ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | BEN JACKSON
Ben Jackson is the Coastal Division Manager for the Cutco/Vector Marketing sales organization, centered in the Southeastern U.S. His 13-year career with the company has already been marked by tremendous success, including a National Championship as a New District Manager in 2012 and pioneering leadership in Vector’s Eastern Region. Ben has an incredible personal story involving his older brother, Brett, and his own experiences in playing high-level baseball through high school. Ben’s experiences and insights can you help you change your life by altering your perspective on challenges and adversity.
Q&A WITH BEN JACKSON
Q: Let’s hear a little bit about you. I know you had some experiences in your personal life before Cutco that were truly transformational and have shaped how you view your life and how you view your experiences. I want to get into that by letting you share about yourself as you grew up.
- My mom worked for HP for 30 years, and retired in 2004 when they merged with Compaq. All I remember about my mom was she was always listening to voicemail and always getting on a plane. She really didn’t have control over her schedule.
- The first 4 years of my life, mom wasn’t around. She did her best to be there, still she wasn’t there. If I needed her, she would find a way to be there. I saw her work ethic and I think I developed the work ethic she had.
- My dad is a real estate attorney. As a real estate attorney, I saw my dad owning his business. Being able to make his own schedule, be there a lot for my sports and practices. But his business was heavily affected in the economic downturn of 2007-08.
- I had the background of seeing my mom in corporate America and my dad running his own business. Both of my parents worked hard.
- My brother Brett was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 4. I had heard a lot about his story growing up, and it became one of those things in my life that reminded us to get through adversity.
- At the time, my brother was given 6 months to live. My parents have a lot of resilience and don’t take no for an answer. He underwent surgery, and they removed 70% of the tumor.
- When I graduated from high school; he went to college at Auburn. He was in college for 16 years. This gives an idea of the persistence and resilience my brother had.
- Through him, I had the opportunity to grow up and experience what it was like to struggle on a day to day basis. From crossing the street to using a cane or even walking through a restaurant. The things we take for granted. People picking on him, being different.
- It forced me to grow up. To look at life differently and appreciate the opportunities I had.
Q: Tell us about baseball. I know that it was important to you.
- I was a big baseball player in my whole life. I played competitively. I started when I could swing a bat (around 3-4 years) and played until I graduated from high school.
- From 12-18, I played in some pretty high level and nationally ranked teams. My goal was to be able to play college baseball, and possibly take it further than that.
- When I was 16, I was told I wasn’t big enough to play at the level I wanted. In the fall of my junior year I got a trainer. That fall until when the spring season started, I gained 40lbs in a little less than 6 months.
- One day as I was pitching to a buddy after practice, I got hit in the face and broke 4 bones and passed out. The next day I went through reconstructive surgery. It took me 8-9 weeks to get to a point where I could control the muscles in my left eye.
- That for me was like a glimpse of what my brother experienced every single day of his life. I was both frustrated and depressed. It really put things in perspective for me about how I treated baseball. For the first time, I had time to think differently.
- Probably 9-10 weeks after the injury, I started playing again. My 3rd game back, I tore something my shoulder, and I was out for another 8 weeks.
- I felt my life was been taken away from me. As I was going through this experience, I decided to get a job. I wanted to make money if I wasn’t able to play baseball. That’s how I started selling Cutco.
Q: Let’s talk about your path in Cutco. How did you end up finding this job?
- I had 3 buddies that were working with Cutco.
- I saw a number online, called and went through the interview.
Q: What stands out from your early experiences with the company?
- What stands out was the importance of being coachable.
- I sold about $15,000 in the first 10 days. I didn’t think it was great. I just did it.
- I focused on following the program. Getting around people that could be good coaches and following what they said to do.
- I started making money, saving money and got a little bit addicted to that.
- My 1st summer I worked like 6 weeks and sold $30,000. I saw it as an opportunity to start building a future financially. It was an opportunity I wanted to take advantage of.
Q: What do you think enabled you to succeed at such a high level during those years?
- The ability to be around people that pushed me forward. Trey Ketcham, my Division Manager, had a huge impact on me. I saw the things he had and his work ethic. He took me under his wings.
- I had a buddy, Chris Green, who was a year ahead of me. We were able to compete and work together throughout college.
- I didn’t understand the importance of circle of influence at the time. Now as I look back on it, some of the people I had around me, Scott Dennis, Amar Dave. People like that. I was able to look up to and aspire to be more like them.
- They were willing to answer questions, willing to go out of the way to support up and coming individuals.
Q: What made you choose to stay with Cutco when you graduated from SMU?
- The main reasons I decided to stay with Cutco were really simple.
- One, was the opportunity to have autonomy and build my own business.
- Two, was the upward advancement and mobility and the opportunity for higher pay very quickly.
- Three, there are the programs and the people I was going to be able to work around.
Q: You succeeded at such a high level as a manager. I think it will be helpful for people to get inside of your leadership qualities. What strengths have you brought to be able to succeed at such level as a leader in Cutco?
- One is systemization. What are the things a District Manager or Branch Manager, which are the potential opportunities for a struggle a manager can have? Doing everything I can as a leader to systemize and make those things simpler and easier.
- Two, I bring a mentality of success and habit of success not everybody has.
Q: What are the differences in mentality that you underscore?
- It goes back to the background stuff I talked about. Teaching people to create the right habits for themselves to operate more effectively, and in turn, teach others how to do that and be better leaders.
Q: Tell me more of the strengths you feel you bring in as a leader.
- I think about talent acquisition and our PR program. The strength of our PR culture, our PR programs our team builder programs.
- Are we able to look into the future and think about where our business is going? Are we adapting today to where that’s headed? I think its about being successful, not just today, but what are the programs we need to develop to be more successful, 2, 3, 4, 5 years out.
- In any business, the ability to adapt and the quickness in which you can do that is everything.
Q: What’s your favorite pet project for innovation that you are hatching for the future?
- One thing that is immediate to our business is our PR tasks.
- The importance of the social media recruiting assistant program.
- For me, I’m not going to run every aspect of it myself. I needed to pinpoint someone to lead this in our division. Last January, I started thinking who could develop to be the head of this program. By the end of summer, it was clear who it needed to be for me. That’s one thing I view as the most important up and coming program we have.
Q: What does the future hold for Ben Jackson, both business and personally?
- We have this concept of 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. When I took over, we took it to $2 million. Our 2.0 objective is to take it to $5-7 ½ million and our 3.0 objective is 7 ½ – $10 million.
- For my commercial real estate business, we are focusing on the up and coming state of how things are going to be. We focus on 1,000-2,500 square foot spaces, and acquiring buildings that enable us to be in that range.
Q: As you look into the future, how do you aspire to change peoples lives through what you are doing?
- The ability to impact people starts with how many people you can influence. We want to recruit and bring people into our programs as much as possible. We recruited about 1,500 people this summer. We want to take those numbers even higher. It starts with sharing our opportunities with as many students as we possibly can in our territories.
- On the leadership side, we have the Leadership Academy program to develop the next level of leaders in our organization and create future success for them.
- The signature concept that came out of this conversation was perspective.
- Perspective on adversity and challenges that come our way.
- 2020 has been a unique year. There has been a lot of difficulties for people. There have also been a lot of gifts.
- Regardless of how difficult some experiences have been, I think it’s always possible to look and see there are other people who have greater challenges and are still succeeding.
- It’s incumbent on us to take responsibility of our situations and focus on the things that are in our control, and do what we can to elevate ourselves.
- I think that applies to 2020 and every other year.
Show notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.
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