If you've been following our blog, you'll know that we've been taking the time to get to know our colleagues a little better. This week we sat down with Hank - Director of Operations, former sales rep, life of the party, and KING of dad jokes. If you've called us, you've probably spoken to him. And if you haven't, well we encourage you to do so...
Q. “You’re our Director of Operations here at Socksmith, but tell us about how you began your career as a sales rep?”
HT: “I began my life as a sales rep in 1981 when I was twenty-five years old. I had been working part time at a Fleet Feet store in Chico, California, and I was introduced to a man named Mal Hetzer, who had a successful rep agency based out of Santa Cruz. It took me a year of calling him once a month, asking him if there were any openings, and finally he gave me a shot. The first three lines I represented were Moving Comfort, a performance apparel brand for men and women called Sub-4 and a small running shoe brand out of England that was just coming out of bankruptcy, called Reebok.”
Q. “How were you able to sustain that business for over thirty years?”
“I built great relationships with my customers. My motto then, and still is - get up, show up and most importantly, follow up. I've always tried throughout my career to take a service approach when working with retailers. If there was a way to help their business, I did.
I was also fortunate because I represented many incredibly successful brands early on, and not only early in my career, but early for the brand’s infancy. Some of those included Reebok, Champion, Ogio, Straightdown Sportswear, Thorlo, Saucony Originals, Reyn Spooner, Woolrich, Wigwam, Sole, Keen and Kuhl.”
“What were some of the biggest challenges you overcame during your career as a rep?”
HT: “Most of the toughest obstacles I faced were not with my retailers but some of the manufacturer’s policies and the way they conducted their business. Of course, as a rep you can get frustrated when one of your retailers is not taking advantage of your brand's momentum in the marketplace, but ultimately, all you can do is make a recommendation as the final decision is theirs.
I should add, my wife and I had quadruplets so being on the road was challenging at times, simply because there was so much going on at home. I tried to stay very focused and diligent with the way I ran my business, and I was home every night unless I absolutely couldn’t be because of a trade show or something. When we had our fifth child, I threw in the towel to having a personal life and simply never stopped working. I’m kidding of course, but having five kids makes one get their priorities straight, that’s for sure.”
Q: “What were some of the great greatest rewards of being a rep?”
HT: “Every day is different as a sales rep. It's your choice if you're going to set the world on fire with your mad sales skills or lay in bed eating German sausage with sauerkraut. Most days when I left the house, it did not seem like work. I always enjoyed the retailer interaction and when you believe in the products you are representing and know in your heart they are right for a customer, it's an unbeatable combination when presenting to a buyer. For me, it was never really about the money. I know that if I worked hard and did right for the retailers I called on, the compensation would reflect that.”
“After so many years on the road, what made you decide to park your car and get into an office?”
HT: “I would probably still be pounding the pavement as a sales rep were it not for the opportunity to work with Eric and Ellen Gil at Socksmith. I have never met a pair of folks who care as much as they do about their people. They empower them. They make them feel engaged, and they are always striving to be just a little bit better each and every day at what we do. I could go on and on about these two, but they are already pretty full of themselves, so I'll stop for now. Readers - there's also a blog about them!”
Hank doing what he does best at a trade show, 2019 (it was a quiet day!)
“What is your day to day like as Director of Operations at Socksmith?”
HT: “I do a little bit of everything and try to be of service to those who might need a helping hand. I try to prioritize the people and the projects in order of those that need to get done for the right reasons and at the right time. But I’m in meetings when discussing our next plan of attack for product launches, work closely with CS, as well as our accounts to make sure we stay on task with everything that’s going on. And there’s always a lot going on.”
Q: “What advice would you give to someone looking to become a sales rep or an employee of a brand? And give us the benefits and challenges of both?”
HT: “For a sales rep, I would say the best advice I could give would be to do the ordinary, everyday things extraordinarily well and also treat the retailers that you call on as your partners. Go the extra step to make them successful.
The biggest benefit of being a rep is definitely the freedom of being your own boss. But the main challenge of being a rep is being on the road for as many as 20 days in a month during the selling season. It gets tiring.
For an employee of a brand, I would give the advice to try to make a difference each and every day when you come into work. Remember to say thanks to your customers when interacting with them and most importantly, come to work with a smile each day because you believe you’re working for the best company in the world.
Benefits of an employee working for a brand like Socksmith is that you’re always striving to get better through creativity and innovation. It should be noted there are challenges of working with the Director of Operations like myself, who is constantly working his Yugoslavian heritage into his emails and conversations.”
Hank with friend, (part-time) roommate, and colleague - Sean, 2019.
Q: “Finally, what do you miss about being on the road?”
HT: “I miss the interactions with the customers and actually presenting to them. Even though I knew the ins and outs and technical aspects of the products I was presenting, I wanted to see how fun and engaging I could make my presentations. But! I like being home for dinner and only driving 11.3 miles each direction.”
Thank you for reading!
And thanks to Hank for keeping us all in check here at Socksmith.