“I was building someone else’s business and I just thought, ‘If I’m going to employ this much effort and blood, sweat and tears, then I should do that for myself!’”
Chris Ginnelly fulfilled a longstanding dream after an epiphany ended a 20-year longing to start his own business, and it’s fair to say his instincts were right on the money – he invoiced several thousand pounds within six weeks of launching Sandler Training West London, a period which also included a winter break with his family!
The 20-year itch
Chris spent 14 years at Xerox, working his way up to senior sales and leadership roles before leaving to join IT software and services firm Civica as managing director of its digital business. Despite delivering impressive results over six years, he couldn’t shake the desire to be the boss himself.
In fact, his success was to be the spur that prompted him to realise his ambition.
Chris explains: “I’ve always had an itch to run my own business, it’s always been there. I’ve always been close to the customer, enjoyed understanding how people and organisations got to market and sold from a B2B perspective.
“I was interested in buying a business but that didn’t work out so I went to Civica as a smaller organisation where I could run things end to end. It was a turnaround job for two years, which we achieved thanks to a great management team. And then I spent four years building the digital business as its managing director.
“But then I just got that itch again. I was building someone else’s business and I just thought, ‘If I’m going to employ this much effort and blood, sweat and tears, then I should do that for myself!’”
A refreshing (and authentic) change
After two decades, what was it about Sandler that made Chris take the leap into business ownership?
He says: “I was aware of Sandler but it was probably the only selling system I’d never used! But then I met with them and got to understand more about the system. As soon as I understood the non-traditional approach that Sandler has…it’s the authenticity, the way that they encourage their clients to sell, the processes used and the honesty in the selling methodology.
“I started thinking seriously about what I wanted. I didn’t want to be on my own. I knew I loved selling and going to market, that I loved people development, but I didn’t want to be just on my own. Sandler gave me a world-class frame of reference and tools to work with and as soon as I met the guys I was done. I knew I’d found the right business for me.”
Start as you mean to go on
It’s no surprise that Chris says he was upbeat about his prospects when he started his franchise, excited to be realising his dream. He hasn’t been disappointed.
“You always start something planning for it to go well and it has!” he says. “I have a fairly strong professional network from my previous experience, but the reception that I’ve had from new people as well has been fantastic.
“Once people understand that we’re talking about a non-traditional, authentic approach to selling, they’re really receptive to that. They want authenticity and integrity in their people and they want to communicate those values through their brand and through their people. The world has changed and I don’t think there’s anyone else that does what we do. I was able to sign up some customers quickly, it was a great start.”
He’s also quick to pay tribute to the initial support offered by Sandler as he got to know the brand and what to expect from his franchise.
“I went to Baltimore for my training. It was absolutely superb. The Sandler way of doing things is incredible anyway, and we have to be re-wired a little bit as well because we bring our own traditional baggage with us as well. They’re able to do that in such an authentic way.
“What we had access to was an incredible, intensive team – highly experienced coaches who had built businesses before us. We were being coached by people who had been there, done it and then sold their businesses. It was really refreshing and powerful – intense but good fun and a fantastic experience.
“The whole Sandler network has been very, very welcoming. As I said, I didn’t want to be on my own, I get energy from people and enjoy being part of a team. I wanted my own business but didn’t want to be on my own doing it! I really do have the best of both worlds: nobody’s telling me what to do, but I’ve got all the support and advice that I need when I need it. It’s a great combination.”
With a start like that and 20 years of ambition to fulfil, it’s no wonder that Chris has high hopes for where he’ll take his business.
“The model allows me to build a business, not just be a trainer. Over the next few years I’ll build a team around me and my objective is to build a million-pound business in the next five years.”
If his form so far is anything to go on, he’ll be there even sooner than that.