An interesting Middle East quote shared with me today:

‘Success has 1000 fathers, but failure is an orphan’.

So true. Everyone flocks to the win and shuns the failure. Which is why I always say ‘Good news should travel fast, bad news faster’. If you are a sales rep and facing failure (i.e. A lost deal, missing quota), then you need to ensure you do not become that orphan. How do you do that?

  • Make sure that all of the little things are done. Forecast accurately, do whatever internal things are required. Be on time to internal meetings. Be the picture of perfection. Demonstrate that you run a good business and that you are simply working through the issues and that your methods will win.
  • Don’t hide it. Be open about it. Deal going off the rails? Bring in executives, talk through it with your manager, let people know. If you are working on a deal and you lose it without others being involved, you will be an orphan because of YOUR own choice. But if everyone is involved, there is no one to blame. It is a shared loss.
  • Remain accountable. It is fine to blame M&E activity or something in the market, as external factors often have an impact. But, if you always end that with ‘That being said, we are driving a good business, working through the issues and ensuring we do everything to right the boat’, then people will have confidence that your actions and leadership are having an impact. They will be confident that you are the right person to lead through those tough times.

We all face tough times. It is the nature of sales and business. Good years. Bad years. But it is in the bad times that the true test of character happens and the greatness is seen in people. Something that applies to business and personal life.


Another small tip from one of my first mentors: I do not say ‘Good luck’, I say ‘Good fortune’.

One cannot control his or her luck (I personally do not believe that luck exists), but one can control his or her fortune. Simply take control, make your own world and control your destiny. God may know my destiny, it may be part of a greater plan, but I was given ‘free will’ to make my own choices and my own fortune.

An anecdote: A XEROX sales rep won rep of the month, again. This rep had a very long track record of success. As the award was announced the district manager introduced the winner with the following statement “Wow, what a surprise. Lucky for the 60th month in a row, our rep of the quarter is …”

Make your fortune. People will be amazed at how ‘lucky’ you have become.


Over my career, this point has been reinforced to me time and time again. As I matured in sales (and business), I have noticed that the best salespeople and executives are not the harried one. Yes, we all go through phases where everything is nuts and the 90 hour weeks are required, but that cannot be the norm.

Some of the best reps I have known have disappeared in the middle of the afternoon to catch a flick. At first I found it odd, but over time I came to understand. If you know your business, you do not need to be the one who works 90 hours a week all the time. I made this point when I passed on that success = 15. In the case of my first mentor, it was not movies, it was the O.J. Simpson trial (smile).

I will now provide a case in point: Last year, when I was still a client manager (I have moved back into management), I grew the business 22% and nailed every single one of my MBO’s. I also played lots of golf with clients and had a wonderful time with my family (The boys are growing very fast and pretty soon this period will be gone). I live a very balanced life – work hard, enjoy life. In my mind, that is success.

SUCCESS = 15 (Part 2)

All companies talk about work life balance, but we all know it is a bit of an oxymoron. The company wants you to take the vacation and spend time with your family, but loves the guy who works 75 hours a week, will take that Saturday conference call and gives his life to the company (As evidenced by email activity at 1AM).

I don’t buy it. In fact – when I see someone working really really hard, all the time, I start to wonder about that person’s skill level. What are the compensating for?

Using the Success=15 model, if you do invest the time then the effective person begins building skill. If skill grows over the years to an 8 and the person is still putting in an 8 in time, then one of two things is going to happen:

1. They are going to be **wildly** successful and march up the corporate ranks (Or in the case of sales – make a ton of cash).

2. They are going to burn out and then time & skill plummet.

That being said, the top two alternatives do not represent the majority of cases. In my experience, the person who puts in that ‘8’ in time year in, year out is compensating for a skill level that has plateaued. That plateau in skill can be attributed to many things: not becoming a sales expert or good sales manager, not being able to prioritize work (i.e. spending countless hours doing unproductive work), etc.

So, be wary of the time investment. If you remain at the “8” level, ensure that you are on the path to **wild** success. Ensure that you do not need a reality check around the plateauing of skills (Questions to ask: Is this the right job? Am I doing the right things? Am I productive? What training do I need to get on the right track?) or that you are on the verge of burning out.

Shooting stars go from very bright to black in a shockingly short time.

SUCCESS = 15 (Part 1)

My first and greatest sales mentor once taught that success can be thought of as “15” in sales. We break the sales job up into 3 component parts, each worth “5” points, with success being obtained when you reach 5 in each category (5+5+5=15).

In sales, we can think of the three components as:

  • Territory: Everyone gets a 5 for this. We must assume that the company that we work for is fair and therefore, everyone gets a 5. We must assume that everyone is set up for success.
  • The other two components: Skill& Experience and Time – each worth 5 points.

So, in the words of a successful rep: I know what I am doing – I am quite good at what I do. Therefore, I would rank my skill at an 8, which means that for me to overachieve (Go higher than a total of 15), I simply need to invest a 3 or 4 in time (Meaning: I can work less and still crush my numbers).

The lesson was then focused on me (As a new rep): You however are a 1 or a 2 skill level, so you better be investing a 9 or 10 in Time if you want to succeed. As you learn, your skills will increase and you will be able to adjust the skill to time ratio. But you cannot avoid investing the time if you want to be successful.

This lesson has stuck with me through my 16 years in business – as I believe that it can be applied to sales or management. When I take a new position, I make it a habit to remember that I am back in the learning stage and need to compensate for what I don’t know in the only way possible: investing more time to secure success.

I also review my progress continually to ensure that I am learning and growing my skill – so that my time can shift back to something that allows me to a) be very successful while b) attaining work life balance. That review becomes my plan for success.



SUCCESS: Gene Sarazen

In 1923, who was ……

1. President of the largest steel company?
2. President of the largest gas company?

3. President of the New York Stock Exchange?
4. Greatest wheat speculator?
5. President of the Bank of International Settlement?
6. Great Bear of Wall Street?

These men were considered some of the worlds most successful of their days. Now,
81 years later, the history book asks us, if we know what ultimately became of them.

The Answers:

1. The president of the largest steel company: Charles Schwab. Died a pauper.
2. The president of the largest gas company: Edward Hopson. Went insane.

3. The president of the NYSE: Richard Whitney. Was released from prison to die at home

4. The greatest wheat speculator: Arthur Cooger, died abroad, penniless.
5. The president of the Bank of International Settlement: Shot himself.
6 The Great Bear of Wall Street: Cosabee Livermore, also committed suicide.

However, in that same year, 1923, the PGA Champion and the winner of the most important golf tournament, the US Open, was Gene Sarazen. What became of him?

He played golf until he was 92, died in 1999 at the age of 95. He was financially secure at the time of his death.

The Moral:  Screw work. Play golf.