The first of the lemons-to-lemonade sagas is about comedian Dave Chappelle. He used to have a popular television show, but he quit it in 2006 and wandered in the standup wilderness for about fourteen years. Some of his critics rejoiced at his absence from the world of television comedy but not his fans. We patiently awaited his return – knowing that it would be on his own terms.
But we knew he wouldn’t announce it on his Twitter page because he’s only had eleven tweets since joining Twitter in March 2012. And those eleven tweets were all tweeted on that same month. And yet, he still has more than 630,000 followers!
During his fourteen-year absence from television, Dave still managed to make a living in comedy. He’s now worth an estimated $42 million. He signed a lucrative contract with Netflix a few years ago, worth $20 million per episode. He’s won three Grammy awards and two Emmy awards. And he did it without self-promotion on various social media platforms. And he achieved all of this without the benefit of a weekly television show.
It also convinced me that the future in film and broadcasting is with companies like Netflix. I recently learned that Disney has recently launch its version of the Netflix model. The competition will be great for consumers because it will eventually give both companies an incentive to compete for viewers.
The losers will be the networks, who are trying to remain competitive against Netflix, a broadcast platform with no commercials. Actors will find it difficult to earn a living without the added revenue opportunities that commercials provide.
Another ‘lemons-to-lemonade saga’ is about another favorite comedian, Bill Maher. The first time I saw him perform was on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.
At the time, Bill had the hit show Politically Incorrect on Comedy Central, which later morphed to the ABC network. But the series got canceled because of a few of the sponsors’ objection to Bill’s comments regarding the 9/11 terrorist attack.
So much for free speech. Money controls what performers can say, and cash controls what you can watch on television.
The critics on the political right were ecstatic, while fans like me, felt like the almighty dollar had silenced yet another of their heroes.
But Bill continued doing standup comedy, something he’d been doing since he was fourteen years old. He’s six years younger than me, and we’re both Capricorns. Bill went to university and sold pot during college to fund his education, and the money also helped him launch his career in comedy.
He is an atheist, and he supports the death penalty – but those are the main areas where we differ in opinion. And most of his fans probably feel the same as me because two years after the Politically Incorrect show got canceled, he was able to launch the hit series Real Time with Bill Maher in 2003, on HBO. That was seventeen years ago. He’s now very successful and very wealthy.
But despite being nominated for a record 22 Emmy Awards, Bill has yet to win one. But I’ve always thought that money is a more accurate measure for success than awards. You can’t deposit an Emmy in the bank or buy groceries with one.
The next ‘lemons-to-lemonade saga’ was three years ago when I deactivated my Facebook account.
Many of my friends are on Facebook, and they are obsessive about checking for updates from friends.
At the time, I was worried about the possibility that dark forces might have hacked my personal information. Although only fifty million Facebook accounts got hacked, I still felt vulnerable to those sinister attacks.
So I said goodbye to Facebook and began spending more time communicating with friends by phone, emails, or meeting them for coffee. Walking and chatting with friends is also an effective alternative to getting updates and photos on social media.
Besides, if you read all your friends’ Facebook updates and see all of their photos and videos – what’s left to talk about when you see them in person?
Friends told me that I would regret deactivating and probably wondered how long it would take before I came back to Facebook. But I haven’t regretted leaving, and I’m content to stay in the shadows.
I have almost as many close friends that are not on Facebook – so I guess it’s a generational thing. The younger generation seldom watches television; they prefer the entertainment on the Internet.
I also use LinkedIn for seeking job opportunities in the world of sales and sales management. Although I’ve been retired since 2005, and I’m seventy years old, I’m still hopeful of coming to the aid of a failing business, as a sales consultant.
I retired as Western Region Manager of General Motors of Canada when I was fifty-five years old. The day after I retired, I started Essential Sales Solutions, a business-to-business sales consulting company. Once a salesman – always a salesman.
I was hoping to leverage my considerable sales and sales management experience to acquire some short-term consulting jobs. But I didn’t want anything that would be more than a three-month term. I began promoting my new company online and I featured a ‘guarantee to increase sales, or you don’t pay!
Although I had several companies interested in hiring me as a full-time sales manager – I wasn’t interested in full-time employment. After all, why would I retire from a six-figure income at GM, if I wanted to work full time?
Then, I learned about an exciting opportunity in Moncton, New Brunswick, with one of my best friend’s brother-in-law’s company.
His brother-in-law, Ron, had initially begun his career as a member of the Moncton police force and then started several part-time businesses in his spare time. Ron turned his dream into a multi-million dollar empire that includes a mining company, a horse farm, a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, his bank in Maine, and many other successful businesses.
In 2007, Ron called me when he was in Vancouver on business, and we met for breakfast. He explained that he was going to develop condominiums adjacent to his golf course and wanted me to come to Moncton to discuss the possibility of selling the condos for him.
