ANAHEIM — Fast-talking Harry Peaden Jr. is so enthusiastic when he speaks that sweat breaks out on his brow. He smiles so frequently that his dimples look permanent. And when it comes to selling, Peaden says, he's the best.
Would you buy a car from this man? Thirteen people did, all in one day, when Peaden was a 19-year-old hawking cars at his daddy's lot in Macon, Ga.
Now 31, the blond Georgian came to Orange County Monday to put together a sales force of two dozen people to sell boxes of frozen steaks, chicken and seafood door to door.
Sound familiar? The Southland airwaves were once filled with commercials from companies that sold sides of beef to consumers, often renting them the freezer to store it in. Some of these outfits had reputations as unsavory as the quality of their beef. And one by one, they failed.
Peaden acknowledges the industry's checkered past. When he talks about his 37th Country-Fed Meat Co. office opening in Anaheim this week, he constantly mentions quality and honesty.
The company's sales representatives will work entirely on commission. But Peaden said if the company receives three complaints about them, "it's taken care of--BOOM--just like that," rapping the desk hard but barely breaking his rapid-fire patter.
The meat is butchered by a Chicago processor that also serves major restaurant chains. Top quality, Peaden says. And he offers a money-back guarantee.
Peaden wears his success on the sleeve of his expensive, tailored double-breasted suits. His public relations man pulls out color photos of Peaden with his attractive wife and family in front of their Georgia mansion. They're leaning against one of his two Rolls-Royces. He said he also owns five Mercedes-Benzes.
The company's sales force would share in the prosperity. The typical Country-Fed sales representative earns $40,000 a year or more, he said. The top salesperson pulled in $180,000 last year. They ply the streets in neat red golf shirts and caps, driving white panel trucks. Sales calls will be made at homes, office parks, small groceries--any place customers can be found.
More than 150 potential sales reps showed up to apply for 25 openings Monday morning at the company's first California offices. "I've been around the country and never has there been so many applications in one day," Peaden said.
Peaden, the company chairman, and brother Mike, the 30-year-old president, pump up the sales force through meetings and inspirational videos. They drill into them, "PMA equals OPM"--"Positive Mental Attitude equals Other People's Money." To put it even more simply: sell, sell, sell.
And sell they do. The company, based in Riverdale, Ga., expects to move 9 million pounds of beef this year alone, and nationwide sales are expected to total $50 million. Although the company sells chicken and seafood, steaks are the biggest seller.
The most popular assortment is the "Six Pack," six boxes of restaurant-size cuts of steaks, a total of 84 pieces, that sells for $180.
Peaden brushes aside worries about Californians losing their appetite for red meat. Everyone loves a good steak, he reminds visitors frequently. And hey, there is always the chicken and seafood.
He plans television commercials using a yet-undetermined local sports celebrity as a pitchman. He will reach countless other consumers through direct mail. People will know Country-Fed before a salesman ever knocks on their door, he said.
And the company he started nine years ago will continue to expand. In a few years, he hopes to have 90 to 100 offices, including several in central and Northern California.
"We want to put them all over America," Peaden said, flashing that wide smile. "People got to eat."