If you were around in the early 80′s and stumbled across me as a child you would have come to the conclusion that there would have been no way someone like myself could ever succeed in life let alone a career in the field of sales. I was a troubled child from a poor family living in a duplex in Lowell Massachusetts, my mother working as a waitress at a Howard Johnson’s and my father pumping gas while trying to complete school. I was your typical kid; however everybody around me saw an out of control hyperactive wild child. If psychotropic drugs came PEZ flavored my PEZ dispenser would have had a giant “R” for Ritalin while everyone else had Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. To make it all worse the Ritalin that I was prescribed was causing me to have a seizure disorder. Throughout my entire childhood all the way up through high school I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy, even though looking back it was clear as day that it was caused by the medication I was taking at the time to keep me anchored. I have no medical evidence to back this claim up; however the moment I stopped taking the Ritalin so did the seizures. Don’t worry I’m getting to my point. Growing up on the rough side of Lowell Massachusetts was tough in itself then you add a seizure disorder and learning/ behavioral problems to boot growing up is not exactly going to be a lot of fun. Scholastically I was a mess, scoring in the lowest levels when it came to any math, reading comprehension or standardized testing.
In my earlier years the schools did not have a clue as to where to put me. I remember sharing classrooms with children with Downs Syndrome and speech impediments. That’s no hyperbole, I really did! If you were to put all of these short comings in a big soup can and stick it on the store shelves it would be called “FAILURE IN A CAN”. There were certain realities I needed to face about my educational abilities, I simply learned differently than other kids. This was a fact that I did not want to accept; I spent most of my childhood and teenage years refusing to accept it and desperately trying to change it only to see myself fail time and time again. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t escape the behavioral and learning traits that came along with an attention deficit disorder.
After high school I really wanted to go to college and try to make something of myself. I wanted desperately to break the mold of who I was going into my adult years. I had a lot of doubters around me, too many to count then again I didn’t exactly prove to anyone either that I was capable of doing anything constructive. Again, being stubborn and rebellious I refused to accept that mold and sought to reinvent myself. I started going to school part-time at Rivier College that first semester after high school. I could only afford to take two classes so I did and got two “B” grades. I took those B grades and I applied for Plymouth State College now Plymouth State University and was quickly rejected. I guess you could say my next move would have been my first field sales call. I took my two “B” grades got in my car and drove to Plymouth State College unannounced and forced myself into a meeting with the head of admissions. Not sure if I could pull that off today, however surprisingly my ambition paid off somehow during our exchange I was able to pull a Jedi mind trick on the guy and convinced him to admit me as a full-time student. I tried the best I could, however my grades were mediocre at best and my finances were becoming grimmer. Three years into my college experience I made a decision to take a year off and pay off some bills fully intending of course to return and finish. I did everything I could to stay in school; I even ended up having my car repossessed in the process.
During that “year off” I was working two jobs one waiting on tables while the other working part-time at a youth detention center. I was working out at the gym one day and a gentleman that I ran into all the time sold cars for a living at a Volvo dealership. He always drove around in a fancy new Volvo and I thought it was great that he had a new car every other week and seemed to be making a boat load of money doing it; well it was a boat load to me at the time. That was when I started to consider getting into car sales but I wasn’t quite sure how to do it. So I combed the newspapers for dealerships that were looking for sales people. It was the mid 90′s and the country was coming out of a recession so finding dealerships that were looking for sales people were fairly easy. I was so excited to have interviews lined up, had no I idea what I would say or do but boy was I excited. Interview after interview in my Dockers, Button Down Oxford and thin Oak-Tree tie was told thanks but no thanks. They all wanted someone with experience, I was a little disappointed to say the least.
While I was working at the local Country Club I stumbled across an ad from a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in town looking for a sales person. At this point I was ready to just give up but I drummed up enough motivation to pick up the phone and inquire about the job. I dialed the number and it turned out that the general manager picked up the phone. Without missing a beat I said “I saw your ad in the paper, I have no experience and never sold cars before. The only thing I’ve ever sold was a bottle wine. So far nobody wants to talk to me, so I don’t want to waste your time. Is it worth me coming in and filling out an application?” If having the worst pitch for a job was an Olympic sport I would’ve gotten the gold-medal that day. Something was different this time though. The person on the other end of the phone paused for a moment and said “OK…. hmmm… Leigh you know what selling cars is no different than selling a bottle of wine or a fancy meal; it’s just on a bigger plate. Come on in!“
Whoa, what just happened? Did I just land an interview? Yes, yes I did and here was where the roller coaster of my career began…