In a career that spans two decades, I have engaged in many different endeavors that have provided me with a varied depth of experience that I love using to solve entrepreneurial problems.
I took my first retail job at 16 and have been involved in the sales process ever since. During my high school and college years, I rotated between commissioned retail positions and grassroots organizing for environmental causes (if you want to learn how to sell, go door to door asking for money. You will learn quickly or quit). These frontline positions grounded me in sales and provided me with skills I employ every day.
After graduation, I helped my dad to start his service contracting business. In two years, I helped his business grow to $500,000 in annual revenue and laid the foundation for a company that has successfully helped thousands of customers for the last 15 years.
After a long trip to Europe with my then girlfriend (now wife), I wanted to apply my writing talent to my career and sought a position in marketing. I landed an internship and then a job with Rocky Mountain PBS and served in their marketing and advertising department, writing everything from television spots to press releases and learning about the business of television promotion.
I was happy with my work but disenchanted with my wages. It was 1997 and everyone I knew made three times what I made. Financial desire motivated me to pursue work in the corporate world. Through friends, I met the executive team at a local manufactured goods company, publicly traded on the NASDAQ.
They hired me as their first employee in the Marketing and Communications Department. I eagerly attacked every project they gave me and developed skills in investor relations, public relations, media buying, ad writing, graphic design, marketing plan development, lead generation, call center integration, emergency plan development and a few others I’ve probably forgotten. Within a year, they promoted me to Director, gave me a staff and my first experience with managing direct subordinates.
I worked sixty hours a week, my income had skyrocketed and my marketable skills had proliferated. But I was not happy. I looked around and noticed that the people I worked for were not role models. They were not mentors. They were happy to give me projects and those projects gave me an opportunity to learn but they were rarely teachers. I felt unfulfilled and began to look for other opportunities.
Through an act of serendipity, I met two entrepenuers who were starting a wine distribution business. They hired me as their second sales rep, initially covering a territory that included locations from Boulder to Colorado Springs. We grew quickly and I was promoted to sales manager. I hired many new reps, including several friends whose skill sets meshed well with wine distribution. In two years, we opened hundreds of accounts, increased revenue to over $3 million per year and attracted a few powerhouse brands that became the cornerstone of our business.
In 2004, I assumed a Vice President position with the company and moved to Arizona, charged with implementing a geographic dispersal strategy. The owners of our company believed that we could open a new stream of revenue in additional states and capitalize on distribution synergies to reduce costs. Arizona revenue grew at a strong pace but failed to meet the owners’ objectives. After three months, the owners closed the Arizona operation. I lost faith in the owners’ strategy and resigned my position.
At about the same time, my dad approached me about returning to the family business. He hired me to increase sales and help the business grow aggressively. I quickly found that I was able to sell our services but that the internal structure of the company could not accommodate the quick growth that new sales delivered. To address this, I modified my position to include operations management and focused on remodeling the organizational structure to enable the company to digest new growth while maintaining high customer service and productivity standards.
In my time with the family business, revenue has doubled to $2.5 million. I continue to oversee operations while working with our sales department to increase revenue and expand our customer base. In addition to my operational and sales responsibilities, my position as an owner of the company has exposed me to financial, legal and administrative disciplines.
While I could not have predicted my career path, I am fulfilled by the variable skills I have learned over the last twenty years. My experience with sales, marketing, communications, operations management, financial reporting, legal compliance and other areas has made me a well rounded professional. This depth of experience provides me with the ability to analyze the mechanics of an enterprise and provide insight into how to increase marketability and efficiency within almost any organization.