When I was thirteen, my first job was selling newspaper subscriptions. It seemed easier than delivering papers so I signed up. The idea was to knock on doors and sign up people for a newspaper subscription for home delivery. After a week of knocking on doors and not getting one new account, I wanted to quit. It was time to learn how to cope with initial failures!

What Happens When We Fail?

When we fail we have a basic choice – quit or keep going. The person who helped me in coping with initial failure was M.S. Van Hecke. My father took the time to listen to what I was saying to people. Since he worked at the Charlotte Observer as an editor, Dad had a deep love for journalism. Pop said that my message was wrong. It’s not about home delivery – it’s about the coupons and how a newspaper can help educate families. I said, “Whoa- that wasn’t in the manual.”

Young Charlie discouraged after first sales calls

Young Charlie initially felt discouraged after making door to door sales calls

Coping With Initial Failures

We pulled all the coupons out of the Sunday paper and put the best ones on cardboard paper.Then, we cut out articles about current events and glued them to the other side of the paper. Dad said that in my message, I should stress how much money could be saved every week by just taking the coupons to the store. Then I should explain how families could help their kids in school by reading and talking about stories in the newspaper. This helps in coping with the initial failure by preparing to go back into the market with new skills and tools.

What Happens When We Use Benefits?

The next day, I was little nervous. It was a Saturday and my manager would soon be pulling up in the van. Dad asked me, “So you go to each  house and knock – right?” I replied “Yes – he takes us to neighborhoods and drops us off.” My father said, “That  takes guts to go door-to-door.” As I was leaving, he handed me the coupons and articles and said something I remember to this day, “Take it one house at a time.” That afternoon, I returned triumphantly with eight subscriptions! “Dad – it worked!” I showed him my book of business, and he said, “You seem surprised!” Well, I was surprised and amazed. I did as well or better than the rest of the team. Dad asked, “What was different today?” I bubbled over about …how people liked saving money and how most parents really did not think about the newspapers as a way to help educate their children.

So, what happened here? You can see how fortunate I was to have a father who cared. He helped me in coping with initial sales failures by Dad re-focused me on one house at a time. My efforts were on helping people buy more with less money and to make their children smarter. If no leadership had been provided, I would not have had a good experience. I would have simply stopped selling. Instead, I fell in love with selling and have dedicated my life to learning every aspect of it. It is no mystery then why I enjoy being in sales. I also help others when I can to pay it forward.


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