It was hard not to notice the car. Bright red, sleek, low profile -- it looked like it was speeding even as it settled into its parking place.
Out jumped an energetic, fit, impeccably dressed man in his mid-30s. He bounded up the stairs into the building.
A few moments later, the receptionist's familiar voice rang out over the intercom on my phone: "There's a Mr. Mark S. here to see you."
I was as surprised to hear his name as I was to see him walk in my office a minute later. Excited, too. I hadn't seen him since he was a standout participant in a sales training program I led a few years earlier.
"Mark! Good to see you! Nice suit! What brings you here?"
"It's your 'thank you' lunch! Can you take the time?"
As we settled into our seats at the restaurant, we also settled into catching up. I started.
"It's been a long time. I lost track of you. What's happened since the class?"
"Well, that's the story. And it's the reason for the lunch. Order whatever you want. I've got the tab."
"Mark, I'm not really sure what you're thanking me for," I replied.
For the next hour, Mark wove a narrative that was deserving of both admiration and astonishment. He had been selling jersey walls - the concrete barriers that divide highway lanes and give drivers angst at 60 miles per hour. He was very good and sold a lot of them.
But he was miserable. For some time, he had thought about doing something else. Something that appealed to his creative nature and where he could still apply his considerable selling skills.
Shortly after graduating from the the program, Mark walked into his boss' office, sat down and respectfully resigned. He had made a decision.
Deciding to take a risk, he and his bride moved to a bigger city a five-hour drive from where they had lived most their lives. Mark had a line on a job that would allow him to break into the advertising business. He took it and became a student of the business. Soon thereafter, he was getting noticed, and it required another decision.
They packed up again, this time to New York City and an even bigger opportunity where Mark continued to shine - and learn. He became an expert on naming products, and companies and programs. People sought him out for his advice and skill.
With dessert now before us, he concluded his incredible story by handing me the business card with his brand new firm's logo - and its incredible name and its Atlanta address.
"We've launched," he said proudly, "and I wanted to thank you."
"Mark, I did absolutely nothing to make this happen. You did this. You did it all! Congratulations!"
"Actually, do you remember Session 8? The goal-setting session? You walked us through a whole planning process. You read YOUR goals aloud to the class. I was amazed that they were so detailed, so specific: dates, amounts, descriptions. Well, I went home that night and I couldn't sleep. I wrote mine out. I shared them with Kim, and we went through them together. We decided to go for it. And we did."
We finished lunch, Mark grabbed the check, and he dropped me back at my office. The red sports car zipped away, carrying with it an inspiring example of what clearly defined goals can do.
Patrick Morin is a partner at BrightHammer, a team of experts that work directly with company leaders nationwide to develop and implement sales strategy, deliver targeted sales training and effect sales-oriented culture changes. Email him here, or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.
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