ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | MICHAEL AMBROSINO
Michael Ambrosino is a well-known student of life. As a Cutco rep, he rose to the top of the charts among the company’s college-student sales force as the #1 All-American, and also experienced success in various management and leadership roles. After relocating from New York City to Silicon Valley, Michael spent several years as Director of Community Growth with the Abundant coaching organization, where he continued to develop his skills and his mindset while helping many others do the same. Now, Michael is Co-Founder of The Profile Firm, which specializes in finding top talent for Seed through Series D funded Tech companies. Michael’s varied experiences have nurtured in him a very well-rounded set of skills and a refined mindset, and he shares some compelling ideas in this conversation.
Q&A with Michael Ambrosino
Q: How did you start with Cutco?
- A friend recommended me to Cutco, and I started training on my 18th
- It was really my first job, meaning I had no professional experience or any other experience before.
- What happened is I had baseball scholarships, but I hurt my arm. I was a pitcher, had opportunities and I was going to sign a scholarship, but changed my course.
- I needed a job. I had to go to physical therapy 3 times a week. I couldn’t do manual labor which are the jobs college students usually do.
- Vector fit in perfectly.
Q: Tell us about some of the experiences that stand out for you.
- I just remember my first key staff meeting and we were reading “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind.” I thought the info was great. I didn’t know what would do with it, but that caught my attention.
- I was like “WOW!” financial habits! I think I’d just opened a checking account. I think I can try doing some of these things, and I thought this info was so valuable. I’m going to come to these meetings more often.
Q: Speak of the role of your original manager, Asim Hafeez, in your development
- I was so lucky and I’m sure tons of people feel that way about their first managers at Cutco.
- To me, Asim was one of the most valuable mentors. He always saw me bigger than I saw myself at the time. He always had a vision of who I could be, not what I was.
- He kept saying, “You could be the next Mike Arrieta, next Rob Brandt” He really believed that. I had to borrow that confidence because I didn’t have it in me.
- He gave me a lot of frameworks to be successful in life, and to this day, I’m so thankful he was my 1stprofessional mentor.
Q: Relatively early in your career, I know you set yourself a goal to break the national record. Tell us about that experience
- It was 2013, the first time I set a goal. I resolved I was going to break the January record that was $54,000. I worked my tail off. Hard as I could work. Logistically and literally in terms of hours. It was full exhaustion. Ultimately, I sold about $30,000.
- So, I came up short, but the effort was there.
- It was also a bit discouraging because I had worked so hard, but still fell short of my goal. It left me in a position where I was asking myself, “Man! What do I have to do? Am I capable of doing this?”
- I finally decided in November 2013, I was going to go after the January record again in the following year. I was kind of scared.
- I came up with reasons that were more inspiring for me than the previous year on why I was going to break this goal. Before, it I had wanted to make a lot of money and it would be so cool to have my name on that records list.
- The second time, I really wanted to win All-American in the school year rather than summer when lots of students work the most. I wanted to put money in my pocket and meet some super-amazing customers.
- It was a Sunday night, and there was just one week left, and I was about $34,000 in sales. I was in this position where everyone was super-happy with where I was, but I still knew I wanted to break the record.
- I’m in my house, thinking I have only 3 appointment books for the next week, and I need to sell $21,000. I had only had a $20,000 week once in my career. I had no clue how I was going to do this.
- Then I heard Tony Robbins’ voice in mind recommending the book “As A Man Thinketh…” I looked at my book shelf and this book is glowing to me! I am trying to figure out how I’m going to sell $21,000, and I’m like I’m going to pick up this book. It was only 60-70 pages and I read it in one sitting that night.
- The biggest thing I took from that book was your thoughts influence your behavior and that influences your actions. If I can have control of my thoughts, I can think positively and can influence those thoughts to help me reach my goal.
- I had to make sure in my beliefs, I was going to accomplish this.
- The last week came and I did something I had never done before. I emailed all my past customers and asked them if I could sharpen their knives. A bunch of them replied like, “yeah I’ll see if I can squeeze you in.” But I didn’t have the time to book for all those appointments.
