Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sandy Cerami, Founder of Sandy Cerami & Associates, located in Wyckoff, NJ, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We teach people and businesses how to leverage authenticity, personal/professional development, and a collaborative strategy to establish stronger branding in the marketplace, solve problems with clients, and drive explosive sales performance in their career or their business. Our clients range from individual Selling Professionals to businesses with between $1MM and $70B+. Our 7PILLARS Strategy is designed to focus on what is important to prospects and clients so that their needs and opportunities are the primary focus of attention. We are the antithesis of the guy/gal screaming into a camera that you need to be more like him/her to "close" more sales. We prefer to accentuate the lifetime value of starting and nurturing genuine relationships with clients for sustainable success. Our core philosophy has a wildly effective impact on the macro and micro levels as it relates to increasing sales and profitability, in my experience.
Tell us about yourself
In 2008, during the height of the world's economic meltdown, I was a franchised Pontiac-GMC-Isuzu Automobile Dealer in Paramus, NJ. My wife and I had purchased the business from my father after my grandfather's passing. His disastrously outdated estate plan set off a series of legal battles, and after 21 months of tortuous negotiation and heavy borrowing, we emerged. Unfortunately, timing is everything, and if not for bad timing, I would have none at all!
The year prior to the GM bankruptcy and the global economic malaise was more than we could imagine as I watched 2 of my 3 franchises disappear in a puff of smoke. I woke up in May of 2009 broke, broken, and looking for a professional path. I had $11 in my pocket, spare change for tolls in the cupholder of my 66K mile car, and the foreclosure papers next to me on the passenger seat. It was a difficult period for me and my wife, Mary. It was Mary who motivated and inspired me to stop self-pity and loathing and to "figure it out." She said 4 words that changed it all for me, "I believe in you." That was the message I needed to hear because I had been subjecting myself to a lot of negative self-talk. The six-inch space between your ears is either a fertile field to plant great ideas or a minefield of doubt and despair. It was at that moment that I sat down and decided that it was an opportunity to make a difference for not only me but so many other people displaced by the economy, so I set out to teach people what I learned to do best... Business Development.
I set out to teach people the skills they would need to connect with others and help them make the best decisions possible when they went through the purchasing process. Most people refer to that as selling; I call it Business and Relationship Development.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I am not sure about my "biggest" accomplishment to date, but I am truly humbled and proud of my ability to guide, support, and improve the businesses and people that I have the opportunity to work with in my career today. Each of these relationships represents incredible respect for each other and trust in the proprietary strategy and philosophy I teach today, THE 7PILLARS OF KILLER BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT. It focuses on relationships, not transactions, and doesn't require people to be someone else or perform as if they're acting their way through the process with a client. It focuses on them becoming their best authentic self and leveraging a genuine desire to serve other people in helping them make the very best purchase decision possible for them.
This has allowed me to create a very uncrowded lane in terms of growing my own business because so many people have grown exhausted by the traditional "sales trainer" screaming into a camera with some hardcore message that people will succeed if they just become more like them instead of the very best version of themselves. That is perhaps the "biggest" accomplishment...my ability to help other people see the very best path to becoming their best, most productive selves and helping them get there more quickly using a proven strategy that can be easily learned and employed because you never have to "fake it till you make it."
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of my biggest influences in life and business is the late Jim Rohn. Two very specific quotes drive my every action and guide me as an Entrepreneur..." Don't wish it was easier; wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems; wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenges; wish for more wisdom."
I have experienced this in life and in my journey in growing my business. The single most valuable asset for any of us as Business Owners/Entrepreneurs can also be the most dangerous liability...our own mindset. It drives every result we see in our business. For me, very often, the hardest thing is making hard choices and tough decisions. This one challenge has delivered some of the costliest and some of the most invaluable lessons for me in growing my business. Decisiveness is a superpower for anyone who leads or owns a business, regardless of the revenue size. An absence of decisiveness and the courage to make decisions, knowing mistakes are not only possible but inevitable over the long haul of building a business, can be destructive, even mortal.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
This is a great question, and I know there are not simply three answers, but here are my three...
Tip #1: There is no easy. Staples sells the "THAT WAS EASY" button, but it doesn't work. Know in advance that building a sustainable business is never easy but often worth the sacrifice and rewards along the way. Read "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill, and reread it!! Chapter 9 is entitled "Persistence," and it is my favorite.
Tip #2: Embrace personal accountability and find a balance between a daily sense of urgency and the patience of thousand-year thinking and planning. That does not mean 50/50... I am specifically referencing a fluid, intuitive and nuanced balance of a daily sense of urgency to master the mundane but powerful actions that, compounded over time, deliver real results. Allow the results you seek the time they need to catch up to the actions you've taken leading you to them.
Tip #3: Give yourself a break. I mean this in two distinct ways. First, understand that no one person has all of the answers when building and operating a business. Seek wise counsel, read, listen and digest books, audio programs, and video content from those who had gone before you and accomplished more than you because the insights and inspiration will drive and sustain you. Have the humility to enter spaces where you are not the smartest or most experienced in the room, and be willing to park your ego and learn.
The second break I refer to is time... Know when it is time to pause, recharge and plug something positive into our eyes, ears, and heart. That can be a vacation, a seminar or a workshop, or simply taking a walk to refresh yourself during a long or difficult day. This helps to avoid burnout and shields us from the perils of negative thoughts!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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