Thank you for your curiosity into how my story has impacted the lessons we have created for your advancement. Many people have cared a great deal to impact my learnings and it is a privilege to pass on to you my interpretation of their teachings. Learning for me can be a full contact sport, I wrestle with every word, demanding its definition and how it fits with my current understandings. I interrupt by default and often in a challenging tone, these teachers and mentors were very, very patient.  We seek to repay their patience with our observations laid upon timeless truths that will afford you the chance to live an impactful life.

The Current Business

I am currently 5 years into running a business advisory firm by the name of Banyan Tree Strategies that focuses on helping professional services companies grow. This includes software companies, financial institutions, and consulting companies. Businesses that have most of their costs tied up in people are my forte. I help leaders amplify the strengths of their people to impact their customers in such a way that the value will be perceived to be remarkable. The return for that remarkable customer experience is a word of mouth buzz that can have a significant impact on the health and growth of the business.

A War is Being Waged

This is not an intuitive thought for many leaders. Many of the current business schools and captains of industry are looking to strip away the impact of their people so that the company will maintain more control and increase the shareholder value. This battle is real and is raging today around the world as the current definition of capitalism is redefined with every company that is formed and employee that is hired.

Understanding this tension is something that I have learned over the course of the last 35 years as I have navigated my way from clearing out the neighbor’s ivy for $5 an hour to running my own company and hiring others for as little as $5 an hour through websites like  Regardless of what you are making per hour, you would most likely like to make more for that hour, and when it is you that is paying the $5 you would be glad to spend less to receive the other person’s hour of work.

Paying it Forward focuses on two key moments where the employment tension starts to heat up for most, right out of college and when the first few kids show up. My own stories of facing these moments are below and our hope is you can learn from our mistakes and successes. What has been our chief finding? It is in the act of finding the combination of your interests, strengths, and style that you can unlock your unique value and make the necessary contribution to a business that culminates in the maximizing your personal wealth creation.

Straight Out of Berkeley 93’

The first thing I did out of UC Berkeley in 1993 was raise a $100,000 of seed capital to fund my professional golf aspirations for two years. 12 months and $50,000 later I had won a grand total of $40 in prize money and was nursing a sore back. My investors were polite, but nervous about throwing good money after bad and this is where the palpable get a job fear started to really set in.

I was 24 years old, could hit a 1-iron 250 yards and shoot par on almost any golf course in the world, but that wasn’t going to feed me as a professional golfer and the employment line to work at a golf shop was out the door and down the block. I needed a job, and more importantly, I needed to start my career.

My Novel Idea for Getting a Job…and It Worked!

In 1994 we were still visiting places like Kinko’s to rent computers by the hour and to access this new thing called email. Most business communication was done via the letter and the phone. The way you got something going on the sales front was write a letter and then follow up over the phone or in person. It was direct voice to voice combat.

I Made a List

Cal had its own version of a Kinko’s called Copy Central and I pulled up one afternoon with a copy of Fortune Magazine’s 500 largest companies issue, rented a computer and proceeded to spend the next few days typing every single company with its address and CEO into a spreadsheet. I then drafted a cover letter with a mail merge template, hit print and had 500 offer letters ready for my signature to be accompanied by my resume and a letter of recommendation.

I mailed out the packets with a 29cent stamp doing the trick and then probably went and played a round of golf. What else was there to do other than see who might respond?

I Walked Into the Conflict With Confidence

What happened was I received close to 75 rejection letters from Human Resource departments and they all had a phone number at the bottom. Now I had my call list and an actual person to call and to challenge about why my offer for a lifetime of employment was being rejected. The way I saw it was I was offering my life which I highly valued in return for their compensation. It turns out they didn’t exactly value my life and abilities that much, and I didn’t get very far with this approach.

