by Gail Z. Martin excerpted from Fresh Start Success: Reimagine Your Work, Reinvent Your Life, Re-Ignite Your Passion
“I’ve always been a change agent.” Faith Monson trained to be a salesperson. She moved up through the ranks, from salesperson to sales manager, then to regional manager, always changing how things were done. She stayed at each job longer because she reinvented the job while she was doing it. That helped keep her interested and let her take advantage of potential opportunities.
As one of the first women in a full sales position in the companies where she worked, Faith had a major role in changing company culture as to how the corporations treated women. “Early on, women were only allowed to be in customer service, not in sales,” Faith recalls. “The outside sales people were male, and even when a woman in a showroom sold something, it wasn’t considered to be ‘sales’.” In fact, while male salespeople won awards, there were no awards for women in the showroom, no matter how many sales they closed. Yet the showroom saw many more clients each day, meaning that the women actually had more client contact than the men.”
Faith created a corporate recognition program for the showroom sales staff and got the customer service workers reclassified as “inside sales people” by pointing out the volume of sales they generated. She fought and won approval to promote female inside sales people to outside sales people, pioneering a program that was later replicated across the country. “These women were great sales people,” Faith says. “They just hadn’t been recognized.”
“I’ve always been a catalyst. I like to mentor and empower women and watch them grow,” Faith says. But the leadership’s micro-management culture drove her crazy. “I was all about opportunity and looking for new ideas,” Faith adds. “The management preserved the status quo and limited opportunities and innovation. Ultimately, running into a brick wall took its toll.” She felt that the company’s leadership was unsupportive and unresponsive to the needs of the sales force. “That did it for me.”
“I had always wanted to have my own business with bright, talented, and enthusiastic people. I knew how to run a business, and I had ideas on how to make it grow. In my corporate experience, my clients were primarily small business owners. I listened and learned about their challenges and concerns, strategized with them, made suggestions, and had creative brainstorming sessions on how they could best promote themselves,” Faith recalls. “I met so many clients with unique and creative abilities that weren’t promoting their businesses, and I wanted to help them be successful. I found working with them stimulating and challenging, and a part of my job that I really enjoyed. Now, I see that it was a training ground for my next job.”
It was time to move on. Faith was ready to be her own boss. She had proven herself and believed in herself. The turning point came when she was sitting in a train station reading You Are a Brand by Catherine Kaputa. Faith devoured the book and decided to go out on her own and help businesses be more successful by using the skills she had honed in her corporate job to establish their brands and promote their success. Faith partnered with the best website designers, professional writers, and marketing and promoting gurus she could find. Her first clients were people who knew her from her corporate experience, accepted her in her new role, and hired her to coach them to success, which was very validating.
Throughout her career, Faith created books of quotations and inspirational photos to motivate herself and stay pumped up. “Those quotes inspired me to go for it,” Faith says. “They encouraged me to take risks. They taught me to be my own biggest cheerleader.” Sales turned out to be a great training ground. “I sold myself to myself, and I sold myself to potential clients,” Faith said. Her contacts believed in the “new” Faith and referred her.
Being her own boss was freeing. “The sky was the limit,” Faith says. “I could try things, take risks, and learn on my own. There was endless opportunity, and I was uncovering my untapped talents and skills.” There were some downsides to being on her own. “I’m not an IT person,” Faith confesses. “I had to hire people to do those things, and I would have liked to have been able to do more social media and internet work myself.”
Faith’s new venture was successful immediately. “I was my own boss, I used my ideas and stuck myself out there, out of my comfort zone, and stretched myself at every opportunity,” Faith says.
Faith came from a competitive, goal-driven environment, and while she had excelled in that situation, she wanted to shift gears and make her vision all about her clients’ success. “In my corporate world, I mentored peers and subordinates. Now, I wanted to mentor my clients, help them to fly, come out of their shells, burst out of their insecurities,” Faith says. “I wanted to be in their corner. Often, that’s all they need. I’m there, cheering them on, being their Sherpa. Everyone is different in what inspires them. I empower them so they can go for it.”