Who taught you hustle and grind? Who showed you how to work hard and keep your word even when no one was looking?
For many of us, that was our dad. Or maybe you’re the dad, setting the example at home for your own family. Dads’ lessons ripple far beyond the teaching moment – they often impact our approach in the workplace.
To celebrate Fathers Day, hard-working DiscoverOrg and ZoomInfo dads are getting real by sharing the sales, marketing, and business lessons they’ve learned from fatherhood – and bring to work every day.
“Do the hard things – and make it a habit.”
Henry Schuck, CEO
I had my first Father’s Day in 2016. My wife and I had our first baby, a beautiful girl, Grace. At that same time, DiscoverOrg was going through a growth spurt. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t terrified, thinking about how I could be a great new dad, husband, and CEO. Somehow, I got through countless nights with little to no sleep, then somehow dragged myself into work. I was a zombie.
Something had to change. We had friends who had sleep-trained their baby to sleep 12 hours a night, and swore by it. So my wife, Jessica, and I decided to try sleep-training the baby.
I’ll never forget that first night of sleep training. Grace was four months old. She was in the crib, in her own room, for the first time. The monitor was on, and she was crying. The rules in the sleep-training book say to let her cry for 15 minutes before you can go in, soothe her for 30 seconds, then leave.
After five minutes, I broke in: “Hey, maybe she’s too small. She just doesn’t weigh enough yet. Let’s try it again in a month or so when she’s bigger.”
But my wife was the one waking up in the middle of the night. “Seriously?” she said. “I said I need SUPPORT.”
Oh yeah! I snapped back into supporting-husband mode: “Okay. Right. The book is right.” We just had to trust the process.
Fifteen minutes passed. Grace cried the whole time. My wife soothes her again. After three more minutes of crying, our girl was down for the count. The next few days were more of the same. But since then, Grace has slept 12 hours a night. Every. Single. Night.
Babies are trainable! It was a revelation.
I think about this idea of “training” a lot when I talk to VPs of Sales and VPs of Marketing who tell me that they are just going to rely on their Rolodexes and their CEOs network because “cold calling is dead,” and people don’t answer their phones anymore.
All I hear is: “I’m too scared to try something hard.” “My company is special, it’s different – it’s relationship-based, so cold-calling won’t work.” “We’re not in San Francisco, so we can’t find the talent.” “We tried before, but people in Austin don’t want to make outbound calls.” “Our CEO is allergic to outbound cold calling.”
It’s hard. I get it. It’s different, and it takes work. I know. It’s harder than giving in each time. But enough with the excuses!
The process of getting Grace sleep-trained has a lot of similarities to spinning up an outbound program – it’s hard work, too. I know. Cold calling is nerve wracking, it puts you on the spot, and you’re guaranteed to get rejected – a lot. That makes us uncomfortable. And the easy way out is … so easy.
Cold-calling isn’t dead, but it IS hard. To make it work as a high-growth strategy, you have to train your team and train yourself. Your business is your baby, and it’s hard to watch it struggle.
How do you sleep at night? You have to do the hard things.
“Put others’ needs above your own.”
Will Frattini, Director of New Business Sales
Being a father has taught me to have patience, to put my family’s (and my work family’s) needs above my own, and to not sweat the small stuff.
I can’t wait to learn even more when our new baby boy joins our family in November, and our daughter, Elle, gets to be a big sister!
“Take time to explore the real problem.”
Paul Quiring, Director of Sales
My daughter just turned 2 and I’m finally able to have semi-conversations with her and really start to understand what she’s saying.
But this wasn’t always the case. For the longest time, she’d ask for something, complain or whine about something, or try to explain something to me and I just couldn’t understand her. After a while of this, I’d start trying to figure out what was truly going on (why was she fussing? why is she insisting on this or that? what was she doing earlier or just now that she’s trying to explain?).
