Midwest Start-Ups’ Secret Sauce

Midwest Start-UpEven though we are based out of the San Francisco Bay Area we’ve spent the last few months helping some start-ups in the Midwest, TopOpps in St. Louis and LevelEleven in Detroit, with their sales organizations to be exact. Whether it was working to define a sales process or providing sales training to their sales teams and SDR teams there is one thing that is often mentioned but interestingly overlooked when I read articles about Silicon Prairie. It’s their innate work ethic.

Before we move forward, let’s take a quick step back to paint the picture of perspective. Prior to having a consulting business we had the pleasure of working for what is now Voice Media. I was asked to move from Denver to Cleveland and another colleague was asked to move from Dallas to Cleveland.

It was in Cleveland where we had our first glimpse of the work ethic that is so strong in “Middle-America”. Remember it is one thing to hear about Joe The Plumber, it’s another thing to experience working with him.

Often times we were hiring people just out of college and beginning their sales careers. Or perhaps it was someone who was looking for their 2nd or 3rd job but was not afforded the opportunity to go to college. In either case they had that special something we all look for in employees. The desire to work hard, not because they have to, but because they want to.

As we got to know our sales team we learned many of them were raised in a family where the parents worked and met a factory. For me this was new. I grew up in the south, my father sells insurance, and my mother is a financial planner. So I found this fascinating. I had one person whose parents met on the 2nd shift at the Dirt Devil factory and had been there 20+ years. His work ethic was impeccable. He always wanted to learn, always volunteered. He once told me that he would volunteer for the crappy things than so that he would be top of mind when I needed someone to help with the exciting things. He was right of course. He was always the “go-to” guy.

We then saw this scenario repeat itself when was asked to move an inside sales team for a large educational software company from the San Francisco Bay Area to Des Moines (Riverdeep Interactive Learning (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) People asked me if I thought the people could find the right talent. I said, absolutely.

Yes, you can teach people how to work hard and you can teach people to sell. However when you can find people that will come to work with this trait already ingrained it makes start-up life so much easier and pleasurable.

So fast-forward to present day. Yes, Silicon Valley, Austin, and NY will always be “hot” when it comes to the start-up world. People will always flock to these cities and they should. They should have the life experience that these cities offer.

But here is a little secret people do not tell you about. Often times someone moves away from a city like St. Louis, Detroit, even Chicago to test the open-waters. But what ultimately happens is that they come home. Maybe they miss the mid-west lifestyle, perhaps they miss family, or maybe they want to be a part of something big but closer to home. Whatever the reason, a lot of folks who leave often come back bringing their knowledge and experience with them.

If you are a company looking to hire, and frankly you don’t have to be a Midwest start-up to do this, be sure you ask your future employees about their work ethic. Ask them to describe theirs. Then ask them where they learned it and from whom.

It is not about San Francisco vs. St. Louis, or Detroit vs. New York. It’s not about which city is the “best city” for start-ups. What this is really about are the values people bring to the job. And to all the Midwest start-ups in Ann Arbor, Chicago, Cleveland, Des Moines, Detroit, Indianapolis, Madison, St. Louis, and everywhere in between, “Thank you for your hard work.” Keep innovating. And frankly, you are not up and coming like many of the articles I’ve read, you’ve been here the whole time.

Feel free to share your experiences and if you’d like to know more about how we help companies grow their sales revenues contact us.


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