Building Relationships

“If someone has intelligence and a work ethic, everything else can be developed.” 

 – John Allenbach, President, AgoNow 

John Allenbach is like a brother to me.  I say that upfront to allow for any bias I may have in my view of our conversation and his career.  But it’s also to make a point about what has made John so successful in his career.  John develops deep and lasting relationships.  He probably has many other people who feel the same about him that I do.  

John grew up in Mobile, AL and went to school at Spring Hill College.  He played second base and did some pitching for Spring Hill.  I share that because John is a lifelong friend of his coach and his teammates.  He developed his skill in relationship building early, and it’s prevalent throughout his life.  It’s not just a business skill for him.  

His first job out of college was with a manufacturer of hand tools, selling through channel partners.  It was a short stint, but his supervisor left a lasting impression on him.  He helped John become a sales professional.  He helped build structure and process, that allowed John the early successes he enjoyed.  He took an intelligent person with a strong work ethic, and molded him.  

I met John when we were asked to demonstrate tools for Black & Decker at the National Hardware Show more than 30 years ago.  That was the start of a lifelong friendship.  We challenged each other and we supported each other.  I admire the skills that John has, especially those that are not talents of mine.  One common skill we developed is the ability to recognize talent.

In 1992 Black & Decker launched the DeWalt brand of power tools.  The growth was phenomenal and it lead us to recruit and hire several hundred entry level sales people over a four-year period.  As sales and marketing field leaders, part of our responsibility was to recruit talented people and develop them.  We were charged with the recruiting off multiple college campuses.  We were not hiring the next entry level sales person, however, but the next “president” of B&D.  We had to recognize talent and quickly develop them, because we were growing so rapidly, we needed them to move into additional, larger roles in about half of the time we initially thought we would have them.  As John moved into different roles at B&D his eye for talent served him well as he placed people in the right roles.  

We recruited differently than other companies.  We sent our sales leadership team and our current sellers to the campus to recruit.  Recruiting is a selling job.  We found it easier to hire when the people we were interviewing could sit across the table from someone who they would work with.  It allowed us to build trust early in the process.

John developed his talented team by working with them and learning about them.  He built structure and process for his team, much like his first manager did for him.  John was personally involved with his team and that was difficult as they grew in number.  He spent time getting to know them, their families and their motivations.  To this day, his former team members talk about the impact he had on their lives.  John built a level of trust between he and his team that supersedes any that I’ve witnessed.

John is the same with his customers as he is with his team.  He has lifelong friendships.  He knows the names of their spouses, and their kids.  He knows what school their kids are attending and what their major is.  He knows his customers and cares about them.  This takes work.  It can’t be faked.

The ability to be engaged can be learned.  It can also be lost if it is not worked at and measured.  John is successful in introducing AgoNow because of his long-term relationships and the trust he has built through past experiences with his customers.  “People still do business with people, and relationships are as important as ever.” 

John Allenbach is exceptionally skillful at building relationships and aligning talent.  They are skills that he learned and developed as his career progressed.  It was important to John that he develop these skills and he intuitively did so.  Others can develop those skills through a process that starts with measurement of where they are today and measure their progress and success.  Our desire to make it as important to them as it is for John.

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