“Put Your Employees First, It’s Not Just A Good People Strategy, It’s A Good Business Strategy” With Mike Schultz

“I’d say put them first. It’s not just a good people strategy, it’s a good business strategy. And it’s not a complicated strategy, it’s a feeling. Employees know when their company has their best interest in mind. It’s not one individual policy or action, but it’s a collection of experiences based on values.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Schultz, president at RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company. Mike is also the Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research and author of several books, including two Wall Street Journal bestsellers: Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling. Mike has grown RAIN Group into a global leader, named multiple times as one of the Top 20 Sales Training firms worldwide by Selling Power Magazine. Along with his books, Mike has written hundreds of articles, case studies, research reports, and other publications in the areas of selling and sales training.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

It all started when I was five and I read In Search of Excellence…But seriously, I started out of college as a sales process and strategy analyst at a consulting firm, focusing on large sales forces. Then, I led a P&L at another consulting firm overseeing a good size team and 30 sales reps. At age 27, I started RAIN Group, which has grown quite a bit. We now have offices in Boston, Geneva, London, Johannesburg, Sydney, Mumbai, Toronto, and Bogota, with some of the largest and most respected companies in the world as clients.

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

We hired a sales rep who had the right background, presented himself well, and scored well on assessments. Unfortunately for us, we forgot to analyze whether he’d fall asleep in meetings. With clients (at least it was just on the phone). Swing and a miss… He didn’t last long.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

They say some small companies are like families. We are. Years ago, my business partner got sick and spent months in the hospital. We were struggling to get off the ground, but somehow, we kept it together. Last year my son got sick and had to spend six months in the hospital. My partner, and now team, oversaw the business while I lived at my son’s bedside. Some companies have values statements on their walls, and some companies really care about people and show it in what they do.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I’d say put them first. It’s not just a good people strategy, it’s a good business strategy. And it’s not a complicated strategy, it’s a feeling. Employees know when their company has their best interest in mind. It’s not one individual policy or action, but it’s a collection of experiences based on values.

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?

Yes, my son Ari. He struggled all his life with a sick heart, spending over 430 nights in the hospital. I spent most of them sleeping next to him. I’m grateful for every day I got to spend with him. He taught me what it means to truly live.

Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?

Yes. See #3 and #5. How did I do it? Messily.

Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?

Not really. It was more challenging as a start-up entrepreneur. Sure, there are just as many things to do now and just as many worries, but we all spend our time every day on what we choose to spend it on. Like every company leader, I focus on work a lot, but I’m a fan of the marathon approach, not the sprint. We’ve developed a time management system that works for me. For the most part, I’m able to focus where I want.

Who were some of your mentors that exemplified work/life balance?

I’ll note a mentor who didn’t exemplify it. The leader of a previous company focused all on work, and all on himself. It was clear he didn’t care about his employees or his personal relationships, which were not so good. Sometimes you learn more from people who show you what not to do.

What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.

I like it when we have a team member who does something that he or she never thought they could do. But you see the potential, give them the guidance and the support, and when it works, it’s pretty amazing. Just like Hannibal Smith said, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)

I’d love to have one more lunch with my son. He would want Paul Pierce, Tom Brady, Brad Marchand, David Ortiz, and Rory McIlroy to join us. (And for the hundreds of millions of people who knew of my son, they all know these guys would come.)