Joe Girard - World's Greatest Salesperson, Best Selling Author and Motivational Speaker
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"World's Greatest Salesperson" - title never beaten - as attested by the Guiness Book of World Records!
October 8, 2001 - Joe Girard earns spot in Automotive Hall of Fame  -  click here to read the story



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 1955.

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 complained.

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.

"If 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."

If your 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