Jeff Abraham of Promescent: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a CEO

An Interview with Doug Noll

Doug Noll
Authority Magazine
12 min readOct 30, 2023

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Challenges surfaced from unexpected corners — ranging from manufacturing hiccups to red tape that surrounds the sexual wellness industry and other hurdles. Each obstacle taught me that being at the helm isn’t just about guiding from a distance. It often requires diving deep, understanding the nitty-gritty, and confronting challenges head-on.

As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Abraham.

Jeff Abraham is the CEO of Promescent, a sexual wellness company specializing in a comprehensive range of science-backed products designed to empower individuals and couples to achieve a fulfilling sexual life. Having come out of retirement to assume his current position as CEO of the fast-growing $12M company in 2012, he has focused tirelessly on building the company into what it is today. Now, Promescent is one of the leading producers of sexual wellness products and is known for using science-backed solutions to address common intimacy problems in the bedroom.

Can you tell us a bit about your backstory? What led you to this particular career path?

My first experience as CEO was when I founded my own semiconductor company in 1989. I ran it successfully for 22 years until I eventually sold it in 2011. I was 53 years old, a single dad, and my son was away at college. I was convinced my years as a CEO were behind me, but fate had other plans. At that time, I lived next door to one of the top urologists in the country. He developed a product to help men with premature ejaculation, a common form of sexual dysfunction that impacts 1 in 5 men between the ages of 18–59. Knowing my background, he talked to me about it and I found it exciting, so I invested in the company, Promescent. Because of my background, Ron ended up asking me to come on as CEO of Promescent in 2012. Since then, we’ve grown the company into a modern sexual wellness brand specializing in a comprehensive range of science-backed products designed to empower individuals and couples to achieve a fulfilling sex life. Today, we are a fast-growing $12 million company, our bestselling products are backed by over 2,000 urologists, and we’re continuing to build our footprint nationwide.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The loss of our founder, Dr. Ronald Gilbert, in 2013. He was murdered over a case of mistaken identity by a man who had complications from prostate surgery.

I’ve had quite a few intriguing experiences since I began leading Promescent, but there are a few that truly stand out.

Early on in Promescent’s infancy I used to respond to customer service inquiries through email and our online chat tool. Day in and day out I would get a better understanding of who our customers were and why they made their purchase decisions. I’m a people person, so I also had a lot of fun doing it!

One day, a person starts an online chat inquiring about Promescent Delay Spray. There are two major blockers that inhibit someone making a purchase; (1) They don’t think the product will work (2) They’ve had poor experiences in the past with other products in the category — particularly when buying online.

So, like any other chat, I begin explaining what makes Promescent different. We clicked and chatted for what seemed like hours. I ended up giving this visitor a discount to try the product to ease any other objections. The chat ends and I figured that this was it… the last time I would chat with this person.

Two weeks later, and to my surprise, the same person gets back on chat asking for me. He’s elated — typing away and sometimes being too explicit describing the success he was having by using Promescent. I was falling out of my chair laughing!

This same person is one of our best customers with close to the highest total revenue spent through promescent.com. Everytime I see him order I send him an email thanking him.

I learned to never underestimate the power of a personal touch. It reminded our entire team of the profound responsibility we have and the lives we touch. It drove home the point that behind every statistic, there’s a human story, and that’s what we’re truly working for.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the funniest things that I learned, very quickly, is just how ego-driven sex really is. I had recently moved into a new home and I was at a neighborhood BBQ. One of my neighbors came up to me and we started talking and he asked me what I do for a living. I told him I was the CEO of a Pharmaceutical company. He asked what the name of the company was, so I told him it was called Promescent. Then I told him that we make a Delay Spray for men to help treat premature ejaculation. Right away, he stood up straighter and taller and said, “Well, we certainly don’t need any of that in our marriage.” I thought to myself, okay, take it easy, I wasn’t implying anything. Just telling you since you asked. Well, a little later during the party, his wife found me and pulled me aside. She said, “Do you have any samples, we do need some of that in our marriage.” There is so much taboo and male pride standing in the way of having an amazing sex life. One of my priorities as CEO is to elevate the conversation around sexual health and wellness. We don’t just sell sexual wellness products; we strive to destigmatize topics like premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, sexual performance, and intimacy.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would have to say, Dr. Ian Kerner, a renowned sex and relationships specialist and best-selling NY Times author. Since discovering our products, he’s been a prolific advocate for us in what we are doing. He is considered the godfather in this industry. To have earned his endorsement and recognition over the years has been amazing. We’re also lucky to have the support of our entire Medical Advisory Board and 2,000+ urologists who back our clinically proven products.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader?

