Terrific conversation with Justin Berkenstock and his journey in business and into the world of sales. Justin shares a raw story about how COVID-19 affected his employment and how he continually works on himself and encourages others in their sales professional journeys. You’ll really enjoy hearing his raw perspective and incredible insight.

Show sponsor R.D. Adair PLLC (https://adair.law); a huge thank you for their sponsoring the show.


Aaron Spatz  00:10

Good morning DFW, you are listening. You’re watching to the Dallas Fort Worth Business Podcast. I’m Aaron Spatz. So excited that you’re joining me this morning. As I’ve said in all the other episodes, if you have any type of feedback for the show, there’s people that you want to see if there’s stuff that you really, really enjoyed that that is really just hitting you right between the eyes of there’s things that you really, really enjoy that we talk about here. Drop me a line podcast at Bold media.us. I would love love, love to hear from you. And once again this is this is DFW business podcast has been a thrill and a joy to produce this for you so far. So today, we’re going to jump right into it. I’ve got Justin Birkenstock here with us today, we’re going to talk about all sorts of stuff. I did find out right, right before he went on there that he does happen to be a Broncos fan. I’m a raider fan, in case you couldn’t tell at some point. But we’ll, we’ll we’ll address that here in just a second. But uh, Justin, Hey, man, I just want to just want to welcome to the show, man. Thanks for being here.

Justin Berkenstock  01:06

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Aaron Spatz  01:08

You know, I had to get my jabs in while you’re off screen that way I could just have it set up just right for me. Right. Right. Right. Okay. Well, you know, so Broncos, just real quick. So, Broncos were five and 11. Yeah, you know, what’s going on there, man.

Justin Berkenstock  01:26

It is very difficult to be a Broncos fan. Right now, let’s just say that. It’s kind of not unlike being a Cowboys fan. I guess that it’s been tumultuous, to say the least over the last several years. But originally being from Denver, it was hard to go away from them. Yeah, for sure. I hadn’t met in the airport. Mark. But Dane. So you know, the Raiders aren’t all bad. marks a great guy. And you know, he’s very welcoming, very warm individual. They’ve moved. So I hope he’s doing well. Yeah. You know? Yeah.

Aaron Spatz  02:04

Yeah, there’s like, you never know who you’re gonna see in an airport. Like Denton, Denver is one of those places DFW is most places. I mean, it’s, it’s crazy. Like, I’ve got a lot of fret. So I’m probably the only one that does not have some cool airport story. And I’ve spent a crap ton of time in airports and I have yet to bump into it. I probably will. I’ve probably walked right by somebody and without even realizing it. But there’s man, there’s, there’s all sorts of fun stories out there. And shoot. If you’re listening or watching this to the show, drop a comment down below about your crazy celebrity or famous person story in an airport. I would love to hear it. It’s some there’s some really crazy entertaining stuff. There’s a friend of mine who met Michael Jordan back in the day in an airport, and I’ll, I’ll spare the story, but it was pretty hilarious. How that went down. But But So okay, so let’s, let’s, let’s go back to you, man, your story. You’re originally from Denver. So the first question I like to ask people, where are you originally from? I don’t have that many do. You natives in my hip pocket. So Denver and then and then take it from there.

Justin Berkenstock  03:09

So as a young child grew up in Denver, and my father moved us to Northern California, to be with this family when I was 11. So in 94, I think it was we moved to Northern California, I spent a lot of time there. And in 2018, my wife and I decided that we were going to take part in the mass exodus. And, you know, Texas was the place for us, we kind of spend some time here, the company I was working for was gracious enough to say that I could take a trip out here and look at our DFW office. So we did that and found out that people said that we were Texans at heart. It just took us a long time to get here.

Aaron Spatz  03:56

That’s right. That’s right. That that is the phrase, right? Okay, I wasn’t born here. But I got here as fast as I could. That’s the that is the you know, I like to joke that I I am a naturalized Texas citizen and my wife is a San Antonio native. So I’m like a, if I married into it, right, that that counts too, right, doesn’t it? Or you move here, you stay here for a specified length of time and you’re your positive contributing member to the economy. We’ll go ahead and stamp your papers make you a Texan right? So that’s awesome, man. All right, well, cool. So you see moved here looking at your background, right? So you are a fellow jarhead like myself, so simplifying all the obligatory stuff related to that, but tell tell me a little bit about your story after you jumped out looks like you are this is like pre moved to Texas. So and it looks like you’ve done a lot in the in like the sales related things. So share with me a little bit about what what that journey has been for you

