Overcoming the Pain of Divorce and Becoming Top Salesman!
Interview with Yang Jinwon(45 years old), Deputy Director of Sales of Annie International
We met Yang Jinwon, Deputy General Manager of Annie, a company representing the miscellaneous goods sector of the beauty industry. He suffered divorce five years ago, but said that the wound of divorce was healed and overcome by meeting customers at sales sites. Intuitive, quick, and a walking dictionary, he recently won the Best Sales Award at the company. In our interview, he told the story of his painful past in a difficult but honest manner. We hope that this interview will serve as another milestone in his life, where he can shake off all his past and move forward vigorously toward a hopeful future.
From an International Student to a Salesman
How did you end up working for Annie?
After graduating from college, I came to the U.S. as a graduate student in January 2001. I got married while studying abroad and became the father of two children. After graduating, I worked for a steel company in Pittsburgh for two years and joined Annie International in 2007 at the recommendation of my seniors. Since then, I have been working here for 13 years. After joining the company, I initially worked with Mr. Peter Park in Sales Management & Marketing. Since 2011, I’ve worked as a warehouse and logistics manager for the Georgia branch, and since 2018, I’ve been in charge of the sales of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
What’s Something Even AI Can’t Help?
Why did you choose to become a salesman?
To be honest with you, I didn’t want to become a salesman. The same goes for Korea, but the image of a salesperson is not good in the U.S. Sales don’t require much education. You can work as a salesperson if you graduate from high school or higher.
But a report from the Davos Forum in 2010 changed my mind. According to the Davos Forum, as artificial intelligence is developed, many occupational groups will disappear. But they say that the job group that will never disappear in the future and gets more attention is an area that can’t be solved by the algorithms of accumulated data. For example, psychotherapists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, all of which touch human emotions. The fifth thing mentioned in that line of work were salespeople. Salesmen must be intuitive and agile. I thought I was good as anybody in terms of intuition and agility.
Do you accumulate a lot of sales-related information in order to develop the intuition and agility you need in your business?
Reading BNB Magazine helps us understand the latest trends in the beauty supply industry. I read a lot of books and build up my knowledge. In addition to writing a daily report to the company, important information is recorded in my notes each day, like customers’ birthday, favorite things and tastes. For example, if you happen to know that a customer likes yogurt, take a note and buy it when you visit later. Salespeople should always observe carefully.
Be Stronger to the Strong
What is the most memorable moment at work?
There’s a Mr. Kang, Gio in our company, and he’s a legend in Annie’s sales world. When I joined the company, he was known as the commonly known killer of new employees. He’s the type to smash newbies in the first place, but I thought, ‘If I break down in the first place, I’ll have a hard time at work.’ So I called him just “Gio,” his first name all the time, because nobody had real positions except the manager.
Then one day, he called me.
“Isn’t this too bad to me? I’m more than 10 years older than you, so why do you call me just ‘Gio’?”
“You don’t have a position, do you? What should I call you then?”
“There’s big brother or senior…”
“I’ll call you big brother when we’re closer.” That’s when he yelled out of anger.
“Don’t yell at me. This is U.S.A., not Korea. Age difference doesn’t matter.”
“I’ll go up to the head office right away and tell the boss to fire you or fire me.”
And then he called my seniors all over the place, telling them “What kind of new employee training did you do?”
But he couldn’t make it to the headquarters. I guess it’s because he was so shocked that he had hernia and had surgery.
After six months of fighting, I finally apologized to him, calling him “brother.”
“I’m sorry for being so rude to you at that time.”
“But why did you do that?”
“Somehow I felt I shouldn’t let you look down on me.”
I try to be weak to the weak and strong to the strong. In the law of the jungle, it’s not easy to be weak to the strong; you’ll only become weak meat.
What is your personality like?
Actually, I’m a little introverted. I like to be alone.
You speak fluently and don’t seem like that.
