Advantages

Extracurriculars That Drive Excellence

Many well-rounded sales aces cultivate their talents and stimulate professional success through complementary pursuits outside work. Check out their motivating stories and gain tips for building your business.

You are more than your job.
    Full of passion and energy, sales professionals throughout the branded merchandise industry engage in a fascinating array of extracurricular pursuits when the workday ends. From headlining rock 'n' rollers to selfless missionaries, meticulous woodcutters to creative film producers, the industry abounds with versatile reps making the most of their special talents.
    For many successful sales pros, these off-hour endeavors pack the added bonus of helping to improve on-the-job performance. Sometimes, the pursuits directly lead to new business opportunities. Other times they teach or sharpen sales skills that aid reps in closing more deals.

Here, we share the impressive stories of promo experts whose secondary pursuit accomplishments – impressive in their own right – help power their ad specialty success. Read their tales for inspiration and insights that will help you accelerate your sales.

The Heavy Metal "Stud"

Monday to Friday, Aaron Kist is a clean-cut professional. Come weekends, however, he is BlaZe Magnum, the singer and self-described "ringleader of debauchery" for Metal StudZ, a hair-metal band that plays hits from 1980s rock legends like Poison, Motley Crue, Guns N' Roses and more.

Now don't get the wrong idea. The account executive for American Solutions For Business (asi/120075) isn't doing anything wildly untoward. Rather, he and his bandmates – all 40-something professionals – are simply having a blast recreating the sound, look and antics-driven performance of an '80s arena rock concert. The fake stage names and outlandish wardrobes – animal-print spandex pants, big-hair wigs, makeup – add authenticity to the theatrics.

While there is self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek humor in the act, all the band members are accomplished musicians. The StudZ play to average audiences of 1,000 in St. Louis' premier venues, and have performed to huge crowds of 5,000 to 10,000. Indeed, they've sold out large-city events and casinos and played at the St. Louis Cardinals Ballpark Village and Budweiser Ribfest. "The older we get, the luckier we feel that we can still do this," says Kist.

Admittedly, the connection between being a promo pro and playing the role of an eyeliner-wearing metal singer seems tenuous. But Kist says singing with – and promoting – the StudZ and other bands he has been in has bolstered his professional performance. "It's always helped to fuel my artistic side, which translates to being creative with my clients' projects and delivering promotions that uniquely help to grow their business," he says.

Meanwhile, the relationship nurturing needed to network into quality music gigs provides a chance to enhance skills required to build client rapport and loyalty in his day job. Plus, rocking the microphone has imbued him with confidence that facilitates sales call success, especially during initial meetings. "Once you've been on stage in spandex," Kist says laughing, "walking into a new place and starting conversations doesn't seem intimidating."

Those conversations are generating sales. In specialty advertising for 17 years, Kist joined ASB in 2013 and won the distributorship's "Rookie of the Year Award." He aims to build on that success – and to keep rockin' while he does.

The Golfer

Ed Sallie is a high-performing sales rep for Boundless Network (asi/143717). He's also a crackerjack golfer who competes in professional tournaments, and teaches the game he loves at a Long Island golf course. Fortunately, his activity on the greens has led to a bevy of lucrative business relationships.

"Through teaching, I meet a cross section of people," he says. "From that, I've developed some excellent clients." They include an international technology company. "It's an account I've been doing hundreds of thousands of dollars with for several years," says Sallie.

As a younger man, Sallie was in golf full-time, competing and teaching. A persistent back problem, however, compelled him to embark on a corporate career. He starred in sales for Nike and later became president of Kangol USA, the iconic headwear company. He entered ad specialties in 2000.

A golfer since age 12 who still competes professionally part-time, Sallie maintains that the game was integral to helping him construct career success. "With golf, you need to set goals and practice with a purpose to achieve them," he says. "It's the same in sales."

Furthermore, his golf background allows him to differentiate himself and engender relationship-building interactions with corporate clients, many of whom are golfers. "It gets the conversation going," he says.

By teaching golfers to improve their game, Sallie refines the consultative skills so essential to ramping- up revenue. "When I'm at the lesson tee," he says, "I have to find a way to connect with the student and counsel them so they improve. It's similar to counseling clients so they get solutions that will be best for them."

The skill transfer is contributing to a stellar career. Since starting in the promo business, Sallie's sales tallies have advanced by leaps and bounds. "It's been continued growth, year after year."

The Missionary

Brenda Williams is powered by faith.

The owner of Artistic Printing & Specialty Advertising (asi/125356) is an ordained minister and missionary whose outreach to orphans and car and boat racers has benefitted her spiritually and professionally.

