Ignite Corporate Recovery Partners

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Blog Series: 7 Things My First Real Boss Taught Me--An Introduction

How do you sift through the noise and focus on what’s important?

Sometimes what’s important and meaningful is found in unexpected places.

In 1990 I was fortunate enough to start my career in a job I didn’t really want at a company that was poised for meteoric growth. The company was Cybex, which later became Avocent. At the helm was Steve Thornton, a veteran executive from SCI and my first real boss. Steve was a man of few words, but I still remember most of them 20+ years later.

Steve offered me my first job—right out of college— in sales. It was not what I envisioned.

Now, I advise any graduating college student (who is willing to listen) to find a sales job, if they can. They usually look at me like I’m crazy.  But here is why I advocate a sales job as an entry level position: Nothing teaches you the context of your business like being the conduit between a company and a demanding customer. In my sales position I was on the phone communicating with customers all day. Good communication is the bedrock of sales. Successful salespeople learn the product, inside and out. They must also understand the customers and the customer’s goals. Finally, a good salesperson learns everything about how their own company works.

Steve (the CEO) and I were the only two salespeople in the company during my early years at Cybex. The time working on the front lines, building business with Steve gave me valuable experience and developed the tools I needed to grow into sales management, into product marketing, and ultimately into executive management.

All that I learned working in those early days are the building blocks that helped me grow throughout my first career. Now as part of the Ignite Team, it’s the foundation of the knowledge we impart to our clients. In the coming weeks I want to share some of the lessons I learned early on working with my first boss Steve. I hope you enjoy the series.

—Bill Neiland, Managing Partner