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Meet Mary Chambers - WIFI@Work

I got my start at the very bottom rung. It was March 15, 1972 and my knowledge was that I could pick out a bolt, nut and a washer. I did have a good working knowledge of math. That was it. I have been selling hardware into distributors and end-users for over 44 years. I consider all of my customers to be friends and many I have known since I started as a young woman looking for a job; any job.

Times were very different back then. In 1972 I was paid $2.10/hour. If memory proves me right after 90 days I got a raise to $2.25/hour. How was I to know that that was the beginning of a great career that I could actually enjoy working in and building a future?

It took me just a short time to look around and realize that the folks that made good money were the outside salespeople. So after a couple of years of working for a large manufacturer and then an Industrial Supply House, I found myself back where I started with Standard Hardware. The pay didn’t get much better, but my boss (Bill Horn) allowed me to go outside and start making sales calls. It was very scary but I decided if I was going to make any money that is what I had to do.

After a couple of years there, then another company, then back to Standard Hardware, it was funny really, I went into business with a friend and we started our own Distributorship. I look back on it and am still surprised by the speed or the ability to open a small company selling fasteners to End-users with about $10,000. Amazing really. We were open for about eight years and then oil collapsed.

Our mistake was selling primarily into oil and gas, which I do today, what could one do, after all, this is Texas. Soon I was back to looking for a job. After a stint with three companies finally ending up with a small hot-headed manufacturer I went to work for Lake Erie Screw. What a gift.

I worked for them for a little over eight years and they were instrumental in helping me start up my Sales Agency. That was in 1994 which means I have been a rep for eighteen years and love it. I merged my agency with Doug Rolston’s warehouse and agency in 2002. We are still at it. I am in charge of sales and he is operations. He is the one who comes to work every day and turns on the lights.

I could not ask for a better situation, Doug is a great guy and we have found a great balance at the workplace, which is paramount to a great partnership. I have been fortunate in having the right people at the right time helping me to reach any goal that I felt ready for. It took me a short time to figure out that outside sales people made the money, so that is what I aimed for. It was a different time and for the most part most looked at me as if to say I had suddenly grown a second head.

Those days are gone and women can reach for any goal without being looked at strangely. One of my strengths was that I started out at the bottom, and struggle has always been a good motivator for me. I was anxious to move up. I have co-owned my own distributor company and worked in the corporate world for a manufacturer. Most of my corporate experience was as an outside salesperson many states away, so I have little strength in corporate structure and office politics.

When I did get into outside sales, my customers became my teachers and mentors. Upon my first 3 years, I had two different men who saw a spark and understood that I intended to stay in this industry. That is a must.

My talents lie in outside sales, fastener knowledge and customer service. I would love to mentor someone who has a need for these aspects of their career.

I feel very fortunate to be in this business. It has given me much to be happy and proud of. I like to think that in some small way my great adventure has helped women in our industry. I applaud all of the women that work in our industry and hope that they are indeed happy and will continue support women as more of us take advantage of the many opportunities that this industry affords us.

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