There once was a young boy—a wiry, rambunctious, inquisitive boy, clever and funny. He longed to do well in all his endeavors, big and small, but kept falling short because he was incapable of keeping a single thought in his head for longer than a fleeting moment. He was hyper-unorganized and didn’t do well in school. In other words, he was the quintessential A.D.D. poster child.
That kid was me, and man did I turn things around. I went on to graduate college with honors, ran the first of three successful businesses by the age of 29, and eventually became an accomplished presenter, corporate trainer, and business coach. To top it all off, I recently decided to tackle the biggest challenge of my life and become a work-at-home dad!
As it turns out, 33% of small business owners have some form of ADD—they get easily distracted and bored—and often require non-traditional means of learning new skills. All of those points definitely apply to me, and while I wish I had a wall lined with advanced degrees that led me to where I am today…I don’t. The fact is, I had to learn things the hard way by immersing myself in DOING THEM!
My journey began in the late 90’s when I decided to run a business knowing I had no idea how to do it. I started my education by learning about the #1 item that drives a company’s engine—revenue—and soon became the director of sales at a newly-formed leadership school. To say there was a learning curve involved is a bit of an understatement. I felt like I was drinking water from a fire hose on a daily basis. But after slugging it out for 18 months, I had the fledgling company rocking, and in time, I became the GM and a principal of that same leadership company, quadrupling it in size and revenue.
Now that I had “running a company” checked off my to-do list: I had my sights on becoming a corporate trainer. That journey began with guidance from the very same consultants I had personally hired for the leadership school. (Interesting to note: they eventually became four of the five key mentors in my life). The first was a 30-year veteran HR director for the corporate giant Bell Atlantic (now Verizon). The second was a 25-year master level trainer for the AMA (American Management Association). The third was former military and possessed a Ph.D. in teaching theory and an expert in the field of adult learning. The fourth was a life coach (before that term had come into vogue) and a certified mediator.
Over the course of 10 years, I leaned from the best, and we worked with scores of companies with familiar names such as Altria, Patagonia, Capital One, and even the Caribbean Division of the World Bank. Along the way I decided to start my own management training company and all four mentors came with me. We continued developing and delivering even more complex programming such as Creating High Performance Work Teams, The Art of Influence, and The Fundamentals of Coaching and Mentoring.
While running this newest venture was exciting and rewarding, I realized providing cutting-edge programming to business owners and executive teams could not be the sole focus of my professional life. If I wanted my company to be successful I needed to also drive revenue! Enter my fifth mentor, friend, and business partner Will Turner. Even though I’d already received extensive sales training, Will showed me new ways to get my close rate to almost 95%, tripling my income in the process without compromising my integrity. In the process, I became one of his star students.
For a while thereafter, my life and business were cruising along nicely, and then…SMACK! I crashed into an icy wall—figuratively and literally. A near death experience and some tragic personal losses combined together with the recession to cause a massive train wreck. As the bills began to mount and after months of sleepless nights, I made a tough choice: to work for another company.
Eventually, I became a sales rep for a reputable financial services firm. VERY soon after that decision I found myself struggling to hit my numbers. The product wasn’t the problem; the way in which I was being taught to sell the product was completely different from everything I had learned from Will. It was beginning to weigh on my conscience and affect my productivity. I was at the breaking point and about to quit when my boss realized I had another talent—training and coaching.
One undisputed truth about a top notch financial institution: They are masters of tracking data—especially in the area of efficient processes and systems. I quickly learned to combine my talent of effective coaching and training with the proven science of tracking and tweaking one’s I.P.A.’s (Income Producing Activities). As a production coach, soon I was ramping up the performance of our sales reps, systemizing their personal practices, and even propelling one rep to the top 4% in the nation. I was ecstatic, and was reminded of the biggest lesson about leading teams--Vince Lombardi was never the best football player; he was the best coach.
By October 2011, I was ready to write yet another chapter in my journey. I called Will Turner and asked if he would like to start a company with me. Within a few days we met in a Richmond coffee shop and began to swap, share, and combine our mutual life lessons with everything we had professionally mastered over the years and B-O-O-M! RefuseOrdinary was born.