LEADING QUESTIONS: Sales training guru takes own advice

Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about the latest developments in their industries and the habits that lead to success.

Sales training guru Paul Lushin, 52, has long counseled business owners that there comes a time when executives can stand in the way of progress and need to let the next generation of leaders take a firm to the next level. Now he’s following his own advice, allowing employees of Lushin and Associates Inc. to take a greater role in generating business while he explores spending more of his time in community service.

“I think I’ve been socially lazy,” said Lushin, founder and president of the 14-year-old firm. “I think there is so much more that I can give to this community. I think there is board service that I could provide, to help different agencies. But I need to get more active and involved and not always be thinking about networking, or the next biggest deal.”

Lushin already has logged significant time in civil service. The Kokomo native was a police officer from 1981 to 1988, the final two years spent with the Indianapolis Police Department. In the video at top, Lushin explains how his career in law enforcement helped pave the way for his subsequent move into sales.

One of the lessons learned was humility. Lushin was fired from the force in 1988 (although it ultimately was noted in his official record as a resignation) after conspiring to file an accident report with false information, he said. A fellow police officer had accidently backed Lushin’s personal car into a building, and Lushin led another officer to report the damage as vandalism in order to avoid higher insurance premiums and protect his friend’s driving record.

“It was a good awakening,” he said. “I think it was best character-building experience that I had. It was one that really caused me to reflect, ‘What kind of man are you?’

“The humility of it all was very good for me. I had no income. I had three kids. We lived in a house that we were rehabbing downtown, and it had no heat, no running water.”

After about four months, Lushin landed a sales position as territory sales manager for Fortune 500 firm Ecolab, which provides cleaning, sanitizing, food safety and infection control products and services. Showing how police work had a strong sales component–for example, avoiding a potential altercation by convincing a suspect to accept handcuffs–helped convince Ecolab to give him a shot, he said.

He soon was promoted to district manager, overseeing 19 people. When another promotion required him to travel four or five days per week, thus limiting the amount of time he could spend with his family, he decided to strike out on his own.

Lushin founded Lushin & Associates in 1997. Over the course of several years, it evolved into its current identity as a firm that helps clients improve their top-line revenue through customer service, sales training, sales management training and executive coaching. The 10-employee company expects $2 million in revenue for 2011, Lushin said.

In the video below, Lushin reveals the kinds of common mistakes that even good managers make. Such flubs include failing to trust employees to take on more responsibility and succeed on their own.

“Products have a life cycle, and so do you as a manager,” he said. “Let new creative minds emerge and blossom. If you constantly suppress them, you’re suppressing your own future. You’re suppressing your own fortune.”


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