I have spent the past four years helping people make their dream of building their own home a reality. When I first started, just before the market tumble struck the mid-west like a rampaging dust storm, there was plenty of hope. Customers were stopping by our model home location in large numbers and it seemed there wasn’t enough hours in the day to help all of them. My plan was to purchase my own home from our factory after two years of employment at a significant savings. Then the sky began to fall. Our company, which had paid salaries to all employees and maintained seven full time workers despite being a very small company, started losing money. To put it more bluntly the company started hemorrhaging money. The owner fired the manager, and then called each of us in for a one on one interview to inform us our salaries were being taken away and we would be straight commission. “No problem!” I said, as I saw the opportunity to increase my commissions and make even more money.
I was still fairly new at this modular home game but I kept at it and sold a couple of homes and got some commissions to get me through the holiday season. I have a wife and four kids, so making money is very important for our family. The second year I spent in this business was supposed to be a committee run business. Four of us had survived to help out the companies owner, an aging widow who had sunk everything in to the company and therefore had everything to lose if it failed, and I felt that my selflessness would be rewarded. What I didn’t realize was I was the only one who wasn’t getting paid a salary anymore. I lobbied for my commission structure to be changed to allow me the opportunity to make more per sale since I wasn’t costing the company anything. I was met with resistance from the other sales people, but the owner agreed I should have an opportunity to make more money and my commission was raised. Remember, I thought everyone was in the same boat as I was so I almost felt like the materialistic jerk of the company. As the year progressed I slowly learned the ugly truth, but continued to move onward toward my own goals. By fall of that year the company was flat broke and the owner, once an affluent lady, had nothing more to put in to it. She had a tough decision to make, and so did I.
Myself and another salesman for the company made her an offer, get rid of the other two, one who was acting as manager but had no experience, and we would run the company for straight salaries. This was the arrangement I had anyway, but the other gentleman saw this as his only way of staying on board. She agreed and I became the manager of the company along with the other salesperson. The company had about $1000 left in the coffers, and with expenses at around $6000 per month desperation set in. It was around this time that loans were becoming increasingly difficult to secure, especially the construction loans that we needed to start the building process. This may sound like bragging, but it is true, over the next year and a half the company survived solely based on my sales. For over a full calendar year I alone sold all the homes and kept the company afloat. I took my commissions, paid my bills, took care of my family, and had plans to buy the company, along with my partner.
The next phase of this story is the sucker punch I received. With the company owing me over $6100 in commissions I was informed that my so called partner had made a deal to purchase the company from our aging owner himself and that he would now be in charge. I didn’t blame her for wanting to get out from underneath the stress of the business, but I also knew he didn’t have the capital to buy it. The bottom line was I was screwed over worse than I ever have been and am, as you can probably tell, a bit bitter. There is a warning in here for consumers of modular homes from small companies like the one I gave my heart and soul to. If the ownership and people involved will do this to a fellow employee, what will they do to a customer? Well, I also experienced that first hand as I had to handle phone calls from angry customers even after I was no longer the boss! The new ‘owner’ wouldn’t handle these situations himself. As a result I felt I had to leave the company and so here I am with enough time to write this tragic tale. Don’t feel sorry for me, I am going to land on my feet and continue to move forward, but the customers that I had to leave in limbo with a less than reputable man in charge of their projects I do worry about. I placed phone calls to them explaining my decision, as well as with our vendors and the bank we used for our loans. The banker wasn’t happy at all with the way the new owner was handling his clients and threatened to pull the account, I don’t know if he did. In hard times it seems like this country used to pull together and help neighbors, now I have a bit of a jaded view of that practice. I’ve been a victim of the ‘help yourself first’ attitude, and basically wasted four productive years of my life.