This month’s Family Matters features sales team, and sisters, Heather and Carrie. Having been impacted by the industry their entire lives, Heather and Carrie have stepped into their roles with pride and optimism.
What is the birth order?
Carrie: She’s way older.
Heather: And wiser. Actually only 22 months apart. We have another sister who is a few years younger than Carrie who actually worked with American for a while.
What’s your favorite memory from your childhood?
Carrie: Oh my goodness. Heather and I, because we were so close in age, grew up together and very similarly, while Alicia was almost like an only child by the time we moved out. The memories I have growing up are farm related and our parents working for American as well. We showed horses together and there’s lots of stories of us going on sleigh rides and growing up on the farm.
Heather: We spent a lot of time outside and in sports. We went to a small high school and got to play together. We never appreciated the great memories we created and got much closer once we were in college.
Carrie: I remember when she had to leave for school earlier than she did and I would show up wearing something of hers to school and try not to run into her while wearing her clothes.
What was your first job and how old were you?
Heather: My very first job that I got paid for was when I was about 10 and my grandpa hired me to do work on his farm for $3.45 an hour and the first paycheck was about $12.50. Does that count? I also had a waitressing job in high school and worked at a country club bartending.
Carrie: I was a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons. It’s kind of funny because I met Heather’s husband before she did. He was the lawn boy there before she ever met him. I kind of always followed in Heather’s footsteps and did bartending and waitressing as well in a restaurant on the plaza in Kansas City.
Where did you go to school?
Carrie: North West Missouri State for Public Relations and Spanish. I played D2 Volleyball and I met my husband there who played football. It was the right size where you see people you know every day and also get to meet new people everyday.
Heather: I went to Wartburg College in Iowa and I didn’t come home a whole lot but it wasn’t too far from home. I was able to come back when I needed to. I majored in Public Relations and also played basketball.
Have you worked together before?
Heather: We were never able to. I worked retail for a while after college and after we relocate to Iowa, I worked for a soy candle company in their marketing department. I traveled with them and worked with reps to sell candles into retail stores. The opportunity to work at American was brought up by our parents, and eventually take over their book of business. We never thought in high school, or even college, that we would do it. Honestly, we never gave it much thought. While working Soy Basics, and after having my first child, I realized I didn’t have enough flexibility with my job. I also wasn’t getting paid my value for what I was doing for that company. Working for American gave me that flexibility and that potential. I started in August 2007 at American.
Carrie: When I graduated from college, I needed a job. Just based on who I knew, I started working with Principal Financial Group. I wanted a job in Kansas City and it wasn’t available there, so I accepted the job in Grand Rapids, MI without ever being there! It was a good paying job for a young person, but I wasn’t happy and the people I called weren’t always great people to talk to. I moved back to Kansas City and joined American in January of 2011. I went on vacation with Heather and we were laying on the beach about how I wasn’t happy at my job. She said, “Then leave and come work with me!” I had to fact check that in the morning to make sure it wasn’t the margaritas talking.
Heather: I told her to start by coming to Vegas for PPAI and after following me around, things just fell into place.
What is your favorite project you’ve worked on together?
Carrie: Two that pop into my head are a long sales cycle for Zips and Clear Lake Boats. We sold their own branded boxes for their customers and it was fun to show them something as a solution they were excited about. Working on projects like that where the customer sees the vision of what we can do, rather than just the cheapest option, lets us put together something that provides value to our customers. Also, we’re both training partners and we race together. We have a lot of customers that are triathlon athletes and we get to pick out things for them that we know we would like and know what it’s like to be in their shoes.
Heather: We have such a wide variety of customers in different niches. We don’t specialize in just print or promo or apparel. We sell whatever we can get our hands on and that leads us to a wide customer base. It’s not necessarily a project, but we’ve made some really great friends and have built relationships with our clients and that’s more rewarding that just the products that we’ve sold. We’re constantly working to understand clients, understanding how they’re different and knowing how to relate to different people. It’s challenging and rewarding at the same time. We copy each other on emails, but for some clients we gravitate towards them better than the others.
What’s a fun fact about the two of you?
Heather: Our husbands joke that we are actually married because we spend so much time together as work partners, training partners, best friends and sisters. We have a lot of differences, but we “get” each other.
Why do you recommend working with family?
Carrie: I think about this often. It’s not always easy and of course there are challenges. But there’s no doubt that if we disagree on some things, at the end of the day, we love each other (she might not agree). As cliché as that might sound, you can be more open and honest than in an office setting with people that just met you and who don’t have a vested interest in you and your family. So just being able to step away and know she’s going to cover you, it’s invaluable.
Heather: I would just add that we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses really well and we never had to learn that again. We’re also quite different, and that’s also the reason we can mesh with different clients in different ways.
To learn more about American Solutions for Business, visit http://www.americanbus.com.