Student Debt – A Motivational Force? - 18th August 2017

Sion Davies was interviewed by Paul Owen, our MD, for his forthcoming book: SECRET SKILL. HIDDEN CAREER. The myths you’re told and the scandal you’re not. 20 successful business leaders who started their careers in sales were interviewed for the book.

The motivational force of student debt. By the age of thirty-five, Sion Davies was responsible for the success of a £130m business which landed Microsoft as its first client and hasn’t stopped growing since. Area Sq, the commercial property fit-out company for which he works, has enjoyed such success in recent years that Sion said, ‘The recession didn’t really happen for us.’ Sounds great! But how did Sion get to this position?

Graduating with a degree in Physics (getting a third – ‘I still kick myself for that. Though it’s had no effect on my career whatsoever,’ he says), Sion had never thought of a career in sales. While on the Enterprise Rent-A-Car management trainee scheme, he saw an advert in the paper for a job with on-target earnings of £180,000. This was a whole new level in comparison to the £14,000 he was being paid at the time and, out of desperation, he applied for it.

Sion’s entrance into the challenging world of sales wouldn’t have happened, he says, if he hadn’t had £25,000 student debt.

‘I was driven by fear of that debt. In my first sales job, I’d get the train at 5.30am so I could be in the office at 6.15am, hours before everyone else, because this is when the Finnish market opened for the day.’

It wasn’t that debt alone that led to Sion’s success, though; a lot of it was because he had the right mindset.

‘After a while, it dawned on me that if I work hard, I can get anything I want. In sales, hard work pays off. You can’t substitute that.’

It was a rewarding though tough start in sales. So tough that just six months down the line, he was the longest serving employee. Although it wasn’t what Sion would consider the perfect job by any stretch of the imagination, it had a huge impact on his future.

 

‘I was fortunate to be desperate – it made me take the job and experience a difficult environment that led me to where I am today. It taught me so much.’

Reflecting on his start, Sion notes that the skills he learnt in his first sales jobs are used to this day. The one that translates to management the most strongly is ownership.

‘In a sales environment, if you don’t meet your targets, the company won’t meet theirs, and even if you aren’t sacked, you’ll be made redundant. Sales is very honest, you can’t hide. You have to own your results – it’s up to you to make a difference each day. The thing that haunts me is someone not making a difference and that’s something sales, by its very nature, allows you to do.’

Sion remains confused by the misconception surrounding sales.

‘It’s considered something that only people that can’t do other jobs do and that’s not true. Most of the top people in our sector started in sales and they’ve grown their companies from there.’

There is, unsurprisingly, no shortcut to a successful career in sales, but the rewards are massive.

‘The rewards are whatever you want them to be. A huge number of successful leaders will have come from a sales background. It teaches you so much more about people and gives you vital skills you need to succeed in management, too.’

Along with many other leaders who started in sales, Sion is frustrated by the fact that anybody has the ability to get into sales, yet relatively few do.

‘There’s a British-ness about not going into sales. Salespeople aren’t made, you have to learn how to do it. You can’t replace the work ethic, but you can teach people how to present their ideas better. Once you learn how to do it well, you have so many options.

‘If you’re positive and hard-working, sales is the best way to start your career and succeed quickly. Sales gets you to where you want to be quicker than any other profession.’

The book “SECRET SKILL. HIDDEN CAREER. The myths you’re told and the scandal you’re not” will be available in September 2017 in both paperback and e-book formats.