As those who are familiar with the tenants of commerce are aware, business is just as much about investing in relationships as it is investing in products. This goes double in a tight-knit rural setting like the Pontiac, where someone can toss a bed sheet out the window and have it land on three people they’re related to.
In a place like this, a salesperson lives and dies by the value of their word.
This past Friday, the Pontiac Printshop bid farewell to a sales manager that exemplified what it means to excel in this kind of small-town business environment.
Katherine Hynes started working in sales at the Printshop in January of 1990, after spending around five years at the Pontiac Journal. Though she had worked sales jobs all her life, whether it be tending bar at various venues or selling jewellery, Kathy recalls coming to work for the late Brent Horner, who was sales manager at the time and had been with the paper for decades.
“It was an adjustment period,” she said. “I wouldn’t call him an intimidating kind of a guy, but he was very structured and very firm, very strong in his beliefs. So there wasn’t a lot of joking around in the very beginning. You learned a lot and you paid close attention because he didn’t like to repeat himself.”
“He was just a super, super mentor,” she added. “You couldn’t have met anyone more grounded.”
Kathy quickly learned the ropes and rose to the position of sales manager after Horner retired. She said the experience of walking through the door reminded her of the old paper in her southern-Ontario hometown, The Walkerton Herald-Times. She recalled how hands-on the production of THE EQUITY was back in those days, with the steady ‘clack, clack, clack’ of the presses in the back of the shop.
“We had a little red light above the door so you knew when Dave [Moore] was in there processing negatives or doing film for whatever,” she said. “On occasion, my first little while here I wouldn’t pay any attention to the light and just walk in and it’d be ‘Ah, you’re supposed to knock, you just spoiled a roll of film.’”
Kathy is known for her organization in the office, and is very particular about the layout of her desk space. One incident that stood out from her time with the Printshop was when her colleagues played a prank on her after she had arrived back from vacation.
“I open up my desk drawer and it’s completely empty, nothing in it, except a cockroach,” she said. “I don’t know where they found this thing but I swear it was two to three inches long. I’ve never seen anything that big. I let out a scream, I went over the top of my desk and I was out to the front. They’re just killing themselves laughing … I was so mad, I was spitting bullets. I’m part German, part Irish, so I have a real temper.”
Former EQUITY Publisher Heather Alberti worked alongside Kathy for many years and remembered her outgoing personality.
“She was always like a little firecracker, she took up every challenge that she was presented and carried it out to the end,” she said. “She sold more than newspaper advertising, she helped sell the business, the good will that we all have.”
Back in 2013, Alberti nominated Kathy for the Joan Durin Outstanding Salesperson Award from the Quebec Community Newspaper Association, due in no small part to her attitude after having surgery on her shoulder the previous year to remove a cancerous growth.
“I went in for the surgery on a Thursday and I was back into work on the Monday,” Kathy recalled. “I had 38 staples. I couldn’t use that one arm for a month … I didn’t know how to sit still.”
Kathy and the office’s traveling salesman, Steve Forbes, banter across the shop from when they arrive in the morning to when they leave, usually shouting at one another to be quiet. It’s a far cry from their first meeting, while Forbes was working as a salesman for another company. Kathy T-boned him at the intersection of Sand Bay and Front Road in Clarendon while on her way into work.
“I had just pushed the cruise control in and she comes right through and hit behind me at the door,” Forbes recalled. “The trunk flew open and all my quotes blew all over the place, down the road … We laugh about it now.”
When asked what her strengths are as a salesperson, Forbes quickly responded “dedication.”
“She’ll take care of a customer before she’ll go home,” he said.
Shop manager Ann Taylor agreed with Forbes’ assessment.
“[She] is customer first, she’ll do her due diligence to keep the client happy,” she said. “Kathy’s a very resourceful person.”
Taylor recalled one instance where Kathy had an order of several sets of work pants for a customer that was backlogged, and in order to get it finished on time she ended up hemming and delivering the pants herself.
“She’s an incredible worker,” Taylor added. “She’s my right-hand girl. There’s definitely going to be a big void. It’s a big learning curve, because there’s so much in her head. I just hope she doesn’t change her cell number, we may need assistance from time to time.”
Though he sounded forlorn at the departure of his colleague Forbes put on a brave face for the interview.
“You adjust to your surroundings, it’s just another day,” he said. “Cheer up, cheer up. Everything will fit in its place.”
Though Kathy prides herself on being stern (it’s the German in her, she says), her eyes begin to well up when asked what she’ll miss the most.
“You grow with your co-workers, they become a bigger family I think, than the family you go home to,” she said. “You share your work trials, but you also share the trials and joys with their children … Watching each other’s children grow up. I think those relationships will be the hardest to walk away from. It’s more than half my life.”
Kathy will be passing the torch to the Printshop’s new sales rep, Ashley Draper, and has been taking her on the road over the past two weeks for a crash course on what her role entails. Kathy said she’s had long-time customers start to cry when they find out she’s leaving.
“Everybody deserves the attention to detail,” She said. “I passed that on to Ashley, I said ‘The best thing I can tell you is just listen to people, ask questions if you’re not sure. Thoroughly check before you jump in and answer somebody. You’ve got to stick to your word. That’s what I’ve always prided myself on, my word is my word.”
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