Who decides whether you’re successful or not? You or the people along your journey? In this inaugural episode, Rob Cornilles explains why he is launching Game Face Execs, a podcast for and with sales game changers. He discusses the qualities that people who wear their game face in everything they do possess and pays tribute to the individuals that helped him launch – and shape – his career as a sales coach to tens of thousands. Rob Cornilles, a business consultant, executive coach, skills trainer, author, and educator. He is the founder and CEO of Game Face, Inc. and the bestselling author of The Sales Game Changer.
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Rob Cornilles | The Sales Game Changer
Welcome to episode one of this show. I have jumped off buildings twice. It all began when I jumped out of airplanes. Several years ago, I had this desire to jump out of an airplane. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that feeling yourself. If you’ve ever flown commercial, you probably have. In my case, I wanted to have this sense of floating in the air. I went and took a skydiving class. I jumped out of an airplane and I’ve done it a couple of times. I then wanted to graduate to jumping off a building, but not the way you might imagine. I decided that I would rappel down the side of a 42-storey skyscraper.
I did it for charity. It was for a good cause to raise some money, but I’ll never forget that experience of walking to the edge on the roof, looking over at the concrete below and seeing these little specks we call people. I’m thinking, “Am I crazy to do this?” I was all roped in and they turned me around so I couldn’t see. They said, “Rob, put your feet up on the ledge and lean back.” “Are you serious, just lean back?” That’s what I did. I leaned back and I began to descend. It was a great experience. I had a lot of fun. That was a little fearful at times but rewarding. That’s what I’m doing here now.
I’ve decided to start this show. I’m just going to lean back and see what happens. I don’t think I’m going to put you in danger. We’re going to have a lot of fun. We’re going to learn a lot together through this show. We’re going to talk about ways that we can all become even more successful in whatever role that we may play. Do you remember years ago when we used to carry these VIP cards in our wallets? I say years ago because I don’t do it anymore because everything seems to be electronic. These are those VIP cards that we’d get from hotels, rental car companies or airlines where we’d frequently fly.
When we got these, we knew we had arrived. This is their way of saying thank you. This took a lot of work. It took a lot of sacrifices and a lot of time but eventually, we earned these privileges. You’ll notice that these companies were the ones that decided when we qualified. It wasn’t something we could determine on our own. I feel the same way about a show. There are a lot of people out there who feel, “I’ve got an idea. I’ve got a microphone. I want to say some things.” In my opinion, a good podcast is one where the viewer or the listener says, “You’re qualified to take my time.” I value your time seriously.
Credit Where It’s Due
I never want to waste it. I’m going to make sure that we have conversations, topics, guests that will be meaningful and have an impact on you that will bring even greater results to your life. How are we going to do this? Let’s start and talk about people because my business has been in business for many years. We help individuals create even more significance in their careers. When I started my business, it was because of people that had brought me that far. I’ve never had that opportunity publicly to acknowledge and thank certain individuals that helped me get there.
I want to do that now on this launch episode of the show. By that, I want to thank four particular individuals. These people are ones that I don’t see regularly and I don’t necessarily communicate with them often, but they always will have a special place in my heart. These four people began in 1991. In 1991, I was working in Hollywood, California at Universal Studios. What was I doing there? I used to speak fluent Japanese. I was hired to be a tour operator for the Japanese tourists. At the time, Universal was owned by Matsushita, which is a Japanese conglomerate then.
We got a lot of Japanese tourists and Japanese executives from Matsushita. My job was to go and interpret for them and show them around the backlot and introduce them to the stars. It was quite an eventful and fun job. I also saw it as a bit of a dead-end because it wasn’t what I wanted professionally. I had this itch that I couldn’t scratch and I didn’t know what it was. I got a pager from the first of the four individuals I want to talk to you about. His name was Charles. By the way, if you don’t know what a pager was, it’s those things we used to carry on our belt. It would buzz and it tells us to call the individual. That’s what I did.
I called Charles. I didn’t know who it was. “Charles,” he says as he answers the phone, “How can I help you?” I said, “Charles, my name is Rob Cornilles. You paged me.” “Yes, Rob. It’s good to hear from you. Do you remember we met several months ago at a party?” I vaguely remembered and he said, “Rob, the reason why I wanted to talk to you is because I’d like you to apply for a sales job for a company where I work.” I thought, “Sales job? I want nothing to do with sales.” He said, “Rob, as I recall our conversations at that gathering, you might have some qualities that would land themselves well to a sales career.”
