Meet Trailblazing Partner John Garvens of Emelar Consulting Group

The first thing a lot of people notice about John Garvens is the beard. “I once had a recruiter in his voicemail say, ‘Your name and your beard precede you,’ shared the President of Emelar Consulting Group. Starting with dreams of being a professional musician and evolving to a well-known member and coach in the Salesforce community, John’s journey has been anything if not out-of-the-ordinary. Learn more about the Trailblazing Partner behind the beard in this interview.

We’ve heard you had quite an interesting path to your Salesforce career. Tell us more.

John Garvens: I majored in music performance for trombone. When I got done with college, I didn’t know what to do — so, I went to graduate school, which didn’t end up being right for me. After an unpaid internship with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I applied for a job in the Chicago suburbs at Whole Foods Market. Once I had a few pennies to rub together, I tried something I had always wanted to explore: martial arts classes.

I found a local gym and started taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes. About six months later at that gym, the manager left and I interviewed for (and got) that open role. I was doing everything from ordering new t-shirts and boxing gloves to cleaning up the gym, fixing things that broke, teaching kids Jiu-Jitsu classes, updating the website, posting things on social media, and sending out email campaigns. That’s where the whole marketing CRM exposure happened.

So music major to gym manager to CRM newbie. How did you get involved with a Salesforce-focused career?

JG: As I read more about Salesforce, I kept thinking “Man, this company is really cool.” I went to a #DreamJob event in Chicago in 2014 and, from the first minute I walked in there, I immediately knew these were my people. Through this series of happy accidents, I landed a sales operations coordinator position at Vistex, which is where I got my first corporate taste of CRM as a whole. Acquisitions were made and Vistex wanted to implement Salesforce. That’s when my Salesforce career really started — participating in the implementation start to finish, then taking over as an admin.

Trailblazing Partner John Garvens

Tell us more about your involvement with the Army Reserve and Salesforce Military (formerly named Vetforce).

JG: I joined the Army Reserve in March 2004. I was 19 and needed a way to pay for school. I played trombone in one of the advanced bands as a freshman at Illinois State University, and a buddy of mine suggested being in the Army Reserve band. After visiting the unit, I decided it was something I wanted to do. So I signed on the dotted line and that summer I went to basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. After that, I started as a Private First Class and worked my way up. Over the course of 12 years, my role and my responsibilities in the unit kept growing and growing — by the time I was done, I was a Sergeant First Class overseeing administration for all 40 people in the unit. My tech career was starting to grow, so I made the decision to leave in March 2016 — which also coincided with when I started growing my beard.

I gained access to the ADM 201 and ADM 211 classes through the Salesforce Military program, which I joined a few years ago. One seat in every class is reserved for a Veteran if there’s one available. After completing those classes and getting my career established, I really started to focus on how I can help others become successful. And so I converted into a Salesforce Military coach, mentored several people to help them learn Salesforce, get certified and find jobs they love. That’s a very fulfilling thing for me.

John Garvens with other Salesforce Military members at Dreamforce 2019

You’re also well-known as a Salesforce Certified Instructor, specializing in Salesforce CPQ. What’s your favorite part of teaching?

JG: I’ve taught CPQ to over 450 total people. And my favorite part is that those 450 people now have a more valuable resume, which is going to enable them to get a better job, which is going to enable them to have, ultimately, a better life. It feels good that you can have such a big impact on the lives of other people.

How do you keep learning and growing every day?

JG: I love this question because it taps into who I am as a person. If you’re not familiar with the Clifton Strengths survey, it’s a way to discover your strengths (unsurprisingly). I took the survey this year and learned that my top strength is analytical. I overanalyze everything to a fault. My second strength though is learner, I am obsessed with learning. I’m constantly learning. If I’m ever not learning, it drives me nuts. So to tie that back to your question, I think project work itself is highly educational because you’re getting real-world situational experience. What do you do when CPQ is not working and nobody can figure out why? You figure that out. Or a customer has this incredibly complicated process — do we try to systematize this complicated process or do we try to make a better process first and then we systemize the new process? It makes my brain sweat and I love it.

But there are also things not related to work. I’ve studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for more than eight years, and that has become a way of life and a philosophy for me. It can teach you a lot about yourself. I’m constantly reading as well; all sorts of different things from psychology to personal finance to philosophy to biography. Sometimes I’ll read fiction but I find nonfiction excites me more, which is also strange, but I’m a strange person. I’ve come to accept that.

John leading a CPQ masterclass at Emelar Consulting Group.

What does being a Trailblazer mean to you?

JG: Being a Trailblazer to me means breaking the rules. It means going where you’re maybe not supposed to go, trying a new way. To say “This is best practice, but is there a better practice?” The constant pursuit of a better practice would be what a Trailblazer means to me, and connecting dots that haven’t been connected before. There’s a very well-known scene in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross where Alec Baldwin talks about ABCAlways Be Closing. I’ve taken that and pivoted it to be ABCDAlways Be Connecting Dots. Being a Trailblazer is that consistent drive to connect people with people, people with ideas, and ideas with ideas.

What are just some other hobbies or other ways that you do like to spend your time outside of work?

JG: Jiu-Jitsu, as I mentioned before. Reading and writing. I love words. Both consuming them and producing them. Cooking and eating. So, producing and consuming again. [laughs] Really any opportunity I can get to learn something new that’s going to change my perspective on things.

Check out Emelar Consulting Group on AppExchange today.



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Holly Rushton

Holly Rushton

Content Marketer at @salesforce @appexchange. Big fan of reading, Star Trek, craft beer, board games, and golf.