Justin Berkenstock  05:00

So after exiting acts of service, I decided to go into law enforcement, you know, trade one uniform for the other, like many people do. And, you know, unfortunately that signs the time weren’t on the wall. So the housing market crash of 2008 was very difficult in the state of California. I think at one point, there are 15,000 jobs that couldn’t be filled, because there was just no money for it. So I made a strategic decision, use my GI Bill, finished my education, and swore I would never be like my father. And I would never be in sales. And here I am, I guess growing up with a guy that now I mean, he’s got 50 some odd years of experience in sales, being a bit ripped off. And my first job after graduating with my bachelor’s in business was in organizations organization that was doing staffing, it grew up as a contract IT staffing firm. But the owner had gifted the business to his son, and he was a former Navy SEAL. So they had a veteran staffing program. And what I helped Deron do was to sell that into organizations that wanted to hire veterans, because they realize that they were highly impactful. They could, you know, they’re highly trainable, oftentimes very loyal to the organization, very loyal to the people around them. And they just had a different impact on a business than, you know, a standard bucket of candidates. Sure. So I kind of got recruited out of there, I ended up going into something I never knew existed, which was corporate mobility, corporate relocation world, where we had a radical new approach at New compass mobility. And that’s actually the company I moved here with. So I helped them with what we call a middle market program, it was very new to the industry, maybe not quite sure that the industry was ready for it at the time, because it was a very different approach, we could target different types of clients that maybe didn’t have a full fledged real relocation program. But we leveraged our technology that we developed in house with our software development team, we had got a think 10 or so employees that were just development software development, folks. Okay. So anyway, that got my my interest in technology and software. Really,

Aaron Spatz  07:37

wait a second. So like, you’re talking about corporate mobility and software like that. That’s a fascinating topic in and of itself. So like, was that? I mean, this just shows like my lack of knowledge and corporate mobility topics, right. But is, are we talking helping relocate companies from state in your city, state X to city state? Why are we talking about helping there be some type of assistance program for employees that are looking to relocate to a different branch? Like what? Like, what was that all about?

Justin Berkenstock  08:07

So in that organization, we’re focused on the employee. So our client would have been the organization and usually somebody in in either HR, they had a mobility professional themselves. That was organic to the company. Okay, we would help them move their people. So you know, they want to move somebody from Chicago to San Antonio, we would facilitate the end to end move, depending on the package the person got.

Aaron Spatz  08:37

That’s crazy. So like, what was the breadth of services? That that was? I mean, are we talking like, assistance from finding a realtor and selling your house moving company to information about schools and all this other jazz on in in the destination city?

Justin Berkenstock  08:54

Correct. So, you know, where we made a lot of headway, especially with the technology platform that we developed, was, you know, helping them sell their house, we did everything electronically. We’re one of the first in the industry to do all he sign on the documents. Nice. But the the more core things besides moving your house is that people don’t realize how much stuff they actually collect when they’re in a location. So helping we had services that some companies would allow for their employee where they would help them go through everything they had, so they’re not moving straight items, and either discard or donate those. Obviously, there’s a tax benefit to donation. Sure. But you know, that industry all kind of started around the real estate industry people companies saying the hardest thing about a move is selling your house often. So you know, with that movie, selling your house and moving your stuff are the two most stressful

Aaron Spatz  09:55

things moving into Batman. It’s a battle but I did it myself.

Justin Berkenstock  09:58

So thanks. As I self elected to move here, I went through it. And I talked to some relocation coordinators and said, hey, you know, let’s do this as if I were in the program. And, you know, and I had a little bit of money, because that’s really, especially for smaller companies, you know, they may offer a little bit of cash, or something like that. So, I used some industry contacts, I rented a 26 foot box truck, through my wife’s car on a trailer, my dad drove my truck out here. So about 1800 miles, we’re on the road for two and a half days straight. It was challenging, and you know, that industry, really, it’s helpful to have somebody there. When you’re in the middle of something going, I don’t realize how I should be doing this. Can you please help me? All those services find in a house and your destination location? If you did have kids find in a school forum? Where’s a good bank? Where’s a good grocery store? That’s equivalent, you know, to what I’m used to, and has the same brands, it’s hard to find out here. I have not been able to find try to pre cut since I’ve moved to Texas, really? So that’s a you know, that’s a change and people those types of questions. That’s so funny. That’s my pet tarantula.

Aaron Spatz  11:18

Well, you know, but like, people have their their creature comforts, they’ve got their stuff that they love. I mean, one of the thing and so people that are from Texas, or that lived here, at you know, anywhere except DFW, you’re going to understand what I’m about to say right now. So I live in Houston, I fell in love with HEB. Right. So heb is seeing a Texas wide brands like what a burger. It’s like all these other things that we love about TECHO buches. It’s all these different things that just make make some of the some of the jazz about Texas just really, really fun. So and then moving up here to DFW, it was literally heartbreaking. Because you get you get, you get used to being able to have access to certain things. So if it’s a Tri Tip steak, or it’s some item that I like to get in whatever section of HDB there’s, it’s it’s hilarious because I at when you first said like, man, you’d be surprised, like we had people ask these questions. At first. Yeah, I am surprised. I’m like, You know what? No, actually, I’m probably not that surprised. Because you can tell like, I have an issue with the fact that we don’t have HTB or DFW, we have central market, you may you may be able to find your steak there too, by the way, but that that’s not the same, it’s not the same experience. So when if you grew up around a specific type of, you know, restaurants or grocery stores or whatever, and you’re from a different party, United States, you’re, you’re gonna, you’re gonna miss that. And you got to try to latch on to something new and so that it’s fascinating. It’s a fascinating, fascinating journey. So like your, your split your sales role within that. So like, how are you selling? How are you actually selling that the product.

