Interview with Rick Meier – Accounts Manager for Rite In The Rain
What are some of the most valuable things gained from your experience in the Southwestern Advantage sales & leadership program?
Wow- what didn’t I learn? First of all I learned that I am not so tough, not so popular, and that no one cares that I was a good athlete, good student, and life was simple. I learned that I was very week mentally when life got tough and I had to make a decision to either get back up and change my attitude or quit. I learned how to develop relationships with all kinds of people from farmers in North Dakota to aircraft mechanics in Wichita to miners in Ohio.
As the summer went on I learned that if I had been more teachable from the start that my first summer would have been much easier. My first summer was the most emotional 3 months of my life yet, but by the end of that summer I had a check for $4,285.00 which was more than any of my friends in 1981 had made at home who laughed at me when I told them what I was going to do.
What was the most difficult part of your Southwestern Advantage experience?
The toughest part is spending any amount of time with yourself thinking about life, oh poor pitiful me, and doesn’t anyone like me. This only happens when you are NOT knocking on doors. It is truly impossible to be depressed or down when you are in someone else’s home, but very easy when you are sitting on the curb or in your car trying to rationalize things. I remember calling my sales manager James Wedgeworth and talking with him about it and he told me that whatever I did tomorrow was going to be the basis of what I do with the rest of my life. Wow what advice and fear when you respect the person talking to you. I had to finish that summer strong for my team so that they had a great experience themselves and would come back with their own teams.
What are a couple pieces of advice you would offer a first year salesperson?
I believe that no matter what your major is in college or what you want to become, you will not be very successful or enjoy it at all if you don’t have a great self-worth and a great attitude towards other people. The book field teaches you not to be so judgmental of others because you see how they live. Most of us college kids grow up in a protected, naïve, immune environment when it comes to how most people in the US live. You need to go out and stand on your own two feet for a summer, be able to tell your parents that you thank them for all their leadership and love but that you are going to make your own mark in life. I know that my father a retired Air Force bomber pilot was very skeptical and my mother thought I was nuts, but I knew I was doing what was right for me. 100 days later they were incredibly proud even though they never really understood why I needed to go for the summer. At some point in your life you need to be responsible for yourself, make your own decisions, and drive your own successes and failures, and there is no better place in life to figure this out than with a SW summer. Do you really want to wait for your first career job after college to find out that you are not ready for life, I know I didn’t.
Before you were invited to sell, what was your plan after graduation (career, grad school, etc.)?
I was majoring in accounting and finance to become a CPA and then go to law school to become a merger and acquisition lawyer. I never dreamed of selling or becoming a national sales manager but after my 5 summers on the book field I realized that I love people, the challenge of finding a way into an account either through the front door or the back door.
You will find in career work that sometimes prospects are nicer when you knock on the backdoor after they blew you off the front door. Ask someone else who sold about this, it usually makes everyone laugh. I have now been in strategic selling for over 30 years and it has allowed me to raise our family of 7 kids (blended) and the past 10 years with my wife at home with the two youngest. When you spend your college career with SW you will learn not only how to sell but much more importantly how to relate to people, how to use the right names and referrals with the right people, and how to motivate others towards a common goal.
Tell us about your career path taken after Southwestern Advantage.
After my last summer on the book field and realizing that sales and ultimately sales management was the direction I would go, I started interviewing. I was very fortunate that when I interviewed with Procter and Gamble along with 60 or so others for 2 positions that someone in their HR department knew who SW was and that moved me way up the list. After a few years at P&G I knew that smaller businesses were where I wanted to be so that I could make a difference in the company’s direction and success. I have had bumps in life but none bigger than going through a divorce with 3 little kids that were 6-4-2. Well 18 ½ years later and with re-marrying and having kids again (my last at 50) I realize that no one really has life figured out no matter how in control they act.
What I did rely on through all of those years was the fact that you cannot quit as a father, a provider, or a friend to others just because you have been kicked in the teeth. I have since walked my oldest daughters down the aisle after they finished college and they are very thankful that I never used excuses or placed blame on anyone. You have to accept your situation in life, the cards that you are dealt, and then get determined enough to change the cards, change your odds, and show the people around you who are relying on you that you are someone they can count on no matter what.
I know that my career path has always been in the same field but with 3 different companies over the past 28 years and you need to make sure that you never burn bridges with people because you will sometime, someday wish you had not. When you are knocking on doors and Miss Jones is mean to you, just talk to the neighbor about how awesome she was and you will feel better and the lady you are talking to will laugh; just do what you know is right and never quit caring, that is all you can do.
My last advice to the modern day era college kid is to please never, ever use your smart devices to say things that you would not say to someone face to face. I believe that life was much simpler 30 years ago when we said everything face to face, apologized face to face, and built relationships via handshakes, looking each other in the eye, and knowing that we were building true relationships. This is above all what you will learn to do at SW and that will put you so far ahead of anyone who is relying on technology for these critical skills in life.
My last comment is for you to make a decision to go out your first summer and learn all you can learn have an awesome summer and then bring 10 people with you the next year so that they can also grow as you did. I look back on the 57 people that I brought to Nashville with my 4 teams and I know that they are all better off for the experience. Have a great summer and God Bless.