Car Lite Reps

“If you’re going to be a climber in the Midwest, you’re going to have to like driving.”

Really, you can substitute almost any outdoor activity in that piece of advice I once received.  True, there is a plethora of things to do in the Midwest, and most you can do from right out your back door.  But in winter, things like downhill skiing, ice climbing, kiteboarding…you need to be somewhere specific.

And for the time being, it means driving.  Sometimes, location-challenged folk will cruise 8, 10, 12 hours just for 36 hours of a weekend on a hill or a frozen waterfall.

Much of the same is part of the rep-world – we have to drive to get places.  Simple fact. As much as #carfreereps is a step in the right direction, a necessary shift in how we look at doing business, how we see ourselves as part of the bigger, greater picture – there are some pretty significant challenges in making it a reality in one of the largest territories to cover.  Certainly, every representative in every territory faces the challenge of getting himself or herself to an account, a remote account – where the dollars earned in commissions are equal to or less than the dollars spent in getting there.  We have a large, diverse nation – with a lot of rural space between major metropolitan areas.  Rural space that is only crossed by a couple lanes of asphalt or concrete.

I’m out in the field, which unfortunately means more driving than not.  I’m the black sheep of Pemba Serves.  In all that time on the road, all that time behind the wheel, I see millions of cars every season on the interstates and back roads.  One thing in common, everywhere I go: all those cars are largely occupied by one person.  One driver, that’s it.

I’ll be amazed if, in my own lifetime, we see rail and public transit similar to Japan, Germany – really ANY industrialized nation – on a grand scale.  The sad truth of the matter is that it will take more than petitions and lobbying to make it happen – it will mean a cultural shift.

We’re due that change.  There is a lot of political talk out there, some angry people, and on both sides some irrational thinking. But it boils down to one dichotomy: Self vs. Other; living with daily concern about the well-being of the general population versus being concerned only with what affects oneself.

For some reason, we’ve been allowed and more often than not, encouraged, to be selfish.  Its been embedded in our brains since day one.  If you want an interesting group exercise, have your whole team refrain from using the words I or Me for an entire day.

Most of the time, people are all going to the same places.  Chances are, if you’re cruising on I-35 southbound, south of Albert Lea, MN, you’re going to Des Moines; once you get west of Rochester MN on I-90, you’re going to Sioux Falls or Rapid City.  I know, I’m part of the problem too.

Millions of cars, all occupied by a single driver.  It is lunacy, if you think about it…the idea of the solo driver going to the same place as thousands of other solo drivers runs contrary to everything that we have ingrained over eons of human existence.  For the whole of human existence, aside from the last hundred years, we’ve relied on each other to get where we collectively need to go.  The introduction of rail travel didn’t wipe out that concept – people were just fine with stepping into a train car and sitting down with a group of citizens.  People talked to each other, shared news along the way, and interacted.

Now…we interact by sending text messages and Tweeting while we sit in little metal, pollutant spewing, resource sucking coffins.  By ourselves.

As sales representatives/consultants/evangelists/whatever-we’re-called-this-week, we HAVE to drive.  Some of the best areas for recreation (and our customers) are pretty far off the rail travel and Greyhound – what’s left of it – circuit.  We have no high-speed rail from Minneapolis to Chicago yet (please, write your congressperson and representative and tell them to use the existing Empire Builder corridor!) Time is money, and time spent en route is wasted time – when there is no plane or train or bus to get there.  The quickest and least expensive way to get somewhere is to drive there, alone.

How do we break this cycle?  How do we go from 40,000 miles a year to #carfreereps?  Cold turkey is one way to quit.  Sell the car, and use exclusively public transit, a bicycle, or fly.  Sadly, that will underserve a sizable amount of our customers, the people we’re in business for.

#Carlitereps is the Nicorette gum for the professional.  Minimizing the wheel time to when it is completely necessary, ride-sharing to regional events, using common sense in planning clinic trips and times.  In a perfect world, everyone’s schedules would line up, and everything could get done quickly, easily, without any down-time.  Using the car when you NEED it, not when its only more convenient.  Yes, it will take more time.  Yes, it will cost a few dollars more.  No, not all of your customers will care that you’re trying your best to do your part for the social and ecological environment – many good ideas were unpopular at one time or another.  Like the automobile.  People will get used to #carlitereps eventually, and maybe by then things will have changed for the better and we’ll be looking more at what’s best for everyone, not just for ourselves.

Until then, we’re going to need to drive.  It’s a sad fact of the business we’re in and the world we live in.  But we don’t have to drive everywhere.  Use the trains, use the busses, and maybe exploit a loop in your schedule to take a few days and ride a bike to an event or account.  If Pete can ride his bike from Chicago to Madison and back over a long weekend, you can suck it up and sit on a train for a few hours.

#Carfreereps is the ultimate goal.  But going #carlitereps is the way to get there.  You’re not doing it for some smug self-satisfaction, not for some greenwash marketing, and not for more money.  You’re going to do it because it’s the Right. Thing. To. Do.

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