Justin Berkenstock  12:56

So we had a very different approach to how we sold that we took a SaaS based model, which is different for the industry. And we plugged it in, because we felt like there was an entire group of untapped companies that weren’t being reached out to they weren’t the usual suspects, those were done through industry organizations, everybody goes to the, you know, the annual convention and sees the same people you sit down at dinner and have the same conversations year over year. So we said, what if we do this a little bit differently. And the guy that I was reporting to at the time is actually one of the owners of the company who’s very technology forward individually himself. He is now the CEO, and still a mentor of mine. But he and I talked about, what if we did this, like you would sell software, and we focus on the software aspect of it, and the software is what powers the services. So we took a wildly different approach to it, we made a lot of headway got a lot of traction in it, and had a lot of great success. It was just a different model. It was plugging something in that was I guess you could say it was slightly disruptive, which is fine. For me, I enjoy being sort of that disrupter in an industry and you get some attention. It’s not always the attention you may want, but fill attention. So people are talking about you. And it was successful, you know, for that different grouping of customer base that was I would say underserved. They didn’t know what they didn’t know. It presented all sorts of challenges. We had to pivot very quickly as an organization because operationally we were set up for a traditional model and to sell that type of a deal where it was more turnkey off the shelf programs instead of the highly customized programs that people had been used to. presented unique operational deals for that we had to overcome. But it was fun selling and, you know, getting people in there to help us sell it was also exciting and moving that moving that needle for the organization and growing it growing the program growing the team was was fantastic. Well,

Aaron Spatz  15:19

you know, so talk to me about your, your transition then into sales. And then for those, because if the there’s a lot of people who are curious about just about the whole sale, the sales world sales world is very, is very unique. And it differs a little bit depending on what kind of business your enemy like I’m in. I mean, I’m in full time sales, I run a very small company, doing consulting work, but then you’ve got large companies that have entire, like, entire departments made up of salespeople. And so it’s like a totally, I mean, it’s like a whole nother world there. So for those that are curious about like, what what is one of the things that you I guess we’re maybe surprised by could be a good could be a good thing or a bad thing. But like, but once you kind of like got on the other side of of a sales career of what you’re doing, like, what are some things that you were like, Man, I didn’t realize that this was actually actually the way it is, as opposed to the outside looking in?

Justin Berkenstock  16:13

Well, so I did think that there were going to be the normal challenges like, gosh, how am I even going to get in touch with these people? You know, and surprisingly, there are so many tools out there that I didn’t realize existed that can help somebody to really dive in and get in and get in front of folks, the challenges, I think, for me, that I didn’t realize coming in one was the the grind that you really got to be on top of, we used to talk all the time with sales reps, or people that have reported to me, I still say this is that, you know, one thing that you always have to remember is if you take your foot off the gas, the car comes to the stop. And most salespeople that I see struggle now not I’m on the other side of it, and I have my challenges with this at times too sure, is that you start getting kind of worn out, or maybe you’re in a bit of a slump, you’ve got to change your approach, you’ve got to you’ve got to morph what you’re doing to fit current market trends, or whatever you see going on. If you’re not tapped into that, and you’re you’re getting down on yourself that thing, that’s usually the first thing to suffer is your activity. And you take your foot off the gas a little bit, the momentum slows down. And all of a sudden, you’re turning around looking at things going, Gosh, what happened, you know, I was doing so well. Now slump in. So the other thing that was really important to me to realize was that there’s an ebb and flow to sales, okay? That I wasn’t always going to be hitting it out of the park every week. I’m a person that hates to lose. Yeah, if I come in second, I’m just the first loser. So that really bugs me. And I had to learn that being okay with not making a sale, or not winning that client that you really want. It was something that personally was very challenging, and I didn’t realize how much it would how much pain it would kind of inflict. For me. And in a sales role. I figured that it would be like yeah, okay, no big deal. I can take it on the chin, I’ve taken plenty of hits before just due to my background. You know, there’s a, obviously, you can probably align with this. There’s certain moments of disappointment when you think you’re coming home from overseas on time. And you’ve been told you’re not, yeah, I can take that. Or, you know, being in a combat environment that I can take anything but it was more personally wounding sometimes to work so hard. Yeah, on a deal and presenting and being in front of C suite executives at a, you know, a large company. For them, you could feel it at the time, you’re just staring at them. And they’re, they’re almost glazed over. Like you’ve you guys are not a fit for us and you still have to push through. So over overcoming those challenges are something I didn’t realize, but it also I feel, made me a lot stronger. Being able to recognize that stuff was a skill set that being able to, you know, read a room, read the individual you’re talking to, and sort of change your approach on the fly. A lot of people say you got to be able to shoot from the hip really fast. But the one thing that I’ve learned, again, I go back to smile, man, when he told me you know, selling is not that hard. You just got to make people think it was their idea. And he’s done it for 50 years. You’ve been very successful at it and I take a different approach to it. I like to take more of an educational approach. So I definitely align with more of Challenger sales methods. Okay. And I love to educate. So I realized that in my sales journey in my sales career, especially now that I’m in the position I’m in, is that the education and the RE education based on assumptions that may be misaligned, unknowingly, for not only a customer, but for my sales team, and the people that I work with, is something that’s been very enjoyable. And that all developed in the sales cycle for me, with my customer base, how do I get them to realize this fact here, that’s incredibly important, and really makes us a great fit for each other without sounding like I’m telling them what to do.

