JOSEPH SAMUEL GIRARD -
BIOGRAPHY Joe Girard is
one of those rare creatures: a highly motivated man who can communicate his
inspiration and attitudes to others.
Joe refers to it as
"spark." In his own words, "sparks create fires." His
first sparks would come painfully at an early age. He was born on November
1, 1928, on the east side of Detroit, Michigan, in one of the city's most
deplorable ghettos. He lived about one mile from one of his earliest heroes,
Joe Louis, who escaped from poverty and became heavyweight champion boxer
of the world while Joe was still a struggling adolescent.
The initial struggle
began with his own father, Antonino, an extremely poor man of Sicilian
birth who found no success in his new country and vented his bitterness,
both physically and emotionally, upon his younger son. Joe often speculates
as to whether his father's behavior was the carefully planned campaign of a
man who desperately wished to challenge his son. Whatever the truth, the
senior Girard chose to constantly berate his son with the message that Joe
would never amount to anything worthwhile. This was Joe's first spark: the
determination to prove that his father had been wrong.
At the same time, Joe's
mother fed her constant love and belief that, indeed, Joe was capable of
succeeding in life. This was Joe's second spark: to show his mother that
her love and judgment had not been misplaced.
These two sparks led to Joe's
first revelation: that smart work and persistence could work wonders. At
the age of 9, after school and a hurried dinner, Joe patrolled the
neighborhood bars for some shoe shine customers. He would not have thought
of it in these terms, but after examining the market he decided that the
best source for business was a place of leisure where people were relaxed
and inclined to be generous. Bars had another advantage in bad weather:
they were warm. To this days, Joe's two most precious possessions are his
original shoe shine box, sitting proudly upon the one file cabinet of his
office, along with a photograph of Joe shining shoes in a saloon. The
experience taught him another valuable lesson: a fear of alcohol. Joe is
willing to have an occasional drink, but he has never forgotten what he saw
in those bars.
His joy with this
success lead to his next enterprise as a newscarrier. At the age of 11, he
took his second job as a newscarrier for the Detroit Free Press. Because it
was, and still is, a morning paper, it was necessary to be up at 5:30 a.m.
to complete his route before school. The Free Press, he quickly learned,
also offered bonuses for enterprising newsboys who where willing to solicit
and gain new business. For each new customer, the reward was a case of
Pepsi-Cola. The old barn behind the Girard house was soon stacked high with
the rewards of Joe's efforts. Although it provided the four Girard children
with a huge supply of soda pop, something their parents couldn't possibly
afford, Joe soon realized that he had a growing inventory of value and soon
began his third business venture as soda pop supplier to the neighborhood
children at a price no ordinary vendor could meet. His proudest moments
were on those days when he brought his earning to his mother; no childish
gesture as his pennies helped to put badly needed food on the Girard table.
The Detroit Free Press
can probably be credited with the first insight given to Joe with regard to
exceptional progress. A contest was proclaimed for the solicitation of new
readers. The grand prize was to be a new, sparkling two-wheeler bicycle.
Now 12 years of age, this driven youngster had never possessed a bike.
Joe knew the secret
that could win the bike. He would spend every unused, waking moment
knocking on doors and asking for business. This had always been his secret.
He knew that it worked - what he could not comprehend was why the other
newsboys did not see the obvious. Joe won more than the bicycle. He won the
knowledge that if he planned his work and worked his plan, he could
succeed. He learned that most people were not willing to make this
sacrifice. As he once said, "any one of those kids could have beat me,
but they weren't willing to work. They didn't want it badly enough."
Joe's teen years were
difficult and bitter, especially at home. His natural spirit and pride
brought him, time after time, into direct conflict with an increasingly
bitter and vengeful father. Almost regularly he ordered Joe from the Girard
home. From the age of 14, Joe spent many of his nights sleeping in boxcars
at the Grand Trunk Railroad yards, located directly across the street from
his home. In bad weather, he used 25 cent a night flop houses. At this age
he was now able to seek more rewarding employment after school, such as
dishwasher, dock loader at the produce terminal, delivery boy, and pageboy
at the Book-Cadillac Hotel. He also devoted some evenings to the
neighborhood pool hall, trying to hustle additional dollars. He lived with
the constant fear that if he didn't bring home sufficient money he would
have to face his father's anger.