After some cajoling, I decided, “I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ll go interview for this position,” and I did. After that first interview with Charles, I was intrigued. He then introduced me to the second person, Carl Lahr. He interviewed me in my second interview. After that one, I was interested. After the third interview with Charles and Carl, I wanted that job. Thankfully, both Carl and Charles saw something in me and they hired me. Where was that company? It’s the LA Clippers basketball team of the National Basketball Association. This is 1991.
For those of you who don’t follow sports, the ’91 version of the Clippers was not positive. Sports Illustrated called them the worst franchise in the history of sports. My job was to go in and sell tickets, just smile and dial. I didn’t know any better. Though I didn’t ever want to be a salesperson, I figured, “What the heck? This will be fun. I’ll see some free games. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to Universal.” As it turns out, the first several weeks were difficult. I struggled mightily and I couldn’t figure out how to be successful. Meanwhile, my wife, Allison and I are living in an apartment off Melrose Avenue. It was a complex of 32 apartment units, 31 of which were vacant when we lived there because the building had been condemned by the city. They were about to tear it down and build a new high rise in its place.
The landlord felt sorry for me and Allison because she was eight months pregnant and I was a commission-only salesperson for the LA Clippers basketball team. We stayed until we could finally move out because I was able to learn how to sell. When I say that, it wasn’t because I came across some ploy to trick people or to deceive them into buying a product they didn’t want. Rather I was able to learn a way to get people the results they desire through my product. All of that story is told in the book, The Sales Game Changer.
After having some success with the Clippers, they promoted me. I was enjoying my job. I was making better money than I ever had and enjoying a position of responsibility. I started to get an itch of wanting to get more because my wife and I were looking to grow our family. We wanted to move into a house, but to do so would only extend my commute further in order to find a home that we could afford. It was already an hour-long commute. I was struggling to decide what to do next. I didn’t want to leave the Clippers. I figured if I put my head down and work as hard as I can, something will come up and it did. It was a phone call by individual number three.
His name is Doug Piper. He worked along with a gentleman by the name of individual number four, Jon Spoelstra. They were business partners in a firm that they call the SRO Partners. This was a prominent firm in the sports industry at that time. Jon Spoelstra happened to be and still is a guru in sports marketing. He wrote the book on how to fill up a building. For Jon and Doug to call me was almost like a surrealistic experience. What happened was they had heard about my work at the Clippers, and they asked me if I would be interested in interviewing for a position with their young firm and I would be the third member of the firm.
I was excited at the proposition. I was shaking when they were talking to me on the phone. They flew me up to Portland, Oregon, where they were located. After half a day with them, I was offered the position. It didn’t take long for me and Allison to decide that this is what we wanted to do. For two years, we worked with Jon and Doug and had a wonderful experience. I learned so much more about the industry of sports, and the craft of selling and marketing teams. I then decided it was time for me to start Game Face because I wanted to produce a different service to the industry that was non-existent at the time.
On good terms, I said goodbye to Jon and Doug and began Game Face in 1995. Here’s the point, I could not have made that career move, and Game Face could not be what it has become, hopefully, a great contributor to people’s careers and livelihoods, if I had not won the trust of Charles, Carl, Doug and Jon, and if they had not seen something in me. They gave them a sense of hope and optimism that this guy can do something to contribute to our company. I didn’t see it but they did. I’m forever grateful for them for trusting me and for giving me that shot.
3 Game Changer Attributes
Tim McGraw says in his famous song, “We should all be humble and kind,” and that’s what I found from Charles, Carl, Doug and Jon. I hope to pass that on and I hope all of us will. There were three other characteristics that I have found to be universal about those people who wear their game face in whatever they do. I’d like to share with you three stories that personify these characteristics. The first characteristic is that of humility. I experienced this. I observed it in an individual who I never expected would possess it. In 2008, while living in Portland, Oregon, I got a phone call from an individual who was related to a political campaign.Treat everybody as though they're the most important person of your day. Click To Tweet
He was working for a gentleman who was running for president of the United States. He called me and said, “Rob, are you free tomorrow and the next day?” I’m running my company and I’m not free, but I was intrigued. I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Our candidate is coming into Portland. He’s going to be spending about 24 hours there. I was wondering, would you be interested and willing in driving him around Portland to his various events and meetings?” I thought this would be intriguing. This would be interesting. I said, “Sure, I’d be happy to,” and so I did. They picked me because I had a suburban. It was a black suburban at that.