Aaron Spatz  20:45

Right? Yeah, because nobody likes to be told what to do. Right? If I’m, you know, like, there’s a, there’s a trend, not really a trend, I just, I feel like it’s the way the way doing business right now, this is something I’ve advised a number of people on is, you know, like, and marketing as marketing right now, like unsettling is selling right now. And so if we’re, if we’re being so aggressive in closing the deal, because it’s what we need, and what we want, it makes for a really sticky situation. And people, people generally don’t respond well to it. So like your, your education approach, I think is really cool. Because all you’re simply doing is like you’ve you’ve had, you’ve identified their need their pain point, and we always solve for pain points. But you’ve identified their pain point, you know, you’ve got you’ve got the medicine that gets right here. And so it’s like helping but helping helping bridge that divide and helping them and I think to your, to your to your father’s point is like helping them and helping them arrive at the conclusion without forcing the conclusion upon them. So like you’ve just said, we’re not talking manipulation, like I hate I hate manipulative sales, I hate the scripted, you got, like, you’re gonna box me, like maneuver me into a corner. I hate that crap. But when but when you’ve when you’ve been able to successfully talk with people, and like, show them like, Hey, this is this is the challenge that you’re facing right? Now, here’s how we meet that challenge. And you know, maybe you say it a little bit differently than that, but like, but you’re able to show them in educate, and that’s gonna be fun, right? Like, it’s gonna be fun to kind of see the light bulb turn on for people and then understand like, oh, wow, like this. This really does work.

Justin Berkenstock  22:18

Right? I mean, so when you’re collaborating with an individual, especially high level people, and you’re having high level conversations, you know, they have in their mind and idea of how this is going to work for them at that they’re trying to formulate, I say, and when you’re educating Well, at least for me, when you’re educating on facts, or maybe points that they may have preconceived notions about that maybe the data is not all there, they don’t have the information. But somewhere along the line, they pick something up that tells them this. And then collaborating with that person to then kind of maneuver through that sales journey, or the buyers journey. really have to understand the people. And I think that is where the awesome part for sales comes from me is that you get this deeper level of understanding with folks, when you’re collaborating with them, when you’re helping them to get there, you’re being slightly more consultative than you are just forcing something on them. You know, everybody likes to use the use car approach, right? I recently have a different example of that we, my wife and I were looking for some things that were very specific, we walked into a William Sonoma and I had somebody jumped down my throat, about three feet in the door. And I’m like, man, we’re just here to see what you have. You know, so if you have that approach, where you’re just trying to force it, force it, force it, force it, you’re probably talking to the wrong people. There’s a great book that actually sort of taught me that one thing was, that’s been key for me is, the faster you can get to the nose, the more times you arrive at the Yes, and the books called barking up a dead horse. Okay. So I highly recommend that. And there’s several others out there that are very good, but you know, taking those principles, combining them all together, finding what works for you, because what works for me, you know, likely isn’t going to work for you and the rest of the world. You just got to find how you do it. Yeah. But it’s fun it when you see, like you said, when they have that aha moment, and they go, You know what, what you’re saying makes 100% sense. Let’s talk about how we push this forward.

Aaron Spatz  24:36

Exactly. At that point, that it’s just, it’s just a value trade at that point. It’s like, if if the perceived if the perceived value of this transaction exceeds the monetary component of this, then it’s a win, right? It’s like I’m selling Steve for $1 and you feel like you’re getting $5 of value at it that’s I mean, that’s a layup you know, so Right. But okay, so when we go for the break what I what I want to jump into then And we’ll kind of close this section up and then we’ll like to move on to what you’re doing now. But, but first, I’d love a love for you to share for salespeople out there like what is it doesn’t have to be for salespeople, but just like what’s been the biggest lesson learned that you’ve gleaned from being sales? So it could either be like the tactical level portion of sales, or could be some greater business principle that you’ve learned in your time working in sales? I think it’d be fascinating study. So we’ll be we’ll be we’ll be right back. But this show is made possible by our amazing sponsors, and we could not do it without them. And so I’m, I’m incredibly grateful for for sponsorship. So one, if you are, if you’re looking for any type of business, litigation, business formation, business, any any type of help related to business related matters, I highly, highly, highly suggest you call Ryan Adair. So with with rd therapy, LLC, so they, he handles various business law matters. So it could be from disputes, litigation, business formation, transactions, and all the crazy messy stuff in between, I would really encourage you to reach out, reach out to him reach out to his firm really solid, hardworking people, people that you can trust, right that people that you know that you can share what’s going on, and you know, you’re gonna be represented very well. And, and they’re gonna, they’re gonna work their tails off for you. And so I appreciate them. Any type of business stuff, I mean, so we’re talking, we’re talking, you just got some type of notice, or you’re dealing with some type of issue with another business, or you’re trying to get your business started, I would I would really highly encourage you give them a call solid, solid people. And I’m incredibly credibly grateful for their for their sponsorship. So. But Justin, so we were You were talking just just a moment ago about Yeah, some of the things that you’ve learned in sales. And so like, if there’s one thing that you’d want to share with either people that are maybe wanting to pursue a career in sales, or or other people in sales right now, like what’s been what’s been one of the things that you’ve learned that you just feel like, makes a huge difference, or like that’s been so impactful to you, for the rest of your career.

