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Kenneth W. Keller: Find the right fit for your skills and reduce stress

Inside Business

Posted: March 17, 2009 9:53 p.m.
Updated: March 18, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Find the right fit for your skills and get reduce stress

During a focus group conducted for the book, "The Millionaire Mind," one of the participants took a long time to introduce himself to the other 10 people around the room.

Dan, he called himself, said his first job was with a corporation selling calculators and electronic watches to large retailers. He took the job right after graduating from a top business school with a degree in marketing.

He said, "I never seemed to get the knack of it," and after two years, he was asked to resign.

Dan's second job was with a large producer of electronic games, and he departed after 18 months still not getting his head around the concepts of selling.

His third job was with a start-up computer company but he left after nine months never having sold a single computer.

In his fourth post-college job, Dan was hired by a small computer company. He told those in the focus group, "I didn't sell much of their product, either," and he quit after just a few months on the job.

The fifth position was with his third computer company. When he did not meet his sales quota, he was let go.

When Dan started work at his sixth position, his career gained some traction.

This position was not in sales; it was in marketing. Unfortunately, the company ran out of money and went out of business, leaving him without a job.

Taking a seventh job, he went back into sales with another start-up computer company, making $45,000 a year until the final year, when he made $200,000. But when the market slowed, Dan's company went out of business.

The eighth position was another sales job. But the company fired him because of low sales volume; he wasn't selling enough.
Position nine after leaving college was with a company that produced scanners for cash registers. Dan told the group, "They let me go."

During these dark days, Dan tried very hard to be successful. He told those in the focus group, "I would sit in my car and drive all around. I would get so depressed because I had all this drive and was really a hard worker. I was letting myself down and my parents down."

In his tenth job after leaving college, Dan found a company that sought his abilities and aptitude. This was a sales job, requiring him to close deals, but it also mandated that he do considerable market research, develop an understanding of each customer's unique needs, prepare detailed proposals and focus only on major accounts.

His previous employers preferred sales personnel who "knocked doors down" to gain immediate revenue. Dan was too creative, too analytical, too deliberate and too intelligent to give up his talents, skills and abilities for a "don't think, just sell" situation.

He was often teased by his fellow sales professionals as someone with many plans, yet few clients.

After five years of planning, thinking, strategizing and executing, Dan received a $35 million contract from Home Depot. He sold 6,000 computers in a single order. His W-2 for that one account was a commission of $1.03 million.

One of the key findings from the research for The Millionaire Mind is that stress is a direct result of devoting a lot of effort to a task that is not in line with one's abilities.

It's even more difficult, more demanding mentally and physically, to work in a vocation that's unsuitable to your aptitude.

What can you take away from this fascinating story of failure and success? Dan knew that somewhere, if he could find the right combination of product and opportunity, he could do well. So can you.

Kenneth Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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