It was the summer of 2015, almost exactly 5 years ago from today (feel free to use these bangers if you need a time reference point). I was almost a year into my new job (also 7 months into this startup called BattlBox). Let me digress a bit and give some background on why I was in my current role.
For the previous 5 ½ years I was at a company called Cbeyond. I crushed it. The company was not proactive enough with technology and was eventually purchased by a company that was even less proactive. The culture quickly changed, the size of its sales organization slowly shrunk, and career growth became almost non-existent. These factors plus a dozen more caused me to want to make a job switch.
Enter BullsEye. This company had been around for 15+ years at the time but was exclusively indirect sales. They had never successfully built a direct sales force. They had revenues in the low 9 figures and supposed investor money ready to go to ensure building the direct sales organization this time was successful. They were going to take Cbeyond’s playbook of building and growing a sales organization and replicate it. Even better, sales management was going to be mainly past Cbeyond sales management. They had an ambitious plan of opening up in two dozen markets (cities) in a couple of years as well. While I never felt this was realistic, I knew even if they fell short and accomplished half of that, I would be in a really great spot. I would be competing internally against the same markets I had competed against internally at Cbeyond and also against the same sales leaders. The same sales leaders and markets I constantly dominated previously. As the direct sales organization grew rapidly, there would be major career growth opportunities, and if I could put up the same results I had previously, I would be in a great spot. Sign. Me. Up.
The silver lining from my time at BullsEye was my boss. Jack Daly was arguably the best boss I have ever had. In addition to being great to work with; he was a mentor, and later a friend. I still talk with Jack regularly.
BullsEye had opened up a Dallas office 3 months prior and a Houston office 1 month prior to us opening up Atlanta. Jack was already working on finding leadership for Charlotte when I opened up Atlanta. My goal with Atlanta was to have 2 or 3 sales teams with 8-10 sales professionals per team. About a month after opening up Atlanta, Jack was told to slow down with Charlotte. This was the first red flag. Dallas was already having a lot of success and Houston was ramping up, there was no reason to slow down. Slowing down new markets eliminated my main objective which was career progression.
The next several months were a major challenge. I was having to get every sales professional I hired approved and it was a long inefficient process. When I got to a headcount of 8, I was told to slow down. Again, this was going against the playbook of growth I was sold/told.
Dallas continued to rock the sales with Houston always being mediocre. Eventually, as Atlanta ramped up we always competed with Dallas before eventually hitting a tipping point, and always dominating. This was expected. I knew this would be the outcome. This is why I came to the job. The problem was there were still only 3 markets opened and I was managing a single team. Not what I signed up for. Digression over, back to SUMMER 2015...
Every quarter, sales leadership would fly to Detroit and give a presentation on previous sales and forecasts. It gave us facetime with all of the corporate/HQ employees we regularly dealt with, gave us bonding time with the market leaders, it was enjoyable. I had come into the office that day as I was flying out late afternoon. I made sure my team was set up for success while I was going to be away and showed Jack my presentation. Jack was flying up to Detroit as well and had a slightly earlier flight than I did. This is where the story starts to get weird.
After checking into the hotel and going to my room, I called Jack’s cell to see where he was at. Straight to voicemail. I picked up the hotel phone and asked to be connected to Jack’s room. Jack had not checked in and in fact, his room had been canceled. I called his cell phone several times over the next couple of hours and it kept going to voicemail. The only thing I could think of was that he was still on a plane which did not make sense. I remember vividly talking to my wife while I sat on the bed in the hotel room. Replaying the chain of events so far and us both agreeing something was aloof.
My phone rang around 11 pm, it was Jack. He was not supposed to call me and tell me anything, but he was being Jack, a great boss. Shortly after he checked his bag to fly to Detroit he had received a call. Change of plans. He needed to fly to Houston. He was to be at the office in the morning when that sales team arrived because he was to fire everyone. Because he had already checked his bag, he still had to fly to Detroit and then fly to Houston. Tomorrow, there was no quarterly review presentation. They were going to fire my only 2 peers, the managers of Dallas and Houston. They had literally flown us up to Detroit to fire us (well, not me, but everyone else). I did not sleep very well that night.
In the morning, I shared an Uber with the Dallas and Houston managers. While I appreciated greatly Jack giving me the heads up, having to keep this to myself and acting like everything was normal was not enjoyable. We arrived at the Southfield, MI office a little before 8 with our ‘presentations’ scheduled for 11. We were all put in a conference room for the day to work from. Jack’s boss quickly came by and asked if he could chat with me in his office. He then explained what was about to occur and wanted to make sure I understood that my team and myself were completely fine. Houston was going to be shut down and Dallas was going to report to Jack. I remember letting it be completely known that I was not appreciative of this situation. This made career growth next to impossible after it had already been hindered past a point of acceptability. Another vivid memory of this day was after I had spoken to Jack’s boss, I stepped outside and called Jack. I gave him a heads up that I let his boss know I was not a fan of this at all and had expressed my frustration with everything.
The next 2 hours were miserable. I was in a conference room with 2 guys that were working on a presentation that was not going to happen. The Houston manager had received a text from one of his sales guys that Jack was in Houston. They were quickly figuring out something was up. Eventually, around 10:55 am, they received a calendar invite email for a meeting at 11 am with HR at a nearby conference room. This company literally flew up 2 seasoned sales leaders under the ruse of a quarterly review to fire them. Mind blown.
The next 6 months at BullsEye were not enjoyable. Shortly after my return to Atlanta, I drafted an email to Jack’s boss and our CEO outlining exactly what I required to stay on board. I gave them a deadline of the end of the year. No response to that email. I followed up again a month later and there was no response to that email either.
On my first day back to the office in 2016, I gave my 4-week resignation. I wanted to make sure that Atlanta was still in a position to be successful after my departure and put together a plan to ensure such. Corporate assured me they would still function in Atlanta like they did when I was there. I ended up staying for about a week and a half. On a Friday (my actual last day), with Jack in the room and his boss on speakerphone, I let my team know that I was leaving. After I spoke, Jack spoke, and then Jack’s boss. All 3 of us relayed the same messaging, that Atlanta was going to continue operating as it was and that there was an opportunity for future leaders to rise up. This was the plan that corporate had agreed to. I left that Friday actually believing that was the plan. The following Wednesday, they fired everyone and closed the office completely.