Justin Berkenstock  27:10

So I would say that the the biggest lesson that I’ve learned personally was that you never, ever, ever give up too soon, on on a deal. That coupled with the fact that time kills all deals, I’ve seen it time and time again, where a young salesperson or more of a green individual that’s just coming in to the to the role will push push, push, push, push, and they’re not getting the responses they want. So they say, oh, this person isn’t interested when it was really just not the best time for them. They give up on it, and you end up seeing that person going to either a competitor or they make no decision. They just stick with what they’ve had. And then all it took was just a little bit of stick to itiveness. And that they or they haven’t followed up or been consistent enough with their communication. So the person down the street, you know, that’s what they’re doing. The person that is successful is following up regularly. They’re not being pushy, but they’re just staying in front of that individual. I think those kind of two factors. All lead back to the same point of most salespeople that I see struggle are really in a position where I don’t know, maybe it’s an internal thing for them, that they just kind of give up on the deal, or they give up on the customer. And I think that I’ve learned a lot about a little bit of persistence, politely, just goes a huge, huge distance with people that they realize it and being passionate about what you’re doing. I unfortunately, can’t name the client. But there was a quite large company that does a lot of innovation and design work, that it’s based out of the UK that I was able to sign at one point. And the person that ended up buying from me, said, your passion and the way you stuck with this through our ups and downs of how we felt about it is the one thing that solidified the relationship and we knew you were going to be able to support us. We knew your company was a great fit because of the way that you talked about him the light that you cast him in and how excited you were to be there. So that all came with just kind of sticking with it. And I was it was a short sales cycle thing, thank God. But you know, the thing that really stuck to me is that if I had not been on it, it would have gone away had I given up when I thought that they weren’t that interested it would have gone away. So that’s the biggest lesson that I’ve learned that I think people could really take with them is don’t give up too soon.

Aaron Spatz  30:00

Yeah, it’s solid, it’s solid, because you don’t know if you may not be aware of any other factors that’s going on, you know, above them or, or in another department, it’s just just a matter of timing or it’s a matter of you just just reengaging because they’ve got 1000 Other things that they’re that they’re dealing with, they’re going through. And so that’s, that’s, that’s phenomenal. And so, with with your sales journey, then you know that you mentioned that a couple times. So I’m really curious what your insight is here. So it talked to the salespeople that are in a slump right now talk to the salespeople that like man, Justin, I’ve been there, I’ve been swinging the bat, I’ve been striking out left and freaking right man, like I can, nothing seems, seems to be connecting right now. And like, how do how do people bounce back from that? How do they regain confidence once they’ve been thrown off the horse?

Justin Berkenstock  30:49

Well, I mean, you know, it happened to me earlier this year, or the pandemic is in full effect, and business turns down. So you know, it’s one of those things where you just gotta sit back and get some clarity, really, you’ve got to take a different approach to what you’re doing. What I’ve seen lately, and a lot of people that are slumping, they’re doing activity, versus making progress. So one of the things that I try to refocus on if I ever feel like I’m getting into a down cycle is okay, what have I done in the past that works? Does it still work today? Is it relevant, and take an honest approach to it, one of the things I like to do is I actually will reach out to my greater network. And I simply ask the question, I think sometimes people are afraid that they’re gonna look stupid, they’re gonna have other people judge them based off of what they’re asking, or the thing that they’re posing to the greater world. So I’ve a lot of times gone to my resources or my network and said, Hey, are you seeing this still work for you? And then I realize I like to reinvent myself, I’d reinvent my approach. You know, whether it be okay, more now, because people aren’t getting in front of other people. And maybe what works for you was that physical interaction where you’re sitting in front of somebody, why did you do that today, reinvent the way you do it, you know, get a little creative, go see what other people are doing, go listen to some podcasts, or something about where people are having success. And, you know, at the end of the day, really the big thing for me, whenever I’m slumping is take a little bit of time for yourself. Because often, I figured out that I’m pushing so hard. Or I’m going down this road, that if I just take a little bit of time, and I reassess what’s going on, I can find errors in my way. And you correct those, you go a different direction. Now, with the current situation, the biggest thing that I would say it it’s not the business is down everywhere. It’s go do the research and the hard work that I think a lot of people don’t like to do. So they just say, Well, I’m just slumping, it’ll come back when it comes back. Go do the hard work to find where that business is. It’s still there. Yeah, it’s just a different form.

Aaron Spatz  33:24

Yeah, wow. In into your point, it may take a little bit of creativity and changing things up a little bit adapting your approach. So speaking of adapting your approach, right, so like, how, how has COVID impacted you personally? Like what’s, what has that journey been like for you professionally?