- Getting to the last day, I was still $10,000 short of my goal, and I told my roommates not to let me into the house if I didn’t break the record. I did 14 appointments that day sharpening knives. The last appointment ended at 11:30 pm, and in desperation I asked the customer if she knew anyone that could take a look at my knives. She was like, “Ok. I’ll call someone now.” To make a long story short, I sold $3,500 on that last one appointment and broke the record!
Q: How does this experience play out in your day to day life even to this day?
- I think setting a big goal within Vector can give you this ability to map out a goal and give you chances to execute it, which is what life really is. We’re setting goals all the time.
- Half the battle is won getting a blueprint and the other half is having the discipline, work ethics and beliefs to manifest that goal. Vector gives you that opportunity more often.
- I tackle a lot of the things I really want to go after in life in the same fashion. How do I do this? What do I have to do? What is my why doing this? How can I hold myself accountable for this?
- For some people, group accountability is the answer. For others, it’s self-discipline. Understanding how you work, that’s something you can get within Vector, and you can take it out of Vector for the future.
Q: Tell us about your advancement path with the company during college.
- I branched in my 2nd summer, and probably didn’t do it for the best reasons. I did it because I was 18 and had heard about this opportunity to run my own business.
- I had to find my own lease, I had to put the office in my name and had to train sales reps.
- Looking back at that summer, it was one of the most challenging of my life. There were hard times, but I remember how I reacted to those things when I didn’t have the greatest sales week. I knew that how I responded right then was going to be very important about how I responded to such things in the future.
Q: What about the following summer? What role were you in?
- I was a pilot sales manager, under Asim again, which was great.
- A couple of things I got working with Asim is he has this belief if someone accomplished something in the past, it means it can be accomplished again in the future. You just have to understand how they did it.
- For me it was like, “you’re human, and I’m human.” We can both accomplish the same thing. That’s true in most areas of life. I asked myself, what was the technique they had? what was the process? the nuts and bolts, and then, can I exert the same effort or potentially more?
- When you combine those things with better technique and more work ethic, the results come that people don’t really understand. We usually have one or the other, and when we combine them, the results are parallel.
Q: You were known during your days at Vector for already developing the reputation of been a great student of life. I know you were someone who asked a lot of questions and sought out a lot of interactions with top people, both around you and outside your division. That reputation has followed you over these last few years. Can you unpack that a bit? How has that evolved for you?
- One of the most important moments in my life when I look back was my 11th – 12th My father got me this gift for my birthday. My younger brother had gotten 1st pick in our little league, and I cried out to my father “I’m the big brother! I’m supposed to be the first pick.” He was like, “Do you want to get better?” and I was like yeah! My birthday comes around and he opens the trunk of his car and I’m expecting a video game, something that’s fun, but instead there was a bunch of books, baseball books. He says, “You wanted to get better,” and I reply yes. “Then read these books.”
- So I read those books. It was such a quick fix and I think there are lots of areas in life that we sometimes do improperly and we could have a coach or a piece of information to show us we can make a minor adjustment and see a huge boost.
- I made a huge jump in my skillset after reading all those books. I became obsessed.I just wanted to know all the best info and I was able to get results that were so strong and became a great pitcher. I was also able to take that philosophy into my time at Vector.
Q: How has this continued to be a part of your life?
- If you want to speak to people who are successful, it helps to ask the right questions. It’s helpful to be familiar with their work.
- When I spoke to people within Vector, I would know their strengths already. I would know what they were really good at. I would approach them with educated questions on what they were good at. That way, they knew I had taken time to educate myself on their backgrounds and asking questions they can give me specific answers.
- That’s how people prefer to answer questions, especially if their time is valuable. I believe you can learn something from anyone.
Q: Ultimately, you moved to San Francisco, Silicon Valley. What has it taken to succeed in such a hyper-competitive place?
- I moved to San Francisco, April of 2017, and if you asked me on December 2016 if I’d move to the Bay Area, I’d have told you 0% chance. I was in this moment of life. I was 24 and was born and raised in New York. I said to myself, if you don’t move now, you’re going to have more things that will keep you here.
