I , William (Bill) Becht, was born on the southwest side of Chicago, adopted as an infant and spent much of my childhood in that part of the city. These were humble beginnings and I learned early on that I needed to fend for myself yet seek help from those in our neighborhood. The neighborhood was rough but it was the feeling that you were part of something bigger in the neighborhood that gave a sense of belonging. You had to learn to stand up for yourself, to fight for what you believed and you learned what it meant to defend yourself and your family. My dad passed away when I was 7 years old. I was told “you’re the man of the family now“. Seems strange to tell a seven year old that but this was the early 6o’s.
I went to a parochial grammar school and high school and then went on scholarship to the University of Illinois where I studied Food Science. I was the first one in my family to graduate with a College degree. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree and then Master’s Degree in Food Science before joining a large CPG food company in Research and Development. I earned my MBA in Marketing from the University of St Thomas.
My first sales job was started at 25. It took 30 days into my first R&D job to realize that I loved the Food Industry but was not so fond of my job as a bench scientist. I felt frustrated, caged and the four walls of the lab closed in on me. My opinions were not listened to or valued. After my MBA, I found my calling and went into the selling profession offering solutions in the food ingredient area. These solutions were developed for large, medium and small food manufacturing companies.
One of my responsibilities was to work with Manufacturers Representatives or Brokers for the company I was with. I learned how to guide motivate and manage many of these Manufacturers Representatives –most significantly older than I was. This is how I found many ways to help motivate them to be successful with my company’s products and ingredients. You can coach and manage no matter what age you are or no matter what age your team members happen to be. I tried hard to relate to them and their challenges out in the field.
After working successfully with these food ingredient brokers while at 2 different companies, I founded my own Manufacturers Representative Company and moved back to Chicago. This company grew from nothing to become a major Food Ingredient Broker in the Midwest area based in the Chicago Area. My company had a salesforce of trained food professionals not many but I struggled with even having 4 sales people. I believed that they should be as motivated as I was and give the professional effort that was expected of them. Of course, I didn’t communicate this effectively and had little or no 1:1 meetings with them while they worked for my company. Team…it didn’t exist in my company. It was every man and woman for themselves and if they had a passion for what they did, I never asked thame about it. This included my Customer service Representatives. These folks were our representatives to our customers. They started out strong and then their passion waned. Of course it did, I never fanned the flames or even cared to ask about them.I learned many of the things in my own company. I learned what to do but mostly through trial and error, I learned what not to do. Our revenues tanked. We lost large Principals and pieces of business that were taken direct by our suppliers. I stopped asking my colleagues for advice and further went down the rabbit hole. So, after 20 years, I decided that it was time for a change. I was not happy and I certainly was not following my passion. Heck, I really didn’t know what my passion was.
It was through trial and error that I came to see that having a successful team and the best sales results had to do with communication. Communication with members of the sales team and communication with the customers that we served. I really didn’t learn many of these best practices when I owned my own company and sales began to decline. This is a polite way of saying sales tanked. I found it hard to attract and keep good sales talent as well as the best Food Ingredient lines. I knew it was time for a major change and decided to look for a merger partner that was a distributor. Distribution was a much more stable way to offer ingredients to the market place. My merger candidate had to be a medium to smaller size specialty distributor. This type of distributor fit my rediscovered passion for solution selling. Merging a business felt like a failure of sorts but it turned out to be my biggest opportunity for growth.
I merged my company with a medium sized specialty distributor almost 13 years ago and it was at that time that I truly learned how to build a team, coach a team and foster a team environment . I learned many of the things not to do while I was running my own company for 20 years. I learned a few more things as I came in as vice president to run a food division for this specialty distributor. I am grateful that they gave me the space and freedom to work on these best practices . See which ones worked well for us and tweaked some that were not perfect for us into something that worked well for our team. It was during this time that I truly learned how to build a team, coach a team and foster a learning environment. I have been formulate to have people above me that gave me the space to learn these concepts. My gratitude is also there fr all the great tema members that I have been privileged to work with. I have had great team members that step up and ask “What is the next step for us?”. Who have the vision to see the team, not as it is but how it could be. Our division has experienced breath taking growth and we have faced our share of head winds. Regardless of where in thebusiness cycle we are, our team coaching principles remain sound and our north star. We have our team higher purpose and we work every day to live it. We do not loose track of the numbers-they are important but we also have those soft attributes and contributions that we are making our industry better because of what we do.
I am a life-long learner and have developed my own style through mentoring and being coached, mirroring, reading, networking, audio course work and seminars then putting these concepts into practice. My career has spanned over 40 years and I feel that my voice has only just begun to be heard. It is my passion and this is how I wish to live during this next chapter of my career and life. Spreading this word, teaching, coaching teams and those who lead them to greatness.
I am a believer in sales team coaching which improves communication within all members of the team. One of the things that my team did early on was to develop a higher purpose among the team which was developed incorporating the higher purpose of our individual team members. People support what they help create. It is this process that has worked well for our team along with a number of other sales success practices. These practices come from experience with my own sales team and by learning other best practices of successful sales teams. We call these the Six Pack for Success.
There are many analogies that can be drawn from sports teams and their coaches. Business has some different concepts but many of the best sports coaches are also the best business coaches. This is not a coincidence. It is because they are so good at asking questions, understanding the current levels of their team members, understanding what their goals and aspirations are and then helping them achieve levels that even they themselves did not always believe that they could achieve.
This is my passion and by talking about my passion for coaching, it is my hope that other sales teams will have better communication and reach a higher level of performance. I also know that you will make more money for your company and for yourselves and that your team can retain your best and brightest sales talent. This is what it means to coach your team and develop your bench strength.
I am available to work with your company and discuss your individual teams needs it is his mission and passion. Hope you check out my Podcasts, Vlogs, Blogs and other Products that all revolve around being the best you can be and being the best team possible.
Good Coaching and Good Selling To You!!