Justin Berkenstock  33:40

Professionally, so is the company that, you know, I love so much, I got an offer to step away from at the end of 2019 in December, and I went to a company out in Carroll that was doing uninterruptible power supply servicing, okay. So they’re like the third largest third party provider of that type of service in the country. And, man, we took a hit business was down, everybody shut down. We couldn’t get texts on site, because they said, you know, the sites were saying, we’re not going to have anybody and unfortunately, there was COVID buy off. And, you know, I, I was part of that my team. We took a hit. And it was unfortunate. It allowed me some time to do exactly what I’m talking about. I sat back and I said, Okay, how can I reinvent myself? I took the time to go out and say, Is this something I want to continue with being in a sales leadership role? Is that something that really speaks to me still, what have been the errors in my ways? As far as what I’ve done? What could I have been better at? I did some self reflection. That took some time to talk to other companies that were local to Metroplex that maybe just needed some help. So I threw my resume out there, I did what everybody did, I went bananas, and I said, you know, shotgun approach. And then I’ll get really specific with the ones I want to target. And I had a good approach to getting another job. But while I had that time off, I went to other organizations, I did some consulting work for some smaller companies that really couldn’t afford a sales manager that maybe posted a job. And it was completely misaligned, based on where they’re at as a business where it’s like, look, you know, you’re, you’re it, you’re the owner of the business, you don’t have a big team, you bring on a sales manager that’s got high comp, and all these other things that you’re going to throw at it, you need to realize some things about that. They’re gonna be a sales leader, you might be better serve just high entering an individual contributor, and I started looking at myself going, maybe do I want to go back to that? Do I want to go back to actively engaging with customers every day and just being in the weeds with it, and came to some self realization points that, you know, that probably wasn’t what would best serve my next organization? What would best serve them is to do what I’ve had my more recent success doing, because that’s what I’m more passionate about. And my current, the current owner of my company, reached out to me via LinkedIn, I had the I’m open to work tag on there, and I got to see found me while he was searching for a new sales manager, just one day, send me a message said, Hey, I’ve got this opportunity for a leadership position on the executive team at my company. I’d love for you to come down and talk to me about it. What are you doing next week? And I was like, Well, I’m already committed to another company next week. He said, Okay, can you come in tomorrow? I said, Yeah, let’s talk about it. We worked on a deal over the weekend. And, you know, here I am. So I really took some time in my journey. After having been laid off to say, you know, what’s important in life? What’s the most important thing to me? And what can I be passionate about every day, that’s going to not only bring me success, but bring those around me success, because ultimately, if you’re not adding that value to the organization, it’s probably going to be a short trip. So I really took a lot of time to think about what is going to align with me, and where can I make a big impact? And for me, that was finding an organization where there was a tremendous amount of opportunity, which is a trunk group, the company I’m at now. Nice.

Aaron Spatz  37:47

Wow. Well, I you know, again, there’s a lot of people here in DFW metroplex, that can relate to elements of your journey. So, you know, again, I like, I like to throw the question back out there to you, because I think, again, it could be an encouragement to people that they’re either going through it or they just gone through it, like, man, okay, I’m not, I’m not the only one here dealing with this. But, you know, like, what was the what was that journey like for you like being from being laid off, and then doing your self reflection or saying what you need to understand, man, I got some really real tangible needs, I gotta address with my own personal stuff right now. And then having the persistence and the confidence to, to continue to go. So like, what do you what do you feel like made the difference for you? In in that interim period of when you’re seeking a job, like, what what do you feel like really helped bring it all together for you?

Justin Berkenstock  38:39

Oh, man, well, you know, for me, probably the biggest thing was leaning on the people that I had around me for support, there’s, I cannot say enough how important it is, whenever you’re at an organization or whenever you’re out in the community to not burn bridges. So it was scary. I mean, to be honest, I’m sitting here going, Okay, I just moved to the state. I don’t have my network around me, right. Most of my networks back in Northern California, and, you know, they’re completely locked down. And I’m certainly not moving back there. You know, so, I took some time. In self reflection, I talked with my wife, I talked with my my mentor, who is amazing. And, and I reached out to some other folks that I had worked with some people that I just kind of sat back and said, Who along my professional journey has made comments about how much they recognize me as a professional in what I do and how much benefit I bring to the businesses that I’ve been at. So I started reaching out to folks that had said positive things about me and my career, and that I’ve built those relationships with some of them were, you know, partners at organizations that I’ve worked with or that have helped. You know, for example, there’s one out of Fort Worth, called the STARR conspiracy, that I called Steve Smith, he at one point said, Hey, you’re one of the best sales guys I’ve ever met. So I called him up and said, Hey, dude, I just got laid off. I’m super scared. I don’t know what to do. I went through this before when I was in law enforcement. And it took me a long time to recover, because I made a career change. And I’m kind of thinking about doing it again. So what are your thoughts? You know, maybe I get out of the sales role, and I go do something completely different, where maybe there’s a little bit less pressure, and I refocus my energy in life. And he said, but yeah, you’re good at that. So why would you go away from it? You know, it’s just about finding the right fit. You recommended to me, then, you know, network, I’ll introduce you to three people, he so I went through this before, I’ll introduce you to three people I know. You ask them to introduce each one of each one of you. Each one of those people, I’m sorry. Ask them to introduce you to three people they know. You’re not having a conversation about getting a job, you’re just having conversations with people getting to know them, getting to know what’s out there. And you know, one of those people will hit, someone will say, you know, what, do you want to come work for me? So I went down that road, I talked to tons of people, I got introduced all over the place. And it was very beneficial, because I started picking their brain started saying, what’s going on right now, that could benefit me? How do I want to change my career? And how do I want to move forward from this? And then, you know, lo and behold, the right opportunity came along for me. So I stayed focused on trying to be positive, it was incredibly difficult. You could ask my wife, there were days when I got out of bed and said, I can’t do this. I simply cannot do this anymore said, Well, you’ve been through way more than this. You can?

