ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | BRUCE GOODMAN
Bruce Goodman is a true leader of leaders. During his 40-year career with the Cutco/Vector Marketing sales organization, Bruce has played an instrumental role in the development of countless top executives and powerful leaders throughout the company. Put simply, people aspire to be like Bruce. He is man of great intelligence, profound skills of influence, and exceptional character. Currently the co-CEO of Vector Sales and President of Vector West, Bruce powerfully shapes the vision and strategy of the company.
Q&A WITH BRUCE GOODMAN
Q: Tell us a little about your background before you started selling Cutco.
- I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I’m the oldest of 3 brothers. My dad was a department store executive and my mom was involved in state and local politics. I grew up a sports nut playing all kinds of sports. We moved from Marin County CA to Atlanta, Georgia when I was a junior in high school, due to a job promotion for my father.
- That’s where I got to learn about all the different colleges. I got into Vanderbilt University and studied English Literature. In my Sophomore year, my dad got another promotion that brought them back to Marin, so my summer break going into my Junior year, I went back to California and really needed money, and that’s when I started looking for a job.
Q: Tell us a little about how you got started selling Cutco.
- Back then, people used to get a physical newspaper and look for jobs in the classified ads. I saw an ad that seemed too good to be true but I circled it anyway, went in for the interview, liked what I saw, so I accepted the position.
Q: Tell us about some of the memorable experiences from the early part of your career.
- I would sum up the beginning of my career as “accelerated self-discovery.”
- I learned that it was fun to sell Cutco due to the quality of the product, and I also really liked not being tied to the same 4 walls every day.
- I was assigned to a trainer who was a College All American. He was very disciplined and really followed the program. He wasn’t what you’d think of as a slick salesman, he was just willing to follow the program, and he showed me what work ethic really looked like.
- Another key was having complete control over my schedule.
- There was also a really great social experience that took place when I was just starting out. We would go out for coffee late into the evening and there was a real sense of camaraderie.
Q: How about management? What were some of the transformational experiences for you as a leader in the company?
- I got my real taste of leadership my 2nd summer. I trained my own reps and learned how to recruit.
- I loved the impact I could have on someone with real potential but needed to be developed.
Q: I would love for you to tell the audience about Don Muelrath. I know that he was your biggest mentor in the Cutco business and I’d love to hear about the role he played for you.
- Don was someone who could see the possibility within you and, like a sculptor looking at a block of marble and seeing the statue hiding within it, that’s what he was like for me. He also made me realize those possibilities were there.
- “There are only 2 things going on — what’s exciting or what’s going to be exciting.”
- Be interested, not interesting.
- He was the greatest promoter I’ve ever met.
Q: I know Don played a key role in your path to advancement in the company and I would love to give you some time to talk about how that unfolded, and about your time working side by side with him in the Region office.
- I got to learn from Don for 4 years on how to run a big organization and work with the different personalities, and each year we grew by leaps and bounds. 4 years into that role the company restructured into 8 zones and I received a promotion to run the Northwest Zone, which was the smallest zone in the company.
- We had humble beginnings selling only $2.7 Million the first year but eventually grew to around $50M.
Q: What were some of the keys to creating such a successful organization?
- I would begin with the importance of putting in the right Division Managers.
- We made sure people knew that we stood for things that were good and we wanted to attract the right people.
- Professionalism, class, fun, and we’re going somewhere great and we want you to come with us.
- We got a lot of wins that all started to build on each other. Success begot success. Talent attracted talent.
Q: So how about after that? Since that time, you’ve been serving as the CEO of Vector West. Tell us what it’s been like guiding the company as well as working side by side with your Co-CEO Al DiLeonardo.
- To start, we’ve had incredible people helping us at all levels within the organization, many who have been with us for 20 years, 25 years, 30 years and more. So the amount of wisdom throughout the organization is amazing.
- Secondly, we decided early on to be willing to run things in a way that we’d welcome scrutiny from anyone at any time, so that we were building things that would last. That led to what I call the transparency days where we made sure all of our language in advertising was on point and everything we said was accurate and could withhold against scrutiny.
- Another thing that comes to mind is the evolution of the sales rep opportunity. Especially our career sales reps.
- Al and I have been working together for 17 years and from the outside, people would think it’s odd that there are 2 CEOs, but we inherited this structure and honestly it really seems to work well. We both have different experiences so we often see problems from a different angle, and since both of us have such a strong love for the company and the people, we really just want to find the best answer regardless of who’s right. It makes for a really great dynamic.
Q: What about your own personal core philosophies as a leader?
- I feel like relationships are destiny. I can put it as simply as that.
- It applies at almost every single level in the company from a brand new rep working with a customer up to the 2 of us having a 30+ year relationship.
- Do right by people.
- Let leaders lead.
- I don’t like to run things like a king. I believe in empowering people because the magic is in the field; letting leaders lead by providing them the tools and resources to be creative and lead how they want to lead.
- I also continuously ask myself, “what’s next?”
- If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably already there.
- Where you are is not who you will be. Every success requires some sort of struggle.
- If you help people get what they want, you’ll get what you want. Servant leadership leads to a happy and successful life.
Q: As you look into the future what excites you for the next 5-10 years?
- Our company’s heart is all about bringing out the best in people and I’m excited for the future for all of our team.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to say to the audience?
- To the alumni, thank you for making the Vector experience what it is by succeeding at what you do once you’ve moved on to other things.
- To our current Vector team, I want you to know that I’m hungry. Our mission is to be the most exciting and rewarding in North America. Our business is built so the individual prospers and that life in the business is as exciting as life outside of the business.
- I loved how Bruce said that his early Cutco experience provided “accelerated self-discovery.” Having a mentor relationship is so important in that process.
- Relationships are destiny.
- What do you stand for? We stood for excellence in everything we do. We stood for enjoying the process. We stood for doing things right. We stood for character.
- Happy 60th Birthday, Bruce!
Show Notes provided by Carlo Cipollina.
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