Recovery from Disaster

By Heather Baldwin

Dan Elrod has done some great sales presentations, but his most memorable presentation was to a group of his own salespeople. He transformed what could have been a disastrous, morale-killing situation into a team-building opportunity.

In August 1996, shortly after his appointment with US Tobacco Company as sales manager for the Carolinas, Elrod arranged a meeting with his reps. He wanted to introduce himself and get to know the group as well as plan out their business objectives for the upcoming quarter. It would be, he thought, a relaxed meeting that would launch the relationship with his reps in a positive setting.

Shortly before Elrod was to begin his two-hour presentation and Q&A session, his plans for a smooth introduction were thrown into chaos. He was summoned from the room for an urgent phone call. On the other end of the line, his boss announced that an attorney from the corporate office had just arrived at the hotel and Elrod was to join him in firing a member of Elrod’s new team – someone Elrod had not yet even met. “I was to return to the ballroom, collect this individual and escort him to the attorney’s room,” he recalls. “Meanwhile, the entire group of 40 people was left wondering what was going on – why someone had been removed from the room.”

When Elrod finally returned, he faced a group of confused and concerned individuals and realized he needed to do something fast. He figured he could brush the incident aside or face it with them head-on. Elrod opted for brutal honesty, discussing the situation, addressing concerns and assuring his team that the matter involved only one individual. “The result was that I established the foundation for a great sense of camaraderie within the group, which was maintained for the two years I was fortunate enough to be associated with them,” says Elrod. “Several years have passed and that team remains one of our best – partially the result of the adversity we faced that day in Charleston.”

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