Aaron Spatz  42:16

Yeah. Well, you know, you’re, you’re human. And, and so one, I just was like, Thank you for sharing that. Like, I just appreciate you being so open and, and honest about your journey. Because man, it it’s, it speaks to me, it speaks to a lot of other people out there. So like, I just, I just wanna thank you for sharing that. But like, and, and I’m gonna brag on you for a second because I think there’s a lot of, there’s a few things that I’ve that I’ve just kind of detected over the last 4045 minutes of us talking is, there’s an element of humility about you that I think have served you very well. And that you recognize that you don’t have it all figured out, you don’t have all the answers. And so you have been wise enough to surround yourself with mentors. And so I think I think that’s a huge, huge, huge takeaway for people. And it’s something that I feel like once people get their get their arms around mentorship, and finding people that that are down the road ahead of you, right, like, like, let’s, let’s target some people that have been down this trail before. And people that can really help offer some encouragement, some guidance, you know, some some little bit of direction, it could be just a little fragment of a sentence that helps push you into the right direction. But then you have the humility to like, reach out to people and to be aware, have enough self awareness of yourself to know like, Okay, this is this is what I like doing is what I don’t like doing. Where do I go? What do I do? And so, just kind of processing that. I think that I think that’s probably been one of your when your biggest drinks during this during this whole journey. And so I and I can kind of even see that now, just in the way that you talk. So just just a simple observation, man. That’s just something I picked up watch. Yeah, for sure. So like, so now you’re at h Ron. And so tell me a little bit about that, like, What do you enjoy most about, about doing that?

Justin Berkenstock  44:07

Man, so this company is really interesting, we have so many different things that we can do. It’s almost limitless and the markets we can go into or the areas we can go into. So at the core, we’re a contract manufacturing firm. So you know, we fulfill essentially production capacity for organizations, whether it’s our, their intellectual property, where they design something. So we focus highly in cable assembly wire harness, we do sheet metal fabrication. And we also are a packager of industrial gas compression systems. So you’ve got wildly different things where you’ve, you know, one day you’re looking out on the floor and you’re looking at a bunch of switch gear. You know, it’s your giant structure. and handling a ton of electricity. And then you look to the other corner, and you’ve got a bunch of people that are building wire harnesses and cable assemblies. And then you go to the back, and we’ve got, you know, 150 horsepower compressor that’s putting out 3500, psi and helium, and the back end for a customer. And I think the thing that’s most exciting for me is that, you know, through all this, and I talked a little bit before about how it’s realizing that while certain things may be down, there are other things that are still ramping up and they’re growing. Their errors are areas where you can make a huge impact. So the thing that’s exciting for me at Atrani, is that because of our very diverse portfolio, it’s a, you know, we have big business capabilities with a small company feel, you know, we’re sole proprietorship it’s not like we’re, you know, God, we don’t have a board of directors that’s coming down every quarter and hammerin executive team. Thankfully, ours is one person, and we can take our lumps, but you know that it’s exciting for me to be able to be in an organization that can pivot so quickly, we can be so agile to the needs of the community. We’ve had some very exciting projects recently, we were a licensee, we are a licensee for the NASA JPL vital ventilator? Well, we were working through that we had a partner in the medical world that was specifically geared up to sell, you know, so we kept pushing that forward, pushing that forward, till the point where, you know, a lot of those orders got cancelled, but it was a thing that would impact the community, we still have it, we could, if if needed, we can bring that thing out at any time. So you know, there’s a lot of different things that we can do. And the exciting thing for me today is that a Tron group as a whole can serve as such a wide array of customers, you know, we have our focus, obviously, that one of the asks for me every year is any sales leader is what’s your target going to be where you’re going? Where are you hunting? What are we going after? What’s the direction? Where are you taking the company? So we’ve had to adjust that based on the current state of affairs. Now, there are some industries that are just not, they’re not firing on all cylinders. Yeah. So we move and we shift, and, you know, we can do defense and aerospace work. Those industries have their ups and downs as well. But they’re strong. You know, the other industries that we’ve seen, recede a little bit, obviously, are likely to change over the next four to six months with an incoming administration. So compressed natural gas, you know, that gas and oil been hit hard lately. So those customers, you know, we’re still there for him will will service any of their needs. But those people we’ve got to keep in front of, and let them know that we’re still there. And as they ramp up, and they come back, and they come back strong, we’ll see the benefit from doing that. It’s exciting to keep that going. But it’s also exciting to explore new things. So what could likely be coming around the corner? Is it going to be renewables? Is it gonna be you know, who knows, down here? What’s robotics right now? You know, so, we’ve got so much we can offer as an organization. Really, our biggest thing that we like to say that we do is that a strong group, we take a lot of pride, and making the complex, simple. So somebody’s got this really complex build that they’re working on. Our specialty in what makes me happy when I can say to a customer is that we can take that very complex thing, and break it down to the simplest level, so that we can add value to you in the manufacturing of whatever that product is, we will find ways to make this more manufacturable we’ll find ways to pull out the cost drivers and and maybe even find ways that your design had some some issues with it that were unbeknownst to you at the time, but we found a way around it. And here’s here’s some help with that. So we can be consultative on the back end still. Yeah,

