Recently we sat down with new Adjunct Professor, Robert Gerry, to gain insight into the new course “Competitive Sales and Management” he is instructing for the Valpo MBA.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. Can you share a little about your business background?
A. I began my career in the industrial gas business in Las Colinas, Texas at the corporate offices of a company called Tri-Gas /Matheson. I was involved in bulk distribution planning of Cryogenic Gases; managed operations for twelve states. Next, I relocated to California and became involved in retail operations and packaged gas (cylinder gas) distribution. In 1997, I landed my first retail location manager role and by 1998, at the age of 28, I was leading the largest operation of its kind in North America for Praxair Distribution. I managed about $14 million annually of transactions at that time out of one location in Bakersfield California. I then departed for a General Manager Role in a much smaller independently run organization in Northern California called Alliance Gas Products. AGP was a fantastic training ground for rounding out my industry experience. I was involved in all facets of the organization: purchasing, retail management, production, distribution, sales management, human resources, inventory management and safety. In 2004, I returned to Praxair through a partial divestiture of certain Alliance Gas Products locations and assets. Currently, I lead a fantastic sales force covering the Chicagoland Marketplace, $40 million in annual sales. It’s been a marvelous ride so far.
Q: What about your downtime? What do you do for fun?
A. Currently I’m supporting a non-profit which my two teenage boys have helped develop and launch. ReCleats is an organization that collects lightly used sports gear and coordinates for its delivery to less fortunate youth across the globe. Our current collection of gear (the fall 2011 campaign) is designated for delivery to a small town in Costa Rica, where Michael (my 14 year old son) served on a mission trip in 2011. Steven (16, attending Valpo High School) has developed the logo and both boys make the formal board presentations for corporate and financial support. We work with three fantastic local organizations: The Valpo International Center (The Welcome Mat), NWI United FC (youth soccer) and Blythe’s Sporting Goods. All three of these organizations have very community oriented leaders and are “Stars” when it comes to supporting the local and global community. God puts us all on earth for a reason and it’s our lifelong job to figure it out.
Q: What’s important about the course you are instructing?
A. “I don’t need to take a sales class; I’m not going to end up selling life insurance.” Is probably a common thought or comment when younger adults see a course offering labeled “Competitive Sales and Management”. In reality, selling as a skill set isn’t being able to force a customer to swallow up a bag of products that they don’t need and cashing a massive commission check, “True Selling” is an elaborate mosaic of art and skill; it’s about learning to understanding an audience. Selling is being able to empathize with positions, listen carefully for deep routed needs, being able to understand the position of the person(s) to whom you are speaking and/or presenting. Selling is about providing a solution which fits their (whomever the audience is) needs whether it’s a complex business strategy, an exciting investment, a new invention, managing an angry customer or handling situations in one’s personal life. The sales process is applicable across the entire life spectrum, the skills are deeply rooted in humanity and the best sales professionals know that the key to all effective selling is making that human connection. In addition, everyone in today’s world is their own brand. Mature adults understand this concept very well, they lead their children by example, they develop a high quality career based on their track record and substance of character, etc. True professionals understand that their brand travels with them every moment of the day. This key concept has not always reached maturation for collegiate aged adults and we see the gaps in personal habits, presentations skills and a general lack of understanding that whatever personal brand they’ve created, will follow them into their professional life.
Q: What are you hoping students will gain from taking your course?
A. Three primary goals: #1 Understand the concept of themselves as their own brand and how to make improvements #2 Understand the sales process enough to be able to apply it to all of life’s situations, including salesmanship, of course. #3 Improve their ability to stand in front of a room and deliver effective and professional presentations even under the most difficult of conditions.
…. and one dominant theme. Life is fantastic; everyday is a blessing, a gift. Everything, good bad or indifferent, should be done with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious and helps direct the sunlight in your direction. Be the light for someone else and use everyday to share your enthusiasm for life and its daily requirements. I can’t fathom living by any other axiom in contradiction. Always Show Enthusiasm!
Q: To you, what is the best aspect of the Valpo MBA?
A. The Valpo MBA was fantastic for me. At the age of 40, with a 15 year career underway, as the president of a local non-profit, having two teenage sons at home, being the coach of several youth sports teams (obviously I wasn’t busy at all), I decided there was “No Better Time” to go back and get my MBA. The program sparked a renewal of my interest in the broader business world. It pushed me to strive for increased excellence, helped further develop my business acumen, created new business connections and forced me to reanalyze my future aspirations. I believe it also helped shape a view of the world for my two teenagers who saw their father working extremely hard on the weekends and in the evenings reading books and completing assignments. It helped cement the life-long learning concept which I try to instill in them. Lastly, the greatest thing about the Valpo MBA was the fantastic and understanding support I received from the greatest wife in the world! I would not have been able to graduate with honors in 28 months, let alone complete the program, without the support, understanding and grace of my wife.
Q: What has been your greatest adventure in life?
A: In 2007 my family packed our life into an RV and traveled the country for a little under a year. Having sold our assets (home, cars, boat, furniture, etc.) and donated the rest of our possessions to charity, we hit the road with a map and a desire for adventure…. and some food. My sons were 10 and 12; we let our sense of adventure dictate our path. We made it through 28 states, the state capitals of each state, many national parks and too many roadside attractions to mention. 25,000 miles later we landed in Valparaiso Indiana, where we now call home. It was an adventure that none of us will soon forget. From the amazing people we met to the jaw dropping scenery of America the road was a fantastic life lesson. We learned that the most important things in life are located in the heart, mind and soul and not in a fancy car, big house, or fancy title. It was a great bonding experience. God was very present with us along that journey.
For more questions about the Valpo MBA, please contact Cindy.Scanlan@valpo.edu or call: (219)465-7952.