executive perspectives: A Slam-Dunk Success
Many 10-year-olds dream up a career path that includes doctor, lawyer or even professional athlete. But Joe Falcone, president of New York-headquartered The Sourcing Group, wasn't your everyday kid—in his mind, sales was the "cool" choice. His basketball coaches, who also worked in sales, indirectly sold him on the idea. After all, what's not to love about a flexible schedule that frees up afternoons to coach?
A few years later, the 14-year-old Falcone landed his first job working in the finishing department at a print shop. He soaked up a lot of valuable experience there and quickly scored a sales opportunity with a mid-sized distributor after high school. But Falcone learned that it wasn't all fun and basketball games.
"I had to travel over the bridge daily. I carried a briefcase full of change, as it was the only way I could afford to get over the bridge to work," Falcone recalled. "The experienced salespeople in the industry made it look easy. [...] Lots of hard work, time and persistence were necessary to succeed."
Hard work and time meant three years of 80-hour weeks for Falcone, but the big payoff was sweet. "I was able to sell my first million by the age of 22," he said. The rest is history.
Read on as Falcone talks shop.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
Joe Falcone (JF): Building The Sourcing Group from the ground up with my two talented partners is a learning experience of a lifetime. The No. 1 thing that makes us hustle is remembering the gut-wrenching anxiety of starting this sink-or-swim, no-net company from scratch. [...] The industry is unpredictable, and I view each step forward as a solid building block to a successful partnership, and successful partnerships build a company. Each day requires a business owner to work on all eight cylinders, juggling all in the air simultaneously: client rapport, new business development, cash flow, software upgrades, vendor management, human resources, warehousing and fulfillment, and mergers/acquisitions.
Our organization is built on the foundation that "our clients are our first priority." The Sourcing Group recognizes the imperative to offer our clients world-class support and technology solutions. World-class support involves researching cutting-edge products, vetting qualified vendors, finding flexible shipping solutions, and streamlining accounting functions—all, most importantly, in person. Clients must see your face, laugh at your jokes, see pictures of your kids, and know that they can call you with any question—big or small. Keeping a client looking good in the eyes of [his or her] superiors is our goal.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges the industry will face
JF: The greatest challenge for the industry today is the client's demand for target marketing, on demand. No client wants ineffective marketing materials stockpiled in a distribution facility. Every advertising dollar spent by a client must produce a measurable return. Some cutting-edge tools would include the use of PURLs, and one-to-one direct marketing, which places stress on manufacturing facilities to upgrade their heavy iron to digital.
What keeps you up at night?
JF: In regard to the industry, my main concern is the lack of qualified salespeople. Technological advances have allowed younger generations to function devoid of human contact, which is the essential element to salesmanship. Being able to present your business model in a 30-second bit, face-to-face, is critical to acquiring the attention of C-level executives that make the key business decisions of today.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
JF: Recently, we expanded our footprint nationally with an acquisition on the West Coast. Consequently, we've been able to expand our offerings into the health care, financial and hospitality [markets]. We developed a unique end-to-end [business process outsourcing] model supported with our proprietary integrated technology platform. Our solutions have allowed The Sourcing Group to be one of the fast-growing companies in our industry with revenue projections for 2014 over $40 million.
What would people be surprised to learn about you—hobbies, special interests, etc.?
JF: One surprising fact about me is that I have been selling print since I was 18. For 30 years, I have enjoyed my life as a salesperson. And even though I am a partner in a 36-million-dollar company I still make cold calls. I see myself as a salesperson more than a business owner. It's still fun. But honestly when I am not working, I enjoy my time out of the office dedicated to my family. Daughters grow up too quickly and my good hair days are limited.