An oldie worth repeating: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
Being successful in sales takes a lot of hard work, dedication and downright stubbornness. It takes working long hours, and being prepared, after all nothing good just falls into your lap…or does it? I am about to tell you a true story. Yes, this story is true, but it is also so amazing that even though it happened to me, I sometimes have a hard time believing it myself.
The year was 1975, I was working for Rockwell International’s Maine Electronics in Lisbon, Maine. I had just been promoted into what was called contract administration, which was really the sales department. Being the newbie in that department, it was my job to handle the “in house programs” like Minuteman. and F-111. I had just completed the huge annual Minuteman quotation. and did not have much to do. So, my boss suggested that I do an inventory of finished goods.
This mean going over to the finished goods cage, taking out all the boards for a customer, bringing them back to my desk, and listing that customer’s boards by part number, revision, date code, and quantity. This was all done by hand, since this was in the pre desk computer days in fact pre computerized inventory days. The boss told me to start with some of the oldest boards, and work my way to the newest ones. The oldest boards I found, had now actually been built by Rockwell, they had been built by the company that Rockwell had purchased three years before, the original company on that site, a company called Maine Research.
The first box of boards I brought to my desk were for a company called Norsk Data Electronik (Coded NDE) and they were almost five years old. In fact, Rockwell had never built any boards for NDE, the boards had been built by Maine Research. this is important to my story, because no one had heard from this Norwegian company in years.
As I start sorting the boards, laying out the wrapped bundles on my desk, my phone rang. When I picked it the voice on the other end of the phone said. “Hello, my name is Aage Nord and I am calling from Norsk Data in Oslo, Norway”. I was so stunned I didn’t speak and first, so he said, “hello, hello, is anyone there?” I told him I was that yes, I was there and after a few niceties, I asked how I could help him? And he said this, “ A few years ago we had some P.C. Boards built by Maine Research, and we are hoping you might still have some in stock” As he said this, I was looking at ten or so stacks of NDE boards! I said,” Yes Mr. Nord we do, which ones do you need?”
Now he must have been really floored because it took him a good twenty seconds to answer. And when he did, he said, “You do, really? This is unbelievable! I am looking for PN 12463-A, do you have any of those in stock?”
I could tell that by now, he was not believing this was happening so easily. And I really floored him when I said, “ Yes Mr. Nord, I have twenty pieces right here that I can send to you today.” There was a long silence again, because I’m sure that he thought I was lying to him. Remember these were pre-computer days and even with a modern 21st century computer, I would not have been able to answer so quickly.
“Are you sure?” He asked quietly after gaining his composure.
“Yes sir, I have them right here on my desk.” At this point even I was amazed at how this was happening.
Then he said, “That’s wonderful, and you can ship them today?”
“Yes sir, I can, how do you want them shipped?”
He gave me the details of how he wanted them shipped, and then he asked me if we could build more boards for him. He said they had just invented a new mini-computer, they were unhappy with their European suppliers and he wanted to know if we could build a family of ten new part numbers in two weeks. He would come with the artwork and help us.
Without batting an eye, I said that we could. At this point the story was so amazing that I was confident that I could talk the powers that be, into making this happen, even though at that time, we shipped nothing in two weeks. But I felt that this story was so cool, that they would jump at the opportunity…and they did.
A week later Aage Nord came to the U.S. It was such a big deal, that my boss and I picked him up at Logan drove him to Maine. We spent the next two weeks with him, building his boards, and becoming great friends.
The rest of the story is that he insisted that I come to Norway to visit his company. Which I did for a week each summer for the next five years while his company did nearly a million dollars a year with us during those years. In all they did about five million dollars with us and were our largest non-Rockwell customer. Sometimes, you just get lucky. It’s only common sense.