A few weeks later, I flew to Moncton and stayed at his property for a few days. I met Vince, his general manager, and they both interviewed me for a job to sell the condos, once they received government approval for the project. I paid for my own airfare but knew that the commissions I could earn represented a lot of money, so I wasn’t worried.
I was excited at finally finding the ultimate prize I’d been chasing – a chance to be a part of an exciting post-retirement opportunity. On my return to Vancouver, I hired an accountant and lawyer to incorporate my company. I was now the president of Essential Sales Solutions, Inc. However, I was the company’s only employee.
During the next few weeks, I spoke on the phone with Vince several times about my new job. He said I should get a laptop computer. I did so and paid for it myself – figuring I would get reimbursed when I began working in Moncton. Meanwhile, I asked Vince to send me a copy of the business plan for the development. What he sent me was a floor plan for the condos. That raised alarm bells in my head.
Vince didn’t appear to be very confident about Ron’s real estate development or of getting government approval. I believe that he wasn’t comfortable with me being involved in the project.
A few weeks later, Ron called and told me that the project was canceled. But I believe it was because of something else.
That was a lesson that cost me about $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. I decided that I would never, ever work for anyone again.
I was too young to retire, so I decided to explore other interests that would excite me and allow me to be self-employed again. But I didn’t want anything that would require frequent travel – ideally, I would work from home.
Two months later, after considerable thought, I decided to chase a lifelong dream of becoming an actor. It’s similar to being a salesperson in many ways because you can’t learn to be a great salesperson or actor – you either have it in you – or you don’t.
There are many salespeople on the planet, but the self-employed ones are the most successful. Getting a commission instead of a salary is a ‘hard pill’ for most to swallow. And the fact that you also pay for all of your expenses and benefits – with no paid sick leave or unemployment insurance, makes it untenable for most ‘wanna-be salespeople’.
I was a self-employed manufacturers’ agent at the age of twenty. I had to pay rent and support a wife and baby without receiving a paycheque each week. And my first wife didn’t work – so I was our only source of income. But I was able to negotiate a $175/week ‘draw against commissions.’
This meant that the amount advanced to me each month, would be deducted from my commissions. It also scared me because I was worried that I wouldn’t sell enough to cover my expenses or advances. but fear can be an effective motivation for working long hours.
And what did I sell?
I sold textiles to fabric stores and department stores. I represented a fabric line from Champlain Textiles; a velvet line from Martin Fabrics, a line of buttons and zippers from H.A. Kidd Company, and a trim line from Morgan Uster.
My territory was everything north of Toronto, in central Ontario. I traveled from Orillia to Hearst on a two-week trip and then another two week trip, from Barrie to Kenora. But I didn’t have to travel every week. In the Spring, I showed the Fall and Winter fabric line and it usually took me two months to cover my territory. In the Fall, I repeated the process for the Spring fabric line.
I remember that it costs me $100 per week in expenses, which included gas, meals, hotels, and entertainment. I also can remember paying 39 cents a gallon for gas (which is approximately ten cents a liter!).
There were many challenges for me when I was on the road. I had to buy street maps of every town I visited. In 1970, there were no internet or cell phones.
I would only stay at motels that had an iron and ironing board in the room. Each night, I would wash my dress shirt in the bathroom sink and then hang it up to dry overnight.
In the morning, I would iron my shirt and all of the fabric samples that I carried in two huge suitcases. I would go through the Yellow Pages to prospect stores that sold fabric.
I had some established fabric stores and department store accounts that were purchasing buttons, zippers, and trim. They would be my first calls and then I would visit the independently-owned fabric stores.
During the long drive between cities, I planned a sales strategy. I had no experience selling business-to-business – my previous sales experience was limited to working part-time in a shoe store while going to school. My first full-time job was at my friend Dino’s menswear store.
But selling to the public is much different than selling to the owner of a business. You need to know as much about the product you’re selling as the buyer does – because of the bull shit alarm factor.
I needed to learn about the different types of fabrics, how and where they’re made, and etc. It sounds simple when you have Google Search to teach you – but in 1970, the only computers were confined to IBM and there wasn’t an internet.
I didn’t have anyone to teach me but I still managed to learn how to sell effectively.
I still remember my first sales call to a fabric store. It was at the Uptown Silk Store in Lindsay, Ontario. Mrs. Snyder was an older woman and recently widowed. On that first visit to her store, she yelled and screamed at me for about thirty minutes.
And while she ranted, I stood there quietly and respectfully.
But that seemed to annoy her. She continued telling me how terrible one of the companies I represented were and how they had made her life miserable. She even said that the company had caused her late husband’s heart attack that took his life.
And then she asked me to leave her store and to never come back!
I left her store and sat in my car. I was visibly shaken by the experience and I was unsure how to proceed.
I got the answer the next morning.
To be continued.
UPDATE: Wednesday, January 29th – I won’t be able to update this page for another day or two. Thanks, for following this story. ~ Danny
Today’s tune is from Danny’s library (purchased):