By Jim Aaron
Posted September 2018
After graduating from the University of South Carolina, my first job was as a sales representative for a wholesale flooring distributor. I represented products like Armstrong and Pergo to retail flooring stores and home centers. I had approximately 120 accounts that I was responsible for servicing and selling to and I really enjoyed the relationship aspect of that type of sales role. It was 100 percent commission based, and I thrived in that environment.
However, after a decade and a half of doing that, I was long overdue for a new challenge. As I began to explore opportunities, I started to think about what I really enjoyed the most about my sales job. I realized that I liked the training aspect the most. So my next move was to the parent company of the one I currently work for, CCA Global Partners, in a sales and product trainer position. In my five years in that role, I traveled across North America conducting training sessions and seminars for the retail sales associates of CCA-affiliated stores.
During one of my training classes, the president of Carpet One Floor & Home was in attendance for the purpose of auditing the content. Shortly thereafter, he offered me a promotion to become vice president of merchandising for Carpet One Floor & Home.
Entrepreneurship Support and Strategy
There are several very interesting and rewarding aspects to my job. First, I like knowing that we truly make a difference for our members. When asked about our purpose or mission statement, I respond with, “We help independent entrepreneurs compete more effectively in the marketplace.” And we do. Each Carpet One location is independently owned and operated by someone in the local community. Often times, these are ‘mom and pop’ businesses that have been in the family for years. However, they are finding that it is increasingly difficult to compete against the big boxes and home centers. That’s where we come in. We provide the services, the web presence, the training, the buying power, etc. that they need to compete successfully.
One of my mentors said to me, 'Yes — this is a big move and a big risk. But if you don’t take it, you will always wish you had.' He was right.
— Jim Aaron, VP of Merchandising,
CCA Global | Carpet One Floor & Home
In addition, and more to my specific role in the company, I enjoy retail product strategy. I really like putting together a collection of products to be displayed in our stores and thinking about the collection through the customers’ eyes. We consider the product positioning, the brand promise, the pricing and promotion strategy, etc. It really is a science.
The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that my work makes a difference to the people I do it for. Our members are real people who assume the risk of being independent entrepreneurs. They believe in the value of the products and services that they provide to the community. They know that customers want personalization and care on a major purchase that you just can’t get from a big box home center. These people are also families with mortgages and kids to send to college. So the most rewarding thing for me is when I hear from one of the members of our cooperative say, “I wouldn’t be in business anymore without you guys and all of the things the cooperative does to help me compete. I couldn’t do it without you.”
Take Risks and Find Mentors
The most valuable part of my college experience was getting to know many of my professors. I found that when you’re able to get some extra time with professors beyond the classroom time, they often had lots of other great things to share.
Take risk. Making the move from product and sales trainer to vice president of merchandising was a big risk for me. I wasn’t sure I was up to the job. But fortunately for me, the president of the company had more faith in me than I did in myself at the time. A piece of advice I was given at the time made all the difference. One of my mentors said to me, “Yes — this is a big move and a big risk. But if you don’t take it, you will always wish you had.” He was right.
It’s important to find people who will serve as your mentors along the way; and once you have them, nurture those relationships and use their guidance and wisdom. I have been very fortunate to have had some very special people in my life that I can always count on for some sound advice. They don’t always tell me what I want to hear — and that’s really what makes them so valuable.
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