Formal education for
Joe ended during the eleventh grade. He was talking during a study period
and was addressed by the school principal, but not by his name. Well aware
of the existence of bigotry, but not willing to bow to it, Joe advised the
man that he would not respond until he was called by his proper name. The
principal stated "you people don't seem to understand how society will
be run" and then called Joe a derogatory name reflecting upon his
Sicilian ancestry. Joe's heated reaction resulted in his permanent
dismissal from school.
In 1944, at the age of
16, Joe obtained full-time employment at the Michigan Stove Company as a
stove assembler. He earned $75 weekly, his greatest earnings thus far, even
though it required 12-hour days, six days a week. Despite the standard use
of a protective face mask, his lungs became infected by the insulation
particles used to line the stove after a year of work. He was forced to
resign and to this day suffers from a serious asthmatic condition.
He then went to work as
an assistant to a fruit and vegetable vendor who merchandised his goods on
the east side of Detroit from the back of a truck. He enjoyed the outdoor
work and was proud of his sales ability, but he realized one day that there
was no future in this pursuit.
Dispirited and aimless,
Joe joined the United States Army Infantry on January 3, 1947, at the age
of 18. Ninety seven days later, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Joe fell from the
rear of a speeding military vehicle and badly injured his back. He was
given an honorable discharge after admitting to previously injuring his
back diving for the school swimming team.
During the next two years, Joe
would move from one unsatisfactory job to another, constantly frustrated
with the belief that his lack of education kept him from all but manual
labor. He was often discouraged, but never gave up hope. He felt that
somewhere in the world there was a place for him. In 1949, he had the good
fortune to meet Mr. Abraham Saperstein, a building contractor. Mr.
Saperstein, a warm, generous, and understanding man, became his father
surrogate when he invited Joe to enter the building business with the
pledge that he would teach Joe everything he knew. He'd finally found his
niche in life. With prospects of a secure future ahead, Joe married June
Krantz on June 2, 1951, with two children coming soon after, Joseph Jr. and
Grace. The relationship between Joe and Mr. Saperstein grew over the years
until his dear old friend retired and turned over the business to Joe in
In 1961, Joe contracted
to build a number of private homes in a Detroit subdivision. He accepted
the word of a real estate speculator that the area was to have a sewer
system installed, but this was not true. Individual septic tanks would have
to be installed, greatly reducing the value of the homes. As a result, Joe
lost his business. It was Christmas of 1962, and Joe Girard found himself
without a job, without savings, and in debt to the tune of $60,000. It was
the lowest moment in his life.
The next year Joe would
find himself in an endless struggle trying to recover his losses and his
ego. Things would finally hit rock bottom in the first week of January,
1963, when June Girard tearfully told her husband that there was no food in
the house and that their kids were begging for something to eat.
Joe had been job
hunting without success, but on that day he pleaded with the sales manager
of a Chevrolet dealership to hire him as a salesman. The manager was
reluctant because of his lack of experience and traditionally slow sales in
the month of January, but Joe stated that he would only take a desk
somewhere in the rear of the dealership and count on the telephone to
provide prospects. That evening he sold his first car and borrowed $10 from
the manager to bring a bag of groceries home to his family. In his second
month he would sell eighteen cars and trucks and was beginning to feel he
had a secure breath. Much to his amazement, the owner of the dealership
fired him for being too aggressive. Some of the other salesmen had
At this point, Joe knew
he could sell cars. He had proved it to himself, and was ready to prove it
to the world -- including Antonino Girard. Joe quickly found employment at
Merollis Chevrolet in Eastpointe, Michigan, working at what he did better
than anyone else in the world, selling automobiles!
For 12 straight years Joe sold
more cars and trucks than any other salesperson. More as an individual than
most dealers sell in total. No other salesperson has ever attained this
title for more than one year, and not for both cars and trucks.
On January 1, 1978, Joe
hung up his gloves and quit selling cars. During his selling career
(1963-1977), he sold 13,001 cars, all at retail. Most of his time is
now spent writing books, giving lectures, and sales rallies.
I can just strike that spark in a few people, it will all be worth it. The
American dream is still alive and flourishing - it's all up to them."
organization is interested in the dynamic Joe Girard and his proven
first-hand experience, contact him TODAY at:
P.O. Box 358
Eastpointe, MI 48021
Office: (313) 886-1530 or (586) 774-9020
Fax: (313) 886-9920