The Little-Known Backstory of the United States Concealed Carry Association
If It Is To Be, It's Up To Me:
The Little-Known Backstory of the United States Concealed Carry Association
Failure In Business, Failure In Sales
Tim: Wait. I almost forgot an important part of the story. My dad was always like the … he always wanted to be an entrepreneur. And when I was in seventh grade-
Roy: What did he do?
Tim: He was an accountant. He studied math and became an accountant. And then he was a controller for various companies, usually in the food industry. But when personal computing came on the scene in the early ‘80s, he wrote software to automate the inventory of small retailers and whatnot, which sounds silly nowadays, but back then, it was a big deal. Because everyone was tracking their inventory by hand in ledgers.
So in seventh grade, Dad launched this company with a handful of customers and one full-time employee. It was called Business Results. He was still working full-time at his main job, and my mom was a part-time middle school Spanish teacher, so we watched Dad literally pour his heart and soul into this business. And about a year into it, he was getting close to the point where he could actually afford to leave his day-job company and do this full time, which was literally his dream.
And this woman, I’ll never forget her name, it was [NAME DELETED]. She was the outward face of the company, the one interacting with all the clients. So she began telling all of
Dad’s clients, “Oh, by the way, Russ is getting out of this business and I’m starting my own thing.” So she stole all his clients, the ones he had paid her to interact with while he did all the actual work, and my dad was crushed.
I watched him fail at something that he was really going for, all-in. But that didn’t dissuade me from wanting to be an entrepreneur. It did just the opposite. It made me think, “My dad was so close to making it. So close. But he had an employee that wasn’t very honest and he got screwed. But, man, it would be great to run a business someday.”
Which is super ironic, because the first business I actually ran was a paper route. And I did that paper route for an entire year and never made a dollar because I didn’t quite grasp the concept that I needed to collect from everyone I was supposed to be collecting from. So, after the first year, Dad said, “Son, why are you doing this? You’re not making any money.”
I said, “I don’t know, Dad.”
So we sat down and had this talk. He said, “Tim, every day you need to wake up and say, ‘If it is to be, it’s up to me.’ No one else is going to go out and collect that money for you. No one else is going to do your job if you don’t.”
And then he said, “Tim, you’re giving half the people their paper for free. You either need to get out there and collect that money or find yourself a different business.”
Over the course of the next few months, I managed to turn the paper route around. But it was only after my dad would repeatedly remind me, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
As you can imagine, by this time in my life, I was getting sick of hearing this from him.
Roy: Wow. You said you were a shy kid. I’m beginning to believe you. Now take me with you to that first engineering job in Boston. Was this also part of your “transformation”?
Tim: I loved my first engineering job. I loved sitting behind a computer solving engineering problems 10 hours a day. It was a blast. I really enjoyed it. You really don’t learn much in college other than how to solve theoretical problems. But now I was solving real problems, not imaginary ones.
My first boss was a former captain in the Israeli army, a tough character. I think he found pride in repeatedly pointing out to me that I really knew next to nothing about engineering. I worked very hard to prove him wrong.
And then, one day, I met a guy named Brennan Campbell. He owned a small Massachusetts company that sold expensive engineering computer workstations to companies that used this fancy engineering software I used. So he called on the company where I worked, and we bought a bunch of computers from him.
About a month after that transaction, he calls me out of the blue and says, “Tim, I want to take you to lunch.” So I went out to lunch with him, and he said, “Tim, if you come to work for my company and help me sell these computers to engineers, I’ll pay you the same base salary you’re making as an engineer. And then if and when you hit your annual sales goal, your commission will be that same amount again.”
I could hardly believe what he was saying. He was essentially offering to pay me TWICE as much as I was making now. All I had to do was sell engineer computer workstations to other engineers?
Roy: Wait a minute, shy engineer Tim was going to become a salesman? How did you think you were going to pull that off?
Tim: Hold on. I’m getting to that part.
I’ll admit that the whole concept of selling really anything made me a bit nervous. But I just couldn’t say no to the opportunity to be able to earn twice as much as I was earning as an engineer.
I accepted the job with Brennan’s company. My dad’s words were certainly ringing in my ears as I showed up for work that first day.
“Tim, don’t forget: If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
I remember walking into Brennan’s office that first day. The place was a dump. It was a poorly constructed, run-down, two-story office building just off the freeway in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. The carpet smelled funny, and the bathrooms were filthy.
Brennan had been selling most of his computers in the New England area, so my territory was everything outside of New England. I essentially had the whole country outside of Massachusetts.
My desk was a folding table, but at least I had a nice phone.
And now shy Tim is saying to himself 10 times a day, “If it is to be, it’s up to me,” and I’m calling other engineers on the telephone, which is easy, because I’m an engineer and can completely relate to them.
We sent direct mail pieces to the engineering heads of companies, and I would follow those up with a phone call. That first year, I sold enough of these expensive computer workstations to earn my full commission. It was exciting and kind of fun.
Roy: So you were actually a GOOD salesperson?
Tim: Well, for some reason, I was a lot more comfortable on the phone. Plus, like I said before, I was talking to other engineers. We had a lot in common, and I knew what they needed to do their jobs. Selling these computers came naturally for me.
And then it all fell apart.
Roy: What are you talking about?
Tim: I was 27 years old, selling $20,000 computers over the phone and loving life. But Brennan started getting nervous. He was convinced I was going to start my own company and steal his business like that woman had done to my dad, which, of course, I had no intention of doing. I think Brennan was worried I was going to do it because it’s what he would have done if he had been me.
What I actually wanted was to move back to Wisconsin with my wife and start an engineering firm. But all Brennan could imagine was that I was planning to take his business away from him because I was making two-thirds of all the sales in his company.
Roy: You had no intention of doing what he was worried about?
Tim: No intention whatsoever.
In fact, I went out of my way to introduce him to my key contacts at all my customers. Just so he would be more comfortable. I told him, “Look, my wife and I want to move back to Wisconsin and I want to start my own engineering firm.”
But he got so worried about it that he fired me. And then he refused to pay me the commission he owed me. Which was, by that point, a fair amount of money. It was the money I was intending to use to move back to Wisconsin and start this engineering business!
Roy: So this guy fires you and then refuses to pay you the money he owes you?
Tim: Yes. So we moved back to Wisconsin, and I hired a lawyer and got the money and started this engineering business called Schmidt Engineering. I came up with that name myself. [Laughter]
My overhead was fairly low because I was operating out of my house, but the software, to actually own a license for the software, was like 20,000 bucks, plus another $5,000 a year in maintenance. I didn’t have that cash because most of the sales commission I finally collected went somewhere else. So I went to the bank and tried to borrow $15,000.
I’ll never forget that banker. He sat behind his desk in that little branch bank in Muskego, Wisconsin, and laughed at me.
He literally laughed.
He said, “No one’s ever going to give you that money.”
Roy: So this was your high school chemistry teacher all over again?
Tim: Yeah. But if it is to be, it’s up to me, right? So I found a guy who had six or seven licenses of that software, and I leased one from him that I could use when his employees had all gone home. But our agreement meant I could only work from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. So I had to stay up all night doing my engineering work, but the business did well enough that I was able to support my family. My wife didn’t have to work. She stayed home with the kids, which was important to us.