Business, Marketing, and Life Lessons Learned From My First Job: Paperboy
I couldn’t wait to turn eleven. Turning eleven was big deal - You had to be eleven to become a paperboy. My first job as a paperboy taught me many lessons in Business, Marketing, and Life.
Business Lessons Learned
Getting Paid Is Difficult -
We had to Collect Money directly from our customers. We had to go collecting every month. It was the least favorite activity for us. – Usually the boys would say,: “I want to go and buy some comic books – I have to go collecting”. No collecting = no money. Sometimes I would have a customer who would refuse to pay – we could negotiate with them, or use our “nuclear” option: Stop delivery.
It Takes Supplies to Get the Job Done -
You had to make sure that you had enough rubber bands and plastic bags on hand in the case of foul weather. Rain spelled disaster for a paperboy. Fortunately, the bags and the rubber bands were free.
Risk is Always Present in business –
I had to content with dogs (Everyone knows that dogs hate Paperboys), rain, ice, hills, cars and accidents. On one occasion, I was knocked unconscious when the straps of my paper bag came undone and wound around the front wheel of my bike which sent me flying through the air with no helmet – I woke up in a twisted mess with the bike in the gravel on the side of the road with a goose egg on my head.
Do it Right The First Time -
We got charged $1 for every complaint we got from someone who couldn’t find their paper or if the paper was wet or under the car or not delivered. Every paper I threw had a $1 risk associated with it. If I threw the paper a little off course, I had to stop and fix it. I couldn’t afford complaints.
Marketing Lessons Learned
Marketing moves the world –
The advertising section of the Sunday paper was dropped off to me on Friday morning. All the ads were already sold – we just had to wait until Sunday to get the actual news section of the paper that was always smaller than the advertising section. The ad section was very important
Perks are a great reward-
Every job has its perks. My mom got the coupons first, and our group of paperboys got rewarded with pizza parties for having low numbers of complaints. The best perk of all: People Tip for a job well done. We got to see our customers face to face each month when we collected money. If you did a good job, you most often got a tip. Christmas time was the best time to collect. During the holidays there were always tips, gifts, and treats.
You Need Data to Make Decisions-
Every day we had a printout of the new subscribers to the paper and the ones that want to be removed from paper service. The list also showed us any complaints that customers had made to the newspaper. I had a very valuable list in front of me. The list shows me my “difficult” clients as well as my new clients that I needed to impress. Most important of all was the list of those who wanted to be removed from the list. I knew which ones I had serviced poorly and exactly why they were quitting the paper. It was a sobering fact to see that my revenue was based upon how happy I kept my customers.
How to Assess a Deal –
Trash collection happened 2 times a week and we would get first pick at what people were throwing away. One mans trash is another mans treasure. There were always treasures to be found that people put out on the curb as trash. Some of these treasures were “Fools Gold”, and really deserved to be in the trash. However, other treasures were wonderful to find.
Work is Work –
Newspapers are a dirty business – your hands and your paper bag was always soiled from the ink. The ink got onto your clothes as well. It was hard work.
Deadlines are important –
All papers had to be delivered by 6am. No exceptions
Life Lessons Learned
People Do Bad Things -
At 11 years old, I was well aware of the ugly side of humanity. I have seen next-door neighbors steal the paper from their neighbor. People would lie and say that their paper was not delivered, when I knew that I had put one on their driveway. I always had that one difficult person who would constantly complain to get free papers or a discount on their subscription. Larry, my paper dealer, who I turned in my collection money to and who brought the stacks of newspapers to my front porch every day, ended up stealing all the money that we as a group of paperboys collected and skipped town.
Know when to ask for help -
Sunday papers were brutal on us paperboys. Luckily, Dad agreed to drive me around in the car on Sundays. That made life a lot easier for me. Sometimes the paper was so big on Sunday that I had to take two loads to complete the route. My Dad liked to help. He thought that the hard work was good for me. He was right. I am grateful to my Dad because on more than one occasion he would come into the entryway of our house where I had fallen asleep folding papers at 4am to nudge me awake.
Work is a Fraternity –
All my friends who had paper routes were done at 6am as the sun came up. We would meet on Saturdays at a convenience store for a healthy breakfast of chili-cheese hot dogs while playing arcade video games and reading the latest comic books. After all, we could afford it. We were self-employed micro business owners who were flush with cash because we always went collecting on Fridays; Because everyone knows Friday is payday.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons License, Some rights Reserved: rosscrawford1
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