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Confessions of a Buggy Whip Salesman

December 7, 2010

The buggy whip maker is used in countless analogous lessons to illustrate the necessity and acceptance of progress and industry. Also effective illustrations have been milk men, passenger pigeon trainers, and “duck & cover” instructors.

For now, however, let’s stick to the buggy whip maker. Barney the Buggy the Whip builder was about the best there was. He put extra care and expense into his product, the leather handles, the hand made tassles. They really were the most quality built buggy whips around.

But as good a product as Barney’s buggy whips were, he knew that the reason for his domination of the market was due to his machine of a buggy whip sales guy. Gus the sales guy walked into Barney’s shop one day and said,

“Ya know what Barney, that’s the finest buggy whip I’ve ever laid eyes on! How many of those you turnin’ over a month? Whatever it is, I can double it!”

And he did! From their partnership, the demand for Barney’s buggy whips went through the roof! So much so, he was able to triple his price based on supply and demand and in no time they were both raking it in.

Then the automobile started to populate the roads and when Barney saw the car beginning to push the horse and buggy over, his clear head for business advised him to start shifting some of his focus over to his riding crop and saddle stirrup business. He also began putting together a business plan for steering wheel covers and leather upholstery, but I don’t know what became of that.

Now, Gus went into Buggy Whip sales because the commissions were extremely high due to the demand and mark up on the item. So as buggy whip sales dropped, Gus the sales guy focused even harder on selling them. But it seemed no matter how many hours he added to his sales day, his monthly commissions kept falling, until one day Barney, now the riding crop and saddle maker said to him, “I’m sorry fella, I just can’t use you anymore.”

Gus sent out his resume to buggy whip makers in same size markets all across the immediate region, but it was the same story everywhere. Unless he was willing to move to a much smaller market and lifestyle, he was out of a job.

So what happened to Gus? I wish I knew, because I think I’m the next buggy whip sales guy. I’ve had a pretty good run working at a local TV network affiliate. Now the television distribution model is changing. Cable, satellite, DVR and online availability are causing affiliates to scramble for meaning. Very soon, the old model of advertising locally on TV will dry up, and I’ll be held holding a big fistful of air that no one wants to buy.

But I’m no Gus! I learned, growing up on the beaches of South Florida, when I would be completely relaxed in my beach chair, feet nestled deep in the mushy sand of low tide, and a cooler sitting beside me, that no matter how great the moment was, eventually, the cooler would begin to try and float away. If I waited longer, my butt would start to get wet. If I still did nothing, seaweed and other gook would gather in my submerged lap.

So instead, when I noticed that the tide had shifted back in, no matter how comfortable I was at that moment, I would either break everything down and move to where I could be comfortable again, or I would go find something else completely different to do. After all, in the end the only other option was to stubbornly wait it out and drown.

Now as I look around me, I again find that the cooler isn’t exactly where I set it down anymore. And I’m no Gus. So, before I get covered in the gook of this shifting tide, I’m going to get up. I’ve been resting for too long anyway.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    February 18, 2012 12:05 am

    I know a man who sells watch bands. He insists people still wear watches and never gave a moment’s thought to the proliferation of cellphones that display the time. And he thinks he has to work harder even though his sales have been on a ten year decline. I wish he would just wake up.

    • February 18, 2012 3:01 am

      If there is really a guy who still sells watch bands, then your observation is very profound! I haven’t worn a watch since ’94. His only option is to realize that watches are now only worn by the affluent (Rolexes, etc). find a line of wristbands that is 5x the price what he’s currently selling, widely market it as 10x the status value, and then he might have a shot at one last quick escalation of income to make the money he needs to transition into another line of work.

      Thanks for the comment.

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