However, the law of large numbers was in my favor as I only needed one quality job and I had a few nibbles. Proctor and Gamble and Colgate Palmolive both had me on the phone interview circuit when I received a phone call from Brunswick Corporation. They had a golf shaft division and the CEO of the corporation’s office had sent it on to the general manager of Brunswick Golf and they were thinking about hiring a person to cover the west coast golf club manufacturers. Bingo!

I Caught a Break

Here was my chance, a sales job that would have me flying around the western states talking to golf companies about how many golf shafts they wanted to purchase. Now my 1 iron skill might actually come in handy. I could take the buyer out to play golf and he would be impressed by my golf game and then over a beer we would get the deal done. Well not so much, but more on that later.

I was flown to phoenix to meet the national sales manager for lunch. He was 60 years old, from New York and was slow to like anyone. It was a rough trip. I followed up with a hand-written note to everyone I could find at the Torrington CT based company and prayed for a tomorrow. I also followed up with my other nibblers and kept calling those HR departments just to stay sharp with my verbal combat skills.

One week later I received another phone call and this time I was being whisked off to Torrington CT to meet the home office team, get a tour of the manufacturing plant and hopefully earn an offer. This was a road game, an in person chance and I was ready.

The flights were long, the delays were many and I ended up at my tired bed and breakfast “The Yankee Peddler” looking like a sack of apples. The next day was a whirlwind of people and indoor smoke. Everyone smoked and looked ancient. The factory had been built in the mid 1800’s and had made everything you can imagine. I was up for the job in sunny San Diego and the first thing the general manager did was look at my left hand and say:

“Kid if I ever catch you with a golf glove tan line your fired!”

He continued on with, “We are in the golf business son, which means we make the equipment that other people use to enjoy their retirements, we work for a living!”

I was very happy to not have a glove tan and was immediately considering never using one to play golf in the future.

Get the Offer and Then Almost Blow It!

The end of the first day of meetings had me with an offer in my hand, a trip to the doctors in the morning for a drug test and then back to San Francisco to start packing for my move to San Diego. Only I did one interesting thing. I called my older brother who was 6 years older and in sales.

I read him my offer and he told me they wouldn’t hire me if I didn’t counter.

“They won’t respect you as a salesperson if you don’t come back with a counter offer. You need to show them you can negotiate which is what they need you to do on their behalf with the golf club manufacturers.”

It seemed to make sense to me and so the next day I went back in to my future boss’s boss and at 24 years old told him what I needed to make and how to tweak it with variable comp so we both had some skin in the game.

He almost threw me out his office, but then he laughed a bit. I think he could see I had been coached and so as my world was crumbling around me he took pity on me and changed it up a bit to get me to $42,000 a year but with a look that said, kid don’t try this again, this is my show and you had better figure that out quickly. I signed on the dotted line and started to breath in the smoke and I had never felt better.

That evening with a crystal clean bill of habitual health behind me I flew home and started planning the next step of my life, as a golf shaft salesman with the lofty title of Western Reginal Sales Manager. Don’t ask me who I was managing, but I still have that card and I had a job.

Wow Was I Fortunate

The look back from the vantage point of 2017 makes me think of several of things. One that I was darn lucky that I wasn’t sent home packing as I didn’t have another offer in the wings. Two that the correlation between a 5 year public school undergraduate education of $40,000 to a first year compensation of $42,000 in the sports and leisure industry is a pipedream today. Finally, it strikes me as how odd it is that so few people really are willing to put out 500 offers to get that one first job. No one told me to get out Fortune Magazine, I just realized I needed a job and was confident that if I ran a process of talking to the largest companies in the U.S. that I would have to find a home at one of them.

The entire process started at the Copy Central on Bancroft Ave in Berkeley in March of 1994 and I was watching the fireworks in Del Mar, CA after moving into my apartment in Solana Beach on the 4th of July 120 days later. I was confident, and I was utterly clueless as to how the world of business worked.

Your Take Away Lesson?

Get yourself out there. When you hear no, ask why? Find common ground and don’t over play your hand as it’s probably not that good.