Seven and a half years ago, I packed up my bags and moved from Boston to New York City to join Next Caller with another early hire as the first two formal hires in the company. Looking back on who I was then and who I am now, I really knew nothing about nothing, but I had a strong work ethic and I was excited to bet on myself and take a big swing for the fences.
The journey was nothing short of spectacular. We faced every adversity and triumph you can possibly imagine. I was blessed with an opportunity to lead a team and to sell high-value enterprise contracts to the largest brands in the world. You might say it was trial by fire. I made a lot of mistakes. Fortunately, my successes outweighed my mistakes, so not only did I learn a lot, but we also had a happy ending to boot.
Deciding to leave Next Caller was perhaps the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. Everyone who knows me knows two things about me. First, I make sure that I am the hardest worker in the room, no matter who is in the room. My job was my life. When I bid farewell to my coworkers, I made a joke that I really did not have much of a life outside of Next Caller. Yes, it was hyperbolic, but not entirely so. My work drives almost everything that I do, and I find meaning in my work. I think I inherited this trait from my father, a well-renowned lawyer in Boston, who I always watched working growing up to support our family. And I also got this trait from my mother, who preached the value of hard work to me throughout my childhood, always praising me more so for my work ethic rather than the actual outcomes.
The second thing people know about me is that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I feel compelled to work harder when I am surrounded by people I truly admire and whom I want to see be successful. In a way, I just do not want to let them down. And at Next Caller, my co-workers were my best friends. Outside of work, the stuff I did with friends was often actually just with my co-workers. The daily banter back-and-forth about every such thing made each and every day very exciting. As a result, I put a lot of emotion behind everything that I did, for better and for worse.
So, you can gather by now that it would have to take something pretty compelling to get me to try out a new opportunity. To be sure, over the years, I was fortunate to be contacted by different companies from time to time – Cresta included – but my response was always the same: “I want to finish what I started at Next Caller and help get these guys to the finish line.”
Well, now that Next Caller has reached the finish line, the time came for me to do something I was very, very excited about, and that was to join the Cresta team as a Strategic Sales Director, leading their sales efforts in the northeast. There is a whole laundry list of reasons why I am excited about this opportunity, and I want to explain them here.
1. An opportunity to grow
Something that I found particularly impressive about Cresta is the pedigree of their sales team. Go ahead and look up the caliber of the individuals on a simple LinkedIn search if you so choose. This is a team of experienced A-players, with an experienced A-player for a sales leader. People who know me understand that I am as competitive as it gets and I wear a chip on my shoulder if I lose at anything. This means that I really thrive and do my best work in competitive environments. But I also view this as an opportunity to learn and get better. When you are the only person selling a product, you do not really have other people or mentors to bounce ideas off of. Cresta is going to challenge me. Even my selling philosophy that I wrote a whole book on will be challenged. You cannot grow and improve in your life if you are just comfortable and complacent all the time. This was a logical time to shake things up and to surround myself with a group of very established and accomplished sales professionals who will force me to get better.
2. Killer product I believe in, in a space I understand well.
When evaluating career options, I had choices both inside of and outside of contact centers. There were advantages and disadvantages to both, however, the advantages clearly outweighed the disadvantages. After spending nearly a decade in contact centers, I understand this industry very well and I know who is who at most of the companies I will be reaching out to. I have great relationships with many former clients and prospects who are excited to work with me wherever I go next. I loved working with these individuals and would love to be able to continue those relationships. This makes “starting over” a lot less daunting. If anything, I am just continuing my journey with something of a plot twist.
Additionally, I am a big believer in what Cresta is setting out to accomplish. The premise of my book was about how Artificial Intelligence has the capacity to replace human beings in many job functions and how this presented certain dangers to society – enough so that human beings needed to learn to embrace their authenticity. Well, Cresta actually uses AI to help human beings, not replace them, and it does so by presenting them with information that best allows customer service reps to authentically represent their brands. This aligns very well with my beliefs about authentic selling. Whenever I talk to call center leaders, they are always brainstorming ways to improve the customer and agent experience alike, as agent churn is an issue in almost every single contact center I have ever spoken with. Cresta bridges these gaps while being at the cutting edge of AI, which is quite simply the hottest topic on the agenda at any contact center tradeshow you go to these days.
3. Investors and Leadership That Do Not Fail
It is hard not to get excited about an opportunity when you find out that the company is backed by Andreesen-Horowitz and Greylock Partners – specifically Ben Horowitz and Saam Motamedi. Couple that with the Series B they just raised from Sequoia Capital and Carl Eschenbach, and you are in pretty good shape. When you have some of the biggest investors in Silicon Valley, it is a massive sign of validation – it means that very intelligent professionals see a massive opportunity for the company. It also speaks to the company being well-resourced. As a salesperson, you want to have the wind at your back – not meeting you head on. Cresta feels like a place where we will have the wind at our backs, and that excites me tremendously, because it feels like the ball is actually in our hands to succeed. You always want to have the ball in your hands if you believe in yourself.
Investors do not invest in great companies unless those companies have great leaders. I watched several interviews amongst the co-Founders, one of whom was involved in the creation of GoogleX, the other two of whom were Stanford PhD students for the aforementioned individual. Need I say more? I will – they were the two top students in their AI program. Consider me fortunate to be along for the ride with this team. My chip on my shoulder will be proving I belong on Day 1.
4. Upside & Equity
It would be a bold-faced lie if I sat here and pretended that I am not financially motivated. Anyone who has read my book understands that I am, indeed, financially-motivated, but for reasons you would probably not expect. And those reasons have a lot to do with financing a future screenwriting career and partaking in specific philanthropic efforts, but we can come back to that at another time.
When assessing my options, Cresta provided the biggest home-run potential – period. Based on when I am getting involved with the company and where I think the company could end up, it has the potential to be the largest financial windfall compared to everything else that I assessed – for everyone involved.
But what really excites me about that is being part of a team and building towards that future together. It really only is fun when you get to do it with other people that you really enjoy working with. And I already mentioned in my first point that I am pretty darn excited about the people. I don’t want to get a win with a lower-case w; I want a Win with a capital W. And I want to realize that Win with a great group of people. I think Cresta is going to give us all that opportunity.
5. I still get to be a Masshole
Let’s end this on a silly note. I am a northeast guy. I probably got that from my parents who engrained this “never stop” work ethic in me, but I am just hard-wired that way. A company that wants me to tackle the northeast is a company that knows what is in my DNA. As exciting as it might be to move to the sunny weather of Los Angeles someday for that potential screenwriting career, I’m not sure how much I’d have in common philosophically with the people who live there. I need to be amongst my people. While I still hope to make my annual pilgrimage to Call Center Week in Las Vegas, I am excited about the ability to stay close to home most of the time and to patrol a region where I feel more in sync with the people.
To everyone I know who has reached out to me about this to wish me congratulations and well-wishes, thank you. To all my former colleagues at Next Caller, thank you. To all my former clients and prospects, thank you, and you will still be hearing from me. And most of all, to the team at Cresta for allowing me to be a part of your journey – thank you.