An Entrepreneur’s Evolution- Part III

Entrepreneur’s evolution part II left off with me being an unemployed newlywed. I mentioned that it was my intention to seek out a job in commission based sales, and that’s what I did. I interviewed several places, from a knife sales network marketing outfit to time share appointment setting to selling long distance phone plans. I ended up finding a great job as an outside sales rep for a janitorial distribution company called Brady Industries. They gave me a salary of $30,000 per year, plus a 30% commission on the profit of all my sales. Selling bulk toilet paper and toilet bowl cleaner may not sound glamorous, but it really opened up my eyes to the world of business. It really almost felt like I had my own business, except for a weekly sales meeting I made my own schedule, called on the targets of my choice, and did my own marketing. The folks at Brady were very kind in allowing me and the other reps to create flyers and put on elaborate sales presentations and seminars at their expense.

The first set of leads they gave me was a list of people who used to buy from a retail store they owned. I was able to call on these people and win business back from several of them. They were all small fish, but they were really high margin; so high that I had the highest margin in the company and earned a trip to Cancun. The more I tasted of the business life, the more I liked it.

Around the time of my year anniversary at Brady, one of the larger customers I had one was looking to hire their first sales person and they were interesting in hiring me. I was able to negotiate a great deal, $52,000 salary and 50% of the net profit in commission. Aside from great compensation, I was also excited to work closely with the owner and have more of an impact on company strategy. Despite my excitement, I also took care to explain that I predicted the sales cycle to be 2-3 months, and that it would probably take a year or so until my salary would be covered by the profits I brought in. Finding that acceptable he agreed to hire me, so I left Brady to go work for my customer.

Things were going great. I joined the local Sandler Sales Institute with some of the money from my increased salary. I had made several exciting contacts during my first few weeks and we were starting to work on some bids. Then 2.5 months after I started the owner told me out of the blue he needed to let me go. He said that he couldn’t afford to pay my salary.

Simultaneous to this let down, I was taking an elective class on business management, and the teacher was absolutely inspiring. I was to graduate in a week, and instead of going to beg for my old job back from Brady or looking for a new one, I decided to take a couple months to investigate my options. I was considering graduate school, real estate, business brokering, and a wealth of other opportunities.

I was most interested in business brokerage, so I began to take steps towards making that my career. I attended real estate school and started to study for my securities license. I grew up very averse to debt, but I knew that it’d probably take at least 6 months before I’d see any commission, so I looked into home equity loans and other debt instruments I thought I’d need in addition to my savings get me through.

But it turned out I wouldn’t need them. My sales trainer was able to prevail upon me to go work for one of his clients, Paytech, selling payroll services. The people at Paytech were great, but I couldn’t get interested in the product. I talked to the sales manager often trying to understand our competitive edge, but it never clicked for me. In my search for something more interesting I came across Primerica, a network marketing insurance group. I got very excited about their offerings and their business model: so excited I started to make preparations to sell my house and move in with my in-laws so that I would be able to do Primerica full time.

While I was making these preparations, I happened to share my plans with Cliff Jones, a friend from Sandler. He had spent a decade of his life as a stockbroker and he highly discouraged me from joining that world. He had several good reasons, which would be another blog entry about the state of the brokerage world, but as part of his argument he encouraged me to read Rich Dad, Poor Dadby Robert Kiyosaki. I read the book and my financial paradigm was changed. It’s hard to explain what that book will do for your life if you grew up with the poverty mentality (assuming you read it with an open mind). I realized, amongst other things, that I didn’t want to sell people products and services that would reinforce the poverty mentality (work hard, give your money to someone else, they will make it grow for you, and magically you’ll be taken care of when you’re old). Not coincidentally, Cliff offered me a job working as a sales person for an accounting firm that specialized in financial and tax planning for entrepreneurs and real estate investors: people who wanted to live the principles discussed in Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

Well, this post is taking a lot longer than I thought it would, so I’m going to end it here. In the next post I’ll talk about how I went form working for DKAdvisors to starting my own business and beyond.

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