Forced Reinvention…the affects of 911 on our business

Posted in: Leadership, Marketing, Sales- Mar 09, 2013 1 Comment

By. Rene F. Rodriguez, CEO

Twitter:  @ReneNME

There are few things in life that are as exciting as watching and idea take shape and become reality.  Recently, I found a piece of paper that reminded me  how I first got in sales training.  Below is a short version of the story.

*The names of the people and facility have been changed to keep anonymity.

In August of 2001, I became CEO for the first time in my career. At the time, we had 7 offices, 25 employees and 30 consultants running close to 50 workshops per month world wide, life was good…so it seemed. The following month, terrorists attacked the Twin Towers in New York City. I remember driving in to work listening to the news and being shocked that something like this could happen. As shocking as it was, there was still a sense of disconnection from what it really meant to me. Two days later, I received a call that would change my life and our business forever.

On Thursday September 13th, 2001, the site coordinator of a paper mill in North Carolina called canceling a facility-wide training that was scheduled to start the following week. I remember the call as it if was yesterday. “Rene, the is Mary from (paper mill). I am calling because we have to cancel indefinitely any and all trainings we have scheduled here at the facility. We are predicting the cost of oil to increase which has a dramatic affect on our operating costs thus forcing us to make some drastic changes. I am sorry.”  What was so memorable about the call was that Mary was one of our biggest advocates and it sounded like she was reading a script.  It was clear that this was not an easy call for her to make.

It didn’t hit me until I hung up the phone that his contract  to train approximately 1,600 people, was just shy of $1,000,000. That was all of our cash for the next 6 months. To make a very long story short, the following monday I had to let go of 20 people. These were close friends, colleagues and extremely talented individuals. Still to this day, one of the hardest days of my business life.

I share this story with you because as devastating as this event was to our company, if forced us to rethink who we were, how we did business and with whom we did business with. At the time we were solely focused on “Change Management” or “Employee Engagement” as it is called now.

After going through all the logistics and restructuring I decided to explore “sales training” as a new offering. I had been a sales person my entire career but had never been in front of a room to present or train.  The idea of combining the fundamentals of selling with what we knew about behavior change and how the brain worked excited me.   The first question I asked myself was, “what would I talk about?” So on March 29th, 02, I sat down and brainstormed the most important lessons I learned back in 1994 when I first entered the world of selling.

Well, as I was purging some old boxes, I found it! 35 of the simplest, most fundamental and still applicable sales lessons I had learned when I began my sales career at 18 years old.  I was excited to find this because all of my sales videos, podcasts, articles, classes, keynotes, consulting…everything, has stemmed from this list.  An entire division of our company was created from this simple list of ideas sitting in my head of what I had learned.

Side note:  A huge thank you my friend, mentor and role model, Mike Fusek.  He is responsible for turning me onto every single one of these lessons.  From the time you handed me Zig Ziglar’s Goal Setting Cassette tape to Jim Rohn’s Take Charge of Your Life (which I still listen to today).  You have changed my life forever my friend and words cannot express the gratitude.

I share this with you because at the time, I had no idea what this list would turn into.  I had hopes and dreams of course, but that is all they were at the time, hope and dreams.  Just to think how such a tragic event so far removed from my day to day life would  impact me forcing me to reinvent not only myself but our company in ways never imaginable.  I think the key point here is that I am writing this now almost 11 years later.  Not 6 months, or a year or 5 years later…11 years later!  When I’m asked “how did you get into this work?” I sometimes reply, “10 years of mistakes, failures and learnings.  If you love this enough to stay with it that long, then you’re on the right track.”    Those years following were tough which is why they call is “the grind”.  Making mistakes, falling on your face, discovering new ideas, achieving successes were all part of the process of refining the message, testing the ideas and building more confidence in what I believed to be true.

I hope that at some level this has inspired you to capture your ideas.  To look at adversity as opportunity to reinvent yourself.  You never know what a piece of paper , an idea combined with relentless passion will manifest into…but I’m sure it will be very cool.

I plan on continuing to create content around these lessons.  Content that is applicable to the aspiring sales professionals as well as the seasoned pro.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.  And please, by all means, share this is you enjoyed reading it.

Thanks for letting me share a piece of my story.

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One Response to “Forced Reinvention…the affects of 911 on our business”

  1. Reply Elly Demir says:

    Love reading your blogs, thanks for sharing.

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