Devoted to children in need, Williams has traveled to Honduras and Mexico to participate in missions work aimed at improving the lives of orphans. The nonprofit she started, Rainbow's End Ministries, raises money to support parentless children. "I also take a percentage of my commissions and donate it to care for orphans, which gives me a drive to succeed," Williams says.

On her missions' trips, Williams has contributed to everything from construction and hygiene initiatives to assisting with baptisms. "Your spirits connect with the children, even if you're not speaking the same language," she says. Currently, she's involved with The Children's Home Project, helping to provide care for orphaned boys in Honduras. Her next trip south is scheduled for this month. "This is something I feel I'm supposed to do," she says.

Interestingly, Williams' missionary experiences have augmented her customer service skills. "I'm in situations where you have to operate with patience and love, and that tides over into my business, helping me keep the peace when a customer is upset," she says.

Faith – and love of racing – led Williams to another type of ministerial work: serving as volunteer chaplain for local and national car and boat race events, including NHRA Drag Racing and Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing. As part of her duties, she prays protection over drivers before they rev into competition. Through meeting racers and networking at events, she has connected with new clients. For racing brands and other businesses she has delivered everything from logoed shirts and hard-good items to business cards.

By following her faith-driven passions, Williams is spurring success in business – and leading a happier life. "Submerging myself in ministry is a release from the stressors of daily life. It's at the core of what keeps me balanced."

The Country Crooner

A diner in West Virginia. That summer smell of hot dogs. A little boy walking up and down the aisles. He's handing out quarters to patrons, telling them to pick a song on the jukebox. Once they pop the quarter in and select the tune, the four-year-old starts singing along, everything from Johnny Cash to Boxcar Willie.

So began Steve Flaughers' love of performing music – a love that the owner of Proforma 3rd Degree Marketing (asi/490897) has turned into an exciting side venture. For several years, Flaughers has been the lead singer of Coalie's Run Band, a country group that plays more than 100 packed gigs annually. As a crooner, Flaughers has opened for household-name acts like Kenny Chesney, Joe Diffie and David Allan Coe. He has also sung the national anthem at Cleveland Cavaliers and West Virginia University basketball games. If that wasn't impressive enough, his video for the song "Wish Upon You" made it into the Top 16 on Country Music Television's Music City Madness Video Contest.

Whether you're endeavoring to delight big crowds or earn quality clients in business, Flaughers says passion is essential. "You have to be excited about what you do and deliver that energy to people," he says. "It's what connects you. Strong connections are everything on stage or in business."

While his enthusiasm for performance and the branding business comes naturally, there is no shortage of challenges in each. Two of the heftiest he faces are winning over new audiences with his band and converting first-time ad specialty customers into loyal clients. The key to achieving both is fundamentally the same. "If you want people to like your band and come out to see you again, give them something special," says Flaughers. "It's the same in our industry. You have to over-impress to the point that your customers become raving fans."

With his promo work, Flaughers' earns devotees through a consultative approach that ignites ROI. He also recently expanded his solution offerings to include video marketing and mobile app development. With sales in the seven-figure range, he is clearly hitting the right notes.

The Thespians

Mark DeAngelis, president and CEO of Data Associates (DA) (asi/175676), is a lifelong thespian whose passion blossomed into a vibrant second career in the 2000s when, through a former prep school classmate, he got involved in the film industry. Since then, DeAngelis has served as an executive producer on seven films and played minor acting roles in others, becoming a member of the Screen Actors Guild.

Distributed through MarVista Entertainment, the films have been well-received. Sexting In Suburbia was a hit on Lifetime, while A Christmas Kiss was a Top 10 romantic comedy on Netflix. The savvy sales pro, who acted on the stage with the Duke Players in college and later with the Wellesley Players in Massachusetts, is currently venturing into scriptwriting on a film that involves an American icon. DeAngelis has to keep mum about the details, but it's possible a big-name star could be involved. He's penning the script with John Stimpson, a writer/director with whom he's partnered on the other films.

Such creative collaboration is essential to success in scriptwriting and filmmaking; the same could be said of delivering winning promotional solutions, says DeAngelis, whose client list has included major brands like Guinness, Absolut Vodka and CVS. "When the print and promo side of my career goes right, it's because I've come together with my clients and we've creatively solved their problems," he says.

DeAngelis isn't the only promo guru to benefit from complementary parallels between the performance realm and ad specialties. Steve Woodburn, strategic accounts manager at Pinnacle Promotions (asi/295986), draws on his acting, radio and scriptwriting experience to help drive his earnings. "Selling is similar to acting," he says. "That's not to say it's about being fake; it's about portraying the role of the expert that you hopefully are in a compelling way that will help you win clients' trust."

