What shaped me
I’m John Rees, Founder of Reinventing the Sale and I’ve spent my life working with my mind and sometimes with my hands. Especially the jobs I had as a student. But that was a different experience to the rest of my family.
My father and grandfather were coal miners. They were honest, hard working and decent men. They saw their role as providing for their family.
I admired and loved them, but I didn’t want to be like them. I was determined not to work in a factory or a coal mine.
I always wanted to be a secret agent, travel the world, drive fast cars and have gorgeous women on my arm! And I was crushed when I realised that wouldn’t happen.
I knew that I needed a ‘Plan B’ to escape the factories and mines. I had to do something different. For me that meant a good education, passing exams and getting to University.
But no-one else from my village or school had ever done that. I was told that I’d never make it. I should just accept my place in the world. I was even told not to have such grand ideas!
I’ve always been a contrarian. If someone told me I couldn’t do something I’d take that as a challenge and try to prove that I could.
The other thing that helped me was sport. I was a good all round athlete and I excelled at rugby. This broke down barriers and opened doors. I played county level rugby at school and just missed out on a Welsh cap … I was so close! (That’s me by the way, just about to take the pass.)
At university I played representative rugby and even managed to get a degree in Social Sciences. Then the world of work was beckoning, but what was I going to do?
I thought I needed a ‘profession’ so I studied to be an Accountant. But that bored the pants off me. (Apologies to the Accountants out there who do find their work interesting!)
I’ve always been an inquisitive, ambitious kind of person who liked the idea of running my own business. That’s how I got into sales. It seemed like the perfect way to run a business and reap the rewards, but without any of the hassle or nasty overheads.
If I couldn’t become a secret agent I’d like to run my own business. But doing what?
This is the late 1970’s and the Information Technology industry is new, exciting and full of opportunity.
Computers were becoming more mainstream, and new companies were springing up to develop software ‘business application packages’ for things like Accounting (I knew about that!) Manufacturing, Distribution and Warehousing.
For 25 years, I worked for some great software and technology companies. I was intensively trained and attended countless courses on sales process methodologies and techniques involving the psychology of selling. It was a priceless education.
Then in the late 1990’s the world went nuts!
The ‘dotcom’ boom rewrote the rules of ‘business as usual’ as many businesses went on a wild ride. Some made huge amounts of money through share price movements and others failed.
I was lucky enough to work at a company called Commerce One. And in 3 years it expanded from 100 to 3,500 people before it disappeared.
At one stage the value of Commerce One stock was more than $600 a share. It had a market capitalization of over $40 billion, making it worth more than General Motors. All on sales of around $400 million and zero profit! I travelled extensively, meet some fascinating people, set up operations in the US, India and Europe, and was very successful.
Time to make an exit
I didn’t actually become a secret agent, but I did travel the world, drive fast cars and have gorgeous women (my wife and daughter) on my arm
Commerce One was good for me and in 2004 I decided it was time to take things easy, so I retired at the age of 50. I intended to play more golf and tennis, walk, learn to surf; all the things many people dream about.
But that didn’t last long because I quickly became bored. Although I didn’t miss the cut and thrust of being on the corporate treadmill, I suppose I did miss working with bright, energetic people who had big ideas.
Some people say you do your best work when you stop ‘working’ and that’s exactly what happened to me.
I starting working as a mentor and I soon realised that in small (sometimes single-person) businesses, there was a lack of the basic skills to succeed.
What was needed was a simple way of helping them to quickly acquire these skills.
And that’s how Reinventing the Sale was born.