"The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively." -- Bob Marley
I received the call from my brother Gary on Thursday, November 20, at approximately 3 p.m.: "Dad has cancer."
I quickly cancelled a client dinner that evening. As I pondered whether my father would like to have some company, my mobile phone rang and the caller ID read "Mom and Dad." I picked up the phone expecting it to be my mom calling with the somber news, but instead my dad's voice blurted out enthusiastically, "How you doing, kid?" as if he had just closed his biggest deal or won the lottery. Before he could say anything else, I let him know I was on my way over for a visit.
As I thought about our conversation that evening, even though he had just received news that would stun most of us, he had a positive outlook. My dad, Andy Anderson, was a superstar salesperson in his career, and his positive attitude was critically important as he experienced the ups and downs that anyone in the selling profession experiences. I wrote about my dad in some detail in my book, Reignite: How to Rekindle Your Passion for Selling. Andy worked straight commission selling pianos and organs for Schmitt Music Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was featured in industry magazines and even had his smiling mug on a full-page advertisement on the back of the Minneapolis Orchestra program for an entire season.
Here is what I believe are some of the qualities that made Andy a top performer in his profession:
Attitude: As mentioned earlier, Andy didn't let outside circumstances impact his attitude at work. Of course, it didn't hurt to have a strong wife who dealt with the daily challenges that came up raising five kids so he could focus on what he did best: selling. But even his attitude regarding his diagnosis tells you more about the kind of person he is. He is positive and an individual people want to be around. He always has a smile on his face and enthusiastically greets you because he is genuinely glad to see you.
Integrity: His customers trusted him because he had their best interest at heart. That included getting them to commit to the purchase. He once had a reluctant customer, who came to the store every day and looked at the same Steinway grand piano but just couldn't commit to parting with his money. One day the customer came to play the piano, but there was a "sold" sign on it. The customer told Andy how disappointed he was that his favorite piano had been sold. Andy told him to look at whose name was on the sold tag. It was the customer's name, and he didn't hesitate to finally sign the paperwork. Trusting relationships help customers make the right decision.
Competiveness: The people he worked with called him "Animal" Andy. When the company announced a new incentive trip, my dad did everything in his power to win that trip. I don't recall that he ever missed a trip in his more than forty years of selling. By winning these contests, he traveled the world to places like London, Japan, Rome, Hawaii, Spain. And when my mother tired of going on the trips, he took his kids. (I was fortunate to go with him to both Hawaii and Japan at the expense of Schmitt Music.)
Fitness: Andy had polio when he was a teenager, and the doctors said he would never walk again. Through will, determination, and lots of prayer, he did walk again. When he was strong enough, he spent his time building his body up through exercise and weight lifting. He often exclaimed, "If I can whip them, I can sell them." To this day, this 82-year-old can be found working out at the gym at least twice a week. He realized if you are going to work hard, you have to be physically up to the challenge.
Hard work: Andy worked retail hours, always taking Friday as his day off. As kids, all my brothers and sisters knew not to come directly home from school on Friday or risk being part of Dad's work detail (whether it was yard work or some other chore he made up). He loved to work and was most joyous when he was working (he also thought everyone else should love it, too). When he was at work, he worked like there was no tomorrow. During slow periods at the store, he did his own marketing, writing letters to prospects or picking up the phone and making calls. He always kept busy. He didn't get paid if he didn't sell something. One of the greatest gifts I received from my parents was a strong work ethic and the understanding that sometimes you just need to outwork the competition.
Dedication: Andy was committed to God, his family, and his employer. He had our collective backs. He didn't waiver in his faith and commitment to his Christian values. He didn't shortchange his company and rarely took a sick day in his entire career. He was committed to his wife of over 50 years and his children, who love him dearly.
Lastly was his attention to detail: Andy always wanted to look his best even down to the smallest detail of freshly shined shoes. He wore tailored suits and pressed shirts. He looked and felt successful -- and that is how he performed.
Andy Anderson did what he loved -- selling pianos and organs -- but he would have been successful in any career he chose based upon his personal qualities and who he is, "The Animal."
P.S. We just found out today that the cancer is stage 1 and treatable. We are all thankful!