EP 22 - The Power of Partnerships with Home Decor Sales Rep, Jane Reed
In this episode, Jaime White interviews Jane Reed, an experienced and successful independent sales rep in the home decor industry. With over 20 years in the business, Jane shares her secrets to success and the strategies that have helped her thrive in her career. One of the key elements of Jane's success has been her decision to hire a virtual assistant, 17 years ago known as office manager, early on in her business. She explains how this unique investment has helped her streamline her operations, increase efficiency, and ultimately grow her sales. Listeners will also learn about the challenges of starting out in the business and how Jane overcame them. She shares words of wisdom for business owners and sales reps looking to create success in their careers. Jane provides valuable insights and lessons that she's learned over the years, so tune in and take notes! Jaime and Jane connect again and reminisce a bit over the early days of their relationship and what it was like getting started in business. If you're a business owner, sales rep, or anyone looking to grow their career in the home decor industry, this episode is for you!
Jaime White 00:00
Hello, and welcome to the Believe Crew Podcast; The Business Is You. I'm Jamie White, Founder of Believe Crew and your host, let's jump right in. Welcome to today's episode today I have a longtime friend that I'm interviewing. Her name is Jane Reed and she has been in the furniture industry. I started when I was 18. And I think Jane met me within that first year. So yeah,
Jane Reed 00:27
So it's been, I think, 23 years, something like that. Oh, my goodness, you were my youngest customer.
Jaime White 00:33
I remember going to my first market in a jean jumper, I had no idea what I was getting into. So I don't remember if I met you at the first market, or if we met after that. I think it might have been after that after the show. I was just, I mean, we were we were in a place where we were in a old warehouse tucked behind other storage units, not your traditional retail design showroom. I just can't even imagine today looking back what the thought might have been.
Jane Reed 01:01
Yeah, well, you know, what, it was a a hidden treasure. Your store was a hidden treasure.
Jaime White 01:06
We learned how to use marketing.
Jane Reed 01:07
You had to search to find it. Most stores that are really successful is the energy of the people when you walk in, and you know, everyone is getting along. Yeah. And you know, you can see that everybody's put their heart and soul into the operation. That is what I see as the positive part of it, you know, and the success, it's worth my time to invest in that because I can see where those people, meaning you and your crew had invested. Yeah. So you know, so much time and energy, and having Meralee live up above the offices, you know, those kinds of things.
Jaime White 01:45
We were so committed. Yeah, like, what does it take to make this work? And
Jane Reed 01:49
exactly, you know, I came from a very stodgy industry in sales, which I liked. But this was much more creative. And I was working with the owners. And that's what I really, really liked.
Jaime White 02:01
So when did you make the transition into sales as a sales rep for multiple companies in the furniture industry and sort of what was that journey? Like,
Jane Reed 02:11
I think to start out with it, it starts with your childhood, your comfort level, on being the new person every day, and actually going out into a new environment every day and soliciting, you know, like, you can't live without me, you can't live without the product that I have to show you. And I'm going to back it up with service. And that happened because my father is a firstborn child who was getting promoted multiple times. So we moved a lot. So you know, if you hear about the Air Force, and army people who get moved around, you are as a young child uprooted. And I because I'm the oldest child of an oldest child, I took it all in and realize that I could be that, like you showed up with a jumper at your market. I was that girl, multiple times. Yeah. So you end up getting a lot of empathy. For new people, you read a room a little bit better, because you have to, if you want to figure out how to merge in. So I had, at the time, it was very difficult, but it was an amazing learning experience on my sales journey, because I am not what you call really out there kind of person meaning really, really gregarious and the light of the room. I am not one of those people. But I realized that I had the confidence to realize that eventually you're gonna like me, you may not want me now. And I could hear no, no, no multiple times. But eventually it'll work because I will earn your respect, and the ability to do to do that. So I have a weird little interesting story and 2000, my first husband passed away. And he was a builder. So I always I was already kind of in this industry. I went to college to be in fashion merchandising, with textile, I had a double major textiles and fashion merchandising with a minor in business. So how did I end up in home decor? So it was more fashion, but it was fashion in the home area rather than in the clothing area. Right. So I was working for a company called Burlington Industries was textiles. And I was selling to Target and Walmart and Shopko I was the queen of discount. So at that time, they weren't that big. And they just put me on the spot to call on them, put me on airplanes and flew me all around and they taught me sales. You know, I was I many times be the only woman in the waiting room at Walmart in the corporate headquarters. And what happens is when my the same year my husband died, I also lost this job that I had had for like 15 years because they went chapter 11 Because the Chinese people And the Indian from India all started merging into the US and saying we can give you a better price.
