FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Geoff Allen
May 28, 2013
Interview with a salesman . . .
He talks easily about happy life ingredients – one wife, 4 kids and 3 Labrador retrievers. And tools, furniture building and relationships with people. And he remembers waiter’s names. “He’s just a waiter, but if I remember his name that makes him feel good. He’s just a guy who brings me my soup, but he’s a good person.”
Born in Peterborough, Ontario, he’s not modest – few salesmen are, but no braggart either. He’s proud of his Calgary roots (E.P. Scarlett High, B.Comm from U of C), and his dad’s CIL sales job kept the family moving in early days.
Most sales people will tell you, selling to a salesman is the best kind of fun because they respond enthusiastically, negotiate/overcome objections right along with you and are impressed by good salesmanship. And, easiest way to get a salesman talking is to ask ‘so, how is business?’.
Calgarian responsible for Genie lifts in Western Canada is such a salesman – Geoff Allen. No major building, no major construction project and no infrastructure project happens here without equipment that lifts goods and people into place – with Geoff’s efforts behind it all somewhere. The 50 yr. old company based in Redmond, Washington is the most recent (8 yrs) and likely last stop (he says he is really happy there) in his industrial sales career.
What qualities, looking back, have distinguished your preferred suppliers and employees?
. . . personable people – hearty handshake, look you in the eye types (maybe I’m a bit old-school but I can’t feel like I’m getting taken!). I respect good salesmanship, but service is key. People who do what they say.
What qualities do your clients look for in you, in your firm, that distinguishes you or sets you apart from your competitors?
. . . quality products, they trust me. I check in regularly, I do what I say I will. I love the one-on-one relationships with our independent customers. I’m most valuable when I spend time with them. I’m a social butterfly! It’s why I love Lowe’s over Home Depot – the people care. Customers have a choice. My customers have a choice.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… making sure I did all the little things with my kids.
I asked Geoff how he sees business over the next 90 days?
… very strong, though our late winter has contributed to a slow start-up cycle on projects. At this point in the year, this year as it was last year, we have over 80% of our year’s target already booked – and we are well up on our budget year over year. So, yes, it is very busy meeting our customers’ needs!
. . . and over the next 5 years?
. . . B.C. is strong, Saskatchewan is booming (and less volatile than Alberta) while business in Alberta is very strong with no end in sight for us. Mostly we sell to dealers who in turn sell or rent our product to end users. Resource development and construction drive our business. The recession hurt us for a while, but we’ve come back with strong growth.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life?
… my dad, a lot, and a mentor from my Rima Tip Top days (14 yrs with them selling conveyors), friends from my time at Bosch selling industrial power tools – and a great sales manager with Genie. Lots of long term friendships.
What do you do for fun?
. . . drive my son to the golf course! (when you are 15 with a 6 handicap, you have to golf!). I do lots of things with my family. Vacationing in California (Oceanside/San Clemente) favourite spots with my wife – but mostly I like to build furniture. My wife will find something she loves in the Crate&Barrel catalogue – and I’ll build it. I have a buddy – 20 yrs – Don Gray with a great workshop. We build two of each. When you build something for someone else the satisfaction isn’t the same as when you build it for yourself. I just love going to my old friend Brad at Black Forest Wood Products, picking out some wood for a new project. If I won the lottery, I’d build a fabulous workshop . . .
What are you reading?
. . as a kid I ready Hardy Boys (had the whole series!), now I love biographies. Mostly work related reading. No Easy Day by Mark Owen (about U.S. Navy Seals who got Bin Laden).
. . . work, my Silverado truck. But for fun, only on sunny days with no chance of rain, my 1973 TR6
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