How I Came to be an Entrepreneur: Part 1

I never set out to be a business owner, or any sort of entrepreneur for that matter.  In fact, I never even thought I would see the kind of success I have. It was well over 17 years ago, right around the time I turned 30, that I realized just being in sales was not enough for me.  I started a family, had my first home, a couple of nice cars, a bit of money in my pocket, but found myself losing interest in sales. 

I learned how to be a sales person while working in the service industry through high school and college: first as a busboy, next a waiter, bartender, valet and bellman.  Think about it, you get a really short period of time to make an impression on somebody in the hopes that they reward you with a tip that shows their appreciation.  The better that impression, the better the tip.  So, fast forward, and all of a sudden I am a sales guy, with a family.  So I tried to apply the same principles that I learned in the service industry. And that worked out pretty well for me for a while.

What happened next, started out as a need to grow the family owned insurance agency I was in so that we could remain viable in the fast-paced Insurance industry.  I went from just a sales guy to a sales guy trying to help a family business continue to exist.  As I took on the task  of slow growth over the next couple of years, everything evolved. Naturally, I targeted a new sales person or two a year that would join our team.  With more sales people we needed more support staff.  Though, a few years into growing this small company and the actual sales component didn’t seem to excite me anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, the opportunity to help people and get paid for it absolutely excited me and still does to this day.  The part of sales that didn’t excite me was the clients; it was always about how much money they could save. For the most part, I was an expense not an asset.  I understood and still understand that today, but securing the right products for anyone should not be less important than which new car, boat or plane someone is buying. Too many of my clients lost sight of what got them there. I was working with people who saw me as a commodity, even if my product was a commodity, my time and energy to make sure it was the best for them was important to me for their success.

In any case, I got excited about the building and building blocks.  I made a conscious decision with my wife by my side that I wanted to grow the company and I committed to become a Partner and President and grow it on a larger scale. I set out to create a plan, a budget, a process and a mission statement.  I spent countless hours understanding the market, the competitors, what wasn’t working and what was perceived to be working.  Almost a year and a half later I made the decision to take on the role and grow the company  and all that hard work and preparation started to come together.

By now, we are a company of about 20, which when I started was only about 11 people.  Effectively, as a sales guy with no formal business background, but a zest for learning and helping others brought a dozen more people together under one mission statement. I did not understand the inner workings of income, expense, payroll, IT, etc., but between my willingness to learn and the employees I hired, those facets of running a business were handled.

In Early 2003 I became President of that company and in November of that same year, I hired 12 people to start a whole new division within that company.  Over the next few of years we grew that company to almost 80 people and revenue of over 1,100% from the time I walked into the company 20 years ago.  I am looking forward to sharing with you how it happened.