With a little deeper digging … and we’re talking a little, because this is a 2-year-old … it became a lot easier to decipher her toddler speak. For example, she’s hungry, sees me eating popcorn, and is asking for a snack. She’s tired and not complaining, but needs a nap. The list goes on.
The point here is that our prospects rarely tell us what their real problems are, or why they’re talking to us. They ask a few questions to check a few boxes and move on. But that’s lazy. It’s lazy on them and it’s lazy on us. And quite frankly it’s a big waste of everyone’s time.
It’s not until we can peel the onion back a few layers and truly understand the why behind their inquiry, what is keeping them up at night, and what hairy audacious goal are they staring at that’s finally scaring them into making a real investment?
When you can answer these questions, you can understand where your prospect is coming from and begin to solve some serious challenges – not just give them a pack of fruit snacks and a pat on the back.
Although sometimes that’s okay, too. 🙂
“Be present. Zen-like present.”
Ian Harris, Design Specialist
Being a dad has made me learn to be extremely present. I mean, meditatively, zen-like present. In a past professional life, I owned my own company in New York City and lived, breathed, and occasionally slept while dreaming about my work. When I met my now-wife, Christine, I made some adjustments to carve out a better work/life balance … but not until our son was born, did I realize how vital it was to be focused on the moment at hand.
I mean, most of us are physically present – but how much of the time are we blurring our attention between the person in front of us and all the other aspects of our lives constantly streaming through our minds?
My young son Silas has taught me that truly focusing on the experiences, conversations, and emotions in front of us permit deeper understanding and connections with those around us. My son does not care about the baggage of my day to day life.
But he does need me to be 100% there when we have our few moments together throughout the day. When we get home, settle into his room to play a game, and I sit down at his mini table and tiny chair (that each time I fear I may break) – this game of Candyland has to be the most important thing in my life. This evolved sense of being present has helped me in countless scenarios as a dad, partner, friend, creative, manager, and marketer.
“Create structure so everyone knows what to expect.”
James Hannoosh, Director of Inside Sales
For me, these parent-business lessons have to be about routine and time management.
When you are a parent, your kids need structure in their day – especially during the morning and night. You need clear guidelines and rules around when it is time to wake up, get dressed, brush your teeth, pack your lunch, get to school / bus stop.
It’s the same for the sales process. What is the SOE (Sequence of Events) to close a deal? Have you had the initial discussion? Who is the buyer, what is the timeline, do they see value, what are the budget constraints, who are the roadblocks, what is the pricing and packaging, when will the order be executed…?
All of these are routines, and they become easier to follow and understand the more you do them. It seems hard for the first few weeks, but once you get the routine down, you have the playbook on how to forecast and where and when you need to push or jump in to intervene to correct the process.
That is probably the biggest takeaway I had from sales to parenting … That, and an extreme amount of patience!
“Growth happens in the uncomfortable zone.”
Steven Wernke, Director of Sales
My wife and I recently welcomed a new baby girl to the world. To prepare her two-year-old brother, Brett, for his new sister, we spent months talking up the moment, reading books and watching videos about how cool being a big brother would be. When Quinn was born, she was everything a new parent could dream of – healthy, happy, beautiful. We couldn’t wait to introduce her to her big brother.
Grandma and grandpa brought Brett into the hospital room for the exciting moment. We had a gift from the new baby ready for him: a stuffed elephant, his favorite animal. Everyone walked in the room with smiles from ear to ear. I felt euphoric.
Brett laid eyes on his new sister, and it was as if lightning had struck the building. He was stunned, confused, and pissed off. Immediately, I felt self-doubt start to soak in: What did I do wrong to prepare him for this moment? How do I fix this problem? Maybe a couple more visits to the hospital?
Daily hospital visits went by, and nothing changed. Brett was NOT happy with his new sister. Having the competitive spirit I do, I tried to force the issue. I wanted to make him open up. About the third time, my wife suggested I hold him and make him feel loved – so I resisted my urge to keep pushing, and nurtured him instead.
