I was born in Dallas, Texas and grew up in Northern Virginia. I attended college at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, and graduated with a BBA in Finance. I was on W&M’s student council my senior year and helped found one of the largest fraternities on campus, Kappa Delta Rho. I was also a DJ at WCWM, the school’s popular radio station, and hosted two weekly shows.
Prior to attending William and Mary, I started working at CompUSA, one of the first big-box technology retailers. Starting as a cashier, I worked throughout college and continued there after graduation, working in a variety of sales and operations positions, including Director of Operations and Division Director, where I oversaw all technology and training services for a large part of the US. Subsequently, I spent time at Target and T-Mobile managing stores in and around the Washington, DC area before moving into the mobility space. I spent almost eight years at Zipcar and General Motors’ mobility division, Maven, launching and growing the brands across the Washington, DC area and throughout North America.
Currently, I have been consulting for startups on a variety of issues, including client services, product launches, retail assortments and vendor relationships. I live outside of Annapolis, MD with my wife, two children and two dogs.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I love helping companies improve their service and focus better on their customers. It seems so easy yet can be incredibly difficult to have a company’s processes and philosophies revolve around what the customer wants from you.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I relish the opportunity to improve challenging customer interactions into loyalty-building experiences. Looking at company operations with a fresh eye can allow companies to better understand what really goes on in customer interactions and can show gaps in how customers are handled.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from many of the great leaders I had when I was younger. It’s sometimes difficult for someone starting out to always understand their role and how what they do impacts the entire customer experience. I was fortunate enough to have several wonderful mentors who, when I was frustrated or challenged by difficult customers, sales calls or leadership meetings, guided me through the finer points of those conversations so I could be more effective in delighting customers and creating advocates for life for the companies I worked for at the time.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
It can be very difficult in the retail and customer service arena. The world has moved to a 24-7 environment and being available for your customers always is almost a requirement in many segments of retail. Fortunately, there are technologies that many retailers have put into place (and I have helped advise on) that provide for a greater measure of self-service as well as provide better balance on the part of store and headquarters teams.
Ensuring that the teams who service your customers understand and buy into the fact that without the customer, we don’t exist is critical. Leveraging my teams to develop insights into how we can do things better to have a better balance between those demands and our personal lives has made for a very rewarding career.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
There are two things that I’ve worked hard to develop that have helped me move up in my career. The first is curiosity – a great leader needs to always want to learn more, whether it’s about new products, what customers want, trends in the industry, challenges to your company’s position in its industry, and so on. People love being heard and showing curiosity about them as people in addition to what they’re sharing with you creates more engaged teams that are more loyal and ultimately perform better.
The second thing that stands out for me is excitement – you have to show genuine excitement in what you’re doing. People look to you when times are tough, when the work is difficult, and the hours are long. That doesn’t mean you can’t be frustrated or challenged, but you must be the inspiration for your team, to help them see the joy in what we do and how it helps our customers and our company. Creating the connections between what they do and how it helps everyone can light the spark that keeps the flame going.
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
Starting off in retail can be very difficult, but it’s a great industry to move up quickly and be rewarded for your talents if you do the following things:
1) Volunteer – always be looking for new ways to help the company, whether it’s basic tasks or new assignments. It’s how you create new connections and establish your value.
2) Be positive – during the most challenging times or working on the toughest projects, people want to be around those that can keep a great attitude and help see the light at the end of the tunnel.
3) Learn – Be a voracious learner of everything about your position – and the one above it. Train yourself to do other jobs so you can help in more ways.
4) Initiative – no one is going to hand you anything in life – it’s up to you to make it happen!
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
Early on in my career, I was challenged to handle a very large corporate and government sales department that had struggled for some time. I was even told by my vice president that he didn’t think I could do it – that I would fail. I took that challenge and shared it with my team and went from missing plan the prior year to growing sales by 400% and winning Comp Sales Store of the Year and Rookie of the Year as a General Manager because I focused on building that business.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
As a salesperson, spend most of your time asking questions and listening. Don’t be the guy that sells to the need that’s not there.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
When a concept that I had developed for selling new technologies was introduced and rolled out across the company I worked for, it was a great moment.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?
Always respect those at the bottom of the ladder who do the most difficult, ugly jobs. They’re more important than you.
What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?
It’s much easier to do things right the first time than to try to be first and change what you do three or four times.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
My family. I learn how to be a better leader through spending time with my wife, my kids and my dogs. We sometimes forget that you can create better connections, win more customers and sell more if you keep it simple. Your family – and certainly your dogs – don’t know all the intricacies of what you do. Keep it short so people can understand things and be kind no matter what.
What trends in your industry excite you?
I love how more and more companies are realizing that they need to provide a much better shopping experience in order to differentiate themselves from online retailing. People still crave human interaction, but consumers are a lot more educated, so you have to think about your salespeople and your shopping experience in order to satisfy them. Even the warehouse stores, such as Costco, create that experience by making shopping like a treasure hunt.