Woodburn would know. The high-earning salesman has acted in national commercials for household-name brands like Buick and Gold Bond, and starred in everything from corporate training films to community theater productions. For 20 years before coming to ad specialties, he worked the radio waves as a disc jockey, news anchor, traffic reporter and more, progressing from small to big markets. At one point, he deejayed a stateside station that had audiences as far away as Japan. A playwright too, Woodburn is crafting a script about his late father-in-law, who created and portrayed Weary Willie, one of the world's most famous clowns. Woodburn's knack with the pen has helped him develop an entertaining, informative and widely read blog that's positioned him as a branding expert. "I've used writing," he says, "to build a personal brand."

The Woodworker

When J.P. Shea looks at a piece of wood, he sees a character waiting to come to life. On snowy Minnesota evenings, you may find him in a warm room at home, absorbed in chiseling the likeness of a Santa Claus or snowman from basswood. The calm inherent in the scene is indicative of why Shea loves woodcarving. "It takes me out of the fast side of daily business and allows me to get centered again," says ASB's director of automotive sales.

The therapeutic effect of a carving session replenishes Shea, leaving him better prepared to deliver solutions to workplace challenges. "Having something like this helps you move forward and perform better at your job," he says, noting that woodwork teaches patience and understanding, virtues he has found valuable in business.

Shea started carving as a teenager and later took up the art again after his children grew. He chisels to life 25 to 30 characters a year, primarily creating Santas and fun caricatures of people he knows. The pieces, which range from six to 14 inches, are wood-burned, painted in watercolor and usually given a poly matte finish. He animates them with different details, making each unique.

While Shea maintains a personal collection, he regularly sells many carvings to devoted clients. Still, he says it's more satisfying to use the wooden works to support good causes. He has donated them to hospitals and nonprofits that auction the items to raise funds. Carvings have also been sold to generate money for friends in need of cash to pay medical costs. The altruism doesn't stop there: Shea gifts many of his creations to people he knows will appreciate them. "It really fills my bucket to give them away," he says. "I think when we find something we enjoy and we share that in a way that helps other people, we become better stewards."

Christopher Ruvo is a senior writer for Advantages magazine. Follow: @ChrisR_ASI. Contact: cruvo@asicentral.com
    You are more than your job.

Full of passion and energy, sales professionals throughout the branded merchandise industry engage in a fascinating array of extracurricular pursuits when the workday ends. From headlining rock 'n' rollers to selfless missionaries, meticulous woodcutters to creative film producers, the industry aboundswith versatile reps making the most of their special talents.
    For many successful sales pros, these off-hour endeavors pack the added bonus of helping to improve on-the-job performance. Sometimes, the pursuits directly lead to new business opportunities. Other times they teach or sharpen sales skills that aid reps in closing more deals.

Here, we share the impressive stories of promo experts whose secondary pursuit accomplishments – impressive in their own right – help power their ad specialty success. Read their tales for inspiration and insights that will help you accelerate your sales.

The Heavy Metal "Stud"

Monday to Friday, Aaron Kist is a clean-cut professional. Come weekends, however, he is BlaZe Magnum, the singer and self-described "ringleader of debauchery" for Metal StudZ, a hair-metal band that plays hits from 1980s rock legends like Poison, Motley Crue, Guns N' Roses and more.

Now don't get the wrong idea. The account executive for American Solutions For Business (asi/120075) isn't doing anything wildly untoward. Rather, he and his bandmates – all 40-something professionals – are simply having a blast recreating the sound, look and antics-driven performance of an '80s arena rock concert. The fake stage names and outlandish wardrobes – animal-print spandex pants, big-hair wigs, makeup – add authenticity to the theatrics.

While there is self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek humor in the act, all the band members are accomplished musicians. The StudZ play to average audiences of 1,000 in St. Louis' premier venues, and have performed to huge crowds of 5,000 to 10,000. Indeed, they've sold out large-city events and casinos and played at the St. Louis Cardinals Ballpark Village and Budweiser Ribfest. "The older we get, the luckier we feel that we can still do this," says Kist.

Admittedly, the connection between being a promo pro and playing the role of an eyeliner-wearing metal singer seems tenuous. But Kist says singing with – and promoting – the StudZ and other bands he has been in has bolstered his professional performance. "It's always helped to fuel my artistic side, which translates to being creative with my clients' projects and delivering promotions that uniquely help to grow their business," he says.

