Leadership and Selling Fireworks

[July 1, 2018]  As a teenager, I had a number of odd jobs that paid little, low prestige, and often came with risk of harm.  One such job was selling fireworks; much like we see as the 4th of July celebration approaches.  These jobs taught me about leadership in ways you might not expect.

Learning is often done by doing.  Some jobs require complex reasoning, while others like handling fireworks require a steady hand and common sense.  That’s why selling fireworks in Texas as a 16-year old requires you to get permission from your parents; which I did not do.  But the summer was good to me anyway and none of my relatives found out what I was doing to earn a few bucks.

Mike Browder owned a fireworks stand just outside the city limits of Abilene, Texas where it was legal to sell them.  I worked pretty steady for about three weeks for Mr. Browder; a man who was missing two fingers (from errant fireworks) and a leg (from the Korean War).  He taught me some fundamentals of leadership despite trying to ignore his advice.

Here are 10 things Mr. Browder taught me about leadership and being successful (although he didn’t call it that):

  1. Do things that others don’t want to do; especially things they don’t like to do.
  2. The most important person in selling anything is the customer.
  3. Don’t be afraid to go a little above and beyond the call of duty.
  4. Knowledge is power. In selling fireworks, learn how to pack explosives.
  5. The job, its owner, and the customers don’t owe you anything and probably don’t care either.
  6. Work smart, not hard and use your common sense.
  7. Know that you will be tested at all times on how you handle everything, so be ready.
  8. Don’t pretend to know things you don’t.
  9. Safety is not first, a good sell is first.
  10. Don’t brag about your accomplishments.

Mr. Browder was no hero and not a very good businessman.  I never knew why and neither did I care at the time.  Several years later as I was attending the U.S. Army Infantry Course, I thought about those times and wondered what might have happened to Mr. Browder.  His lessons had stuck with me and were an important part of my successes later in life.

Thank you, Mr. Browder.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

26 thoughts on “Leadership and Selling Fireworks

  1. Wesley Brown

    Great weekend read. Thanks, General Satterfield. I’m sure your childhood was interested, to say the least.

  2. José Luis Rodriguez

    Exceptionally good story today with a lesson. Thanks.

    1. Tony B. Custer

      Spot on, Gil. Thanks for reminding me that these gems do occasionally crop up that are about Gen Satterfield as a kid. These are the sorts of things I like to read.

    2. Kenny Foster

      I agree. These are my favorite. :-))

    3. Ronny Fisher

      Lessons that are learned when entertained, are the very best.

  3. Georgie M.

    These stories from your teenage years are great, makes me want to read more, and are inspiring.

  4. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Good article today and on a subject dear to my family. We all insist that our kids work some job (or two) throughout the year and full time in the summer months. It’s not that we are poor but that they need to learn both the value of money and the value of their time.

  5. Eric Coda

    Great list of 10 things you learned from working as a teenager. Thank you for the list and for the great story. I agree with the others that these stories are a wonderful read, especially as I arrive a few minutes early at work just to see what is here each day.

  6. Max Foster

    This story gives us the reason not to have a minimum wage at all. Gen Satterfield as a young boy was able to make a couple of dollars but MORE IMPORTANTLY, gain invaluable life lessons that can only be gotten through work. A minimum wage prevents many kids from getting jobs and those who just need a few bucks. Our politicians say they are compassionate about the poor and want them to earn more. But what they have done is prevent them from learning key lessons on HOW TO WORK early in life. Too bad our politicians are simply dumb as dirt on this issue.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      You got that right, Max. Politicians may be pretty stupid when it comes to economics but many of our parents have drunk the liberal propaganda kool-aid that low-pay work is bad.

    2. Dale Paul Fox

      More great comments from Max. Thanks for your MUST READ comment on such an important topic. 😉

    3. Max Foster

      Thank you all for your magnanimous feedback.

    4. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      This line of argument has been made numerous times before. There are simply many politicians who lack the moral courage to stand up and do something about it because they fear the “uninformed” voter.

  7. Dennis Mathes

    This story takes me back in time a few decades to when I worked as a teenager for about a dollar an hour. It made me appreciate the value of money and to never take my parents for granted. They were the ones who made me take my first job and I always appreciated it, especially later in life when valuable lessons came of it. Thanks Gen Satterfield for your blog post today and the nostalgia.

  8. Tony B. Custer

    Your stories remind me of my childhood and teenage years working too. Well done.

  9. Darryl Sitterly

    Good article and entertaining too.

  10. Joe the Aussie

    Welcome to the new modern world where everyone is the same and should not have to work. HaHa. Another socialist paradise going to hell. This is why we all should be required to work as kids. There is so much to learn.

  11. Doc Blackshear

    No one should be surprised at the leadership lessons from our younger days. That is what working in temporary, low paying, low prestige jobs is all about. You learn, for example, that this is not the type of work you want to do when you grow up. Today, kids don’t have jobs and so they don’t learn the basics any more.

    1. Eddie Ray Anderson,

      I agree that kids today have it too easy. But that is not the issue. It’s their parents not forcing them to do things they don’t like.

  12. Georgie M.

    I enjoyed your story this morning. Thanks for an informative article on how you can get leadership lessons from any job, regardless how hard it is or how dangerous.

  13. Army Captain

    This is great. I see you had many odd jobs as a teenager that ultimately made you a better person. That is how most of us learned to keep a steady temper and good work ethic. Thanks for the story.

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