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Living in a real world

Friday, May 30, 2014
Dirt Under the Nails

Often people think sports and they think “fun” or “anything goes” but the sports and sports medicine industry is a business like any other industry and in T&T is not an easy one to manoeuvre within, much like any other industry here. Many young graduates return home with visions and dreams to do their part to make things better here, only to find themselves either changing careers or searching for any opportunity to leave.


Most people would have heard the story about the two shoe salesmen. Two shoe salesmen from competing companies were sent to a foreign country to assess the market potential for selling shoes there. They both did their research and came up with the same conclusion: nobody there wore shoes. Both went to the same telegraph company with the same assessment except the message of shoe salesman one said that there was no opportunity because no one in the country wore shoes while the other sent that it was a fantastic opportunity because no one in the country wore shoes.


Isn’t this what life is usually about? Perspective! When two authorities on a topic disagree on a point it is often about perspective and what influences that perspective. In the story of the two salesmen, the conclusions arrived at by each salesman was based on their strengths and their ability to deliver successfully within the given environment.


On a blog I came across, I read one man’s account of the rest of the story. Apparently salesman number one returned home and went on to build a successful business in ladies dress shoes in a new marketing territory that included another first-world country, France. He became extremely wealthy and lived a secure and comfortable life.


Salesman two set up shop in the foreign country in pursuit of his vision. He projected sales of 15,000 in his first year of business but was disappointed to realize less than 100 sales. The project was in jeopardy. Payroll cuts were made, threats of abandonment made by home office, the general atmosphere in the company was anxious and depressed, etc. By all standards, the first year appeared to be a failure.


Wait! The story goes on. During that first year, salesman two, being the type of entrepreneur-minded individual he was, spent the year monitoring the market’s behavior—some things that he had missed when he first researched the market. 


He learnt that many liked the “idea” of shoes but found them to be claustrophobic and did not like having to constantly stop to empty the sand from them. So, he started to bring in sandals. Another segment of his market had no interest in wearing shoes and rather enjoyed being bare-footed. However, they would often cut their feet on rocks and debris. So, salesman two found a lotion made by a German firm that would toughen up the soles of the feet. In an area completely unrelated to feet, he started to bring in straw hats and walking sticks for this population that spent many hours in the hot days, walking.


Year two he broke even. Year 3 was a little better again. The hats were a hit, he could not keep enough of the lotion in stock and he had developed a niche market for his shoes. It wasn’t until seven years later that salesman two became a millionaire.


In T&T, the same scenario seems to play out all the time in the sports industry. New generations of professionals, energetic and eager return home only to realize how differently things operate here from the world they trained in and how unreceptive it is. Feelings of frustration and despondence step in quickly. They become misunderstood and accused of being pompous when they come with only good intentions. Still, this is the real world. School does not prepare you for this part. 


To be adaptable does not mean you have to lower your standards but it does mean humbling yourself to understand your new environment. There is a lot of trial and error involved which is why alliances are important but it is possible to gradually develop a niche. Like salesman two, diversifying may be necessary which brings new opportunities for learning but embrace such challenges and as best you can and never stop believing in the change you can make.


Often the young graduate says, “I need to unlearn everything I learned in school,” but this is not the answer. It is more about building on that knowledge and applying it appropriately, like salesman two did. He did not give up, he just remained diligent. 



Asha De Freitas-Moseley is a certified athletic trainer with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association of the USA. She has over 11 years of experience rehabilitating athletes and members of the active population from injury to full play. She can be reached at Pulse Performance Ltd., located at #17 Henry Pierre St., St. James. Tel: 221-2437.


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