Jaime White 03:07
Yeah. 2000 was when we started the furniture store. And so I didn't realize that that was when your husband died. And that was when all this happened. Because well, I must have met pretty close to 2002. Then because I had just had Ayden.
Jane Reed 05:16
Yes. Yeah. So I realized I wanted to get off that boat. Yeah, that I was when you are the sales rep for a large corporations like that, like this. You have all these people that need you to sell. So they keep their jobs sewing the product that they were making, and I was selling bedding and draperies to these companies. The two biggest parts of the year were the Fourth of July week and Christmas week. So for years, we were setting up for the next season. And it was very stressful. And I realized I wanted to change the course of my life I had a life insurance policy to live off of. And I also had a good girlfriend that says once I had a couple of them say why don't you become an independent rep. So they got me in front of someone. And I started to work for her as a sub rep for multiple lines. And the reason for that was I was never going to lose a job because of somebody else's inadequacies, not my own. And that was the fact that they went chapter 11. And I had no control over my destiny.
Jaime White 06:23
I love this story, Jane, because there's an idea that if we get a job that's safe, like if we go and you know, have have this job, that that's a safe? And I don't know that everybody believes that anymore, because they've seen what happened to their parents, or they've seen what happened in the different, you know, downturns. Is it safer than having a business? Like is having a business risky? Yes. Is having a job? risky? Yes,
Jane Reed 06:50
yes. So I had that happy experience of having a father who worked the corporate, you know, ladder, and he was in the grocery store industry, and worked his way up. And he said, You got to get a good job and stay there. And then I had a husband, who was an independent contractor, he was a Paint Contractor. And then he started building houses. So he said, You'll never be able to earn as much money as when you do it yourself. You know, so I had two people, two men I respected, you know, giving me direction on that. And then I also saw how my father, as he was earning more money, and they were companies were buying up the company he was working for they made his life miserable, towards the end of his retirement. So I learned from the good and the bad of what happened with my my father and my first husband, so and I realized that, you know, I am the only one that can create my own destiny. And I don't want that to happen to me. So here I am. 68 going on 69 years old, still ecstatically happy about the industry that I'm in. Because I chose to take those risks. And that's what it is you have to be fearless to step away from where you're at. And try something else, especially in this environment. You can work as long as you want to. Because there there aren't enough people to fill the jobs. You know,
Jaime White 08:21
it's interesting, Jane, because what do you think about what's happening right now, and we're recording this in January. So by the time this comes out, it could be a couple months from now. But many people are losing their job. They're worried about a recession. There's fear selling in the media, and it's happening to some people in real life. But we've been through a couple of recessions. Now we've been through some fear cycles. What is it that you see and hear or think about when you see what's coming? And what people are in the middle of
Jane Reed 08:51
This is an opportunity to make a change.
Jaime White 08:54
That's a it's a time to pivot. Yeah,
Jane Reed 08:57
it pivot that that is the key word that in my life is fearlessly pivot and realize that change is consistent changes, yeah, always going to be happening. So unless you embrace change, and not fear it and open that door to see what's behind the next opportunity. You have. It all has to do with your attitude. So if you have an attitude, and you look back over the course of I look back over the course of my life and realize that God is always faithful through all of the things that have happened in my life, I've become a deeper walk in faith. And I realized that time is the most precious commodity that God gives us and to use it at our, you know, the best we can I have to look back at all the little hurdles and things that have happened to me in my life and God and I got through that. And then I got through that and realize that I have to trust in the direction that he's giving me and I share these kinds of conversations with my customers and my peers. So that I know exactly where I come from. And one of them is if the hairs on the back of your neck go up on a situation or a customer you're working with or whatever, that's a physical sign to say, step back and reevaluate the situation that you're in right now. And then you may have to pivot in a totally different direction. And you have to be fearless. You know, when I talk to people who get stuck, it's because of fear. And, to me, fear is the devil working on you and like, trying to take you down a different alley. So fearless
Jaime White 10:33
You're preaching what we totally believe here at Believe Crew, because I didn't know all these things. Like I didn't think about it from this perspective, until I had a coach that was pointing it out. And he was like, it says in the Bible, perfect love casts out fear, like, the opposite of fear is love. And even in business, this applies. And I was like, really, you know, like, I just hadn't thought about it from a business perspective. Like we think about it, maybe I thought about it, maybe in my personal life a lot. And really, when we get comfortable in any season, I mean, we started furniture studio in 2000, which is when there was this huge industry shift. You know, people were saying to me, like, where are you? What family are you from? Because in the furniture world, like if you started in furniture, you came from somewhere in furniture? Well, yeah, it'd be new. They were like, who are you? Yeah. And but it was at that time, where there were huge changes happening, because the American made was not quite as popular and people wanted that lower pricing. And so when, what I found out is that when we're starting something new, when there's a huge shift happening, we don't understand what the other people are still holding on to, because we're like, I don't know what you're talking about,
Jane Reed 11:48
which is good, which is good. Right?
