Episode 18 – Suit The Hell Up! with 4 Men United

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It wasn’t so long ago that our hero wandered into a clothes shop in Woodbridge.  It’s called 4 Men United.  It’s run by four brothers born in Canada to an Italian family with a long history in the fashion industry.  Tim likes the place. It’s a much more comfortable place to shop than your average men’s store, usually populated by a hungry horde of ravenous salesman.  It’s different at 4 Men. But Tim, being Tim, quickly wore out his welcome. You see, one of the brothers sports a rather large, dark beard. The kind of beard that any Italian man might grow.  But for Tim something else came to mind.

“Hey!  Nice terrorist beard!”  He said one day while trying on a pair of slacks.

“Hey!” said the offended owner.  “I have friends who are Muslim!”

Unfazed, Tim retorted that the owner was, in point of fact, an idiot.  He was not referring to Muslims. He was referring to terrorists.

Tim recounts this story at the start of this week’s episode which features, by some miracle, two of the brothers who agreed, against their better judgement, to appear on the show.  

Alessandro and Marco are ridiculously young to be running a successful retail store.  Just 23 and 28 they learned at the foot of their father who worked in Canadian retail for decades.  After their dad’s retirement Ales and Marco, along with their older brothers Michael and Mario, struck out on their own.  The business has been operating for four years now. They’ve been incredibly successful. Just this last year alone they they did over 400 weddings.

The key to their success has been a focus on quality service.  That runs contrary to the rest of the industry which seems to focus on predatory sales tactics than actually giving the customer what they want.  All of this seems to completely bore Tim.

“Which one of the brothers has had sex in the store?” He asks.

Too professional to answer the brothers gently skirt the question.  Tim is undeterred.

“How many guys have you seen butt naked in the change room?”

Again, being professionals, neither Ales nor Marco will admit to bearing witness to any such thing.  They do, however, admit that there is a tendency among a certain kind of customer to strut around the store in their tighty whities while trying on clothes.  Most of those customers are named Tim Byrne.




Episode 17 – Susan Allen’s 1st Podcast featuring BOMA Toronto

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Tim is really excited for this week’s guest.  He somehow managed to convince the President of BOMA Toronto to join him on this edition.  Susan Allen has a ton of experience in building management, including a decade at Cadillac Fairview.  Tim’s been super-impressed with her work ethic for a long time and was thrilled when she agreed to appear on the show.

Susan has been in the industry for a little over twenty years.  She worked at TD Centre for about eight years and later was asked to move over to the retail side of the business.  Her first property was at Woodbine Centre which was a faltering shopping mall in Etobicoke.  She managed to turn the place around and learned a lot about retail in the process.  Moving from commercial to retail was very different. The commercial world is a lot more buttoned-down and corporate.  Woodbine depended on a lot of small businesses with very different expectations. Tim gets to brass tacks right away.

“Who pays their rent better?  Retail or commercial?” He asks point blank.

Susan is very diplomatic in her answer.  She says big corporate retailers are pretty easy to deal with because they are so stable.  The smaller mom and pop operations are often struggling and that meant Susan had to make accomodations for them.

Susan had already worked with BOMA for more than a decade before she came over to work as President.  She had left her position at Cadillac Fairview to get her MBA. Shortly after the President of BOMA left and she was asked to take over.

“Is BOMA an old boys club?” Tim asks.

When he was more involved with the organization he found it to be a pretty insular place.  Susan says they have worked very hard to change that. Every member can apply for any position now and they will all be guaranteed at least an interview.  BOMA has also been working hard to open the organization to younger professionals.

“Do women get paid less than men?”  Tim asks.

Susan says she hasn’t experienced that in her career, with the caveat that she has worked with two great companies over the years.  These days top talent is in such high demand that she would be shocked if it was pervasive practice.

“It just doesn’t make any business sense.” She says.

Tim wraps up the conversation by asking if she works more or less hours since moving to BOMA.  Her husband asked the same question. She says she’s just not wired that way. She’s always working to raise the bar higher.

“You’re a total powerhouse.” Tim says.




Episode 16 – The King Ron Rau

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TIm is coming to you one last time from the Gaylord Hotel in beautiful downtown Nashville.  The Gaylord is the site of this years PRSM conference but Tim just can’t get over that name.  

“I can’t even handle that name.” Tim says at the start of this week’s episode.

Tim’s co-host this week is Paint Chips otherwise known as Anthony Vinzi from Promain.  Paint Chips was awarded one of Tim’s famous nicknames after being interviewed on TBAL.  Anthony was so boring it was like eating paint chips thus earning his latest moniker.

Today Tim has invited Ron Rau to join him on the podcast.  Ron is an old friend and together he and Tim have been through a lot together.  Career changes and divorces are just two examples. Though Ron is quick to point out that he hasn’t been divorced yet.  Tim asks Ron how long he’s been married.

“37 years.” Ron says.

“Ugh.” Tim tastefully replies.

Tim invited Ron on the show to talk about something most of us will experience in our career.  Losing a job. Ron worked at the same company for nearly 20 years. They were in the middle of restructuring and Ron had been charged with laying-off many of his staff.  That was difficult. Then he was called into his bosses office and told he was being let go to.

