At just 28 years old, Vicki Clayman was a single mother with five-year-old twin girls. It wasn’t a situation she had anticipated, but she was determined to support them on her own. So she did some serious self-introspection. “I’m a people person,” she says. “I love to build relationships.”
Her dad, a former automotive salesman, recognized that trait in her too, and recommended sales as the straightest road to self-sufficiency and success. His heartfelt advice convinced her, and she became a distributor’s independent sales representative in 1984.
Clayman eventually launched her own company, Partners N Promotion (PNP, asi/350153) in 2006, initially utilizing support staff and resources under the ill-fated CorpLogoWare name. But when things took a turn for the worse and the Florida-based company was forced to close in 2008, a situation Clayman calls “jump-and-run,” a few of the employees who had worked with Clayman joined her at PNP, which became an independent entity.
“We’re very solutions-driven,” says Clayman of her team, which serves a diverse client base that includes railroads, power tools, event planning, oil, jeans and everything in between. “It doesn’t take two weeks to solve a problem. I’m the sole owner, so I don’t have to convince a group of owners.”
Clayman prides herself on fostering an environment of listening, collaboration and creativity, and makes sure she finds the best possible fits for her sales force. “I’m very picky,” she says of her hiring process. “It can be intense, but I also don’t believe in sales contracts. If I can’t keep you happy, you deserve to make the choice to go elsewhere.”
She also believes in the power of mentoring. In fact, she was recently invited to join the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program as a mentee, and meets regularly with other business leaders to share advice. “The philosophy is, don’t apply for the program if you think you have all the answers,” she explains. “It’s more about putting your worst foot forward so you can be mentored through it, and talking about what you need help with.”
Clayman then pays it forward by counseling other local distributors’ sales reps, essentially her competition. Unorthodox? Perhaps. But Clayman continues to make time for it, whether it’s phone conversations or lunch meetings. “If you help others when it’s not benefiting you directly, it all comes back to you eventually,” she says. “To stay competitive, you have to build relationships. If money is your only motive, that’s a recipe for failure down the road.”