Jaime White 11:50
Right. But then when you're going through that transition, after you've been an established business, not quite as easy to pivot sometimes, unless we're accepting change, and accepting that this is a moment, this is a growth opportunity, let's step into this instead of, you know, what is it that we're afraid of, and holding on to fear actually can look like holding on to what I already have? What I already know. And that's been my experience anyway.
Jane Reed 12:18
And I also the other biggest thing that I've learned is that you have to realize, and I realized this, God blesses you with money, and it flows through you, it's not yours, I have now happily married for the second time. And for me, I could do this job 24/7, I really just love the interaction with the people and that product, I really enjoy what I do. So to be able to pull away and step back, I needed to invest and hire someone to help me do the, you know, the technology part of it, the spreadsheets, part of it, the numbers, I want to know the numbers, but I don't want to take the time to do the spreadsheet to figure out the numbers. And to have somebody who could do it in two seconds, where it would take me two hours to set up the Excel spreadsheet. So to be able to realize that I need to invest in someone else and bring them in. And I was able to bring somebody in like 17 years ago. And she is so good at what she does, she doesn't want anyone to see who she is, she wants to totally be behind the scenes, she does most of her work at her home. And then she comes to my home once a week. And we like hammer out things that I need her for. We have a friendship and a relationship. She's like a sister, she's like a dear friend. It's just unbelievably amazing. But I look at my friends who sometimes are just spinning, because they are not willing to invest in that backup support system. To help them out and it is helped my marriage, it's helped my life. It's helped me pull away. And I also married a man who likes to have fun, he is not all about his job. And I you know, if I want to have balance in life, that's what I needed to do is to share the success that I have, and I could never be this successful without her. So it is the flow of money and realizing that you invest forward. God has always said you can never be I can never be outdone in generosity at the age I'm at also I have to think about I want to be able to do those things that retired people do. And she gives me the ability to do that. So I can do charity work along with doing my own job. I can be generous to you know, foundations and things that need it because I have that because I love what I do and it flows through me. And that's the way it is. You can hold so tight onto things because it won't flow if you do. You know.
Jaime White 14:56
I love what you're sharing because these are pieces of things that you If I didn't learn from anywhere else, I mean, you know, like, how do how do we learn these things through some experiences of our own. And then God really saying, like, hardcore, it's time for you to recognize that I've asked you to be a river and not a reservoir. So, and I love what you're pointing out about hiring someone. And that being a part of the generosity because I fully believe in entrepreneurs and people that are willing to take the risks as also being able to be generous in hiring people. And like you said, this isn't a norm in your industry, you didn't look at your friends and go, Oh, well, they have that I want that too. But it was it was being willing to say, you know, what, I I believe that this is what I'm called to do, and that I can be working more in my zone of genius. If I bring someone on, like that you said, spends less time maybe does it better? Maybe, maybe not, you know, sometimes we have to say if they can do it 80% As good as us, that's still worth out. Because then I can work much more in my zone of genius. I want to talk a little bit more about when you got started in the industry, and what it was like for you, meaning like about when you would have you been thinking about hiring this person? What was market like, what were the customers like? What was business like at that time?