Meanwhile, the relationship nurturing needed to network into quality music gigs provides a chance to enhance skills required to build client rapport and loyalty in his day job. Plus, rocking the microphone has imbued him with confidence that facilitates sales call success, especially during initial meetings. "Once you've been on stage in spandex," Kist says laughing, "walking into a new place and starting conversations doesn't seem intimidating."

Those conversations are generating sales. In specialty advertising for 17 years, Kist joined ASB in 2013 and won the distributorship's "Rookie of the Year Award." He aims to build on that success – and to keep rockin' while he does.

The Golfer

Ed Sallie is a high-performing sales rep for Boundless Network (asi/143717). He's also a crackerjack golfer who competes in professional tournaments, and teaches the game he loves at a Long Island golf course. Fortunately, his activity on the greens has led to a bevy of lucrative business relationships.

"Through teaching, I meet a cross section of people," he says. "From that, I've developed some excellent clients." They include an international technology company. "It's an account I've been doing hundreds of thousands of dollars with for several years," says Sallie.

As a younger man, Sallie was in golf full-time, competing and teaching. A persistent back problem, however, compelled him to embark on a corporate career. He starred in sales for Nike and later became president of Kangol USA, the iconic headwear company. He entered ad specialties in 2000.

A golfer since age 12 who still competes professionally part-time, Sallie maintains that the game was integral to helping him construct career success. "With golf, you need to set goals and practice with a purpose to achieve them," he says. "It's the same in sales."

Furthermore, his golf background allows him to differentiate himself and engender relationship-building interactions with corporate clients, many of whom are golfers. "It gets the conversation going," he says.

By teaching golfers to improve their game, Sallie refines the consultative skills so essential to ramping- up revenue. "When I'm at the lesson tee," he says, "I have to find a way to connect with the student and counsel them so they improve. It's similar to counseling clients so they get solutions that will be best for them."

The skilltransfer is contributing to a stellar career. Since starting in the promo business, Sallie's sales tallies have advanced by leaps and bounds. "It's been continued growth, year after year."

The Missionary

Brenda Williams is powered by faith.

The owner of Artistic Printing & Specialty Advertising (asi/125356) is an ordained minister and missionary whose outreach to orphans and car and boat racers has benefitted her spiritually and professionally.

Devoted to children in need, Williams has traveled to Honduras and Mexico to participate in missions work aimed at improving the lives of orphans. The nonprofit she started, Rainbow's End Ministries, raises money to support parentless children. "I also take a percentage of my commissions and donate it to care for orphans, which gives me a drive to succeed," Williams says.

On her missions' trips, Williams has contributed to everything from construction and hygiene initiatives to assisting with baptisms. "Your spirits connect with the children, even if you're not speaking the same language," she says. Currently, she's involved with The Children's Home Project, helping to provide care for orphaned boys in Honduras. Her next trip south is scheduled for this month. "This is something I feel I'm supposed to do," she says.

Interestingly, Williams' missionary experiences have augmented her customer service skills. "I'm in situations where you have to operate with patience and love, and that tides over into my business, helping me keep the peace when a customer is upset," she says.

Faith – and love of racing – led Williams to another type of ministerial work: serving as volunteer chaplain for local and national car and boat race events, including NHRA Drag Racing and Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing. As part of her duties, she prays protection over drivers before they rev into competition. Through meeting racers and networking at events, she has connected with new clients. For racing brands and other businesses she has delivered everything from logoed shirts and hard-good items to business cards.

By following her faith-driven passions, Williams is spurring success in business – and leading a happier life. "Submerging myself in ministry is a release from the stressors of daily life. It's at the core of what keeps me balanced."

The Country Crooner

A diner in West Virginia. That summer smell of hot dogs. A little boy walking up and down the aisles. He's handing out quarters to patrons, telling them to pick a song on the jukebox. Once they pop the quarter in and select the tune, the four-year-old starts singing along, everything from Johnny Cash to Boxcar Willie.

So began Steve Flaughers' love of performing music – a love that the owner of Proforma 3rd Degree Marketing (asi/490897) has turned into an exciting side venture. For several years, Flaughers has been the lead singer of Coalie's Run Band, a country group that plays more than 100 packed gigs annually. As a crooner, Flaughers has opened for household-name acts like Kenny Chesney, Joe Diffie and David Allan Coe. He has also sung the national anthem at Cleveland Cavaliers and West Virginia University basketball games. If that wasn't impressive enough, his video for the song "Wish Upon You" made it into the Top 16 on Country Music Television's Music City Madness Video Contest.

