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Lesson #1: “It takes a lot more to run a good business than just trailing commissions or kickbacks.”
As if he were not struggling enough in those days, Ilhan's competitors were also bullying him, and using scare tactics such as gouging his car.
"I couldn't pull out because the lease was in my name," he recalled, "and after a while I wanted to prove them wrong, that I could succeed no matter that they threw at me. That sort of gave me the passion."
Ilhan survived, but the experience would shape the way he conducted himself and his sales in the future.
"I'd take all the confusion away and open their minds up to the advantages of having a mobile phone - especially in businesses because that was the main market," he recalled. "I concentrated on certain businesses like construction. It was easy for them to understand the benefits and see the benefits on the bottom line by having their guys on the site and the foreman all connected by mobile phone. Sure, $5500 was a lot of money for a phone, but the value and time and manpower savings of being able to keep in touch with the site foreman and crew was bigger than that.
"Once I built up a name, people trusted that I knew what I was talking about and that I wouldn't bamboozle them," he said.
From day one, Ilhan recognized that his target customers were people just like him - people who owned or worked for small and medium sized businesses, people who understood the value of hard work. And, he decided that no matter how hard he himself was struggling, he was not going to take it out on his customers. After all, his reputation depended on it.
But it went beyond just treating his customers fairly. From his days at Ford, Ilhan learned the value of playing by the rules. Back in those days, Ford cards were offered for sale first to staff and then to Ford's dealer networks. The price of the car for staff would depend on how long they had been employed at the company, or when they last bought one.
"So everybody thought that they could get on side of you and maybe manipulate your area in terms of trying to get a car," recalls Stefanou, Ilhan's supervisor. "Everybody basically wanted to know both of us."
Unlike his predecessor, though, Ilhan played by the rules. "It takes a lot more to run a good business than just trailing commissions or kickbacks," he said, "otherwise everybody would succeed, wouldn't they?"
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