Jane Reed 16:20
It was I am very appreciative to have a lady who hired me, and she had me only take care of what she had four states that she was responsible for. And she had 13 lines that we took care of. She just gave me the state of Wisconsin and say run with it. And thank God she did because you know, the sales part of it, I got that to me, it was then just getting out there and getting my feet wet. And it wasn't the same customers. I was always new people and then another new person and then more and more new people and say No, not today, you needed in the state of Wisconsin to prove yourself and you had to show up five times before they maybe think about placing an order with you. This is straight commission. So I'm putting money out there for hotel rooms and for my computer and my in the car and all the expenses that go forward with it. And then I I remember sitting in a hotel room, starting to make phone calls to everybody in Madison and I was in tears because I was so frustrated because it wasn't coming like it like I had hoped it would and all of a sudden just lady said come on in. I'd like to see you. So I had my bag. And I went up the in there and saw her and she gave me one of my first orders in Madison. And she locked and loaded on me where I would anything she wanted. Whatever she needed. Not such a bad day. And I will never ever forget that. You know, but it was that because I was planning on leaving and quitting and finding something else. Because there were people who want to be back in the old industry, taking care of you know that they knew I knew that industry. And I knew I knew it. But I knew I needed to make a change because it was so stressful. So it, thank you. That's what made thank you for sharing that. And I also had my accountant say he said, Jane, I'm looking at your numbers. I'm seeing your growth. He worked with small industries. He was my husband's accountant in the construction industry. So I just hired him and he said, I think you're ready to hire somebody and he goes, I have just the right person for you. So it was trusting him and then making that move, you know to do that. And it was an realizing that you have to be willing to live on less to step back and see what's most important to you. Do you need one more outfit? Do you need one more? Do you need a new car? I think I've only had one new car that I ordered everything on it all the bells and whistles thing. Otherwise, I have bought used cars from then on. I mean, little old grandma Buicks that were blue, being willing to do that, and humbling yourself. I think that your first impression that you give a customer is so important, and that you need to be clean and neat and dressed well. But you don't have to spend a lot of money to earn a good living. But I really do think that the first impression is huge. Be prepared. Have your numbers ready. Look like your, your Sunday best when you go out to work in my industry. Those days were hard. And I had I had to create a whole new group of friends because I used to be part of a couple. So a lot of my designer people ended up becoming my friends. And I realized you can't be so narrow and be all work and no play. I know. You have to you have to have a balance. So and it slowly slowly started to come in every year. It got better. No. And I have a spreadsheet that shows my first year, I think I made 23,000. And I spent 26,000, on, you know, cars and everything. But it just got every year it got better and better and better. So that's kind of how it started.
Jaime White 20:15
That's so awesome. Thank you for sharing the specifics. Because when you're thinking about navigating, do I stay in this at 23,000? And I spent 26,000. And I could have a job where I was making significantly more not caring? Yes. Was there a calling where you really felt like God was asking you to stay where you are? Did you? Did you feel any of that? Even though there was a struggle?
Jane Reed 20:41
Yes, I, there's another thing that both my husband and I believe, because he's also in sales. And I've shared this with him. And he began to realize it also, I start the day and say, Lord, put the right words in my mouth, put me where you need me to be. And I can tell you, Jamie, that there are many times that I walked at the end of the day, I had no real sales, you know, but I had maybe lifted someone up and said, Oh, I know what that feels like. And this is how I maneuvered and, you know, it was conversations, these my customers were my friends. You know, I really, they could call me and talk about anything. And many times they do call, you know, on Saturdays and Sundays, and they'll have a glass of wine in their hand at on a Thursday night and say, Okay, this is what's going on about business, you spent two seconds on business, and then you hear everything else, I am more about remembering people's family situation, or where was their last vacation, you asked me what their numbers are, I don't know that I need that spreadsheet thing. Because that's not important to me, it is important to for me to lift them up, I want them to be successful. And if something I can do for them can make them more successful only because I've had so many people that have helped me that I wanted to be one of those people that is lifting up other people around me. And when you have the right mindset, it projects to your customer, and they just feel that. But it's basically saying Lord put the right words in my mouth today. And it may have nothing to do with sales.
Jaime White 22:12
You know, it's interesting, when you talk about this, what comes to mind is how the industries are changing, and how things are changing and how things are more electronic. And I don't know how that's impacted your industry. But it really speaks to the connection that we used to have in business with the different people that we worked with. And what you're saying is basically, you were a mentor, you were a coach, you were an everything to these people, even though you were a sales rep of lines. And now if business owners are ordering things online, they don't have that same connection. They don't have those same mentors. What are you seeing in your industry?
Jane Reed 22:51
I'm seeing that. But the thing is, the biggest thing that I see is that many times when they connect with me, people are shocked at how many market appointments that I can make. Literally,
Jaime White 23:02
I know you, you got that down.
