An intimate understanding of the millennial mindset helps Young Influencer Hunter Woolfolk identify young sales talent for his dealership while dispelling some clichés about his generation.
presented by ACDI
Little did Hunter Woolfolk know when he was sweeping floors at age 12 in his father’s dealership, Alternative Business Systems in Santa Fe, that one day he would be running his own dealership at age 30. Like it or not, and that was not his original plan, that’s what he’s doing serving as co-president with his brother Preston since May 2017 in the company started by his grandfather and office technology industry legend, Lou Scantland in 1990 as a retirement project.
“I spent every summer from then on in New Mexico and San Antonio, doing deliveries, logistics, sweeping floors, cleaning up cardboard, organizing warehouses,” remembered Hunter about those years working for his father and grandfather. “Mom tried to be sweeter to me and let me have a fun summer, but Dad said, ‘No, it builds character.’”
That summer routine continued into college when Hunter started working as a sales intern for Documation, knocking on doors and cold-calling.
“I enjoyed it, but I was pretty adamant I didn’t want to make a career out of knocking on doors all day, every day,” lamented Hunter.
Knocking on all those doors opened new doors for Hunter as he scaled the corporate ladder from sales intern, to sales manager, to his current position. But it was those early days that taught him the work ethic necessary to succeed in the imaging industry.
“When I was working at Documation in high school they put me in an outdoor warehouse in Texas—a covered parking lot surrounded by metal, eight hours a day sweeping 30,000 feet of rough concrete. Dad would make me wear suit pants and a dress shirt even though all the other guys wore polos. Now they’re the logistics crew and they respect me.”
Although it was a challenge to shift into a supervisory role with people he’s known since he was young, Hunter maintains that his early experiences in the business prepared him for his current position even though he had no plans of remaining in the family business.
“I thought my brother and I would start our own dealership, go a different route, leave the family [business] and do our own thing,” he recalled. “Now I’m extremely thankful of all those years picking up trash in the parking lot. Taking pride in the little things is how I earned [my co-worker’s] respect.”
Working as a low-level sales rep taught Hunter more than just how to sell. Indeed, many of the skills Hunter draws on today were forged while cold-calling and chasing leads.
“I learned mind management and how to succeed in tough times. In our industry, it’s very hard to start with no base. I had a very low salary and was told to knock on doors. It taught me to control my mind and be mentally and emotionally tough.”
A Millennial Advocate
There’s a common misconception that millennials don’t have a strong work ethic, aren’t motivated, and aren’t prepared for success. As a millennial himself, Hunter disagrees, having learned a few things about the younger generation through his recruiting efforts. Many of the millennials Documation has hired are recruited straight out of school.
“I look for highly aggressive people who want to control their own destiny,” Hunter explained. “They don’t like having to rely on other people and want to be a strong independent producer.”
To find the right talent involves a long process of interviewing and getting to know the candidate. Hunter believes he has an advantage connecting with this generation because it’s his generation.
“[Millennials] didn’t grow up with as many trials and the work ethic of previous generations,” he said. “When we grew up everybody got a star for trying hard. We were too concerned with not hurting millennials’ feelings.”
Working as a sales rep in the imaging business is not easy nor is it for everyone.
“Our job hurts feelings,” stated Hunter. “People don’t want you calling, they don’t want you knocking on their door. It’s very hard on your emotions. The sales world isn’t fair, people aren’t always polite, and you don’t always win.”
Despite his successes hiring millennials, Hunter acknowledged that recruiting young workers isn’t easy. It’s more about learning how to identify the young people who are prepared to do the job, which can be as much about soft skills and self-management as it is about education and experience.
“When we find the right millennials, they have very little competition, so they find huge success,” he emphasized.
Hunter disagrees with the most common complaint about his generation, that millennials have no work ethic. What he sees is not a lack of motivation, but a generation motivated by different things.
“The way our industry motivates people is by getting them to chase money,” he said. “But millennials believe that money’s not all that matters. The way you motivate people who aren’t money-motivated is by giving them purpose.”
Documation does that by being philanthropic, investing in community charities and non-profits.
“Our sales reps have a sense of purpose because they’re a part of that, not just writing checks, but volunteering as well,” explained Hunter. “We preach a lot about value and purpose, how much they’re able to give back, and they respond to that.”
Hunter often finds himself sharing his tips for hiring millennials with more seasoned C-level executives who come to him asking how to hire millennials and make them successful.
Connecting with His Team
Although the challenges of a career in sales hasn’t changed, Hunter has found that he’s had to adapt his management style to better connect with his young hires, who he has found to be more collaborative and team-oriented, and more comfortable working with their peers even though they can be fiercely independent as well.
“When I was coming up, sales reps were all very much lone wolves,” said Hunter. “There was little career development, team bonding, or teaching. It was just, ‘Here’s your territory, go figure it out.’ That had been very successful, but we choose to do it a different way.”
This isn’t to say that Hunter’s sales team can’t be as cutthroat as the old guard when they want to be.
“We keep that competitive spirit alive,” he said. “We’re continually rewarding our top producers and they’re ultra-competitive human beings.”
Ultimately, Hunter leads a team that’s united by a common goal to better their own lives and their community, and that’s what he believes will keep them and Document going strong in the future. While millennials won’t always be the youngest generation in the workforce, Hunter believes their attitudes will shape the industry going forward and change it for the better.
“The neat thing about hiring all these millennials is that they continually raise the bar on self-improvement,” he said. “They improve themselves without pressure from management, and perpetually beat the expectations we have for them. If the future’s in their hands, it’ll be a good future.”
Hunter Woolfolk ought to know after spending the past 20 years raising his own self-improvement bar to the benefit of his family business.