StorageMart CMO and Sales & Marketing Expert Tron Jordheim on how to effectively manage people in the absence of a proven, foolproof method
By Jill Yarberry-Laybourn
Curiosity might have been unhealthy for the cat, but the same can’t be said about its effects on Tron Jordheim. Instead, curiosity has been a catalyst for his success. At the age of 12, it made him marvel at the glass windows along Brooklyn’s streets and turn that wonder into his own window-washing business. Since then, Jordheim’s inquisitiveness and innate ability to market and sell have taken him down some “fascinating” paths, including his current role as the Chief Marketing Officer at StorageMart and Director of Operations at PhoneSmart.
Window Washing To Security Dogs
Curiosity not only helped Jordheim earn ice cream money with his window cleaning business; it later contributed to his vision and implementation of another startup. His business model included importing and selling security dogs to individual owners; he also provided dogs for the New York City Police Department and Pan Am airlines at JFK airport.
The young entrepreneur learned a great deal about business from the success of his second venture, but he may have learned more from its demise. Jordheim said: “I grew it so well and knew nothing about managing a business that I grew myself broke, so to speak.”
Work Smart & Keep Smiling
Jordheim didn’t let that tough lesson slow him down, and again his curiosity led him down a path of enlightenment. He spent three years making 50 cold calls a day to sell bottled water in Midtown Manhattan. In doing so, Jordheim learned a few tried and true sales and marketing principles, like working smart.
“Pick where you think the hunting is going to be good,” Jordheim said. “Look at your odds and say, ‘Where is my best shot at getting business today?’” He learned to examine a number of factors to determine what the best shot was. “It can depend on the weather,” he said. “It can depend on the time of the year, and the time of the month.”
Another valuable sales principle Jordheim took away from the experience was to keep his head in the game and keep smiling when faced with rejection and adversity.
“You have to play mind games with yourself, kind of like you do in sports,” he said. “Your team is down 10-0, and you have to pretend those plays didn’t happen and get back in the game.”
Eventually Jordheim took his innate curiosity and broadening sales and marketing knowledge with him to StorageMart. He came on board to help with the company’s call center to generate customers. At the start, sales and marketing were pretty low tech.
“People either used the Yellow Pages or drove by,” Jordheim said, “but the game was beginning to change.”
He wasn’t going to let the world go around without him, so Jordheim explored what were then cutting-edge practices and presented his ideas to the principal players. The company jumped head first into the digital world with a website.
“Back then, a website was an online calling card, an online brochure in case someone bumped into you,” Jordheim said. And now, what had started as a basic online presence has developed into “a very complicated network to help people find all the information they need.”
Similarly, technology has helped StorageMart’s Information Technology team provide Jordheim and his staff with some “big data” that helps them to work smart and to find good hunting grounds for the storage business.
“Not too many years ago, the big data was a spreadsheet with seven columns,” Jordheim explained. “Where now, we have really become a very high-tech, data-driven, customer-centered marketing machine.”
Smartphones Glued To Our Heads
Although the group is into the new age, it is a daunting task to stay there. “The complexity of things increases exponentially, sometimes by lunchtime,” Jordheim said.
Fortunately, the naturally inquisitive nature of Jordheim and his team members has them continually searching for “the next next.”
“Most people live on their handheld device,” Jordheim said. With humor, he added: “By time this article comes out, 80 percent of the country is going to have a smartphone glued to their head all day long.”
As such, Jordheim and team dedicate a part of every day to researching the questions: “What is going on? What is picking up traction? What are the competitors doing? What are some of the other innovations in the storage world?”
And their group is not the only one at StorageMart embracing curiosity. Jordheim gives a great deal of the Marketing and Sales team’s success to the support and ideas coming from the top—President and Chief Operations Officer (COO) Cris Burnam, finalist for the EY 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mike Burnam.
“They both have good heads for marketing and sales,” Jordheim said. “We are all sniffing this stuff out, looking for trends and fads.”
Good ideas, he added, are dead in the water without support from the top. “We are always trying to be cutting-edge. We don’t want to be out on the bleeding edge. We are working on some things that I don’t think other storage companies are doing.”
Remembering the Fundamentals
While he and his team are constantly looking toward the future, Jordheim stays true to the fundamentals.
“You have best practices, and they never change,” he said. “Tell a good story, and tell it to the right people at the right time on the right day.” The Marketing and Sales team needs to “find the people and start the right conversation at the right time so the audience doesn’t tune us out. It is very easy with all the noise everywhere to tune out all the messages that don’t strike the right chord.”
Even with best practices, Jordheim readily admits there is a great deal of trial and error. “Sometimes you are surprised by things that work, and sometimes you are disappointed by ideas you had some hopes riding on and no one cared.”
What is Jordheim’s advice for new professionals who are coming up in the sales and marketing ranks? Be curious, of course. Also, he advises using failures to become better.
“Coming up with a good idea, crafting it well, shaping it well, implementing it well…” can still lead to failure. Jordheim adds, however, “If it all falls apart on you, it is a great lesson and a great case study for you to say, ‘Why didn’t this work?’ and apply it to the next thing.”
His next bit of advice is to make a lot of decisions. “I try not to make the decisions for my crew. They have to learn to make decisions and see what comes back.”
To this point, Jordheim maintains a tried and true checklist for making effective business decisions. Step one is to be empathetic. “Let’s think about all the people who are going to be affected by this. How is this going to affect them?” Step two is not being quick to act, but rather taking the time to think through the benefits and consequences. Step three is to do it. “Act boldly and decisively. Implement it with enough force to actually make it happen.” All advice Jordheim has taken to the proverbial bank.
Jordheim’s sense of wonder and his ability to glean knowledge from every experience have proven to be the perfect elixir for success, from washing windows to importing German Shepherds, from making cold calls to becoming an accomplished author.
While Jordheim’s curiosity may have led to some bumps and bruises along the way, it hasn’t killed him; instead, it has enriched his life and led to a great deal of success.
Jill Yarberry-Laybourn is a freelance writer based in Colorado.