Brian Chase: Invest Back in the Company

I recently had a chance to ask some of my old friends and reps to contribute a guest article to my blog. “What do you want us to write about?” they asked. “How about something you’ve learned in our years working together?” I said. This week’s article is from my friend, Brian Chase.

While I’ve met a lot of businesspeople over my career, I can count on two hands the number of business partners who were concerned with doing what was right and ethical in any situation. And I always paid attention to the lessons they taught me, whether they told me outright or I just quietly observed the lessons they were modeling.

I always paid attention to the business lessons from my different mentors and partners, and David Marshall was one of those people. I appreciated how he was always open to hearing anyone’s input. He may not have agreed with it, but he listened to it and acknowledged your ideas.

Brian ChaseI was very fortunate early in my career to have a mentor who was very similar to David in his philosophy of running a successful business. When I bought his company many years later I followed his philosophies.

I can even list the most important lessons I learned, the ones I relate to my own employees and even my family.

  1. Don’t lie.
  2. Be fair and ethical.
  3. Don’t ever burn a bridge.
  4. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
  5. It only costs a little more to go first class!
  6. Hire good people, pay them well and invest in their future.
  7. Most importantly, don’t get greedy. Invest back in the company.

Item #8 — Invest back in the company — was an important one. The guy I worked for always told me, “don’t get greedy when you start making some money. Put money or effort back into the business so you can grow it.”

When fax machines first came out, this same guy bought 10 of them, and he gave one to each salesman and said, “go to your best customer, explain how this works, and then give it to them.” They all started using them to talk to the company, which ended up being a real time saver.

At that time, our main customers were electrical distributors and they had seen fax machines, but never used them. But they would also spend an hour on the phone giving us a 70-line order. Now they were able to print out their orders and faxing them to us. It probably won us some business, since we were making it easier for them to place an order — they could order products in minutes, not an hour.

Seeing successes like that, I put that same kind of money into training my staff and me when I became the owner. David was very good at that as well, and I appreciated what he and his company, Robroy, did in creating their Corrosion College for end users, salespeople, and industrial experts.

I also remember when my old boss told me, “Brian, it doesn’t cost that much more to go first class.” That didn’t just mean flying first class or staying in expensive hotels. It meant giving everyone a first class experience. I’m sure you’ve heard of David’s legendary parties for his manufacturer’s reps. He did that in everything he did. If he would entertain or train people, he didn’t skimp on taking care of his employees or his reps.

He paid us commission to sell his product, so he took care of those who did their job very well, with bonuses and things like that. A lot of it wasn’t necessary, but he thanked people for their efforts. A lot of manufacturers had a “what have you done for me lately,” but David remembered, and treated us well, so we would keep doing it.

I was in the electrical rep business for 30 years, and Robroy was probably my favorite manufacturer to work for, all thanks to David Marshall. I had lines that did more business than his, but I liked Robroy best. I asked him questions about opinions, like personnel, and he would help me quite a bit. My own business philosophy comes from what I learned from my own mentor and David Marshall.

Photo credit: Brian Chase (Used with permission)

Author: David Marshall
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.