Many of us have been forced to adapt to working from home over the past month. Thanks to the vision of my company’s CEO, Pete Lewnes, back in 2011, I’ve been productive from my home office for nearly a decade
My story is somewhat unique. Before my remote working arrangement, Preferred Sales always required our inside sales employees to work from our home office in Hermitage, Pa. In fact, it was unheard of for us to have a “work from home” employee.
However, my eldest son, Joseph, was born with a rare genetic disorder. My husband and I, first, found ourselves as new parents grappling with the standard issues all new parents do. Then, we rapidly found ourselves adapting on the fly in raising severely special needs child.
After Joe’s birth, I was at a crossroads between my career and my role as a mom. Here I was six years into my job as an outside sales rep and starting to understand this fun, complex industry. I was enjoying building strong relationships in the field and was known across Western Pennsylvania as “the tool chick.” But as a brand-new mom, I had more personal responsibilities with Joe than most moms ever experience. The common phrase “the struggle is REAL” was a reality for me.
Leadership Willing to Adapt
I called Mr. Lewnes and asked for a meeting. I basically shared that I was not handling the combination of motherhood and my career as passionately as I once did. Pete could sense my need to excel in both my work and personal life, and right on the spot, he came up with the idea of having me work as an inside sales rep – remotely.
I vividly remember saying, “Is that even an option? How does that work?”
He said, “Wendy, I have no clue how it’s going to technically operate, but I know I have people that can figure it out.”
I was so proud that he viewed me as an investment; as a part of the PSI family. For the first time in a year, I can’t express how much relief and hope I felt after that meeting.
Working From Home Before It Was Cool/Required
During my first few years of working inside sales, I developed more relationships over our whole territory rather than just the PA market. This became a tremendous asset to me in subsequent years. I loved talking to more customers and fostering deeper relationships across our footprint.
My goal was, and still is, to provide our customers with unparalleled service and quick answers with considerable follow up. I became a professional problem solver. This is what most parents out there do daily with our kids, so this role came naturally for me. Instead of negotiating how much iPad time they were allowed, I was developing creative solutions to our customers’ issues and getting them on board with them.
With my problem-solving mindset, I had developed such great relationships that our customers often asked, “When am I going to get to meet you? When are you coming to visit?” I felt this was a testament to my work ethic, and I take great pride in having such strong relationships with some of our largest customers.
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
During this uncomfortable and unforeseen time, I have friends working in medicine, sales, banking, hotels, restaurants, and entrepreneurs. Many are finding a whole new world in conducting their business digitally and via phone, but I have been working this way and building relationships in my industry for a decade.
Some companies really had to scramble to figure this new world of working remotely. We, fortunately, were ahead of the curve on this with my role, and now that I have to manage a remote workforce, I find that my team is happy in their new environment. In certain instances, they even feel more productive in a home office away from distractions.
At the end of the day, having visionary leaders in this industry is one of my biggest take-aways. Pete, Alan, and Michelle have passed this on to our team every day. We are continually trying to find new ways to conduct business, and those skills have shown over the last month.
In closing, I have always known I was going to be a working mom. I love to work. Some moms in my situation would have given up their dreams to care for a son like mine, but my company saw a way to make it work. I am still very thankful for the opportunity to continue working for a company that genuinely cares for its team as a family.