Tom James Company
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I worked at Tom James Company full-time for more than 10 yearsPros
The pros are that when you are successful, people in the company will constantly tell you how great you are (That can be infectious because who doesn't like to hear what a winner he is?), and that a successful salesperson can earn in excess of $100,000.
Conceptually the business model is terrific.Cons
I've heard the culture of Tom James Company described in terms of a cult-like environment, or drinking the Kool-Aid, and I absolutely agree. I was a salesperson and sales manager there for more than 12 years, and I received numerous sales and leadership awards (President's Club, President's Cabinet, Team Leadership Award, and many others). I did earn more than $100,000/year for about 10 years, and while I was still there, I didn't object very much to the brainwashing. In fact, as a team/organizational leader, I now see that I helped perpetuate that cult-like culture.
One of the primary ingredients in the Tom James Kool-Aid is to constantly self-promote. Everybody and every company must highlight their strengths, but Tom James takes it to a much higher level. They self-promote to the point of almost ridiculing the fools who work anywhere else. The leadership talks about how much more money Tom James salespeople earn than anybody else in the clothing business working elsewhere, and they harp on it A LOT. I realized after I left that it simply was not the truth.
Another important ingredient in the Tom James Kool-Aid is to require employees to sign a souped-up non-compete agreement, and it doesn't matter the circumstances. The latest one I saw was so restrictive that the purpose was to actually restrict a former salesperson from working in the same industry in any capacity in the ZIP CODES where his clients reside or work. The fact is that most long-term salespeople at TJ have clients scattered all over the place. One of my friends who left several years ago said that his client list included more than 65 zip codes he would have been prevented from working in for 2 years. As a result, many former salespeople ignore the non-compete, but when TJ wants to make an example out of someone, they will spend $250,000 or more litigating against the former salesperson.
Thirdly, the company promotes their privately held stock as if it is more valuable than gold and diamonds. Their own board of directors determine the price. The board of directors also determine the dividend, and they almost always over promote the potential dividend (It is always measly.). The company leadership encourages the salespeople often to project their stock value to grow to enormous wealth, and the gullible salespeople dream of buying their own islands and yachts upon retirement. The problem with that is that the board of directors and they alone get to decide when and if a person can sell his stock. They have been known to limit the buyback to $10,000 per year for several years. And if they don't want to buy it back at all because they don't like what a former salesperson does after he leaves TJ, then they just refuse to buy his stock back at all. The stock purchase agreement clearly states that there is no other market for the stock besides selling it back to TJ. Near the end of my career with TJ, I became convinced that the stock is a farce. I can't think of anyone who was ever "allowed" to cash in his stock and really retire. I can think of many people who after 25-30 years tried to retire and learned that their stock was still controlled by the TJ Board.
And that sums it up: Control. Tom James leadership tries to exercise control over every aspect of the lives of the salespeople. The Kool-Aid drinkers who allow that to happen LOVE the company. Keep that in mind when reading the reviews written by current employees.Advice to ManagementAdvice
You have "eaten your own cooking" for so long, you probably cannot even recognize the truth in my review. So, you will dismiss me as a "loser." I think I have outlined some of the real reasons your company hasn't increased its sales force in 10 years in spite of your goals to quadruple it. I expect you will continue doing and thinking much as you have done and thought for 40 years. Too bad because the concept is great.Doesn't RecommendNeutral OutlookDisapproves of CEO