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In Chicago, it’s Hustle or Die

Saturday night, Jet Blue dropped me off at a gate in Logan airport. My kind wife navigated though a chaotic mass of cars and cops with whistles to pick me up.

The past few days have been spent stretching my legs on the streets of Chicago, where you learn quickly that the beverage industry is brutal.  Fifty other salespeople are knocking on the same doors as you. Brands shift without warning.  People won’t waste a stamp on an envelope, so you plan

your routes by where the checks need to be collected.  The parking meters disappeared.  If you used to be able to park for an hour for 50 cents it now costs three or four times as much, neighborhood depending, with fat cats pocketing a chunk. During the winter, you might have to wade across the street and up a block, through a foot of snow, to access one of the new pay boxes.

In Chicago, it’s hustle or die.

That’s why I picked a company to work with that hustles: Stoller.  For instance, they lost a major liquor brand, of which they had sold hundreds of thousands of cases and had built into a third of their total business.  One salesman told me he took a $30,000 pay cut the day he lost that brand.  The company hustled, what else could they do?, and picked up other brands.  The salesman hustled, using his relationships to replace the lost product with his new brands.  In one year, both the company and the salesman made up all of their losses.

Clown Shoes, right now, has been received well for a few reasons: there is some buzz about the brand, we are putting our hearts into making a quality product, and the Stoller team have been doing their jobs.  They talked to their customers about Clown Shoes before it arrived.  Now that cases are in the warehouse again they are making placements in logical spots.

On Friday, I had a chance to sit and chat with one of the owners, Randy Stoller, before addressing his sales staff.  Randy is a sharp man, and from what I hear a pretty good poker player.  We talked a little poker.  He said he will set up a game for the next time I work the market with his sales force, then he took me to his office and gave me this awesome Big Al’s Premium Vodka Casino and Speakeasy(thank you, Randy!):

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