Once he had the degree and came to the realisation marketing positions were extremely limited at the time, he took a job at the Australia Paper Mill working night shift to avoid going on unemployment benefits as many of his friends had.
“While I was working I decided to undertake further education, and thinking I was going to be some creative genius I did an advertising course at RMIT,” Sam said.
As it turns out, fate had other plans and Sam’s marketing career was never to eventuate.
“It was then I just so happened to apply for two jobs, one for Nicholas the Aspro People and a company called Boral/Glen Iris Bricks,” he said.
“I got both jobs on the same day, and I took the Boral/Glen Iris Bricks position.”
It was a classic ‘you never know what life has in stall for you’ moment, with Sam about to take his first steps in a long and successful career.
Beginning as a Sales Cadet, Sam initially spent his time assisting the Sales and Marketing Manager and the Sales Reps in a ‘writing up orders’ capacity. As the months went by, a Senior Sales Rep had to receive open-heart surgery, and Sam was given the opportunity to step up into a sales role.
“I went into his area that yielded approximately one million bricks a month in sales,” he recalls. “So the Sales Manager at the time said to me, ‘we don’t want this area to fall, we will put you out for three months and bring you back in the office after to keep doing what you are doing’.”
“Well, I was never going to let that happen, so I went out and I sold over three million bricks in the first month I was on the road. And of course, there was no way they could ever bring me back in the office after that.”
Seizing the chance and maximising on the opportunity led Sam to become one of the youngest reps Boral had ever put on the road. Back then, it was almost a requirement to be married and living in your own home with a telephone, with commercial mobile phones still nearly ten years away from the market.
“About 50% of your work was done at night on the phone,” Sam said. “Builders would ring you so it was nothing for me to get 30 or 40 phone calls every night. Being 23-years-old and a ‘creative’, I liked to go out every night. I had a younger sister, Lina, so I convinced her to take all my phone calls and messages, and paid her five cents per call. She got to know all my builders very well and she was amazing. I would get home every night at whatever time, and all my messages would be nicely written and ready for the next morning.”
Lina was one of Sam’s first lessons in the importance of communication. His mentor, George Cox filled in the rest.
“George Cox was a fantastic bloke – he had all the bad habits but a lot more good habits,” Sam laughs. “He taught me to drink, he taught me to gamble, he taught me to play golf… one of the first lessons I learnt is on Friday nights, you found the pub where a lot of your builders drank, and you went there. My Sales Manager used to give me twenty dollars and say, ‘go to the pub, buy the boys a drink, and get to know them’, and that is where I learned about building relationships, through a simple thing like going to the pub.”
The reverse was also true when it comes to builders and their relationships with suppliers.
“From a suppliers perspective loyalty is vital. The builder whose focus is purely on price will get a great deal once or twice but they are not looking at the big picture. The builder will soon gain a reputation as purely a price-driven client and suppliers will avoid future dealings or decrease service levels.”
After ten years at Boral, Sam was offered a significant role at Crosby Tiles as the Victorian State Sales Manager. It was a company where every single person mattered, and everybody had to do their job correctly or everything would fall apart.
Unfortunately for Sam, the job required a lot of travel, and it just so happened he scored the role right as the 1989 Australian pilots’ dispute began. With two young children at home, Sam left Crosby Tiles after 18 months to spend more time with his family, which was far more important to him. He then began a new role as Sales Manager at Bendigo Bricks.
“When I started there they made two million bricks a year, and eight years later when I left they were making 25 million bricks and selling every one of them,” Sam said. “Unfortunately the next step for me was to move up and become General Manager but I wasn’t prepared to move to Bendigo.”
“I ended up back at Boral as the Commercial Architectural Sales Manager. I did that for a few years and then I become Residential Sales Manager, and now I am the State Sales Manager.”
Over the course of his career, Sam is particularly proud of the relationships he has built within the industry. A believer in honesty, loyalty and communication, he understands and appreciates the value in builder/supplier relationships.
“Loyalty is so important in these relationships; if you are loyal to us then we will be loyal to you. Any issues that arise, and we know they do, we will always fix it when the relationship is good,” he said.
“I am a big believer in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay – I am always upfront and honest and would expect my clients to do the same. If a builder has a problem with a rep, I want them to be brave enough to tell me. It is the only way to resolve anything.”
Family has always been a number one priority with Sam. He and wife Debbie are high-school sweethearts and have been together 42 years and married for 33 years. They have two children Ryan, 32, and Cara, 30, and Sam has recently become a doting grandfather to Memphis, his first grandson who is spoiled to no end.
“When I am at work I give 100% and when I am at home I give 100%,” Sam said. “You’ve got to enjoy your work, and I’ve always told myself the day I stop enjoying my job is the day I’ll leave.”
“You need to believe in your work, show passion and care about what you are doing. Success will follow.”
Sam’s story is proof the more you put in a relationship the more you get out of it. Hotondo Homes association with suppliers is there to benefit you, and enhancing the relationships we have already developed will only help to build your business, reputation and professional self.