Your own path

“Don’t ever consider yourself full-time until you work all seven days!” was a statement I often heard growing up in my family’s restaurant…

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“Don’t ever consider yourself full-time until you work all seven days!” was a statement I often heard growing up in my family’s restaurant business. By the time I was 11 or 12 years old, I was working on a full-time basis, punching 40+ hours a week. At age 20, I was working around the clock with additional responsibilities to care for my own family; my wife Jessie and our son, Chris.

By my mid 20’s, I reached a point where people were judging me — or I felt that they were judging me — on my success in the restaurant based on my family instead of the work I did. I felt compelled to break away from my family’s business and create my own future path. I knew it was time to start looking for a job in a professional environment, with more standard hours, good pay and benefits.

Leap of Faith

Since I was coming from the service industry, it was a bit of a struggle figuring out what kind of “real job” I would succeed and enjoy doing. While I knew I was capable of being good at a lot of things, on paper it was another story; I lacked the experience many jobs were looking for, and I lacked a college degree.

A friend of mine was working for a collection agency in the Bay Area, and they were involved in collecting past due medical bills. He asked me to come to work there, and I did…primarily to pass the time as I decided what I wanted to do. I worked there for a summer. What was interesting was that after three months of doing it, I had a new skill set. I could now do the collecting.

Then, I was reading the newspaper one day and came across an ad for a job with an auto leasing company that needed a collector. I called, and the receptionist told me the job was still open and said I could come down and fill out an application. I told her no that I wouldn’t do that. The only way I would come down was if I was guaranteed to get an interview. She was shocked. She said no one had asked that before. I asked her to find out if I came down would I get an interview; otherwise there was no need for me to come down. She transferred me to a man named Jesse Bragg. He got on the phone and asked how soon I could be there. I told him I could be there in an hour. I got there within an hour and soon began working. The leap of faith Jesse Bragg and Jim Loos took in hiring me gave me the break I needed to jumpstart my career in the automotive business.

The best ideas can come from anywhere

Several years back, when I was the SVP for Customer Management, one of our Project Managers would routinely stop at my office nearly every morning at 6:45 AM, before anyone else arrived at work. During this time, a decision was made internally to invest a significant amount of capital into a CRM tool. The young man who routinely stopped at my office, would vocalize why the CRM tool selected was not the best for the business, Despite me telling him no, a decision was made, he continued to articulate the need for the company to make the change. He was relentless; this went off and on for two years as he continued to build up his business case. After continuously asking to attend an event called Dreamforce, I finally agreed for him to attend and he returned from Dreamforce more confident than ever that right decision for the company was to move Salesforce, complete business case in hand. My gut told me he was right and we made the decision to move to Salesforce, resulting in a net savings of $2M in the first year (YOY) and it has since become an intricate part of the business; Today, Salesforce is used in Sales, Marketing, Client Service, Operations and integrated with our physical auctions.

That Project Manager has been promoted to a Director, overseeing Salesforce for 17 different Cox Automotive brands.

Exceptional talent is everywhere; you just need to recognize it

Over the span of my career, I have hired many people and have learned that exceptional talent can be found anywhere, you just need to be able to recognize it. It is not what is on a piece of paper or even reflected in a round of interviews. It is the intangibles like passion, determination and the willingness to do what it takes to get the job done. This talent may not be the best yet, but the potential is there. These employees thrive when you make it clear you believe in them.

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