I had a couple of false starts before finding my passion for sales.
During school I had worked part-time selling clothes, which enabled me to do two things: build a little cash reserve and learn the phrase “can I help you?”. After school I got my first full-time job, my father who had made a comfortable living for our family working on big projects for the steel mills in Hamilton, Ontario, called in a favor and got me work at a friend’s custom metal fabrication shop. It was an eye opener: terribly hot, hugely uncomfortable and surprisingly dangerous. I lasted all of two weeks before packing it in and making the decision to keep all my fingers. So like any responsible young adult I decided to get out and see the world (translation: pack up my buddies beat up Volkswagen Beetle and head west to visit my uncle in sunny southern California). Well as you would expect the car barely made it out of Michigan before breaking down, so we hitchhiked across the country, which was an amazing adventure. I did make it to my uncle’s in one piece and immediately began working under the table as his gofer running errands; bank deposits; and doing deliveries for his tool and die shop. This work was a lot less dangerous and I of course took the scenic route at every opportunity. Well all good things must come to an end: I was caught working without a visa and was politely told to be on the next plane back to Canada or the state of California would put me on the plane. I choose to pay for my own ticket as I was convinced that at some point in the future I would be interested in visiting our friends south of the border.
My passion for sales begins now (hope I haven’t lost your interest yet!): back in Ontario penniless and desperate and with an overwhelming desire not to end up at the Steel Mills. I answered an ad for Automotive Sales with Burlington Toyota. Selling Toyota’s in the early 80’s was as easy as any sales job could be, consumers would line up to virtually pay list price for any car you had in inventory and the owner insisted we charge for floor mats. In this environment I wasn’t really learning much until I studied the one salesman that everyone hated Lindsay Leslie. He was consultative; an avid reader of sales books; and was always number 1 in sales! He really knew his stuff, although everyone else in the dealership thought he was just lucky, I knew luck had nothing to do with it. I spent 4 years at Burlington Toyota and in my third year I beat Lindsay and won my first sales award: Halton Region Import Salesman of the Year in 1987 and made 97k (big money for a young sales person in ’87!).
In 1988 I was recruited by a former customer and went to work in Toronto for Standard Broadcasting in the Entertainment Distribution Business and spent the next 2 years with Video One before joining Astral Communications Entertainment Division. With Astral I moved up the ranks from Key Accounts Manager to National Accounts and eventually I was transferred to Vancouver in 1994 to run their western operations from a 30,000 square foot distribution facility in Burnaby. Responsible for a large team it was a challenging and rewarding experience. In 1998, along with 3 other business partners, I embarked on the creation of Cool Entertainment a publicly traded internet company. Cool was an amazing entrepreneurial experience for me and dominated my life for the next 4 years. When the .com bubble burst and with funding drying up we eventually were able orchestrate the sale of Cool to E-Trend Networks Inc.
After taking some much needed time off I decide to return to Toronto for a two-year stint with the Toronto Board of Trade to refocus golf operations, the B.O.T. had a 45-hole private golf facility in Woodbridge, Ontario which needed an infusion of younger members and general re-marketing of one of Canada’s top private golf facilities. After two cold Ontario winters I decided I had to return to Vancouver and joined Disc-Go-Technologies Inc. as their Director of Sales and Marketing, helping the organization achieve Profit Magazines Top 100 ranking (19th). I left Disc-Go-Tech to join colleague Jamie Scarborough at Hospitality Careers Online and managed the western U.S. market for Hcareers (I knew paying my own airfare out of California all those years ago would pay off). Jamie discussed the creation of Sales Talent Agency with me on a drive from L.A. to San Francisco. As a VP of Sales struggling to find a good sales people in a tough labor market, Jamie spoke of the need for a sales-focused recruitment company that would have a genuine interest in finding great sales opportunities for quality sales professionals. I, as they say in the automotive industry, was a lay down.
For the love of sales!