I’m the VP of Sales for a mid-sized carpeting company. I’ve had a regional director based in New York for two years now, who covers the east coast from Maine to Florida. It’s a very broad territory – he manages sales reps and/or independent reps in that geography.
The bulk of the revenue on the East Coast comes from the New York tri-state market, followed by the mid-Atlantic and then Atlanta.
During NeoCon, my East Coast Sales Director approached me and asked, “May I speak with you?” During which he told me that he had moved to Miami at the start of the year! In January of 2023.
I had seen him several times before NeoCon this year, we speak almost weekly, and for some reason, he waited until NeoCon to tell me this. Well, you could say the look on my face was shock… followed by incredulity… and annoyance. Quickly, he began to scramble. He explained to me, indignantly, that he was perplexed that I should be seeming annoyed at this since the position requires time on the road, from Maine to Florida and back again. Why should it matter that he relocated? He wanted to know.
He explained, with “everyone working Hybrid these days,” why should it matter that he lives in Miami and not New York? I felt like steam was coming out of my ears.
I reminded him that most of our revenue comes from the New York area - where we have a showroom, mind you - and I believe it’s important that our leadership have a consistent presence in that market. To say the least!
I told him I strongly believed I should have been notified before he moved like that. On top of that – to Miami?! Come on. Really?? There are hardly any major corporations located in Miami that specify our product. Even the limited hospitality business that we do in Florida does not, in any way, compare to the corporate business that we do in the Northeast. And I must pay for him to fly in reverse to our revenue locations.
Furthermore, our company, like our competitors, is not working hybrid! I don’t know where he got this idea from. It is 2023. Our HQ is in Georgia and practically never closed, even at the height of the pandemic! Basically, most of our design firm accounts are back to work in the office, where they want to socialize and work with their colleagues; it’s not rocket science.
I feel incredibly deceived. I’m on the verge of firing him. It’s my immediate reaction, at least. What do you think, Stephen? What is your advice?
Sales Director Gone MIA
Dear Mr. VP,
You have every right to be annoyed about someone who reports to you relocating to another state without consulting you first. This person never even notified HR that they were changing their payroll address.
On the other hand, I must ask, how did you not pick up on this sooner?
It’s true that there are a lot of sales executives moving from the Northeast to Florida because of the sun, the fun… and because of the lack of a state income tax, but 99% of these executives discuss the move with their boss before they start packing.
It is common for employees to have relocated, especially during the pandemic, since they began to believe that Hybrid working was going to stick, when in fact, it’s the opposite that has occurred. Employers across the board are requiring that everyone gets back to work in the office a minimum of 3 days a week.
Like it or not, the office interiors industry (including floor covering, furniture, lighting, textiles, etc.) has an even stronger feeling about this issue than other industries because, as I’ve said a million times in this column, if you’re selling product in the office interiors industry the least you could do is to go to an office! It’s just common sense and good business 101.
As far as people being able to relocate within the geography that they manage or sell – that’s an important and usually positive flexibility that can sometimes attract candidates to a position your company may not ordinarily attract. Simply put, if you let somebody live anywhere in the territory, you will have a wider choice of candidates and may wind up with a more highly qualified person. So, if you are not a major brand, for instance, #Steelcase, #Haworth, #HNI, or MillerKnoll, you may want to consider being flexible about where someone lives.
But your case is different. This manager was already living in New York and picked up and went silently south. That says something about his judgment and his integrity, and, ultimately, it’s going to hurt your company because he is simply not in the right location to maximize sales.
Let me answer your question by quoting a famous New Yorker who went on to national fame and relocated from New York to Florida. Tell your wayward employee: “You’re Fired”!