The New Manager: So, Mark, What's New?

March 1, 1996

You remember Mark Levering, right?

When you first met him, the office manager at Patterson Schwartz in Dover, Del., had a lot on his mind. He had been running the Dover branch for about six months and was trying to get several big projects under way.

First, he wanted his company to acquire another company or expand to a larger office so that he could affiliate more salespeople. Second, he wanted to help his current salespeople become more computer friendly. Let's leaf through his diary to see how he's been faring.

Dear Diary:
We've finally resolved the issue of whether to merge with another company or move to new space. I wanted to expand instantly by merging, but I re-evaluated my position. I went back to management and said, "Let's find space that can house 25-30 salespeople. That way, we can handpick them rather than get all the salespeople affiliated with a company we merge with."

That's our plan now.

I've spent about six weeks trying to find new space. We want an area where we'd have some exposure, perhaps a shopping center or a business plaza, but there just aren't very many of those spaces available. We have shopping centers, but those I've looked into are either full or cost prohibitive.

There was one place I'd been looking at, and we'd decided to move there because of its central location. But I spent five weeks just trying to get leasing agents to call me back. I was really getting annoyed. Finally somebody returned my calls and told me that we couldn't lease the space because there already was a real estate company in the facility.

So I'm back at square one. I've made other contacts, and I'm having information gathered so that we can figure out exactly where we want to go.

I'm also under the gun because a new MLS that'll cover several states is coming into our area. That's supposed to be up and running sometime in March. And our head secretary is pregnant---she'll be going on maternity leave at the end of April. We'd like to complete the move before she leaves, so we're really juggling things. We just have so many things happening all at once.

One thing I've made headway on is getting salespeople more comfortable with computers. The majority of our salespeople now work on computers. And we even have a salesperson who has invested in a notebook computer and uses it every day.

The issues of space and computerization tie together. Our strategy is to have the office networked and a terminal at each desk. We've had the capability and equipment for a couple of months, but we haven't put it all together because why do it when you plan to move, anyway?

In the meantime, two of our salespeople left the business, and that definitely had an impact on our sales. But within a month I was able to replace them with two experienced salespeople the first from one of our offices that closed, and the other through recruiting efforts. If you look at the volume of the two salespeople who left and the two who replaced them, it was pretty much an even trade-off.

It's hard to believe, but despite all that's going on, our sales are up from what they were at this point last year.

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