Every July, at my company’s North American Business Summit, we do a couple of things: kick off the new fiscal year in deep discussions about the state of our business in both large and small groups during the day, then get wasted at night complaining about everything we did during the day, and do throughout the year. It’s a roller coaster of beer and wine, hotel food buffets, and sitting for hours at a time, something sales people do not like doing.
Last summer’s meeting was held at the Trump National Doral Miami resort. Upon arrival, you check in at a white marble-floored lobby, every fixture polished gold, the attendants polite and warm, a picture of their boss, Mr. Trump, hanging behind their shoulders. Shortly after, you’re whisked away in a golf cart, and taken to your building, named for a famous golfer. Mine was Bobby Jones, co-founder of the Master Tournament. Jones’s likeness, like that of Trump’s all over the rest of the hotel, was visible on the hallway walls as large framed prints. Jones at the tee box, Jones on the fairway, Jones holding trophies, Jones in the rain. All of them a reminder of Jones’s contribution to the sport, his vacant eyes staring back from the black and white.
My hotel room was, like the rest of the property, ornate with gold fixtures and marble, a deep tub (no gold toilet) and proper branding everywhere. Trump shampoo, Trump soap, Trump lotion. Our lunches and receptions were held in a large circular ball room that over looked the sprawling golf course. One morning, I had tried to run the perimeter of said golf course, but hit a dead end and ended up running off the property, quickly learning that the Doral was surrounded by a rather bland part of town, flirting with sketchiness. It wasn’t actually in Miami either. After my run, I grabbed tea and some fruit in the cafe, and ate in a quiet dining area where Trump looked down on me from the various magazine covers on which he has appeared.
I admit the stay was fine, though it had taken every fiber in my being to boycott the meeting in the first place. The hotel staff, mostly African-American and/or Latino, and definitely foreign-born workers, were as nice as could be. And the food was quite delicious. What troubled me wasn’t the resort itself, but what happened to me there on Awards Night.
The President’s Circle Awards Dinner is our version of the Oscar’s. Everyone dresses to the nines, stands around schmoozing at happy hour, then settles in for an evening of several courses with more wine, tongue-in-cheek entertainment performed by our most ebullient fellow employees, followed by the eventual distribution of performance trophies: thick, upstanding glass wedges etched with your name and the corresponding recognition.
In the run-up to the annual sales meeting, I had been at the top of my division’s leader board, holding steady for several months the highest performance rank for both of our team’s promoted products. When the numbers were released every six weeks, I had jockeyed around second and third with a couple of other sales reps, but in those few weeks before our southeastward migration, just before the sales analysts went dark with the last “for-publication” data, I was back in top position. I would, at the very least, be on the main stage for the Awards Dinner, an opportunity I had missed the prior year coming in at fourth place. Only the top three per division are awarded and permitted to walk on stage to shake the President’s hand, something I had never done.
I didn’t win. In fact, two other reps, both of whom hadn’t been ranked in the top three had ascended to second and third in those final weeks, the reported data catching up to them in their favor, not mine. I was the biggest loser.
At the after party, where everyone danced with people not their spouses, and when the company let a little free liquor flow in the form of a pre-mixed cocktail, I turned and left. I just couldn’t stay. The loss had somehow hit me a little too hard.
I had always said that I don’t work for trophies, but this one stung. I suppose because the two guys who moved up the ranks had been with the company for only a short time, one of them, though a nice guy and one I could relate to, he and I about the same age and with young children, was your typical salesman, more concerned with making his quota by any means possible. Jack hadn’t invested the heart and soul that I had for almost thirteen years. Where I was “Conscientious” as divined from the DiSC communication profiling exercise, he was Dominant with a capital D. That, plus, it was the first year that the company decided to publish stack rankings and share them with the sales team. To see myself at the top for so long, admittedly, had affirmed for me that I was not only doing right by my job, but right by the company in selling its products in such a way that I would, at last, be regarded as a winner.
2016 was an awakening year. One in which I realized I was Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman. The gig just wasn’t me anymore, and I wasn’t good at it, as per the judgement of my company. Add to that, the impending election in which my doomed candidate, like me, didn’t enter the President’s Circle.
Fast forward to this very moment, a few weeks after our scaled-down, more subdued winter business meeting. This time, in Atlanta, ironically at the Omni Hotel at the CNN World Headquarters. I’ve been holding my head high, quietly working on my exit strategy from this career path, and this company. A company that lauds the new President, casually dropping his campaign slogan in presentations as though it were a product in and of itself.
To hear co-workers angrily defend Trump, that the military and law enforcement are going to be “so much better” under him, or how they went on last summer at the Doral, when The Donald made a brief visit to the resort via helicopter, just a few days before we arrived, or how they gawked at his $10,000 self-portrait in the Champions Bar and Grill at the resort, the one that was allegedly paid for by his own charity foundation, is enough to send me packing.
I’m not one of them. Never have been. Those of us whom have admitted to being with her are like a little underground club, whispering our displeasure into each other’s ears at meetings and meals. We are a small off-shoot of The Resistance.
I can’t stay here; I know this is true. I need to find my people. But while I’m still with this company, I’m going to do one thing for my internal counterparts: keep my cool. And as for my day-to-day job, where I am the face of my company, armed with the same skill set as our President Donald Trump, I am going to show my customers why I am the most qualified, educated, and intelligent representative. I don’t intend to sell them on false ideas and empty hopes. I don’t plan to incite fear in them. I will not pretend to be anything I am not.