Finally it was time for the baby to come home – and boom: Everything changed.
Brett couldn’t get enough of her. From touching her face, to tugging on her onesie, it was exactly the love we hoped for. Fast forward two months, and Brett prides himself on being a big brother. He won’t leave the house without yelling “Bye bye, Quinn!” He runs to her side when she cries to soothe her however he can. He won’t go to bed without giving his version of a hug and kiss, and as soon as he wakes up in the morning, he runs to her side to say, “Hi, sunshine!”
I just can’t wait to see him grow up to be her best supporter and role model.
This story reminds me of the acquisitions our company has gone through.
During DiscoverOrg’s acquisition of Rainking in 2017, there was a initial territorial stand-off across each team. The uncharted territory pushed people outside of their comfort zone, so naturally they put up a barrier against anything that wasn’t self-serving.
Fast forward a year, and I can’t wait to get back to DC to visit my new friends on the east coast.
A couple of the slogans we’ve had over the years are “change is hard” and “growth happens in the uncomfortable zone.” And this couldn’t be more evident than now, since our recent 2019 acquisition of ZoomInfo. And although it seems painful, we can only hope this continues to be commonplace for our own personal and professional growth.
We should always encounter the pain of feeling uncomfortable to know we’re pushing the envelope. And those who can exercise patience, forethought, and empathy will turn those moments into a “comfort zone” easier and faster.
Just like my son needed a little love to push through to show his best self, our colleagues, and prospects need the same thing.
“Sell a vision – and be persistent and available.”
Justin Withers: Senior VP of Product Management
Last fall, my son, Hudson (age 8), had a rough end to his basketball season. He had started out the season confident and ahead of many of his peers, but he didn’t touch a ball outside of practice. Until the end of the season, I’d been too distracted and too busy to realize that he needed my help.
Early this year, as I set goals for myself, I promised I’d make more time for my four kids: Hudson, Hannah (5), Noelle (3) and Bennett (2 months). I committed to sharing my interests with them, and getting more involved in their interests.
Passion and energy are contagious. I would have never learned to love sports and become good at them, if my mom had not been so involved. She was my coach day-in and day-out. She threw me pop-flies in baseball, threw me pitches in batting practice, rebounded my free throws, played defense and goalie in soccer. She truly loved being involved; she played volleyball competitively until her 50s. Just as my mom had played that role for me, I needed to play that role for my son.
So this spring, when the rains slows and the temperatures warm, I started dragging Hudson out to shoot hoops. At first there was resistance, but gradually I noticed a change. He started to see how much I loved the game. We played horse, practiced layups, and occasionally worked on his form a bit when he was willing. At times, I could tell I was pushing him a little too hard, and he’d get frustrated and want to quit. I’d back off and say, “Let’s just have fun.”
We started watching the Blazer games together, and then the playoffs came. The Blazers made a great run defeating the Thunder and then taking on Denver the Western Conference Semi-finals. I let Hudson stay up to watch the Blazers beat Denver in thriller of a 4-overtime game that went until after 11:00 pm. Momma bear was not happy. But I knew a seed was planted, and that it could turn into something more.
Just a few weeks ago, Hudson was shooting around at my in-laws house with one of his cousins. I walked out onto the court as his cousin was walking off. Hudson said, “Dad, can you help me with my shot? Something just feels off.”
It was a proud moment. My reply: “Of course! I’d love to help.”
“Let others try out new ideas and own them.”
Preston Zeller, Director of Digital Marketing
On a springtime trip to Arizona to visit my parents and extended family, my wife and I, and a gaggle of kids, ventured to the Phoenix playground to burn off some of that kid energy. This wasn’t just any old playground, though – it was laden with about every structure imaginable to climb up, hide in, slide down, and spin around in. It was noisy, to say the least, but in the greatest kind of way.
