Annals of Sales: The Silver Fox

August 2, 2010 at 7:31 AM | Posted in Business, Sales | 3 Comments

I was close to ending my 5 year tenure at Burroughs in 1979, after I had moved to the Westchester New York Branch in Mamaroneck, when an almost retired Bill Murray came down from Boston to fill-in while a  new Branch Manager was found for our office, ours having just decided to move on. He had a full head of wavy silver hair, wore crisp white shirts and always, a blue suit.

I was the sales manager for this small Branch and Bill took me under his wing. He was at the end and I was at the beginning and he liked to talk and I was happy to listen. He particularly liked to go to dinner at the Fenimore Cooper Inn on the Boston Post Road, a venerable restaurant then, and he would always begin with a cocktail and a friendly wink to the waitress. He had been with Burroughs for a thousand years.

I asked him, in our last dinner together, what were the most important things he had learned. He took a pull of his drink and laughed and said “Tommy, all my best boys told me that they loved working for me but when they had an offer of more money, they always took it. Can’t say I blame them. They had families to support.”

After a pause, he told me something that I have never forgotten and yet haven’t learned: “Every time I think I’ve got this business licked, that because of all my experience I don’t have to focus on the basics anymore, I get my butt kicked.”

Truer words were never spoken.


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  1. For all the great Dylan content in your blog the last couple of days, these old Burroughs tales are my favorites. I remember Steve Maddox and (I think) Jennifer Yates talking about the Burroughs days and I loved hearing it. I keep thinking I want that now…the hand-to-hand combat with a three martini chaser. It’s funny, but I think that’s what my old ASK stories sounded like to the guys who worked for me the last few years.

    • I’m glad you enjoy them. It was interesting writng this last one, not because the subject was not intereting to me but because it was my first after having literally 1000 blog hits to my Dylan posts. I generally average 45 or so a day. There was a run on my bookstore. Now, you are to thank for that but I have to admit it was a heady feeling.

      In reading about these other great Dylan concerts I feel like I’ve missed something.

      • I am not to thank except for knowing that was full of folks interested in reading your post. This is an area that is of great interest to me (maybe of greater interest than all things Bob!). There is an audience for everything. Another time, we can talk about why this is not always great but the magic of the internet is that through the miracle of search engines, you can find exactly what you want. Dylan, sales, ceramic cat heads, whatever. In ‘the old days’, we had to cast a broad net. We’d subscribe to Rolling Stone hoping there would be a photo, story or interview that would shed light on a band or performer we liked. Now, there is no need for that.
        If you find the right places to link your blog, there’s not reason you can’t have 300+ hits everyday.

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