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A Leader to Follow: Kevin Schwantz

by Jeff Gau on April 12, 2018

Kevin Schwantz’s career with Marco started 20 years ago. The local plumbing supply company where Kevin had worked closed and he found himself unemployed. The conditions of his unemployment led him to interview and ultimately accept a position with Marco in our warehouse. He initially turned down the job that would only pay $7 an hour before learning from the Unemployment Office that he couldn’t.

Kevin-Jeff-1Kevin expected it would be a short stint. This month, he will retire and leave a legacy as one of the most successful, non-traditional sales guys at Marco.

After several years working in operations, Kevin took a risk and made a rare move to sales. He went from a comfortable support role with a set salary and stability to a straight commission-based sales position. The opportunity to earn more money and have a bit more flexibility was what interested him most about sales.

From my experience, these types of moves typically don’t work, but he definitely forged his own path at Marco and serves as an example for others to follow.

Kevin and I recently reflected on his journey. Here’s a look at a few takeaways:

  • Be open to an untraditional profile.
    Kevin is naturally reserved and doesn’t fit the traditional sales profile. Cold calling was not in his DNA. In the hiring process, we often let personality profiles decide our next steps. In this case, we didn’t – and it worked.
  • Stay committed to the journey.
    Kevin did not make an easy move, and we both knew it likely would take longer for him to reach his potential. Sales leadership intentionally invested more time in mentoring him than the average sales person. He clearly was mentorable and was open to the coaching and learning. It took several years, but we both stayed committed and ultimately received a return on the investment.
  • See the broader picture.
    Because of Kevin’s background in operational support, he had the advantage of seeing multiple sides of the organization. So, when it came to the sales process, he understood that it impacts a variety of people inside Marco and demonstrated great respect for their roles. That helped him gain support of team members across our organization. He brought the same attentiveness to his clients, listening and responding to their needs.
  • Likability matters.
    Kevin is one of the most likable people you’ll meet. He brings a positive attitude to every situation. His demeanor helped him build trust in his territory in a rural Minnesota market and led to great loyalty among his client base. He didn’t try to be someone he’s not. He stuck to his roots. He grew up on a farm in the small Minnesota town of Bertha and still operates a hobby farm today.

Kevin didn’t fit the traditional sales profile, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t be a successful sales professional. He’s been a great example to others on the value of hard work, persistence and getting outside of your comfort zone. This is one of my favorite Marco stories, and I wish him the very best in his retirement. He certainly deserves it. We’ll miss you Kevin.

Read about more Leaders to Follow: Jennifer MrozekScott Roeder, Barry Opatz, Steve Gau and Trevor Akervik.


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