LIFE AS A ROAD WARRIOR
I first hit the road in the Spring of 2008 as a nineteen year old, rookie salesman; the blossoms were out, my appointments were set, and I vividly remember how utterly terrified I was of a client asking the origin of one of my sapphires, if they had been enhanced, or why the poorly scribbled price tag seemed “way too fucking high” – this actually became the favourite question of one infamously shrewd buyer.
To fully summarize those early trips across Canada is a task in itself as the cities, hotels, stores, and sales seemed to blend into one. Further affecting these recollections is that, as a nineteen year old experiencing independence for the first time, I spent a decent amount of time sampling the liquor selection in bars, pubs, night clubs, breweries, Legions, hockey rinks and local parks across Canada.
Driving from Vancouver to Halifax and back in my parent’s Toyota Matrix – sans auxiliary outlet – was a humbling experience. That car, which only two years earlier had been driven by my parents to my minor lacrosse games, would occasionally double as a motel after an unsuccessful day of selling. My perspective of the world changed rapidly over countless, indecipherable workdays drifting across the endless string of small towns between Saskatoon and Sault St. Marie. It gave me a damn good excuse to dream about how I was going to carve out my own path, my own future. I knew this was a reality check and I was paying my dues, but real answers eluded me: Who was I deep down? What did I really have to offer? The truth is, at the time, I didn’t know what I had to offer.
Adding to the challenge was that, while on the road, I battled anxiety from the untimely passing of my Uncle Harry – he both founded the company whose legacy I was trying to uphold and provided guidance on the only cross- Canada trip we were able to make together.
I had been gifted Harry’s invaluable book of customers – a book that highlighted my family’s deep-rooted relationships with designers, goldsmiths, jewellers, and private collectors across Canada. I mean, it’s not like I was Shelley Levene begging for the good leads in Glengarry Glen Ross. This client list was supposed to – and eventually did – pay the bills. I should have been confident. Instead, I was nervous as hell.
I faked my way through most of my meetings and, worst of all, I abandoned who I was when trying to fit in. My job was to continue the family legacy into a 3rd generation -and beyond- but when it came my turn to sell gems to these seasoned professionals I lost, and subsequently scrambled to re-locate, my true identity.
In hindsight it would’ve been best to embrace my upbringing with clients. I should’ve been more transparent about what I knew, what I didn’t, and what I was.
Harry was a well-respected member of the jewellery industry and, given the circumstances of my taking over the company, I would have been provided leeway while I moved beyond a poorly fitted Moore’s suit and a brutal haircut. It’s hard to recognize the person I was, meekly creeping into those first meetings. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve grown up a bit since those uncomfortable days in 2008. Even my hair looks a little better.
The Cavalier journey really began in 2011. By then, client meetings were no longer the equivalent of sitting through an Adam Sandler movie post- 2002 (or 2004 depending on your affinity for Spanglish or 50 First Dates) and, not coincidentally, business along HWY 1 was booming. As a result, I had paid back seed money debts to overseas gem brokers, mining companies, and (most importantly) my parents.
So, I began saving… for something. Of course, that “something” turned out to be Cavalier. Some know the story of Cavalier but many don’t. Frankly, it’s a story that still doesn’t make much sense, and I’m still not exactly sure how Keith and I were so fortunate, but eventually I’ll attempt to articulate that in a future post.
I have a lifetime’s worth of gratitude for my clients, friends, and family. They stuck with me, groomed me, and showed me the ropes of the gem trade and life in general. Because they were so instrumental to my personal development, they have also been instrumental to the continued success of Cavalier.
I am finally inching closer the point where it really doesn’t feel like work anymore. Like you, I have encountered this sentiment countless times; in biographies, movies, from teachers, relatives etc. It’s everywhere. You know how some so-called words of wisdom are attributed to anonymous people? This is the opposite. Here is how it would look on a t-shirt:
“If you find something you love to do, you’ll never work another day in your life.” – Everybody, Since Jobs Became A Thing
I don’t mind invoking a cliché. After all, they have become such because a majority of people can find truth within them. There’s a reason why ‘actions speak louder than words’ is a cliché and “never do anything, just talk about doing stuff” isn’t.
That said, my journey to this point has been anything but cliché, it’s one that fills me with gratitude. And, because I’m involved in an industry where all my clients want something unique, I know the next phase of my journey won’t be either.