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Omaha Beach. The next time you are tempted to feel sorry for yourself because your GM teed off on you, your skittish customer vanished into thin air (sans T.O.) after a demo ride, or you had to split a monster gross commission with a know nothing newbie who appeared to have used the film 10,000 B.C. as a sales training video and as a fashion guide, take a deep breath to regain your perspective.
Repeat the words "Omaha Beach" a few times, and thank the Good Lord that you are not wading ashore (today) into a hail of fast moving metal projectiles that felled many brave Americans on a bleak, late Spring day during June of 1944. The courageous men buried in a massive cemetery located above the beaches at Normandy, France, did not disembark from their landing craft years ago to buy Egg McMuffins for their sales teams at Mickey D’s or to treat their buddies to Denny’s Grand Slam breakfasts because last month’s used car gross was way, way up. No, their mission on that fateful day was to make a voluntary ultimate sacrifice so that you and I could be free today to banter back and forth on line about exciting web trends and to face with optimism the numerous challenges of a rapidly changing car business and a turbulent world economy.
My late father, then U.S. Army Major Stuart Ferris, did the Omaha Beach boogie, survived unscathed, and fought his way across Belgium and France into Germany until the enemy surrendered. As I look at Dad’s photos, many taken in the Ardennes Forest during the infamous Battle of the Bulge, I am amazed at his smiling countenance and at the smiles on the faces of his fellow soldiers. Under often horrific conditions, Dad and his resilient comrades knew what had to be done and they just did it.
Defeat was not a word in my Dad’s vocabulary, and he always reminded me that attitude was the critical first step on the bumpy road to eventual victory. I watched and marveled through the years as my Dad, propelled by a relentlessly positive attitude and an infectious smile, shrugged off mistakes, missteps and seemingly insurmountable problems. He just kept moving forward with dogged determination to achieve his dual objectives: taking superb care of his beloved family and making thousands of friends along the way.
Dad passed away before the epic film “Saving Private Ryan” was released. I wept unashamedly as I watched the harrowing, opening scenes of that movie. I kept repeating the phrase, “Oh, Dad!” quietly in my mind, as the carnage of the D-Day invasion was depicted on the screen in brutally realistic fashion. What my Dad and his fellow artillerymen must have seen probably defies description. But the chaos and sadness encountered at Omaha Beach during June 1944 never framed my Dad’s view of the limitless possibilities of life. Dad’s greatness was in his ability to combine his upbeat attitude, his deep love of family, friends, neighbors, customers and complete strangers, and his intellectual acumen to form an unbeatable approach to life, and, in the end, to death.
It should come as no surprise to readers of this essay that my Dad excelled during his 40 year long sales career and received numerous accolades for outstanding performance in his chosen profession. His strong faith helped to mitigate the fear he must have felt at Omaha Beach during June of 1944, but the hard lessons he learned about fate on that same beach only served to make him dig that much deeper to love his fellow man even more. As an unintended consequence of how my Dad lived and loved, he always had his "game face" on. 24 x 7. Long before the age of the worldwide web, facebook, myspace and twitter, Dad was what one might call a “pre-web 1.0” expert in social networking.
(Side note to Dad up above on high: the way you chose to live, the way you were prepared to die selflessly for your fellow Americans long ago, the way you never surrendered when facing adversity, the way you always loved and helped those less fortunate than you, in every way, you still impress the heck out of your youngest son. Yes, Dad, you were, are and always will be my number one hero.)
O.K. now, car guys and gals, “on line commandos” one and all, ask yourselves, what’s your personal Omaha Beach? Take stock of your lives, analyze your current “crisis of the moment” that has you wanting to start cursing and spouting negativity, and then whisper “Omaha Beach” and consider not only what happened at that now historic site during June of 1944, but reflect on an Omaha Beach event in your own life that you faced and survived to breathe and live another fantastic day. Because all of your days in sales are indeed fantastic, regardless of the immediate outcome. (If you do not believe me, feel free to ask my Dad via a silent prayer.)
Still stressed out? Think momentarily of your own Omaha Beach, smile at your current good fortune, gather your inner strength, and then move forward with confidence to embrace what will surely become a better day for you and for everyone around you, including your valued customers. Who knows? One of those customers might even be Private Ryan’s grandson who has been waiting for years to be saved from a retail sales world full of cynics by a consummately courteous, ethical and honorable sales professional … you!
Christopher Ferris c 603.233.8759 firstname.lastname@example.org