Whether you're endeavoring to delight big crowds or earn quality clients in business, Flaughers says passion is essential. "You have to be excited about what you do and deliver that energy to people," he says. "It's what connects you. Strong connections are everything on stage or in business."

While his enthusiasm for performance and the branding business comes naturally, there is no shortage of challenges in each. Two of the heftiest he faces are winning over new audiences with his band and converting first-time ad specialty customers into loyal clients. The key to achieving both is fundamentally the same. "If you want people to like your band and come out to see you again, give them something special," says Flaughers. "It's the same in our industry. You have to over-impress to the point that your customers become raving fans."

With his promo work, Flaughers' earns devotees through a consultative approach that ignites ROI. He also recently expanded his solution offerings to include video marketing and mobile app development. With sales in the seven-figure range, he is clearly hitting the right notes.

The Thespians

Mark DeAngelis, president and CEO of Data Associates (DA) (asi/175676), is a lifelong thespian whose passion blossomed into a vibrant second career in the 2000s when, through a former prep school classmate, he got involved in the film industry. Since then, DeAngelis has served as an executive producer on seven films an d played minor acting roles in others, becoming a member of the Screen Actors Guild.

Distributed through MarVista Entertainment, the films have been well-received. Sexting In Suburbia was a hit on Lifetime, while A Christmas Kiss was a Top 10 romantic comedy on Netflix. The savvy sales pro, who acted on the stage with the Duke Players in college and later with the Wellesley Players in Massachusetts, is currently venturing into scriptwriting on a film that involves an American icon. DeAngelis has to keep mum about the details, but it's possible a big-name star could be involved. He's penning the script with John Stimpson, a writer/director with whom he's partnered on the other films.

Such creative collaboration is essential to success in scriptwriting and filmmaking; the same could be said of delivering winning promotional solutions, says DeAngelis, whose client list has included major brands like Guinness, Absolut Vodka and CVS. "When the print and promo side of my career goes right, it's because I've come together with my clients and we've creatively solved their problems," he says.

DeAngelis isn't the only promo guru to benefit from complementary parallels between the performance realm and ad specialties. Steve Woodburn, strategic accounts manager at Pinnacle Promotions (asi/295986), draws on his acting, radio and scriptwriting experience to help drive his earnings. "Selling is similar to acting," he says. "That's not to say it's about being fake; it's about portraying the role of the expert that you hopefully are in a compelling way that will help you win clients' trust."

Woodburn would know. The high-earning salesman has acted in national commercials for household-name brands like Buick and Gold Bond, and starred in everything from corporate training films to community theater productions. For 20 years before coming to ad specialties, he worked the radio waves as a disc jockey, news anchor, traffic reporter and more, progressing from small to big markets. At one point, he deejayed a stateside station that had audiences as far away as Japan. A playwright too, Woodburn is crafting a script about his late father-in-law, who created and portrayed Weary Willie, one of the world's most famous clowns. Woodburn's knack with the pen has helped him develop an entertaining, informative and widely read blog that's positioned him as a branding expert. "I've used writing," he says, "to build a personal brand."

The Woodworker

When J.P. Shea looks at a piece of wood, he sees a character waiting to come to life. On snowy Minnesota evenings, you may find him in a warm room at home, absorbed in chiseling the likeness of a Santa Claus or snowman from basswood. The calm inherent in the scene is indicative of why Shea loves woodcarving. "It takes me out of the fast side of daily business and allows me to get centered again," says ASB's director of automotive sales.

The therapeutic effect of a carving session replenishes Shea, leaving him better prepared to deliver solutions to workplace challenges. "Having something like this helps you move forward and perform better at your job," he says, noting that woodwork teaches patience and understanding, virtues he has found valuable in business.

Shea started carving as a teenager and later took up the art again after his children grew. He chisels to life 25 to 30 characters a year, primarily creating Santas and fun caricatures of people he knows. The pieces, which range from six to 14 inches, are wood-burned, painted in watercolor and usually given a poly matte finish. He animates them with different details, making each unique.

While Shea maintains a personal collection, he regularly sells many carvings to devoted clients. Still, he says it's more satisfying to use the wooden works to support good causes. He has donated them to hospitals and nonprofits that auction the items to raise funds. Carvings have also been sold to generate money for friends in need of cash to pay medical costs. The altruism doesn't stop there: Shea gifts many of his creations to people he knows will appreciate them. "It really fills my bucket to give them away," he says. "I think when we find something we enjoy and we share that in a way that helps other people, we become better stewards."

Christopher Ruvo is a senior writer for Advantages magazine. Follow: @ChrisR_ASI. Contact: cruvo@asicentral.com