18 May Introducing the “Old Pro”
For those of you unfamiliar with the “Old Pro,” he is the legendary G. R. “Russ” Wright, a man who introduced many to business brokerage, and whose own career spanned over 50 years. Occasionally, we will include an “Old Pro” story on the blog, often reminding readers of the tried and true basics of business brokerage. The following is from an article I wrote for the January 1987 issue of the Business Broker and offers an introduction to our “Old Pro”.
At the suggestion of a family friend, I moved to California in 1962. That family friend was our “Old Pro,” and subsequently became my mentor. Just before my arrival, three of Russ’s top salespeople had left to form their own business brokerage firm. I should point out that Russ had been in the business since 1935, so by 1962, he was indeed a pro! (I should also point out that Russ eventually became my father-in-law, but quite a few years elapsed before I married the boss’s daughter).
California was a licensed state, so while I was studying for my real estate examination, I typed the office’s listings for spending money. The office did not have a secretary. “Too expensive,” Russ said. While I waited for the test results and, subsequently, my license, I addressed and stamped my contact information on hundreds of “Selling Your Business Cards” and continued to type the listings. Russ also showed me how to fill out the listing form and the approach to listing he recommended. He suggested that I buy an index card file box along with a supply of cards. Each subsequent cold- canvass call, along with “for sale by owner” ads, were to be placed on these cards. This obviously was to be my source of listings.
On the day my license arrived, I bought enough stamps to mail all my cards. But, after the second cup of coffee, Russ gently pointed me to the door and told me to go out and cold canvass. So, at the tender age of 24, I was shown the door and told to go out all by myself and call on business people, whom I didn’t know, to find out if their business was for sale.
Like almost all rookies, I was scared to death and was absolutely positive that nothing was for sale. Just to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes, I took along a listing book, so I could check to see if any of the places I stopped at were already listed—and I secretly hoped they were. To say that I was instantly transformed into one of the industry’s top “listers,” or that I loved cold canvassing, would be a lie. But, I had moved all the way to California and so far, except for the cold canvassing, I really liked the business; so I would make my 20 calls a day (less on some days, and on other days, a lot less). Russ had a blackboard by his desk, and our listing productions, by month, were on the board for all to see. We were expected to get five listings a month, and if the office production was less than that, we would definitely hear about it.
I was not the top producer in the office, nor was I the worst. There were months when I didn’t know how I was going to make my car payment, and there were months when I worked to the tune of “Vegas, here I come.” The office had experienced people who were more than willing to help and, of course, there was Russ—the master. I learned from the very best, and he would probably tell you that I was a better student than practitioner. But I loved the business and couldn’t imagine doing anything else—and never considered it. Good times and bad times, I was a business broker. (Oh, by the way, my listing card file—it lasted about two months. I should have kept it up, but I never was much on organization.)