“I’d like you to consider taking over as Vice President of Sales.” I can still hear those words ringing in my ears more than 20 years after they were uttered by the man who is my mentor to this day.
At the time, he was president of the company and had called me into his office one afternoon in early 1995. Was I in trouble? Had I done something wrong? He and I had a great relationship, but a closed-door, spur-of-the moment meeting was a bit strange.
“Uh, I’m not sure … are you …” I stuttered and stammered for a few moments trying to let what I had just heard sink in. “I’m not bucking for a promotion right now,” I can remember managing to get out through the hemming and hawing.
“I realize that. But, I want you to take over the entire sales department.”
I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t my goal, but now? I hadn’t even been with the company for a decade yet and had entered below the lowest rung on the ladder. In fact, I couldn’t even see the ladder. I got promoted twice before I found the ladder. I’d only been a division sales manager for a few years at the time.
Being a vice president was part of my goal, but not necessarily this fast.
The tone of his voice let me know this was a bit more than a request — it was a challenge. It was time to get in the game or shrink back to the bench. “I’m really not trying to take anyone else’s job, I’m just trying to do the best I can as a division sales manager.”
His next words let me know it was now or never: “If you don’t do this, ...