One buyer, Danny Divito was moving around like he had ants in his pants--looking in every direction but mine The second buyer, Arnold, his cheeks were bulging out; his eyes looked like they were going to pop.
He even had that big vein running down the middle of his forehead like the real Arnold Swartznager does.
I swear - he must have been holding his breath There I was, sitting in the middle of a mud puddle; I looked more like a wounded duck than a Grizzly Bear.
It was eerie; it was like a deafening silence in the parking lot.
The kind of silence you saw in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds, just before they attacked.
The Director of Procurement for General Motors Corporation, Mr.
Pin Stripes, the one holding his hand over his mouth started bouncing like he had a pogo stick up his behind.
You know how you bounce when you hold a laugh inside.
Finally, bless his heart, old Bud, my sales rep reached down to take my hand to help me up - and as I struggled to my feed, he grinned a grin so wide he could have eaten a banana sideways and said, "Nice FALL day, isn't it?" Well that comment cut it loose and all four of them roared with laughter.
They thought it was absolutely hilarious.
And, I guarantee you, no matter how embarrassed you get, no matter how stupid you feel, when you're standing in front of four people that are laughing so hard tears are running down their cheeks, you can't help but laugh with them.
I dried off with my golf towel that I retrieved from the trunk of my car and even though I was soaked we went to lunch anyway.
Of course that's all we talked about during the entire lunch - I couldn't eat from being so embarrassed and they barely stopped laughing long enough to put food in their mouths.
Alls well that ends well; we got back from lunch and within an hour closed the deal.
That meant a $4 million increase in sales for our branch.
I think they felt sorry for me.
After lunch tide turned--everythingwe discussed seemed to lead back to my grand belly smacker We talked about reducing inventory and someone said that would prevent tripping over it as they all roared with laughter.
Some of the parts we discussed that were to be made from our steel spurred even more laughter -parts like --anklepin, splash shield, dry lube on the parts Our plan worked - and even through my belly smacker wasn't in our original plan, it seemed to play a role in our success.
Many times even the best plan, the best preparation will encounter a twist in the road.
The more prepared, the more confident we are, the better able we are to handle these twists.
The belly flop into the parking lot puddle could have been more devastating than embarrassing.
But, thanks to Bud, the sales pro, we were able to turn that most embarrassing moment for yours truly into an opportunity.
Ever since that day, I have never ever short changed maintenance and repair on any budget I was ever responsible for.
What are your puddles in the parking lot?
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