If you're familiar with our managing partners, you'll know that - things just have a way of working out. We managed to sneak in some time with Socksmith partner, Cassandra, to find out a little bit more about how she got to the position she is in today...
Q. "Can you tell us a bit about your background, and how you started your career as a sales rep?"
C. "I started my outside sales career as a sales representative for an incredible Danish fashion accessory company. They wanted a person who was not a seasoned sales representative as they wanted to train the person to their “culture” of selling. It was a great experience, and since the job involved almost 100% cold-calling, it helped me develop a level of comfort with approaching buyers and presenting product.
Several years later when the company started to fade, the Sales Manager that hired me who had since moved on, contacted me and offered me a sales job with a Japanese sock company. He told me that this brand had incredible machinery that could produce socks with great colorful designs that no one else was doing at the time, and that they were on fire. I had absolutely zero enthusiasm when he offered me the job and I was ready to pass up the opportunity. He convinced me to at least meet with him to discuss the opportunity. When I arrived at our meeting he had a whole collection of colorful unique socks laid out for me to look at. While I thought the socks were unique, not being a sock person myself it was all I could do to not yawn in front of him. I showed no enthusiasm, so he gave me a generous offer if I agreed to try selling the socks for one month. He said if things did not work out there would be no hard feelings. I decided to give it a try…what did I have to lose? So, out I went to sell, and boy was I shocked!
The reaction was joyful and enthusiastic. This brand really was a pioneer in the sock world in those days with a new concept (at least new in the US), and with socks that were knit on intricate machines that were not yet in the US. I knew that I had found my niche, and the world of socks became my passion from a career standpoint."
Q. "What were some of the challenges you faced when you started your career and also some of the highlights?"
C. "Strangely enough, my greatest challenge was finding sock companies that had longevity, and also integrity. So many sock brands come and go and often they do not know how to effectively run a business. I quickly developed my own requirements for what I wanted in any sock line that I represented.
If I found the right line then selling the socks was always a joyful experience for me. It is true that if you find your passion for something, then your first reward is the happiness that you get doing it each day. If you devote the required energy to that passion the financial rewards will often follow."
Q. "What made you partner with the Gils and take such a risk by joining them with Socksmith?"
C. "I met the Gils at a trade show. They had just opened their first store, and it was so much fun working with them as I could see that they were really enthusiastic and excited about their new venture.
There were very few sock stores back then, but there was something very special about them and I knew that if anyone could make a go of the business it would be them. I watched their brand grow steadily over the years, and really admired how they operated. I also admired them on a personal level.
Over time, the sock brand that I represented started asking my opinion and for me to advise on sock related decisions. I realized that maybe I should start thinking about the sock business in a different way beyond just being a sales representative.
The seed was planted in mind that I should start exploring opportunities at a different level. When I returned home one day and there was a phone message from Eric regarding a possible partnership, I did not hesitate to explore what that would mean. It never really occurred to me that I was taking any sort of risk when we finalized our partnership. I knew it would take a lot of hard work and time, but I felt that Eric, Ellen, and I were on the same level. We were all willing to do what was necessary to make the business viable."
Q. "If someone wanted to be an independent sales rep and came to you for advice, what advice would you give?"
C. "To make sure they have the patience and a true desire to make this their profession. They should be prepared to keep themselves above water financially until they get to the level that they need, to be self-sufficient.
I would advise them to do some research on the companies that they are contemplating representing - how long have they been in business, what is their reputation among their sales reps, and what do their buyers think of them?
Finally, trust your instincts with the people that run the company as well as the product that you would be selling for them. If they have been in business for a while, what is their rate of turn-over for sales reps. Talk to other sales reps for the company if you can, and listen to what they say."
Q. "What's your best memory of working with your accounts over the years and would you change anything?"
C. "It has been very fulfilling working with so many store owners that I have gotten to know over the years. I wouldn't change anything, as what you do and what you learn is all part of the experience of living.
If I do something that is not particularly smart, to me that is an experience that I will learn from that will benefit me going forward. Unless you do something illegal, harmful, or inconsiderate toward another individual, you should not live your life with regret as you cannot change the past even if you want to."