At the appointed time, I was able to drive my suburban out on the tarmac of the Portland International Airport. I picked up the candidate who had arrived in his private jet with his entourage. The candidate was Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney was running for president in 2008 and later in 2012. He had completed his term as the governor of Massachusetts. Previous to all of that, he was also the Chairman of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee. He essentially saved the Salt Lake Winter Olympics because of his leadership. It was a real privilege for me to be able to pick him up and drive him around in my car.
As I opened the door to my suburban, I noticed that there was a lot of luggage on the tarmac being emptied out of the airplane. I ran over to grab the luggage and put it in the back of my car. I happened to grab Mitt’s suitcase and his suit back. He put his hand on mine and said, “You don’t need to do that. I’ll take care of my own luggage.” I said, “I insist, sir.” He goes, “No, please. I just appreciate you being here and taking care of us.” We got in the car and we began driving into Downtown Portland. All through that drive, Mitt was talking to me rather than talking to all of his aides who were in the car with us on their phones and talking among themselves.
He was asking questions about me and showing interest in me. He asked me about my family, my car, my business and what we do. I felt that I had picked up a friend at the airport. This continued throughout the day and into that night when I drove them to their hotel. I picked them up the next morning and he continued to show interest in me asking me again about my family, my employees and my work, talking about other topics that were of interest to both of us. Finally, after 24 hours, I returned them to the airport. I was amazed at the humility of this man who was running for the most prominent, most influential position in the entire world.
Juxtapose that to what happened next. I immediately went from the airport to the office of a prominent Portland area business to meet with their middle management about a possible relationship with our company, Game Face. As I arrived, they escorted me to the conference room. I noticed, according to my watch, that the people that I was to meet with were late by about 5, 10 minutes. Fifteen minutes passed and still, no one has entered the room. Thirty minutes after our appointed time, they finally arrived, at least 2 of the 3 of them. They mildly apologized to me for being late.
They tell me how busy they are and how important their job is. They essentially said, “What do you got?” I felt as though I was an imposition and I wasn’t good enough to be in their presence. Eventually, the third person entered the room and within ten minutes, they had to excuse themselves because they “had to get to a dental appointment.” This was such a strange and disappointing experience. Compare it to what I had just gone through with a candidate for president of the United States, put aside his politics and policy, that’s not material right now. It’s the personality of the individual. That characteristic of humility. He made me feel welcome. He made me feel that I mattered.
Whereas these lower-level people, they acted as though I was fortunate to be in their presence. By the way of those three individuals, I have no idea where they are now and what they’re doing. I’ve never heard of them since. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney eventually got the nomination to his party to run for president. Now, he’s a US Senator. It’s an interesting example, something we can all learn. It doesn’t matter your status, your position and your background. It doesn’t matter your experience or income. Treat everybody as though they’re the most important person of your day.
The second example, the quality is gratitude. Speaking of politics, some of you may know that I too dipped my toe into politics. A few years later, I ran for US Congress. When you run for Congress, you gain a lot of friends. You meet a lot of wonderful people, volunteers, contributors, and people who want to educate you on the issues. One of those people was someone I never thought I would meet, but it turned out to be a great blessing to my life. The name of the person is Phil Knight. You probably recognize that name. He’s the cofounder and emeritus chairman of Nike. We had met and talked about the issues that were important to him, his family, his business, our community, our country, and he decided to support me and endorse me.
He turned out to be my largest contributor, not just financially, but he was also a contributor of good advice. Eventually, I lost that race. I felt a sense of responsibility that I needed to return to Phil and everyone else who had put forth a lot of time, effort and money on my behalf to thank them and also to hold myself accountable and report to them on the work that I thought we had done. Anything that we had done wrong, where we had miss-steps, and also where we had made progress in our campaign on important issues.
I paid the visit to Phil’s office and as his wonderful assistant escorted me into his office. I expected maybe a quick handshake and a pat on the back and get out of my office. Instead, I got a response and a reception I’ll never forget. Phil walked around from his desk and instead of extending his hand to me as I anticipated, he put his hands together and he bowed. It was a sign of gratitude and appreciation. I failed in my attempt, but he appreciated the attempt nevertheless. It was his way of saying, “Rob, job well done.” Granted I’ve made mistakes and some things you wish you could do over again. Phil had the presence, the experience and the wisdom to recognize someone’s best effort.
That sense of gratitude from someone who is at the pinnacle of his career, the pinnacle of the industry, where my career was born, he was voted the most influential person in sports that year. For him to make that gesture to me was humbling. It was also a great lesson for me to learn that I should always show gratitude to everyone for their best effort. The third characteristic I like to share with you is one of service. We often talk about servant leadership. In our show, we’re also going to spend time talking about servant selling. The particular example that I like to share with you is of a person whose name you’ve never heard of before most likely.
Let me tell you what happened. Several years ago, my young family at the time I have three sons, we had a pet. His name was Brooks. We loved our Dalmatian Brooks and we cherished him, as you can imagine a family of three young boys would. On one particular year on Easter Sunday, I had to fly from our home in Portland, Oregon across the country, across the pond to London, England to visit our office that we had there. I was going to be gone for almost two weeks. I left that night. After arriving in London, I remember calling my wife, Allison, to see how things were since I had departed. She reported some sad news. She said, “Rob, not long after you left for the airport on Sunday night, we got a knock on the door. It was a policeman informing us that Brooks had been hit.”
My three sons who were in their pajamas overheard this conversation and you can imagine how devastated they were. I asked Allison, “What did you do? How did you handle it?” She said, “The policeman gave me a few options of what to do at that moment. I didn’t like any of the options and I didn’t want to leave the house, nor did I want to take our sons to where Brooks was. I thought of one and only one alternative and that is I called Dee Christiansen.” Dee was our next-door neighbor. Dee was an older man, but still working. He had his own construction business.
As the story goes, I returned home from England several days later, and Dee came and knocked on our door. It’s the first time I had seen him since the incident. I wanted to thank him. He said, “Rob, do you mind if I speak to your boys?” I said, “Please.” We all gathered together and he sat them on the couch and he said, “Boys, I want you to know what happened several days ago. When your mom called me and told me about Brooks, I went and retrieved him from the street. I put him in the back of my pickup. The next morning after covering them up through the night, I had to drive from the Portland area over Mount Hood on my way to Central Oregon. As I was at the summit of Mount Hood, I decided that I would stop, pull off the side of a little dirt road where few people would ever find me. I decided to dig a grave for Brooks and I buried him there. I said a prayer. I want you to know this, boys, because now every time you look up at Mount Hood, you remember your pet Brooks.”
Dee was a servant. He was a man who did things above and beyond what anyone would ever expect. He didn’t look for recognition or reward. He simply wanted to serve other people. He is an honorable man and someone that we miss greatly since his passing a few years ago. When I think about these three characteristics of humility, gratitude and service, these are the characteristics I want to bring to light in the show. These are the kinds of guests I’m going to invite. Those who have demonstrated this, not only in my observation of them but throughout their career. People that I can learn from and people that you will learn from as well. I mentioned that several years ago in over two different occasions in my life, I have resided in Japan. I love that country. One particular apartment I’ll remember was steps away from a Shinto Shrine. At the entrance of that shrine, there was a plaque. It read, “Let only the eager, thoughtful and reverent enter here.” That’s the theme for this show.
Here’s what I mean. I’m only going to invite the eager to be my guest. When I say eager, I mean people who demonstrate ambition and aspiration, but not at the expense of other people. I will invite thoughtful people, leaders and influencers, people who are thought leaders in all kinds of industry, business, sports, entertainment, academia, etc. I will also be inviting and asking people who have a sense of reverence to join us. When I say reverence, I don’t mean spirituality in this case because you should know that the same word for reverend in Japanese is also the word for respect. These are people who respect others, their position, their industry, their competition, their craft and the stewardship that they carry to it.
My background is in sales, they also respect sales the way it should be done. I’d like to share with you something that an author wrote. His name is Terrance Olson. He said, “Respect is an expression of our sense of universal brotherhood or sisterhood, a testimony of our membership in the human family.” In times like this, when we need to feel more a sense of family, togetherness and unity, you’re going to find messages on the show that will bring us together. We’ll find common ground. We’ll find areas where we all aspire to become and in positions that we all want to emulate, and the people that are universal role models. I thank you for joining me on this launch episode.
We’re going to have some fantastic guests and I’m pleased to announce that our first guest appearing in episode two is Stephen M. R. Covey. He is a world-renowned lecturer and best-selling author of The Speed of Trust. Stephen is going to share with all of us insights on how trust in business, in your personal life and your social life changes everything. It’s a fantastic discussion. You’re going to gain great wisdom and knowledge from a man who’s traveled the world to talk about the importance of trust, how we can build it, how we can lose it, and the impact it can have for us as individuals, as companies and organizations. Thanks again for joining me on this initial episode. Please tell your friends, invite others to join us. We’re going to have a lot of fun. We’re also going to learn a lot and grow together. I’ll see you in the next episode. Thanks