Know your Variables — Sales advice

Oct 26, 2018 · 5 min read

Know your variables!

I was lucky enough to be surrounded by business from an early age. My Dad started a company with his father a good 35 years ago. They sold household textiles. Originally dealing with factories in the UK (until they all closed down) Then importing their own products from China.

My entire childhood he worked extremely hard and did well for himself and as 1 of his 3 children we benefited with nice holidays and a great upbringing.

We weren’t outrageously wealthy with Bentley’s and Ferrari’s in the drive but we did well.

When you are apart of a family business you have to get stuck in. From an age of around 12 or 13 dad would occasionally take me out of school and give the teachers a lie, like a doctor or a dentist appointment. When really we had a shipment in from China to unload.

He would try and wait until the end of the school day but we got a fine if the container wasn’t unloaded in a 3-hour slot.

From around that age I helped unload 20ft or 40ft containers and in those days business was doing quite well. 1 a week, 2 a week, 1 every other week it. It varied.

A couple years go by and I start to bring a couple mates along to help. Dad was paying us some pocket money to unload so my friends and I were always quite happy to help. Grandad might buy us a McDonalds.

Although he would slow the whole system down as he ticked off the boxes coming off the container. “Which number was that again?!.” “whow come back I didn’t see that one?!” — It was the same thing every bloody time. Almost like he wanted the fine.

We’d finish and dad would give the driver a drink. ( a fiver or a tenner if we took a bit long). Then he would hand me and my mates a £10 note for a 20ft container or £15 for a 40ft container……

I know what you’re thinking.

The art of negotiating. Never would you think as a boy that your dad would try and screw you over. When we first discussed the pay I did, in fact, question him. He simply said “well a 40ft isn’t really double the work is it! You’ve got the momentum going!, 20 feet in and your flying through the gear”. ..”Yea I guess your right Dad!”.. such an idiot.

Move the story on a year or so and the lads get talking. Why do we only get paid a tenner for a 20ft and £15 for a 40ft. Its double the container we should get double the money!.. We are boldly in agreeance

Around the dinner table that night. “ Dad the lads have been talking and we want £20 for a 40ft container. Its only fair, twice the length, twice the money”…The first comment back is “You’ve bloody unionized have you!!”.. we go back and forth and eventually he agrees to pay the difference. (knowing full well he’d had a good deal this entire time).

Next day at school. I’ve done it lads!!!!

A month goes by and we have a couple 20ft units come in and all is normal. Then Dad says we got a 40fter coming in end of next week. Get a couple lads ready for after school. Brill, 20 quid coming up.

The day comes and everything is as normal. Grandad is asking us to stop and shout the numbers again. Were unloading the boxes too fast he can't keep up. Then you get the classic. “I got a line of numbers. Bingo everyone.”

An hour in and it still looks like we have a ways to go. If you tap the inside of the container with someone outside they can tell how far down you’ve gone. We were 12 feet! This is impossible.

I jump out and look down the container. The boxes aren’t any smaller, they aren’t really any heavier. What's going on?!. Another hour in and we’re starting to slow up. We're not even quite halfway.

We lug these boxes out for another 2 and a half hours. By far the longest it has ever taken us to unload a 40ft container. Not even close to a standard time.

We finish it up exhausted. Granddads messed the numbers up either way and we don’t care. Maybe none of its our order we don’t know.

I shut the door on the container and hand the driver his drink. Still looking at this thing thinking what the hell just happened. Its 40ft it definitely is. Same length as our 40ft we keep extra stock in.

Dad comes walking over after not even lifting a finger. Big grin with a few £20 notes in his hand.


He confidently hands me and my 3 friends our wages.

I ask him. “Dad I don’t get it why the hell did that take so long. I can't figure it out”.. He looks at the container up and down and starts laughing (Cackling really).

“Well, my boy let me tell ya……you got all smart and negotiated the length of the container……

You didn’t say anything about the height of the container!!!!

That right there is a 40ft high cube. The equivalent of it being 60ft long. “I can make these bad boys as highhhh as I want”. He could barely keep his breath he was laughing so hard.

“you tried to get one over ya old pops eh!”

He had never ordered one of those containers before and he never ordered one ever again.

He’d done it purely to teach me and my mates a lesson. Spent thousands of £s on extra stock that he most likely did not need just to teach his teenage son a lesson.

To this day though If I’m ever planning a meeting or writing up a proposal I think about that story and double check everything.

Are there variables I might not have thought of?


I’m always fond of this memory. It brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.

I learned a lot from this experience and its helped me a great deal in life.

It is the complete essence of who my father is.

I never trusted him again :)


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