Business Lessons I Learned in the 80s that Are Still Invaluable Today

Sound business advice from the eighties still applies today…Why? Because it was common sense then and it is common sense now!

Two business executives that impressed and influenced me in the eighties were Mr. Mo Strachan, Vice-President of Sales for Toshiba and Mr. Logan Forsythe, Promotions Manager for General Foods. Both of them were legends in their respective companies and although they were very different in their style and management, both men were blessed with the very real and precious gift of common sense.

Two men, two success stories

During the early eighties, we were experiencing an economic depression and business was quite frankly— lousy. I was working as an account executive for a small promotions agency. One day the owner and I received a call to meet with Mr. Mo Strachan in his office, which was unusual because most of our business dealings were with the Advertising Manager. We attended the meeting in Mr. Strachan’s office and it felt like all doom and gloom. We expected that he may have learned through his dealer network that Sony — a major competitor, was planning to jump-start sales with a big television campaign. Everyone believed the economy was poised to come out of the recession and wanted to take advantage of consumers becoming more positive. At this point, we wondered why we were called in because we produced their point of sales (POS) and some promotional items, while a big agency handled all the television ads. Mr. Strachan went on to explain that they couldn’t match what Sony was planning to spend on TV ads; therefore, his plan was to, “Let Sony get the consumer into the stores with their massive TV campaign and we will take over the stores with major POS campaigns.”

With lit and motion displays extolling the virtues of Toshiba and its in-home television theatre systems, we did effectively take over the audio stores we were in. Toshiba’s sales soared at a fraction of what Sony spent on their campaign and proved that properly executed POS works – in addition to being very cost effective.

Now we turn to the marketing and sales lesson I learned from General Foods’ Logan Forsythe. General Foods was launching a new coffee and another agency was handling the television ads and the promotions, while the printing company I was representing was contracted to produce the point of sale displays for various grocery chains across Canada.

One day I was in Mr. Forsythe’s office for artwork approval and I said to him directly, “Mr. Forsythe, you are spending a lot of money on these POS displays and posters. How are you going to ensure that the retail grocery stores will put them up?” He replied, “I could care less if any of it gets up.”

“Pardon?” I said. He went on to explain, “What you have to understand is this: our sales people are regularly visiting the same buyers. Now after a couple of calls what are they going to talk about? The weather? The real purpose of this promotion or any promotion for that matter is to give our salesmen something to get excited about and talk about other than the weather. When you give the sales people something exciting to present, the enthusiasm catches on with your buyer and everyone gets excited about the promotion and this results in an increase in sales. You never want a bored salesperson and a bored buyer because that is a recipe for failure and lagging sales.”

The results proved successful. The displays were put up and the sales soared.

Two business legends and two valuable lessons in common sense that still stand the test of time.


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