I tend to enjoy solitude. But all humans have ambivalence. The famous director of our company, Kang from earlier, said “Salesmen have to carry multiple masks.” I totally agree with that. There are times when you have to lick the boots of stores that are rude and bossy, and there are times when you have to shout at another store. It’s a combination of 50 percent of what you originally have and 50 percent of what you accumulate in your life.
Overcoming the pain of divorce
What is the most important event or experience in your life?
Honestly, I’m divorced. I think the divorce five years ago was the biggest event in my life and the reason why I have matured. Until then, I had a really smooth life. Childhood, family environment, studying, career, marriage and everything was smooth. After my divorce, for the first time in my life, I felt like I had become a heretic and felt like I was off the set course. It was exhausting. I tried to restore the relationship again during the divorce, but my ex-wife said, “No is a no.” and drew the line. I thought, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have lived like this.’ I thought I’d have another chance, but I knew there was a “due date” for everything. And then I realized, in short, ‘Let’s do well when we’re there. And let’s not regret over spilt milk!
Do you regret your divorce?
I told myself to ‘not regret anything and erase the very thought of regret.’ I’m all right now. Now I know how to enjoy my alone time.
You seem to have regretted your divorce and the pain seems to have yet to be overcome.
It’s the biggest wound in my life. But the wound is healing. It’ll leave a scar. The pain made me realize the laws of the world, and I could emphasize other people’s pains. I can say that I’ve matured a lot.
Lonesome people often meet people at the sales sites and heal…Aren’t you doing better after the pain of divorce?
That’s true. If I hadn’t gotten a divorce, I wouldn’t have been in sales. It’s kind of like a blessing in disguise. But I rarely talk about divorce when I’m in business. There are only three of the customers who brought up the story that I’m divorced- two women and a man. We could emphasize easily because we had the same wounds. You know, since misery loves company. Another time, I spent a night at a customer’s house and had a heart-to-heart. It was really comforting.
According to the Fortune Telling…
It might be a coincidence but… your business went well after the divorce?
I’ll be in trouble if my parents-who are Christians- knows about it but I had my future told after my divorce. The fortune teller in Atlanta was a graduate of Myeong-ri studies(study of human destinies) at college. He told me,
“It will work out well from 2018. Don’t worry. You’ll meet new people and everything will work out well at work.”
It gave me strength. After that, I exercised and worked hard. I started to enjoy my life. As time passed by, I realized that seeing a fortuneteller is a form of psychotherapy. You never go to a place like that if you’re content with life. If someone in their 40s go to a place like that, it’s usually because of women or money. It’s obvious, but I felt much better since visiting there.
You must have started to see life a little more optimistic after seeing the fortune teller.
Not really. I was already optimistic before that. But honestly, I suffered from depression during the divorce. I drank a lot and thought about doing extreme behaviors when I was drunk. But when humans have a hard time, they look for God. I was born a cradle Christian, but I’m more of an atheist. But I think god is necessary. We’re weak. I think I went to church when I was having a hard time. I went when I was in the army. I went when I first came to America.
But when life became comfortable, I stopped going to church. Humans are selfish. When it’s hard and difficult, you need a place to lean on, like religion. It doesn’t have to be a monotheism religion. Of course, conservative churches won’t like what I’m saying, and I’ll be kicked out.
I’m sure the company gave you permission for this interview, but what would you brag about Annie?
Annie was founded in 1993. It’s a solid company that’s 37 years old. It’s one of the leading companies in the beauty industry. Annie has three main advantages. First, from the employee’s perspective, the company is stable. Because the company treats its employees well, some of our salespeople have been attending for 20 years. There are many long-term employees. The second is the diversity of the products we like to call ‘beauty products A to Z.’ Starting with rollers, brushes, and rubber bands, we now produce electrical products, miscellaneous goods, and even cosmetics. So our company is capable of one-stop shopping. In short, the products variety is a big advantage. Third is service continuity. We visit our customers more than once a month. We’ll visit and introduce you to our new product or continue with stock refills. You can sit down and receive things without effort.
Lastly, what is your future dream?
I want to work hard and raise the Georgia branch as big as the Philadelphia headquarters. I want to be the branch manager of Georgia in the future. Thank you very much.