Jane Reed 23:04
So I have I've, you know, I've already got my first high point market appointment, and that's an April. So what I'm what I'm actually saying to them, I want to get my the key people that I know need my help set up so we can go through it. I don't waste their time. I basically, when they walk in the showroom, I go How much time do you have? When do I need to have you done? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Are you hungry?
Jaime White 23:31
You asked all those questions. And then you were like, okay, which ones do you want to see first? What's more important? And then you took us right to those showrooms? It was so much fun.
Jane Reed 23:41
Again, I'm honoring your time. You know, how can I, how can I make the best use of your time, and I know your business, and I know your store well enough to know that I'm not going to show you everything. I've got specific things that I think you might be interested in.
Jaime White 23:55
I'm laughing because even to the point of if it means watching the baby, right, Jane? Yeah, how many markets that I can do a baby with and you came into my house? And you're like, do you need me to take him for a walk? I'll take him for a walk while you look through my product.
Jane Reed 24:12
Would you? Yeah, because it is it was so apparent, you know, and it's
Jaime White 24:17
like this is a distraction.
Jane Reed 24:22
your ability to read a room. Yeah, what I realized is that if you are distracted, you wouldn't be able to get a job done. And you were like you're trying to serve as both of us, you know, so it's like, how can I help? There's so much information that my customer needs to know I really have to kind of watch out for them as they move along in the ordering process. I want to become invaluable to them and I want them to enjoy their time with me.
Jaime White 24:48
When you think about the industry where you're at and what you see. What is it that you would love for people to know about the opportunities that are out there in your industry today?
Jane Reed 25:00
I would say, if as long as you love people, as long as you're fearless, as long as you can pivot and realize that change is something that's going to continuously happen, and you just roll with it, because sometimes it's going to be better. And sometimes it's going to be worse. But you just have to roll with it. The level of people you share time with is the level of knowledge you're going to learn. If you share time with people that are good people that are more knowledgeable than you are possibly that are positive and upbeat. That's where you want to spend your time. You, you gotta raise your level of where you spend your time and who you spend your time with. Because again, it is so valuable. Yeah, it's a limited commodity. You know?
Jaime White 25:54
Yeah. There's so much gold and everything that you've shared today, is there anything that you feel has been left unsaid?
Jane Reed 26:00
Oh, all I can say is that everything I've told you is based on my level of happiness, and contentment is based on my faith level. I often tell people that there's many F's in my life, and it's faith. It's fun, it's family, it's this wonderful ability to create a content life. And it's not, it's nothing to do about making big money, it is basically balance, it's having a balance in your life, and searching out that, if you're going to be in a career, if you're going to have a job, find something that you absolutely love, and it's no longer a job. And I'm sure everybody's heard that 100 times. But it is truly true. It's true. And I saw were staying in the same job and just working your way up the ladder is not, it's not everything, and you have to make changes, you've got to be fearlessly making changes in your job to get to where you really want to be. And then you'll know it. So and you want, then you want everyone else to be at the same place you are, you know, because it is so much fun to be here. And I think that Jamie, you are there to you know, you are in a place that you're much more content because I can just see it in your face.
Jaime White 27:20
I loved everything that I did. For all those years, I loved all the different businesses. And this is the first time that I'm putting me in the front seat like I was trying to run businesses that weren't my idea. So I think of myself more as the implementer. Even though I had a lot of space to run, I had a lot of ability to create. It wasn't my original idea. I mean, I didn't start in furniture because it was my idea. And as you know, I wasn't a designer, but I enjoyed hiring designers, working with other people. And I learned I learned a lot and I love the different industries. And then of course I love the people, right? It doesn't matter what industry we're in, it becomes about the people. But you're right that this one is close to my heart. And I'm getting to do what is close to my heart. And I'm it's a different feeling. Yes, it's there are new waves. There are new invisible walls, there are new challenges. And it's really me that's limiting my capacity. I love your experience, and even our history together and the industry that you're in. I feel like it's, you know, one of those things that when you haven't been in different industries, you don't know what's behind the scenes. I mean, when we used to work in front of your studio, and people would say, Oh, I would love to work here. My answer was always Do you know who unloaded the last truck. There's a behind the scenes to beautiful things. And so, thank you so much for sharing your experience and your wisdom. Thanks for being here.
Jane Reed 28:54
I'm very honored that you asked me to be on your show or your program. Thank you.
Jaime White 28:58
Thank you, Jane.