My son, Asher, who was almost 3, gravitated towards a climbing structure. It was about 15 feet tall, diagonal lines assembled of taut rope. He approached the structure like most kids might, assessing its use and how he might ascend to a new height. He began his climb – and it wasn’t long until he was halfway up the structure.
My family wanted to pull him down, in fear he might hurt himself – but I told them back off. I was curious to see how he would navigate the rest of the climb. He clearly had a goal in mind and was intent on executing that to the max.
Asher was just about to the top when his leg got stuck in a small opening in the ropes. He couldn’t figure a way to pull his foot out without throwing himself off balance and falling down the structure … so he simply pushed his shoe out of that sticking point, freeing himself to ascend the rest of the structure.
Of course descending these things is a bit trickier, but we all still stood back and watched Asher descend in a skillful manner. He was elated, accomplished, and ready to take on more.
- As a leader, we must be willing to let our team members try out new ideas and own them
- Expect setbacks: Know when it’s time to help out and when to observe
- Celebrate wins with your team and build on those accomplishments
“Sometimes the obvious issue isn’t the real problem.”
Scott Wallask, Director of Content
I’ve got three boys, ages 12, 10, and 7. I manage to butt heads with my 7-year-old kid just about every Friday night. It took a lot of battles for me to figure out that, almost like clockwork, he is simply tired and hungry at that point of the week – and I’m tired, too. We’re itching for a fight.
But now that I understand the cause of it all, I can approach the problem objectively – “Let’s get you something to eat first!” – and deal with it somewhat more calmly.
That idea is not all that different than trying to pinpoint the business challenge of a potential buyer. A sales rep might miss a monthly quota and it’s a bad situation, but the cause may be more a lack of useful tools or inability to connect to a prospect. That’s a good story to tell as a marketer.
I’m also trying to listen more and talk less, both as a father and content director. You’ll learn more – whether it’s from a kid, a customer giving you a case study, or a coworker discussing an edit – if you let people take you through their triumphs and potholes in their own words.
And by listening, every now and then, you get that unsolicited fleck of gold – like my son impersonating a teacher at middle school, or a customer explaining how they felt when connect rates went up – that leaves an impression on you.
“Enjoy the ride!”
Bob Simonton, Sales
I’m extremely fortunate to be the father of three “kids”: Bennet (26), Stowe (24), and Elsa (19).
What has being a father taught me about being an effective sales person and leader? Here are my Pearls of Wisdom with the understanding that I try (and often fall short) of following my own advice:
- Be honest: You don’t always have to tell everything (in fact, I recommend you don’t 🙂 – but what you do say has to be the truth as you know it.
- Listen and be interested: People appreciate when you take the time to put down what you’re doing to give them your full attention so you can understand what they’re saying.
- Be kind and fair: Who doesn’t respond better to parents or leaders who are kind and fair?
- Communicate clear and reasonable expectations: And don’t forget the appropriate, consistently applied rewards and/or consequences.
- Actions speak louder than words: Be the person you want your kids to become. Kids don’t always listen – in fact, most times they don’t! But they’re always learning from your actions and behavior. (Same with co-workers, by the way.)
- THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF ALL: Whether it’s being a father or a leader, laugh often – especially at yourself – and enjoy the ride. Most of our waking hours are with our co-workers or with our family. You might as well have fun!
My oldest son, Bennet, worked at ZoomInfo a few years ago as a summer intern. It was a fantastic experience for him and a launch pad to his current career in software sales in NYC. My younger son, Stowe, currently works at ZoomInfo as a part-time remote employee on the IQT team. Stowe’s working his way through Suffolk Law School in Boston. ZoomInfo has obviously played a significant role for the Simonton family – and for me as a father.
It’s been amazing to be able to work with and share a common bond with both my sons.
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We appreciate the sacrifices of all fathers who hustle to provide for their families, and who live out these hard-won lessons at work every day. Happy Father’s Day!