Tim HuffakerWhen I was fifteen years old, my father shared a profound little essay with me.  It was entitled “A Message to Garcia.”  

He first told me the story and later produced a well-worn, dog-eared, pocket-sized pamphlet.  Having heard the story first from the lips of my father and then having received the written word, I read and then pondered the message and tried fervently to incorporate its message into my soul.  As I have grown and matured, I recognize this event as one of many attempts my father made to teach me character and responsibility.

Salespeople hold the success of their employers in their hands.  The fortunes and failures of any business can be traced to the success of its salespeople.  The well-being of every employee ultimately rests on the shoulders of the sales effort.  Salespeople are saddled with the singular effort of bringing profit to the organization, thereby providing the financial stability of all those employed.  True, there are others, whose efforts are paramount to the success of any organization, but in the absence of profitable sales, nothing else really matters.  Are you building wealth for your employer, fellow employees and yourself, or are you holding them hostage and in fear of eventual economic collapse?

National statistics reveal the average salesperson works only four hours each day at sales related activities.  The remaining hours of the day may be busy and tiring, but not focused on those specific activities that generate sales.  I don’t believe there is a conscious effort on behalf of salespeople to become distracted in their sales efforts.  However, I do believe they lack the understanding of the profound impact their lack of effort and focus has on the lives of their fellow employees or the financial stability of the company. Top sales performers must demonstrate discipline and character.  Selling is difficult work and is often conducted in a relatively unstructured environment.  Salespeople are often left unsupervised in their selling activities.  They enjoy a freedom that very few other occupations experience.  That freedom is necessary for success, and at the same time can create the distraction which results in less than stellar performance.

Salespeople must understand and accept the huge responsibility that rests on their shoulders.  A responsibility that will determine the security and wealth of all people associated with their employer.  Theirs is a responsibility that extends beyond the boundaries of their own company, to both suppliers and customers and their respective employees.  A salesperson must accomplish their objectives with limited supervision, in difficult economies, and adverse markets.  They must find profitable opportunities even when it appears there are none.  They must carry with them the hope and trust of all employees whose financial well-being depends upon their success.  As my father told me, you must learn and incorporate into your character those qualities that will enable you to “Carry a message to Garcia.”  

I have attached a short introduction to this profound essay by Elbert Hubbard with the hope it will impact your life as it did mine.  With the attitude, character and sense of responsibility exemplified by Rowan, who was called upon to carry a message to Garcia, I believe every salesperson reading this message can find a way to spend eight hours each day focused on meaningful sales activities and fulfill the trust of your employer and fellow employees.

“Elbert Hubbard penned his classic essay, “A Message to Garcia" in one hour after a dinnertime discussion with his family. At dinner, Hubbard's son, Bert, claimed that the true hero of the Spanish-American war was Rowan -- a messenger who braved death by carrying a note behind the lines to Garcia, the leader of the insurgents.”

“In all this Cuban business there is one man who stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents.  Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba - no one knew where.  No mail or telegraph could reach him.  The President must secure his co-operation, and quickly.  What to do!  Someone said to the President, "There's a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."

“Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and having delivered his letter to Garcia.”

“The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college in the land.  It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; do the thing - "Carry a message to Garcia!"