Andres Martin – Thankful for the opportunity
I was happy to get the opportunity to sell books in the Southwestern Advantage Internship, and expected to start fast. But – only 100 bucks. That’s what I made my first week. Not exactly close to the $1,500 I was thinking I would make. But it was OK. I was still excited after my first week – I had heard Roger Seip deliver his keynote address and his words “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” were still fresh in my mind. The second week was much better in sales, I made more than $1,000 in profit. But for some reason I felt like crap. I think it was because the excitement had left me and I realized I was not as good at it as I had hoped.
I had been good at most things I did (in school and in sports) I thought selling would come easy to me. Of course I knew it could be difficult emotionally. After all, I come from a totally different place: Estonia, a country smaller than the state of West Virginia and with a population of New Hampshire. Just 10 years prior the Soviet Union had collapsed and we were still a fresh wild-west capitalist country. And I had not been to the states before, or away from home and friends so long. So I expected it to be little bit tough, but I thought the selling part would come easy. I would rely on my brains and charisma. It did work out in the end, but more thanks to hard work and being teachable.
I was also stubborn in a way that I had already decided to finish the summer no matter what, and to get better at this. In the end it got better of course, or I should say I got better at this. I sold just over Sizzler my first summer. It did not come easy. And I am glad it did not.
Before the Southwestern Advantage Internship experience I think I was cocky, but not confident. I wanted to achieve things, but I was not sure I could. I was eager to learn and work hard. And I am grateful my student manager Ellen Coomber took the time recruiting 10 students from Estonia in 2001. Ellen had already recruited 10 people from Oxford and Cambridge (she is from UK) and I guess she just wanted the extra challenge. She held several presentations in my university and some others, and signed up several people. Many didn’t come out to sell, but I did decide to go and so did about 10 others, most of whom finished the summer. We were the number 2 team that year, so my expectation was set to get a good team myself. And I did, and over several summers learned to sell better and recruit and lead good teams. It has been awesome and changed my life in so many ways. Without that 1st summer, none of it could have happened. And I think first summer is important, because it often sets your expectations about the coming summers.
2001 is now just a romantic memory, I have all these things I remember, but many are just random flashbacks. I remember sales school and seeing Kyah Grady and many other top people being recognized for top performance last year. I really wanted to hit Presidents Club then (not until my 3rd summer). I remember Dan Moore. I remember our breakfast place where we sat on the 11th of September, 2001. I remember a mom, who told me “Honey, you should be home with your family” on a 4th of July, which made me cry. I remember staying up all night in Gatlinburg, TN with my new friends. I remember a customer who approached me when me and my roommate and still a great friend Joe were having breakfast. He bought the kids set later. I remember the mid day heat. I remember counting the days all day long, wanting to be away. I remember the Pinto, the brown piece of crap car me and my roommate had. And I remember that some days just flew by. And many other things. Just writing about this brings back excitement! And whenever I hear certain songs that were playing on the radio that summer I immediately have a flashback.
But all these memories, good or bad, don’t mean much now. Just like the miles you run to train for a marathon don’t mean anything individually. But all together they make you stronger. This is what I learned from my first summer – there are no shortcuts. You cannot be successful without effort. You need to put in the work, and everything you do matters. Every door is important. It was a good lesson, took me several years to learn, but I am glad I had great people around me to learn from. From Ellen and Chris, my DSL, to Dan and other people in the company, to all the other students that worked together with me.
10 years later I am still grateful for the opportunity I had in the Southwestern Advantage Internship. My wife sold books for 7 years so she knows how to handle anyone :). I recruited my brother and he has become a successful Sales Manager. My best friend is still in the business and kicking butt, in fact a lot of my good friends now have worked in the Southwestern Internship, and a lot of them are still in the business. I have been able to travel more than I thought possible. I have been able to learn many things others never get to learn, I have experienced highs and lows, made great friends, been able to afford things that without this job I could not afford. In a sentence – my life without Southwestern Advantage would not be what it is today, and I am glad that I sold books.
The way I look at it – whatever difficulties summer throws at us, they do not matter. We will forget them in a year or two, or they will become great stories. What matters is what we do in those situations. The Southwestern Internship gives us an opportunity to learn and to build our character, and to make money and new friends at the same time. It’s THE BEST thing for most college students, IF they are willing to pay the price. If you are, you will be happy about it 10, 20, 30 years later.