Serendipity strikes often in the oddest of places. It was a remarkable piece of luck – it seems now in retrospect – that the name “Pemba Serves” came to me somewhat out of the blue while I was pinned down in my tent during a multi-day storm in the Alaska Range.
Between melting water, digging out the tent, reading, and sleeping, I had been journaling about a business that I was thinking about starting. In those years, I ran the newsletter and related promotions at Erehwon Mountain Outfitter. I thought then that – perhaps – outdoor retail stores all over might want a similar service. In this way, PEMBA was originally conceived of as a marketing and consulting business.
While PEMBA still operates as if we are a marketing and a consulting business, explaining the “how” and “why” of this is not the topic of the day. Likewise – yeah – it’s a funny name and we’re not going to explain it here right now (although we touch on it elsewhere.)
As part of our ongoing PEMBAway discussion, we revisit where we’ve come from and why we’re here. (No, not in a metaphysical sense…) Here’s the story of what happened here at PEMBA after a frank conversation with The Man In The Mirror. This one goes out to all of the hard-working #OIBIZ sales reps. Enjoy…
It’s a sad little secret of our existence, but we sales reps are paid to waste our lives. Nobody ever wants to mention – also – that our businesses are tremendously inefficient.
We’re not supposed to tell anybody either of these things. It’s in the Universal Rep Manual and everything.
Or maybe it’s in the Rep Code. I forget which.
(Somewhere from a darkened showroom in the Northwest, ninjas have been dispatched to kill me in my sleep and make it look natural…)
The sad reality is that most sales reps are – most of the time –working really hard doing absolutely necessary work that doesn’t pay the bills. We’re managing samples, balancing our books, working on reports, or (most, most often) in transition traveling from one place to another.
Your sales rep isn’t available to take your call? They’re probably loading/unloading the van.
(If you want to hear a recording of the presentation, follow the instructions, below…)
Brad was honored and humbled to have been asked to present, and really sweated over the content. It went pretty well, we’re thinking.
Attendance exceeded expectations and there were some really excellent questions. Though Brad went a bit long (the blabbermouth), just about everybody held in there until the bitter end. Thanks for all of those who attended and contributed to the discussion.
For those of you who couldn’t make it, feel free to leave a comment. Brad reads ‘em – we gather – and we’re pretty sure he’ll respond.
Transitioning from having a job as a sales rep to building a business as a sales agency isn’t easy. We’re often asked how we started to become who we are here at PEMBA. Next in our continuing series in advance of our OIA Webinar on August 18th, we’re going to share how we got on our way.
The bathroom mirror is a harsh friend. Often, it shows you what you need to see, even when you don’t want to see it. The trick is that you need to open your eyes.
I hadn’t done this in a long time. This particular morning, I didn’t like what I saw.
There were deep bags under my bloodshot eyes. The sheets from my bed were imprinted on my cheeks. Two days prior I had finished another three-week tour on the road, and was so tired that I had spent most of my precious time at home in bed. This day, there might be enough time to do my laundry and maybe polish off some office work before I needed to repack the car again for another three weeks on the road.
At this time, e-mail was not yet ubiquitous. There was a stack of faxes to go through, and piles upon piles of mail that I had abandoned hope of managing effectively and had simply shoved into paper sacks that clustered all around my desk. Buried among junk-mail in these grocery bags were bills, checks, and orders. If I worked really hard and mowing the lawn went smoothly, I might have enough time to sort through it all before I had to leave.
In the mirror, deep beneath the veneer of my own skin, there was a manic energy that told me that something was about to give. Maybe you’ve seen that look in others. Maybe you’ve seen it in yourself. I saw it that morning.
It would be easy to think that because we’re putting some of our methods out there we think that we’re Teflon, stainless, and – que veut dire en francais? – “Parfait.” We know this isn’t true. We get up in the morning, get dressed, have breakfast, and go to work hoping for a good day, just like everybody else.
Most days, we have good days. Some days we have great days, even. And from time to time some days are not so good. This is pretty much like anybody else.
We have different methods because they work for us, but not because we think that they’re better than other methods. There’s a lot of ways to do the job of being a sales rep in the #OIBIZ. As with everybody else, our goal is to provide awesome sales for our vendors and awesome service for our customers. We’ve chosen our ways because they help us to grow our business without – necessarily – driving ourselves (or our families) nuts.
Every model has its strengths and weaknesses, and the PEMBAway is no different. Before we get into the details of the model in subsequent posts, I wanted to be sure we put this out there: EVERYBODY POOPS.
Structure dictates behavior, and the structure of our territory defines who we are. We have 777,044 square miles of terrain to cover for #OIBIZ vendors and dealers here in the Upper Midwest. That’s a lot of ground to cover.
In this territory, there are times when we drive twelve hours in a day, and see two accounts, for an hour each. This sort of travel is difficult to sustain and definitely cannot be scaled. The way we see it, there are two ways we can span this distance frequently:
Lots and lots of butt-time
So, how does this work? Well, we spend a lot of time on our butts.
(Have you seen my butt lately? It’s HUGE.)
The social communications part? That’s where many are just finding their way. For those who are interested in learning the PEMBAway, here’s our straight-forward plan for swimming – and not drowning – in the social media waters:
“We do have an account and we check it once per week or so, but so far we don’t see it as a valid way to get anything done.”
- Marketing Report, Major American Outdoor Industry Brand, circa 1996, regarding E-MAIL.
Yep, I was there. I heard these words. I saw the whole room nod in agreement and understanding, and then they went on to the next topic. I’m an early adopter, granted. But we were talking about E-MAIL. How could a room full of professionals not see it – from the start – as a fundamental change in the way that we communicate? I mean, how on earth did we get anything done before it existed?
E-mail is so ubiquitous that it seems as if it has always been here, but this is not the case. There was a point in our collective histories where it did not exist. There was a point not that long ago where we all picked it up and started to use it regularly.
(And then it took over our lives, but that’s another story…)
It seems that we’re at that same crossroads now in regard to what I’m going to call social communications.
This one goes out to all the single ladies! Er, sorry: Make that all of the sales reps and other #OIBIZ folk out there who want to know more about the PEMBAway. In advance of our OIA Outdoor University program later this summer, we’ve started this series of posts describing what we do and how we do it, and – well – this is the next one.
We’ve often been accused of having our heads in the clouds, and – turns out – that this couldn’t be more true. Wait, that’s not what I mean. Back-up, rewind: Our heads are in the CLOUD, not CLOUDS.
(Having our heads in the clouds – also prolly true – but that’s a whole ‘nuther thing; we’ll talk about that later…)
For some time now we’ve been actively pushing as many of our systems as we can up into the Interwebz, the sphere, what’s collectively known as “the Cloud.” This is to say that most of the software and systems we run with at Pemba don’t exist on any one computer. In fact, they exist on any and all computers, at least any and all that have internet access.
Every quarter, we have a retreat here that we call the PEMBAway. We break out of our usual pattern for a bit, turn off the phones and the computers, and talk about important stuff. The title of this retreat is a play on words, really: It’s like “PEMBA away” and the “PEMBA way” all rolled into one. We’re away, and while we’re out we find and define our way.
Well, the PEMBA way isn’t always the same way as what others might do. We do some things different. Some of y’all have noticed, and have asked. So, here begins a series of blog posts on what we do, and why: