By Ross Van Wyk
Fresh out of college with a degree in Health and Human Physiology, I landed a job as a Fitness Director at a fitness club, eager to apply my education. However, I soon discovered that my primary responsibility was to sell personal training packages, which was my stumble into the world of sales. Initially, I felt uneasy about this, but that feeling quickly dissipated after receiving my first significant commission check. I realized the potential of being successful in sales and understood that as long as I sold products or services I believed in and were beneficial to people, I could feel good about being a sales professional.
So, how did a farm kid from rural Iowa, with a degree in Health and Human Physiology, become a co-founder of a SaaS company building with advanced A.I.? The path was not as convoluted as you might think, and if you're aspiring to start your own business, I hope these core principles inspire you.
The Power of Networking
After experiencing modest success selling personal training in the fitness industry, my wife and I relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona, opening ourselves up to a world of new opportunities. During my first month in Scottsdale, I couch surfed with a friend while looking for a place to live. It was during this time I attended networking events, such as those provided by GET Phoenix, and met various movers and shakers within the budding Phoenix tech startup community. One of these individuals recognized my potential and offered me an entry-level role as a Sales Development Representative (SDR) for a recently-launched, seed-funded SaaS startup based in downtown Phoenix. Choosing to take this risk and join the startup over a secure position with an established company was the turning point in my career and ultimately led to co-founding my own SaaS company, OverQuota.
Choose Interesting Challenges
When I accepted the position at an early-stage startup, I had to decline a job offer from a larger, more established corporation which offered better pay and stability. This was an unsettling decision at the time, as I was the sole income. However, it was also a valuable lesson in the importance of pursuing exciting challenges and believing in yourself, rather than always opting for the seemingly safer path. As a wise friend once told me, "When faced with two choices, select the one that scares you more, and then do what it takes to make sure it's the right decision." This advice has proven true for me, and I've learned to use my fear about the unknown as a compass for where to lean in. I’ve learned when it comes to choosing opportunities you should choose the one that scares you a little bit because while it seems counterintuitive, this actually means you’re interested and it can be the greatest growth opportunity. Simply put, fear is the subconscious trying to avoid the near term risk or harder work with that choice. Throughout my sales career, I've opted to work for startups. Although these ventures carry more risk, they offer engaging obstacles, abundant learning opportunities, and have given me the courage to launch my own business.
Do Great Work
If I had to identify the single most important factor that has enabled me to secure new job opportunities, build a strong network, and launch my own business, it would be consistently producing excellent work. By showing up every day and being prepared to put in the effort, you can establish a track record of reliability, earn the trust of your colleagues, and establish domain expertise. Despite being seemingly simple, this isn’t easy. Whether due to a lack of support or our innate human tendency towards laziness, it can be difficult to consistently produce high-quality work. That's why it's essential to seek out challenges that keep us engaged and interested. Personally, working in startups has been particularly rewarding because there's nowhere to hide - my work is always subject to scrutiny. In my experience, consistently delivering exceptional work will compound and become part of your professional reputation.
My journey from a Fitness Director through various software sales roles to becoming a co-founder of a SaaS company was not a straightforward one, but it was driven by a few critical decisions. First, networking played a significant role in opening up new opportunities and helping me make the right connections. Second, choosing to take on exciting challenges, even when they were scary, has been the key to unlocking growth and potential in my career. Lastly, consistently producing great work has helped me earn the trust of colleagues, establish domain expertise, and build a strong reputation. As you consider your own career path, I encourage you to reflect on these principles and find ways to apply them in your own life. By doing so, you too can chart a path towards a fulfilling and successful career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ross is a seasoned sales professional with a diverse background selling within many industries. Throughout his career, he has worked with companies at all stages of growth and held roles as a Sales Development Representative, Account Executive, Director of Sales & Enablement, Director of Sales Development & Partnerships, and most recently Co-founder and CEO. Ross is leveraging his experience in sales to build OverQuota, an AI sales coaching software that helps sales teams win more deals.