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How To Get On The Road
by [?]

Since starting on the road many have asked me: “How can I get a job on the road?”

Young men and old men have asked me this–clerks, stock boys, merchants and students. Even wives have asked me how to find places for their husbands.

Let’s clear the ground of dead timber. Old men of any sort and young men who haven’t fire in their eyes and ginger in their feet need not apply. The “Old Man,” who sits in the head office sizes up the man who wishes to go out on the road and spend a whole lot of the firm’s money for traveling expenses with a great deal more care than the dean of a college measures the youth who comes to enter school. The dean thinks: “Well, maybe we can make something out of this boy, dull as he is. We’ll try.” But the business man says: “That fellow is no good. He can’t sell goods. What’s the use of wasting money on him and covering a valuable territory with a dummy?”

On the other hand, the heads of wholesale houses are ever on the watch for bright young men. This is no stale preachment, but a live fact! There are hundreds of road positions open in every city in America. Almost any large firm would put on ten first class men to-morrow, but they can’t find the men.

The “stock” is the best training school for the road–the stock boy is the drummer student. Once in a while an old merchant, tiring of the routine of the retail business, may get a “commission job”–that is, he may find a position to travel for some firm, usually a “snide outfit”–if he will agree to pay his own traveling expenses and accept for his salary a percentage of his sales shipped. Beware, my friend, of the “commission job!” Reliable firms seldom care to put out a man who does not “look good enough” to justify them in at least guaranteeing him a salary he can live on. They know that if a man feels he is going to live and not lag behind, he will work better. The commission salesman is afraid to spend his own money; yet, were he to have the firm’s money to spend, many a man who fails would succeed. Once in a while a retail clerk may get a place on the road, but the “Old Man” does not look on the clerk with favor. The clerk has had things come his way too easy. His customers come to him; the man on the road must go after his customers. It is the stock boy who has the best show to get on the road.

The stock boy learns his business from the ground up or better, as the Germans say, “from the house out.” If one young man cannot become a surgeon without going through the dissecting room, then another cannot become a successful drummer without having worked in stock. The merchant, who oft-times deals in many lines, wishes to buy his goods from the man who knows his business; and unless a man knows his business he would better never start on the road.

But, my dear boy, to merely know your business is not all. You may know that this razor is worth $12.00 a dozen and that one $13.50; that this handle is bone and that one celluloid; but that won’t get you on the road. You must have a good front. I do not mean by this that you must have just exactly 990 hairs on each side of the “part” on your head; that your shoes must be shined, your trousers creased, your collar clean and your necktie just so. Neatness is a “without-which- not;” but there must be more–a boy must work hard, be polite, honest, full of force, bright, quick, frank, good-natured. The “Old Man” may keep to sweep the floor a lazy, shiftless, stupid, silly, grouchy “stiff”; but when he wants some one to go on the road he looks for a live manly man. When you get in stock it is up to you; for eyes are on you, eyes just as anxious to see your good qualities as you are to show them, eyes that are trying to see you make good.