Tim knows that Ron lived and breathed his job.  Getting the axe was incredibly difficult. Ron’s former company asked him to work for a few weeks more.  But then he found himself with no place to go. He was used to speed. Going fast all the time turned into very, very slow.  That took some getting used to.

Tim shifts the conversation to ethics in the retail business.  When Tim was doing work for Ron’s former company he says he worked harder than for any other client.  The reason for that was simple. It wasn’t for the money. It was because they were friends. The norm in the industry now is that vendors don’t have personal relationships with retailers.  Some retailers forbid contact at all. Companies have put in those rigid rules to prevent anyone being “on the take.” That has made the entire much more impersonal.

“I’m not sure if retailers know what they’re buying half the time!” He says.    

It’s become so extreme that showing up at a job site with a box of doughnuts is totally verboten.  Tim thinks it’s just about basic manners and politeness. Tim’s Mom taught him to show up at a friend’s house with a gift.  It’s basic human decency.

Episode 15 – Cold as Ice with Boston Rob

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Tim continues his adventures a the PRSM conference in Nashville this week.  This time he’s invited an old friend Boston Rob to join him. Oddly Rob is not from Boston originally but the nickname has stuck over the 15 years Tim has known him.  His real name is Rob Atkocaitis.

“I have a cream for that.” Tim says.

Rob has had a bunch of jobs over the last 15 years but he now works with Ocean Air AC.  They manufacture portable air conditioners and heaters.  The business has changes a lot over the last decade. In the past manufacturers would sell through a stocking distributor but now the middle man has been cut out.  Most manufacturers in the HVAC world sell direct to their customers now.

Ocean Air manufacturer makes everything in the United States making them the kind of business Donald Trump says he wants to defend.  Tariffs on foreign manufacturers would be a huge boon to their company. The HVAC market has been flooded with cheap products from Asia.  They won’t last as long as Ocean Air units but they cost less up front. That’s hard to compete with.

Rob says he is a big relationship sales guy.  He’s travelling at least three days a week to keep up his relationships with all his clients.  He’s been in the industry for so long he knows his stuff back and forth. Meeting new clients can be brutally hard and he says it keeps getting harder.  It used to be much more relationship based. Nowadays it’s all about cutting costs as much as possible. Unlike most manufacturers Ocean Air actually follows up with clients after their units are installed.  

“What’s the most embarrassing things you’ve ever done in front of a client?” Tim asks.

Rob recounts a story from early in his career.  Still in his mid 20’s went on a long day of golding with a client.  Needless to say the “golf game” was just code for a long day of drinking.  After the game he was invited back to his client’s place for a nightcap. Being a young cub he was still unaware of the dehydrating effects of alcohol.  Within minutes of arriving at the house Rob passed out. A team of paramedics arrived to cart him off to the hospital. The doctor took a battery of tests and asked how much he had to drink.  Despite being 15 or 16 beers deep he didn’t even register as legally drunk. His client was so impressed he stayed with Rob for years.

Contact Rob




Episode 14 – The second coming of Big Chris

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It’s been a strange week in Nashville.  The PRSM conference is a lonely place for a Canadian boy like Tim Byrne.  Shunned by his American counterparts he’s been left to wander, listlessly through the dizzying array of display booths.  The PRSM crowd are a grim lot. Ashen-faced they stagger through the crowded hall with frozen smiles smashed across their dull faces. Tim starts to fear for his very soul.  Luckily, redemption is at hand. For there is one man that strides across this ocean of despair like the savior himself.

“Is that Fat Jesus?”  He asks.

Indeed it is.  Or rather it’s Christopher Blount.  President of Filtrex Services.  Chris is an old friend of Tim’s and agreed to appear on this edition of TBAL.  He earned his nickname because of his large stature and even larger beard. Being a generous soul he’s forgiven Tim for coining that hateful moniker.

Like any divine being Chris has been gifted with the power of prophecy.

“I can predict who what companies are going to make it and which ones won’t.” He says.

Everyone knows and likes Chris at PRSM but that sometimes doesn’t translate into sales.  

“Is it because your afraid to sell yourself?” Tim asks?

“Sometimes.” Chris answers.

At his first PRSM conference years ago Chris went all out.  He brought in Harley’s for prospective clients to ride. He hosted parties.  He shook every hand. And he didn’t get one piece of business. That was a big lesson for him.  He has since learned to let his technology speak for itself.

Unsurprisingly, Tim digresses from this important conversation about business.

“You’re one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met,” he says. “But you’re scary as shit from a distance.”

Chris is big and tough looking.  But it took a long time to try and portray himself in a more friendly way.  Stopping drinking was a big part of that. But so was not caring so much about what other people thought of him.

The conversation eventually drifts into politics.  Tennessee is deep Trump country and Chris is an avowed Republican.  He’s taken a lot of shit from his Democratic friends for voting for Trump but he now regrets it, admitting that he is a total embarrassment.  

The episode wraps up with a discussion about the horrors of Ron Jeremy the importance of choosing the right lane.