Door to door sales could be a tough business. Consumers becoming irate and slamming doors in the face of salesmen are par for the course in the industry.
In the late 1960s while selling cleaning products on a Saturday afternoon in mid-town Toronto, Guy Steer was greeted by a smiling face on the other side of the door. His product knowledge, professionalism and attitude impressed the customer who bought a few hundred dollars’ worth of merchandise.
“As I was leaving, I asked the lady if there is anything else I could do for her and she told me to please leave because she had already spent all her money,” recounted Steer who was last week recognized with a Black Business & Professional Association’s (BBPA) Man of Honour Award.
Unknown to the salesman, the lady’s husband sitting on the veranda reading a newspaper overheard Steer’s work request.
“What else can you do?” he asked Steer.
“I could repair radios and televisions,” was the salesman’s prompt and confident reply. “He told me to hold on as he went inside.”
Returning with a business card, the husband instructed Steer to report to 124 MacPherson Ave. on Monday morning and tell the general manager that he was hired.
The late Ted Rogers, one of Canada’s wealthiest people who founded this country’s largest cable-television and mobile phone company, owned T R Services located at the address where Steer’s new employer was located.
Graduating from Jamaica’s Ferncourt High School where his classmates included Supreme Court of Jamaica judge Horace Marsh, Steer worked in the bauxite and alumina industry for nearly two years before coming to Canada in 1964 to pursue electronic engineering studies at RCC Institute of Technology, formerly Radio College of Canada.
Completing the program with the second highest mark in his class, Steer had three job offers.
“I had intended to return to Jamaica after graduation, but when the job offers came in and I realized the money I could make was good, I decided to stay here,” he said.
Without landed immigrant status, however, Steer was unable to accept the offers.
Selling cleaning products while waiting for his immigration documents led Steer to Rogers who passed away in 2008.
The euphoria of securing a new job with a company owned by a Canadian magnate was however short-lived.
“I was the only Black person at TR and I was not readily accepted by the staff,” recalled Steer. “Mr. Rogers asked me if I could work alone and when I told him yes, he put me downstairs and instructed the other employees to bring the equipment, which included cross bar switches, for me to fix.”
After completing his first assignment, Rogers sent Steer to Western Canada to work on an installation testing project.
“I finished that job, that was expected to take three months, in six weeks and the reason why I got it done so fast was because I didn’t have any friends or family out there and I worked most of the time,” said Steer. “Mr. Rogers was going to send me out to Ottawa for another job, but there was resentment from the workers there when they learned I was heading their way and I decided to quit after nine months with the company.”
Steer has done extremely well for himself in the last two decades.
A successful real estate agent, he started several companies, including GTG Industries Ltd. which owns and operates residential properties in the city and, in partnership with various government agencies, provides personal care homes for persons with developmental disabilities. The company also offers mortgage services.
Over the years, Steer has contributed significant financial and mentorship resources to the community. He has sponsored tables for young people to attend BBPA events, including the annual Harry Jerome Awards that recognizes excellence in Canada’s Black community and provided mentorship to individuals seeking financial independence.
“When you call on him for assistance, he’s always there,” said BBPA president Pauline Christian. “Guy cares about our young people and will do anything to put them in a position to succeed.”