The 211 Story

One of the great things about being an entrepreneur and a salesperson (both, to me, are the same thing) is the fact that no two days are ever the same. When I was a young man, just getting into business, one of my mentors gave me the advice that if anyone asked me how I was doing the answer was always, “unbelievable”! It could have been unbelievably good or it could have been unbelievably bad, the answer covers it either way.

“What doesn’t kill you, and was stupid, makes you laugh years later”

                                                                                                     I said that


I don’t really know if the story of 211 is unbelievably bad or good, but it was sure stupid. The very first job interview was at Arby’s in Boone NC. I had a friend, Dennis, that already worked there and he said it was great. I had just turned 16 and another friend of my Chris wanted to join Dennis at Arby’s to raise money to buy music equipment, to start a band to meet girls. Meeting girls was the big push with a secondary goal of becoming popular in high school as well as liked and admired.

For some reason, must have been desperation, the manager at Arby’s in 1985 agreed to interview with Chris and I together. I put on my best skinny tie and met Chris at the restaurant. When I got their they handed Chris and I an application and asked us to fill it out. We sat at the first booth on the left as  you enter across from each other, heads down like it was some kind of major exam. Chris and I got through each field together and we both stopped about halfway down and were somewhat stumped at the question, “desired salary/per hour”. With the confidence that comes with ignorance, Chris and I sprung into action. We first figured out (on a napkin… you can’t make this stuff up, it’s all true) how much equipment we needed (drums, guitars, sound, amps…) then estimated a total amount for all of it. Not knowing that there would be a schedule we would have to adhere to, figured we could work an hour or two after school, you know – just dropping by and a few hours on weekend as long as the awesome band we were going to start didn’t have a gig. We took the weekly hours and divided them by the amount of the equipment to come up with the sum of $2.11 per hour. Very happy with our discovery we then wrote $2.11 per hour in the desired salary/per hour box and finished the application.

The Interview

As we completed the application, and gave it to one of the employees, the manager came out to interview us… together. In the same booth, now with the manager on one side and Chris and I on the other, he systematically when line by line on the application asking us questions. Everything was going well until he got to the section that asked for desired salary/per hour. He jerked his head back with a combination of shock and surprise and then asked the question, “where did you come up with $2.11 per hour” With grace, skill and stupidity, Chris and I enthusiastically produced the napkin and told the story about starting a band to meet girls. The manager’s only reply was, “well you guys know that minimum wage is $3.35 per hour”. Chris and I looked at each other as if we had just won the lottery and with a fist pump said, “YES!”. We were rich!

The Rest Of The Story

For some reason we still got the job. Dennis, Chris and I were good workers and dependable. The whole schedule thing was a bit of a sock, but not nearly as big of a shock as taxes and withholdings. We also had a difficulties getting time off being teenagers and low men in the hierarchy. I was able to save a lot of my money I earned. Over  a year and a half and another restaurant the band switched to I had saved $1200. It was getting time to graduate. Chris and I had parted ways but Dennis and I were the best of friends, still in the band that was made up of two other guys. I had my eye on a bass guitar that had been on the rack at the local music store for about a year. My dad and I went to the store with the intention of buying that guitar. My dad was an excellent negotiator and the salesman at the music store was a terrible actor. We agreed on $700… no taxes… just $700. I paid him with my Arby’s money. Five short years later and countless gigs, that $700 guitar that I bought with my Arby’s money was the exact instrument I was playing the night I met my wife. It took me a while but I met the girl of my dreams and it all started with asking for $2.11 per hour.