Hello SOTGC readers. This is the first of a segment that will launch once a month where I interview Jeremy, my mentor, who hired and developed me at Salient Surgical. Jeremy left a few months after the acquisition for an awesome opportunity and currently is the Global Vice President of Sales for a software company. Jeremy started off as an Account Manager (AM) at Salient Surgical and quickly became one of the top AMs in the company. He was then offered a position as a regional business director.
Of the three regions Jeremy was offered, he picked the one that was struggling and historically had been one of the lowest performing areas in the country. This regional also happened to be on the opposite side of the country (he and his lovely family were then living in Tampa, FL.). Flash forward two years from that time and Jeremy is being promoted to Area Vice President of the West. His region had gone from being second to the last in the nation, to being number one, four of his account managers won the coveted Rolex award, and two of them won the Pinnacle Club (top ten account managers in the company.)
One of the things Jeremy is most remembered for is how he came into a region filled with Account Managers of different levels of experience and personalities, hired a few more for the region (once again with different levels of experience and personalities), and created a strong, winning team in such a short time. Jeremy has always said the same phrase to me when I’ve been pissed off about something or upset about how slow some things seem to be going. “Lead from the front.” This interview talks about his experience as the California Regional Business Director where he took a struggling team, and turned it into a winning region.
I reached out to him last week because I want to have a couple men do a recurring post in the From The Locker Room category. For this first post I wanted to do a segment on management since he is, to this day, my favorite and most helpful manager I’ve had, and ask anyone who has worked with me, I am not the easiest person to manage.
I wanted to ask him what the process was like, to have gone from being one of the top AMs, to having to move his family across the country and take over and build up a faltering region. I always feel the best way to learn how to become a better leader is to observe people who I respect greatly and who work in a similar fashion as me, and try to emulate their example.
Marney: Can you please explain the process you went through in the first several months of becoming the California Regional Business Director?
Jeremy: Well the first thing I did was look at the geography of what territories had what types of AMs in them. How those areas were doing, revenue wise, and then looked at the areas that needed to have AMs hired for them. I spent a lot of time in the field with the current ones getting to know them, assessing their strengths, and what they still needed to further develop their skill sets. Then I came up with a plan to achieve both the goals of “fast growth” based on developing the current AMs and hiring the new ones, as well as keeping in mind the long term goals of stable and solid business that could constantly be grown.
Marney: So what was the game plan after you spent time getting to know each account manager already in place?
Jeremy: I had two solid account managers in place who were doing well. Two other account managers had recently been hired that needed direction and development, and I decided that I could take some risks in the last few territories that needed to be filled. Your territory being one of them. San Diego had three previous account managers, all with different backgrounds and experience levels, that had tried and failed. I knew I had to hire someone who could stand being kicked in the teeth (not literally) over and over and over again and get up, smile, and charge back into it. To be honest, I wasn’t looking for you specifically; you just did a good job convincing me that you were the right fit. And obviously, that worked out better than anyone had planned.
Marney: What do you think you did differently than the previous managers for this region? Also, how difficult was it to adopt your managing style to each different personality?
Jeremy: Well. As you remember I took a VERY hands on approach with everyone. There wasn’t one meeting or trial that was going on that I didn’t know about. I was in the field with all of you and I made sure you all got as much support as you needed. As to the “what did I do differently than previous managers” I think it was just a TON of trial and error. Trying one thing, if that worked then figuring out what exactly worked and why, then trying to replicate it in similar situations. If something failed we tried a new approach, and you remember M, we got slammed into walls for a year before things started really going great. But through it all, we always kept it positive.
Marney: Yeah, about that positivity. How did you keep the pressure off of us? Even to this day you haven’t ever told us just how much pressure you were getting, but I know that everyone from the CEO to your fellow regional business directors questioned your decision to keep a few of us during that year we were slowly building a solid base, but the revenue wasn’t high enough. We never once got pressure from you about revenue. You didn’t threaten to put us on a performance plan, you always kept us focused, encouraged us, and kept it positive.
Jeremy: It’s not my style to threaten or to use fear to get people to perform. I’m not the type of person that does well being managed like that. No one can put more pressure on me than I will myself, so why would I think you were any different? I knew you were all working as hard as you could and putting every effort into your territories. However, if you remember, every couple months I would give you tasks and objectives to complete. You and I would come up with goals to achieve and activities that you needed to complete to accomplish those goals. Each time I rode with you, you had completed these activities and we came up with new ones.
Marney: I notice that some managers will spend less time with their top AMs. It’s like they feel that if that person achieved Pinnacle Club, they no longer needed development. How did you approach continuing to develop your team, no matter what level we were at?
Jeremy: If you hire good people, they will always want to continue to grow and will need to continuously set new goals. I had to make sure I kept your eyes on the current requirements of your position, but also asked what you wanted next. Then I’d figure out what I could do to create situations to allow for further development. The Teaching Institution Focus Team is a perfect example. You wanted to prove a more hands on approach with teaching institutions would return exponential growth and revenue. I believed that they were the core of where our business should be started, so I created that initiative and pulled you onto the team to allow you to achieve the goals you had.
Marney: What advice do you have for future leaders regarding the “Lead from the front” mantra?
Jeremy: Always take calculated risks. Never be afraid of taking that leap of faith and make sure you do everything you can to ensure its success, but acknowledge that there is a possibility of failure, and be OK with that. During that first year when the team was just getting pounded left and right, and it sometimes felt like this was going to explode in our faces, I’ll admit it was scary. But we supported each other, focused on the wins, kept going, and it worked out in the end. Marney, honestly, those two years with you guys are what I feel is the most rewarding time of my career so far. We got slammed, we got up, we charged in again, got slammed some more, and in the end, we all came out on top. So take those risks, be aware that you might fail, but always learn something from the failures, and then go on to the next risk.