I am continuing my journey through my working life and recalling some of the technologies encountered along the way. Or to be precise, here I will be sharing about the lack of technology and how we managed before it all came along.
Not long after I moved to London, I managed to land first job in sales. This was for no other reason than to enable me to get a company car – as being new to London, the underground scared the life out of me. I worked for a company called Formalux Ceilings who had a factory in Coleford in the depths of Gloucestrshire. They manufactured open cell ceiling tiles predominantly used in retail stores – every Next in the country had a Formalux Ceiling at one point.
We were only allowed half a day a week to make and plan appointments, which we did from home on our own telephone – it could only be done on an afternoon to keep the costs of the calls down (see ‘Can I have a line Ethel’ to explain more). The nearest we got to mobile communications was a BT phone card which could be used in the phone boxes placed everywhere from large towns to small villages as well as on country lanes miles from anywhere.
The point of the phone card was so that we could call the office in the afternoon to find out what messages had been left for us that morning by contractors or designers. We would then respond to the messages immediately from the same call box – we were never very popular if there was a queue waiting to use the phone.
After every visit we had to complete a Visit Report which had 3 copies, one for your own records (to be placed in the binders carried in the boot), one for the office (where they could carry out any instruction contained in the report) and one for your manager, presumably for him to file in a box file in his boot. We were also issued with postage stamps so we could post these reports at the end of every day.
Micromanagement was alive and well, as we were all issued with the same hard plastic Echolac briefcase, with a diagram explaining where everything we used had to be placed in the case, from your company issue calculator and scale rule, to your brochures and blank visit reports. This case was always inspected when you met up with your manager, as was your car and especially the car boot which was always stocked with samples.
So, what did this lack of technology mean? It meant that planning was so much easier, because you very rarely got interrupted – very important as we were expected to make 6-8 visits a day. You also learned to plan in such a way that you were going to be within a quick detour to anywhere in your area with the next 2 days – bearing in mind my region was Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, East and North London, that was some feat.
It also meant that we took proper breaks, which were never interrupted by technology; and I was probably a safer driver, as our attention wasn’t being diverted by the mobile phone or sat-nav. I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick whimsical trip down my very own memory lane.