- I went to a couple of events in the Bay and the conversations I was having with people weren’t the conversations I was getting back home. So I decided I was going to move to San Francisco, and did it in the course of a month.
- I think what it takes to succeed here is being ambitious and asking the right questions. People here are more open to make introductions. I was in this position I asked myself, how can I become 1 degree of separation away from anyone?
- I held myself to a standard of going to 4 networking events every week. It was pretty exhausting. Meeting people consistently and you learn. I made mistakes. I didn’t create amazing relationships with everyone. Then I started asking the right questions.
Q: What else do you feel helps people to succeed in a place this hyper-competitive?
- Getting to know your strengths. There are a lot of things I’m horrible at, many areas in my life where I’m really deficient. But I know my strengths.
- I’m really good at building rapport, and I’m willing to put the work into it. So recognize what are your strengths.
- There are different philosophies on this, but identifying your strengths is the most effective, at least to get past the status quo.
Q: During the time you’ve been in San Francisco, you have spent time working closely with Ben Schemper, an illustrious Cutco alumni, and his coaching organization Abundant. I would love to hear the concepts you’ve learned to share with others through your affiliation with Ben.
- Be curious before critical. As humans, we cast judgment on everyone. We psychologically label people because in our own minds, it allows us to feel safe. We are constantly running this pattern.
- Also, asking questions to seek understanding. I think that’s one I could have done a better job of when I was in Vector.
- There are 3 ways I do this. 1, I want to understand the question what’s important to you. 2, I want to understand their future goals and how they tie in with what they want to accomplish in the long term. 3, I want to understand how they grew up because much of our development occurs at the early childhood stage.
Q: Tell us a little more of the coaching concepts you feel are critical
- There are 3 ways to respond to a problem.
- First, you can ignore it.
- Two, you can place blame on others
- Third, you could look for a gift in the situation. We always focus on what we don’t have rather than what we have. That’s a choice. Looking at what we have instead of what we don’t have leads to better success because we’re focusing on where our momentum is.
Q: During your time here, you began to have a lot of conversations with Brandon Brown. He credits you for a part of his success. What do you guys talk about?
- Brandon is such a funny person to me because there are almost no people that I know who accomplish every goal they set out to do.
- He calls me and he might be feeling down and off-track from his goals. I’m always dismissive about that. I’m like “dude you always find a way. We both know you’re going to hit this.”
- What he really benefits from our conversations outside of my jocularity, is he is already super-hard on himself and holds to high standards. I think that’s important.
Q: Tell us about the Profile Firm
- Tech moguls in the Bay are really friendly. It’s similar to what Cutco is like in that way.
- When one person is succeeding and the other is behind, they have conversations on what to do better.
- I recognized this and asked myself, how can I get in this wave?
- The founders are the people who are most influential. I asked myself do I want to start a company that raises a lot of money in the tech field? I said maybe at some point, but that’s not what I want right now.
- So I started speaking with my founder friends in the Bay Area. What’s the hardest part of building a startup?
- The answer was consistent. Hiring. So I asked them, if someone solved that problem, would it be valuable? The answer was an emphatic yes.
- I saw that trend and decided I was going to build great relationships with these people, and add value to them. I want to be on the next big wave of the most successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.
Q: How do you aspire to change people’s lives through your work or influence?
- The one thing I’m committed to improving is my ability to communicate. If I can work on this for the rest of my life, I want to help people feel understood, help ask questions that bring people to positive things they never had before.
- The concept of are your beliefs about doubt or are your beliefs about success stronger is very compelling. How do you consistently keep the doubts away?
- The challenge of running a branch team and learning about yourself during hard times is also insightful.
- Also true is the idea that all info we need is available, we just have to seek it.
- Michael also talked about finding niche topics that become comfortable conversations.
- Lastly, share what you’re learning with others to ensure everyone is growing. This is one of the best ways of building any team.
- As A Man Thinketh, by James Allen
Show Notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.