The Early Years...
Raised in a military family and moving 5 times by the age of 15, our family eventually settled in Alton, IL, in an area known as the “Metro-East” of St. Louis. My father had been a Lt. Col. in the U.S. Air Force and had just recently retired as a ballistics engineer. There he went to work for the Olin Corporation in the Winchester Division and I attended Alton Senior High School where I played basketball and ran track and cross-country.
After graduating from high school I attended the University of Illinois and studied Liberal Arts & Sciences. There I majored in Communications and earned a minor in Math and joined the team as a walk-on.
My dream was to run in the Big-Ten. I made the team and lettered a couple of years and had a handful of good races. I finished as the number 2 and 3 man a couple of times but was never the star.
Not being fast enough to scholarship, I had to work in the summers. Out of the necessity to earn money and not being content with getting paid by the hour, I started selling books with the Southwestern Company energized by the possibility of being paid on commission.
This sounds insane now, but I was so hungry to do well that at Southwestern I would make approximately 12,000 cold calls over the next 3 summers. It was quite an experience and I learned a lot.
While I loved the rewards of business development, it was out of this experience that I recognized I wanted to advise, coach, and train leaders on a larger scale. My friends often told me that I had a gift for speaking and coaching and that I should consider this.
It was in my first sales and training roles that I saw first-hand, how many organizations often erroneously promoted their best sales people into management without providing them all the tools for success. I saw quite often that the best sales people did not necessarily make the best leaders.
This is one reason I ultimately went back to graduate school. First to earn a master’s degree in Training & Development from Illinois State University and then a Ph.D. in Human Resource & Organizational Development from the University of Illinois. My research topic was Feedback and how it was used to develop leaders. Specifically, I studied 360-degree feedback and how it was used in Leadership Development programs at 3 Fortune 500 organizations: State Farm, John Deere, and Baxter Healthcare.
I believed this background would provide me with a solid understanding of various models for determining a commercial strategy, facilitating organizational cultural change, and designing world-class training experiences. I wanted to prepare myself to credibly advise business leaders toward success.
After finishing my doctorate I was offered a teaching position at the University of Illinois for which I was truly grateful, but decided at this particular time in life that it was more important to be in an active role in business, as opposed to studying it.
Much like a doctor who finishes medical school in need of a residency in order to gain practical experience, I then went to work for Andersen Consulting in their Organizational Change and Human Performance group to hone my craft. The pace was fast, I learned a tremendous amount and grew professionally. But after just 1 year, I found myself desiring a new role which didn’t have 100 percent travel requirements.
The Later Years...
At this juncture I was then given a chance to work in the medical device industry in various sales, marketing, training, and management roles.
I was especially intrigued by this opportunity as it was truly a field where technology improvements immediately yielded higher quality-of-life outcomes. There were many intrinsic rewards I will forever cherish because of the high quality people I was privileged to work with in this season of life.
In all, I worked in the Medical Device Industry for 12 years for companies like U.S. Surgical, Johnson & Johnson, & Medtronic. Because of the relationships I had, I was successful in a number of roles and in various companies. Two of the companies were start-ups, one was bought out by Johnson & Johnson for 800 million--Acclarent, and another--Salient, was bought by Medtronic for 300 million.
Individually, I won a half-dozen awards, was given the Cartier watch for best performance across several hundred sales personnel, and possibly could have stayed in the industry for the rest of my career.
But over the long term, my heart just wasn’t in it. In retrospect, I probably should have made the transition into private consulting a little sooner, but was hesitant to do so having a young family. Honestly, for the sake of my wife and family, I was too afraid to leave the security of a well paying job. And so I struggled for while wanting to leave, but not having the guts to make the jump as an entrepreneur and start my own consulting and training company.
Change is funny. We often don’t see it coming. But when it comes in a genuine form I believe it’s important to listen and accept the signs that speak to us in those moments.
For me this happened with an incredible grace and prompting. While still working at my company at the time, I was at a large sales meeting where the keynote speaker was Simon Sinek. As I listened to Simon speak I resonated with so much of what he said. I remember thinking, “Wow, I wish I could talk to him”. The meeting was at the Ritz in Miami, and immediately after he spoke I headed to the beach for a long walk. I knew I had a lot to ponder.
When I returned to the hotel about an hour later I headed for my room. As I was standing at the elevator, the doors opened and as I walked forward to get on the elevator, Simon was walking off. We practically bumped into each other.
Neither of us saw it coming. For a split second we glanced at each other. I tried to say “excuse me”. But Simon beat me to the punch, took one look at me, and said unbelievably enough “Do you want to talk?”
I couldn’t believe what I heard. Of course I did. Since he was catching a flight, we walked to his limo where he asked me what was on my mind.
Looking back, it was all kind of surreal. It was one of those moments where you can’t believe that what you just had hoped for, was actually happening. He was incredibly gracious. He was genuinely interested in my dilemma and sincerely concerned. He then offered to take a series of Coaching calls with me to help me through the transition at no charge to me.
Over the next few weeks we had several great phone calls. At one point, Simon really helped me see that the thing I was most passionate about was helping organizations grow. And that effectively, this was my personal “Why”.
Ultimately, he helped me see that my passion is catalyzing growth through accelerating topline revenue. And that this passion is best expressed in my work where I do speaking, coaching, training & workshops for leaders and sales teams.
In arriving at this conclusion, I researched various opportunities and discovered that Sandler is the world’s largest Leadership & Sales Training organization, with some 300 offices across the globe.
I also learned that Sandler Leadership & Sales Model was industry agnostic and that in my opinion, it was the best mix of sales and leadership development materials in the country. This point was further validated by the fact that I learned that the Executive Education Programs at both Harvard University and Stanford University teach portions of our content various Sales Leadership programs.
My goals for my work are several. I want to help companies grow through increased sales. I believe that sales tasks can be executed with integrity, transparency, and authenticity. I also believe that the companies that seek out and nurture these values will emerge as the long term market-leaders.
Second, I want to develop great leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence, great leadership skills, strong communication skills, and with an eye towards strategy.
Third, I want to help solopreneurs and the entrepreneurs learn how to negotiate good deals and become confident in their own deal making style.
Fourth, I want to help existing businesses and sales teams expand and accelerate top-line revenue growth to be good at what they do, and proud of it.
It remains undisputed that a strong economy depends on the cyclical, predictable, and regular exchange of goods and services. The exchange of goods is fundamentally a negotiation and/or sales related task. The ultimate end of the CEO, the entrepreneur, business development executive, and leadership---is to facilitate all of the above. As Daniel Pink writes, “To sell is Human”.