Wherever You Start You Still Have More To Learn

Curtis Michael

Curtis Michael was in the Spring ‘13 Sales track. He truly enjoys new challenges, such as teaching himself a new language or conceiving and launching his own landscape management company. He has learned that nothing is too hard if you set your mind to it. For Curtis, the challenge of taking new ideas and turning them into something real is both exciting and motivating. You can check him out on Linkedin.

I started mowing lawns for my neighbors at 15, doing whatever it took to make a dollar. Soon enough I had more work than I could handle and was encouraged by my father to go through the process of legalizing my company.

I took his advice, along with much more, and began to grow The Grounds Crew at an even faster rate, managing up to 13 employees at one point. My friends and others in the industry wondered how I grew so fast in just a short period of time. I told them I was good at selling (which back then just meant being good at hustling)

Over the course of 2 years I landed about 15 commercial clients. I literally thought I was unstoppable and that I was the best seller under 20. I actually didn’t know how to sell though. I didn’t know how to write a sales script and didn’t even understand the sales process. I was just good at “faking it”.

I needed to learn the skills necessary to properly sell a consumer service. I decided to take action myself. I went to the University of Washington bookstore and bought three of their senior level textbooks and began reading. I taught myself a little bit, but nothing comparable to learning from a teacher.

Again I came to the realization that I didn’t know how to sell. All I knew how to do was manipulate. I was even uncaring to the majority of my clients. I wouldn’t reply to customers at times and would cut corners when I wanted to make an extra dollar. I still don’t know how I was able to maintain a high customer retention rate. Some of my friends told me I had too much luck and to be brutally honest, 90% of it was luck. I needed to take a step back and reflect on my life.

During my reflection I knew I needed to step away from my business and learn from it. I felt that education would be the best thing to help me learn how to maintain and develop relationships and learn the skills necessary to work within a startup environment.

Reading a book wasn’t enough, so I began searching for accelerator based programs. Luckily, Startup Institute showed up in a Google Ad and instantly I knew it was the right fit for me. I actually sold the company 11 days before I got accepted into the program and the timing could not have been better.

It has only been about 14 days since day one in the program, but I can honestly say that I have learned a lot, not just from the guest speakers, but my peers as well. I might have come across as overly confident and not willing to ask for help at times, but the truth is I don’t know much yet.

I don’t know much about selling and I don’t know much about what I want. I am still learning to not be manipulative and stubborn when conversing with others and to ask for help. I hope to continue to learn more about sales, but most importantly, learn more from my peers. Both about sales and about them as people. .

I continue to learn that having the ability to “listen” is much greater than being the “know-it-all.” There will always be someone smarter than me and I need to ASK them for help. Going through the first two weeks of this program I have learned and continue to learn that being wrong is OK. Failure is something that I need to accept and I still have a lot to learn.