Being part of the American family can mean something special to everyone within it. For some, it could be actually working with your relatives. For others, it’s choosing to surround yourself with people you come to call family. Such is the relationship of Donna Weyh Roberts and Ashley Moore Fens. Over the years, their journey has brought them to where they are today, passing the Weyh Roberts legacy on to Ashley.
What is your background, and how did it bring you to Weyh Roberts?
Ashley: I graduated in 2006 from college and moved to Northern Virginia. I soon met Donna at Weyh Roberts & Associates and interviewed with them after being told they would be a great fit. Premiums was a class I studied in college and thought it was a fun piece of marketing. I ending up getting the job as a temporary position through an agency. At the time, Donna was one of few females in a male dominated industry.
Donna: Ashley excelled over anyone else on the sales team and she had the least amount of experience, therefore when I realized I had enough of sales people who didn’t take their jobs seriously I cleaned house Ashley remained and the best was yet to come! She joined a very tight team and Brian was teased for being in the mix with the girls.
What roles have you held in your career?
Ashley: I went from Customer Service Representative to Account Executive to Director. Donna taught me by taking me on sales calls. While initial meetings made me nervous, she was along for the ride and helped pave the way.
Donna: I worked for OEI Business forms and Jordan Graphics for a total of 16 years between the two as a straight commissioned sales person and loved it. However, ultimately I got tired of the quota pressure put on those who were top performers on a regular basis so I left to figure things out…. Weyh Roberts & Associates came to be in November 1994, and we grew quite nicely until 2008 at which time, thanks to the recession, I scaled things back.
What were the dynamics of your relationship in the office, and how did it grow?
Ashley: Donna was a mentor to me, teaching me about the industry and the components of selling, including how to run a business. She taught me things you might not originally consider. Brian, Donna’s husband, was part owner of Weyh Roberts and great at looking at things from a different perspective when processing an issue or just an outsiders opinion. I was always the early bird and Donna would come in a little later and would stay into the evening. We would catch up and have coffee every morning and talk about personal things and business, what’s working and what isn’t so we can come up with a plan. We would also eat lunch together which I loved, not a lot of people can say that about the corporate world.
Donna: After lunch, Ashley would go back to the office and do research, gathering pricing and putting together presentation to present to the client. The things I hated to do, she loved to do and vice versa. Ashley’s parents loved how Brian and I treated her, like a family away from them. Brian mentored her as an executive coach and still works with Ashley today.
How did the transition to American happen?
Ashley: We knew at one point we would need to make a transition but weren’t sure where to start. Donna and Lynne Schillinglaw reconnected after working together at a Jordan Graphics and Lynn made the introduction to ASB. We flew out to Glenwood for our Discovery Day we got back to the hotel and talked about how much we loved the ASB family-feel (it was very similar to how Weyh Roberts operated). Everyone appeared to have fun, enjoy each other’s company but also got their work done.
Donna: ASB was there for us every step of the way, and there for Ashley now 3 years later. I’m just sorry I didn’t learn about ASB years earlier as ultimately ASB presented us with the opportunity for both of us to grow and expand our horizons.
How did Ashley prepare for this shift in responsibilities?
Ashley: Donna always said to be prepared with a briefcase packed with sales tools and gifts for clients. I loved learning the ropes from a sales veteran. In 2017, I had a review with Donna and Brian at the end Donna said, “I would like to retire one day, how do you feel about buying the business”… and here we are.
Donna: I taught Ashley how to sell to and develop clients and most days lunch became “lunch & learns” I held her hand the whole way through every milestone. We discussed who to have meetings with and walking the show floors. I felt confident enough to have Ashley buy my brand, which is a huge compliment because Weyh Roberts was my baby. I/we invested in Ashley from day one, and that investment absolutely paid off.
What does your relationship look like today?
Ashley: Donna and I still have lunch once or twice a month and celebrate holidays and birthdays together. Donna is very passionate and loves giving, whether it’s knowledge, gifts or advice. She’s been an amazing worker, employer and friend.
Donna: My personal issues over the past year and being unable to help Ashley contributed to my decision to officially retire. After we were with American for about 14-15 months, Brian wanted me to take a step back and start enjoying retirement. I missed the business, but I’ve stayed as a mentor for Ashley. Anything that comes my way that I think would benefit Ashley’s company, I bring it to her attention. Ashley will always be in my life as an employee, and most importantly, as a friend.
What advice do you have for a sales associate considering transitioning their business to someone they trust?
Donna: It’s key for people to have what one might consider your succession plan in place or working towards it and who might be willing to step up within in the organization. Owners can neglect to look in their own backyard at the talents they cultivated. They think about looking outside or shutting the business down instead of looking to those people who helped to keep the doors open. I want to sing Ashley’s praises because the company is hers now, and watching the transition has been rewarding. I couldn’t have imagined a better person to have become the owner. There was never a time that we we’d go into a meeting and I left things up to her that she let me down. She liked having me there as the spokesperson even though she had put the agenda together herself. It took a while for her to realize that she could fly on her own. There are ways to determine where your organization is when you’re deciding to move on. If you think you’re in a strong place, begin by confiding in the people who work with you. It can be very lonely at the top, so if you don’t put things out there, trust your team, you can’t achieve what we achieved.
Ashley: Weyh Roberts has had very loyal clientele regardless of best price and always had a good line of communication in business. I didn’t like to go hunting for opportunities; however, once we figured out the secret sauce Donna did the hunting while I in turn nurtured and grew the account, we were an awesome team. I think being side by side for close to 15 years she knew I would take care of her “baby”. I treated her business as my own even before the sale of it in 2018. American was very helpful with our transition, they help guide every aspect of it. Emotionally it was difficult for Donna to hand over her “baby” but I hope she knows I am taking good care of it.
To learn more about American Solutions for Business, visit http://www.americanbus.com.