One particular challenge presented itself when I came to the realization that our product wasn’t only for people with severe premature ejaculation. The typical man lasts between 5–6 minutes in bed, while women typically last somewhere between 18–19 minutes. This is what’s known as the “orgasm gap.” When I realized that our products could be used to help enhance intimacy and help millions of couples last longer in bed, I knew we found our new vision as a company. The challenge was convincing our medical board that this was something that we really needed to use our product to help people with. Remember, this was founded by a urologist, so his focus was purely on the medical benefits of the product and treating clinical premature ejaculation.

Today, I’m glad I stuck to my guns and convinced our medical board that the future of our company was in enhancing intimacy. In addition to accomplishing unprecedented growth in the past few years, we’ve established national distribution via Amazon and Target. As of recently, we also expanded our in-store distribution to all 3,900 Walmart locations nationwide and launched a new ED platform on our website. We’re continuing to innovate the sexual wellness space and we’re looking forward to launching some new products soon.

Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

At its core, being a CEO or an executive is akin to being both the ship’s captain and its navigator. It’s about seeing the bigger picture, and simultaneously, understanding the intricate details to get from point A to point B successfully.

While managers and other leaders often focus on ensuring their teams are functioning well and targets are being met, an executive must have the foresight to anticipate challenges, recognize opportunities, and determine the strategic direction.

Some days at work I help the operations team, others the marketing team. Last week I spent a few hours in the warehouse helping our logistics team. You have to become familiar with each responsibility that makes a company run. It’s also important to understand that while you are helping temporarily, you must have the trust and confidence in your team to execute at a much higher level.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

One prevailing myth is that the life of a CEO is purely glamorous — endless first-class flights, luxurious hotels, and lavish dining. While there might be instances that match this portrayal, the deeper truth is far more aspirational. Rather than indulging in extravagances, many CEOs, myself included, prioritize the well-being and growth of our businesses. For example, I might choose more economical travel or accommodation options not just to save money but to reallocate those resources where they truly matter. Instead of splurging on personal luxuries, I focus on reinvesting in the company — be it in research and development, employee training, or customer experience enhancements. It’s one of the key ways we’ve been able to grow this company without any outside investment or fundraising — which is a rarity these days.

The essence of being a CEO isn’t about personal luxury; it’s about stewardship. It’s about recognizing that every dollar spent has the potential to drive growth, innovate, and make a difference in the lives of our customers and employees. Every decision I make is rooted in the broader vision for Promescent and our commitment to excellence, rather than short-lived pleasures.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

Stepping into the CEO role, I initially anticipated it would be a somewhat “hands-off” experience, where I’d oversee strategies and watch them unfurl. Reality, however, was quite different and far more intricate. One of the most striking realizations was the sheer tenacity and agility required to navigate market dynamics, especially when pitted against competitors with vast budgets and a propensity to exert influence on retailers. Despite having a superior product in our arsenal, the path to market wasn’t as straightforward as I’d envisioned.

Challenges surfaced from unexpected corners — ranging from manufacturing hiccups to red tape that surrounds the sexual wellness industry and other hurdles. Each obstacle taught me that being at the helm isn’t just about guiding from a distance. It often requires diving deep, understanding the nitty-gritty, and confronting challenges head-on.

Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean? No, only about 10% of people out there have what it takes to become a successful CEO. You have to have perseverance, drive, and the grit it takes to do what’s necessary. Nothing good is ever easy!

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?

Keep things positive and results-oriented. It’s also good to have a sense of humor and have fun. Set clearly defined goals and metrics so everyone is pulling in the same direction.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I was a Big Brother for 7 years. I’m also involved in Habitat for Humanity and supporting political figures who are trying to make a positive difference. I am a huge believer in leading by example.

My journey towards making the world a better place began long before my time at Promescent. Before my experiences as being a Big Brother and my involvement with Habitat for Humanity, there’s a pivotal chapter from my past that deeply influenced my leadership philosophy.

Years ago, I was envolved in a lawsuit with Hyundai — and the case was more than just a personal grievance. It underscored larger issues about equitable hiring practices within the corporate landscape. By standing up against unfair practices, my aim was to shine a light on the importance of fairness, integrity, and inclusivity in the workplace.

At the time I was leading a tiny personnel recruitment business for the semiconductor industry — maybe doing 1 million a year in revenue. As challenging as it was to take on a multi-billion dollar company at the time, it shaped my commitment to ethical leadership.

As the CEO of Promescent, I’ve made it a priority to embed these principles into our company culture. I firmly believe in leading by example and have ensured that our hiring practices, employee relationships, and organizational ethos reflect values of fairness, respect, and equity.

What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO” and why?

  1. The justice system is not always fair to small companies, so be careful who you do business with. You could quickly find yourself in a big fight with a company that has the resources to drive you out of business.
  2. The Internet is a wonderful resource for access. But it can also be a dumpster for disinformation that allows for fake products and reviews to shake consumer confidence.
  3. All key opinion leaders are not created equal. Certain ones will be sponsors for any product at any price. In my naivety, I thought people of that level would properly vet things.
  4. Being 66 and growing up in the 70s, I looked at successful people and learned that sacrifice will eventually bring rewards. People nowadays think if you have success, then they automatically deserve it, too.
  5. I used to believe that when an article listed the “10 best of items”, I truly thought they were the best. Now I realize that some are just being paid to say that. Consumers have to be extremely aware these days. We have been very fortunate and successful, but we never thought we, being clearly the best product, that it would be as difficult as it needed to be.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? Bring ethics and honesty back into all forms of business and personal affairs

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Having been born poor, I’ve always had to outwork and outthink my competitors. I’ve never been in a situation with a tremendous amount of resources or financial backing. My success has come from outthinking and outmaneuvering my competition.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? I would like to have lunch with Barack Obama. He’s always appeared to have a tremendous amount of dignity and grace. The grilling and scrutiny he endured without any major scandal being uncovered shows me he’s a very ethical person. I think he’d be a great guy to have as a neighbor, maybe hang out and watch some sports together.

About the Interviewer: Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA was born nearly blind, crippled with club feet, partially deaf, and left-handed. He overcame all of these obstacles to become a successful civil trial lawyer. In 2000, he abandoned his law practice to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, teacher, and trainer. He is a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts. Doug teaches his innovative de-escalation skill that calms any angry person in 90 seconds or less. With Laurel Kaufer, Doug founded Prison of Peace in 2009. The Prison of Peace project trains life and long terms incarcerated people to be powerful peacemakers and mediators. He has been deeply moved by inmates who have learned and applied deep, empathic listening skills, leadership skills, and problem-solving skills to reduce violence in their prison communities. Their dedication to learning, improving, and serving their communities motivates him to expand the principles of Prison of Peace so that every human wanting to learn the skills of peace may do so. Doug’s awards include California Lawyer Magazine Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers in America Lawyer of the Year, Purpose Prize Fellow, International Academy of Mediators Syd Leezak Award of Excellence, National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals Neutral of the Year. His four books have won a number of awards and commendations. Doug’s podcast, Listen With Leaders, is now accepting guests. Click on this link to learn more and apply.

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Doug Noll
Authority Magazine

Award-winning author, teacher, trainer, and now podcaster.