Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 11, 2012

Key to business success: Embrace being different


He had me take the personality test two more times and I feel reasonably sure that he took it himself and submitted under my name so that I could be approved by the home office in New York.

The home office had their rules. They wanted us to make a set number of cold calls pitching products to total strangers. They wanted us to hang out at country clubs and suck up to rich people. They had rah-rah pep rallies and encouraged us to use high-pressure tactics to get people to buy something. They wanted to follow detailed scripts and never deviate from their written words.

The personality test said I would not do any of those things. The test was right. I never did.

By doing the opposite of what they preached, I became one of the top producers in the nation.

Just coming out of graduate school at Vanderbilt, I was used to digesting large amounts of information quickly. I threw myself into learning my new career. I racked up professional designations and licenses at a record-breaking pace.

I did things like read the entire U.S. tax code cover to cover. I found niches, like structured settlements for injured people, which required a high degree of expertise.

If I was not going to make sales calls or pressure people into buying stuff, I had to do something where potential clients called me instead of me calling them.

Looking back, I realize that my greatest strength was that I did it “my way.” There was a lot of pressure to fall into line, especially at that young age, but in 30 years I never did.

It’s an interesting American paradox. People with my personality start big companies. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are examples. Once the big companies get started, they never hire that same type of rebellious personality to work there.

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