Aaron Spatz  49:35

no, that’s man, that’s, that’s terrific. That’s really, it’s really neat. Just the the breadth of different industries, different things that the company touches. That’s really I mean, that’s, that’s really cool. I want to squeeze one more question really quick. And then I know we gotta go. But the you mentioned goals, and I think this is another great, great, great question for set for other sales leaders out there or people inside an organization is like so how do you go about setting sales goals for your organization each year? Like what is? What does that process look like for you?

Justin Berkenstock  50:09

So a trunk group, we actually use the EOS model. So we have an annual planning, we just did it in December with our, with our team. And we sit down and we say, Okay, what’s going on? What do we think we can hit? What have we hit year over year? What is the owner want to hit? And where? Where can we make that revenue? One of the biggest things for me when I look at that is historically through the business, what have been the trend lines? And what do they look like? How does that line up with the current state of the market in those industries, because I think when you’re setting a goal, person pitfalls I’ve fallen into myself in the past, is setting a goal in a certain target area, where you’ve had success in the past, but it’s not current. So you you’ve okay, we’re going to hammer this thing. And we’re gonna keep going down that road, and you beat yourself up at the end of the day. So I like to look at it from if we’re going to set a target and say, to work with a round number. So your targets $20 million. Okay, well, what in your current product mix or your current service offering? Or whatever it is you have? Who are the customers in those areas that can actually get you there? No? And can you be successful with them, you may have to have a realignment of your goals. At that point, we take the approach of it’s not just about the total revenue dollars, because we would love to make more EBITDA or we are noi, at the end of the year. The revenue component of that isn’t always the end all be all, if you can make a higher EBITA with less revenue, obviously, you’re doing really well because you’re lean, you’re efficient, you’re firing on all cylinders. But how do you match those goals up? And I think the other thing is people set these goals very often. But they don’t back planet. So something that I use in my sales career that’s been highly successful for me is okay. It’s a thing that Rinker actually taught me, you know, here’s where I want to be. And where I know I need to get for the organization to be considered to be successful for the year, through all my research that I’ve done and preparing for those conversations is key because you got to know what you’re talking about. You can’t go in there blind and just think, well, we’re going to throw a dart at the wall and we’re going to stick but doing that work and saying okay, I know this is the goal and maybe a little lofty, but okay, what has to happen right before that for me to hit it and then what has to happen to get to that point and then back plan and all the way to today? And what do I have to do right now and then focus on the past and and attack it? So I think that most people when they fail in planning is they fail how to see the execution you have to execute

Aaron Spatz  53:06

Yeah, taking some just pie in the sky number and then just getting mad that they didn’t get there rather than taking it and just walking into it backwards into like, Okay, this is what it’s going to look like, week over week, month over month so no, that’s yeah, that’s that’s terrific. Generally curious cuz I mean this is this has been has been your life man has been your life for for a little while now. So love to understand as a sales leader how that how that kind of fires off in your in your brain. I think that’s super encouraging. But I you know, we’re really we’re really at the end of our time, but man I have I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this. I just want to thank you for being here. But like, how can how can people get in touch with you like what’s what’s the best way to connect with you?

Justin Berkenstock  53:47

So obviously, I’m in my position I use LinkedIn a lot. It’s it’s the new medium that everybody goes to So Justin Birkenstock you’ll find me at a Tron group. So it’s a TR O N group. If you want to reach out via email, or anybody wants to get a hold of me directly, J Birkenstock B E R k e n s t o CK at patreon group.com. Is my email address. Happy to connect with anybody it’s actually a lot easier for me to connect via email most of the time than the phone. Because my phone tends to blow up on a regular basis. But yeah, especially with people trying to sell to me and I’m, I give them advice too, by the way, so if people are trying to sell to me and you’re taking an approach that may not be great, I’ll certainly offer some advice. That’s awesome. But, you know, those are the best ways to get a hold of me and, you know, realizing that the journey is never a straight line. It’s always it’s always a jagged curve.

Aaron Spatz  54:51

Ain’t that the truth, man? Well, no, I again, thank you so much for being here. This has been this has been an absolute blast. Thanks, Justin. Thank you.

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