Daniel Cumming – Coachability

Daniel Cumming – University of Richmond

Southwestern Internship Experience – Daniel Cumming

Everyone has a different experience working with Southwestern Advantage, and I think it has everything to do with who the student manager they work with is. I had one of the most eccentric and without a doubt the most caring student manager in Chris Sica.
When I was a sophomore at University of Richmond in 2006, I got invited to an info session by a guy named Chris. I hadn’t really done anything challenging since I started college, haven’t ever had a chance to intentionally practice communication skills, and really missed the chance to GO for something and WIN. Running a small business is nothing I had ever considered, or even knew existed as an option, but it sounded like the most rewarding thing if I put my heart into it.
So, before I knew it I found myself in Fort Dodge, Iowa living with 2 other guys from UR. I was PUMPED. New place, new home, new job, new responsibilities….and NO CLUE how to do any of it. Sales school was awesome, Chris was an excellent teacher, but there was just so much I had either forgotten or didn’t know, and I was excited to go screw up a bunch.
I still remember the very first door I knocked on, just south of town. It was an old farm house, and they definitely did not have kids. I just had fun screwing up the rest of the day. I fumbled, mumbled, and forgot most of my sales talk, and still managed to find David Willhoit, owner of Willhoit Construction and proud father of a 1-year-old daughter. He bought a set of kids’ books, and as I was writing up the order, asked me if he could get two, for his cousin who has the same aged kids. I remember his Midwestern catchphrase he repeated…frequently…”You bet!” I still have a Willhoit Construction hat from him.
First week, not bad. Made a little less than $500, and I knew I sucked. Second week, after I actually started to remember what to say, I did even better, $800. It was actually harder than the first week, because I forgot the “I’m just having fun out here, I don’t care if you buy!” attitude. Suffice to say, I started to take myself a little seriously. I was a professional now, treat me as so! That only encouraged me to take it personally when someone did not want to talk to me. Chris was awesome at helping me regain perspective. I slowly started to do this, and that’s when sales started to just explode.
Looking back at it, after things started to really click weeks 4 and 5, I remember the customers and the good parts really well, because that’s what stuck when I let the rejections go! The truth is I had more rejections later in the summer than in the beginning, but I just learned to stop taking it personally, and saw WAY more families. That’s when I figured out how to have fun with people, and Chris taught me to make it a game to leave every single person I talked to in a better mood than how I found them. I would swap jokes with people, and play tag with the kids on my way out.
It was a collection of adventures. I got job offers, learned to change tires, met countless nice people, met a lot of really awesome people that impressed me, met people that weren’t my cup of tea, met musicians, factory workers, doctors, farmers, farmers, farmers, and destruction derby racers. I figured out that “hard work” is a BLAST when you choose it, when previously I always resented when it was “forced,” like homework or many of the hourly-wage or salary jobs I had in the past. I never would have worked past closing-time at Subway! Through it all, Chris coached me on the phone every night to see how the day went and gave me something to improve for the next day. That’s where a lot of my growth came from, since he always had an idea for how I could do even better. And I was always eager to learn!
I can genuinely say, that summer I learned more about people, myself, and how to succeed than in all four years of classes at UR. I can tell when someone is actually listening to me, what they are really saying when they don’t say what they mean, and learned what it means to genuinely care about someone. In the end, I made $19,300 and grew up while I did it. I owe it in a large part to the leadership of Chris, and can only hope to pass that on to others.
Southwestern was an exciting, scary leap, but I did it; and that’s the only way to get the things anyone really wants in life: taking a risk! To anyone considering the program for the first time, I would only have one piece of advice: Develop a relationship of trust with your coaches; they know how to help you hit your goals!

Southwestern AdvantageDaniel Cumming – Coachability

3 Comments on “Daniel Cumming – Coachability”

  1. Brandan Tobin

    It’s hard to get mad at you for beating me in the Super Star book when your story is this good. Very eloquent and thoughtful. I feel the exact same feelings of love and appreciation for my own student manager and her little brother who was my room mate for my first summer. I’ll always owe them a debt of gratitude that can only be paid by passing on the kindness.

  2. Danielle Roos

    Dan, I love how accurate your description of the first three weeks is: “It was actually harder than the first week, because I had lost the “well, let’s just see how it goes!” care-free attitude and hadn’t gotten the “I’m just having fun out here, I don’t care if you buy!” attitude yet.” Those weeks are the hardest, but I am so glad you stuck them out my friend.

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