The People You Meet

Life is a journey where the people you meet are collected along the way, forming a long reel of characters that increases as the years go by. Some play starring roles for decades; others are those select few whom you meet once but never forget. There are far more who come in and out of your life like cameos and eventually fade into a cast of thousands of faceless extras.

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Life is a journey where the people you meet are collected along the way, forming a long reel of characters that increases as the years go by. Some play starring roles for decades; others are those select few whom you meet once but never forget. There are far more who come in and out of your life like cameos and eventually fade into a cast of thousands of faceless extras.

A star could be a teacher, a childhood friend, a parent, a mentor, a big brother or sister, a boss, a spouse or a co-worker—someone who makes a lasting impact and changes your life for the better. Often, it’s a person who sets an example or brings out the best in you—qualities you never thought you possessed. They inspire you. They challenge you. And they push you to be better.

There are even those rare few—superstars, if you will—who have the ability to bring out the best in people repeatedly. No matter whom they meet, they zero in on the person’s talents and know just which buttons to push to make him or her shine. When it comes to our industry, I can think of no one more deserving of this description than Joe Salzano, vice president of sales at The Clarks Companies, N.A. He has made a career out of inspiring thousands of retailers and sales reps to become the best at what they do—professionally and personally.

Salzano’s immense knowledge of the art of shoe retailing leaves a lasting impression and, time and again, delivers memorable results. His passion and tireless commitment to helping retailers make him even more memorable. It’s not simply a job for him. Salzano is hardwired to help his independent sales rep force and the thousands of retailers that sell Clarks become steadily better and, ultimately, best-in-class.

Like a lightning rod, Salzano gives in-store presentations that spike sales in his immediate wake. No one gives a better pre-selling floor pep talk than Salzano. He can motivate a sales floor slacker to become an all-star seller. His enthusiasm for helping customers is as genuine as it is contagious. After watching Salzano work a customer, you can’t help but want to tackle the next one who comes in the door. But his teachings are about killing the customer with service, not with overt drives for personal gain. If you focus on the needs of the customer, Salzano instructs, an improved financial standing will eventually be a byproduct of those efforts. And while Salzano might come across as overly intense at times, he always has the best interests of the people he is trying to help at heart. His first focus is the people, not the profits, and he starts with improving the morale and motivation of employees. As Salzano often says, “Happy salespeople equal happy customers.”

You’ll find plenty more Salzanoisms in our special section, saluting the industry icon as he nears his 75th birthday in July. The story of what makes Salzano tick is an inspiring one, and it was a joy to write. Salzano is one person who has made a lasting impression on me. His zest for life serves as a vivid reminder to appreciate and embrace each day. That is the true essence of Joe Salzano. Put another way: If Bruce Springsteen transferred his energy, drive and talents into being a shoe salesman, then he would be the equivalent of Joe Salzano. For those who know me personally, there is no higher compliment I can bestow.

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