This month, the spotlight shines bright on Kelley Cuthbert, Account Manager at Elantis. In this interview, Kelley shares how his sales career grew from selling aquarium fish as a teenager to now selling complex IT solutions to Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies. As an Account Manager, Kelley has one of the most visible and collaborative roles in the company. He shares his approach to problem solving as a team and explains how he stays at the top of his game by carving out time in his busy schedule for continuous learning.
Andrea Nwobosi: Welcome, Kelly. This is your time to shine in the spotlight! Thank you so much for taking some time to speak with me today so that we can get to know you a little bit better and learn more about what you do here at Elantis. So how about we start with that question. What is your role at Elantis?
Kelley Cuthbert: Thank you very much, Andrea. I’m happy to be in the employee spotlight. My role with Elantis is I am an Account Manager. And so that role has two very good veins in it. Those roles are account management, meaning that I take care of the customers and make sure that they’re having the proper Elantis experience that we boast every day and are proud of. And I also am in sales. So with sales, it is my job to bring in new projects to the delivery team and produce fantastic solutions for our clients.
Andrea: You’ve been here for just over a year now. I’m curious what stands out to you as a highlight over the past year that you’ve been in this role?
Kelley: There have been many highlights here at Elantis. I’m very happy to be chosen to be added to the team here. One of the things that I very much like about Elantis is the environment that we have here. It’s a very team-oriented environment. We are a smaller company—a boutique sized company—and to me, that means that we can give extra attention to our clients and make sure that we are producing the relationships needed and the quality of solutions for our clients, as well. So for me at Elantis, I really like the environment here. I really like being able to work very closely with my clients and I really like the fact that since we are a smaller organization, the work that we do makes a very, very large impact to our company. So I go home at the end of the day knowing that I have made a difference and that’s quite important to see the success of this company as it grows.
Andrea: What led you here? Tell us a little bit about your career path in sales and how you found Elantis eventually.
Kelley: I am a hardcore, old-school salesman, so I have sold everything under the sun from coffee to cameras to technology. I started out selling fish at an aquarium store so I’ve basically had a career so far of selling pretty much everything. And one thing about being a salesperson is that the technique and how you sell things is pretty much universal. So for me, I take pride in moving on from sales career to sales career and adjusting how I do things and new things to learn, new ways to sell, new ways to engage clients. So my career path has been largely sales based. My expertise within that area has always been in customer service. My role as an Account Manager is very heavy on taking care of my customers, forming a relationship with my customers, and moving forward from there. I find that in my career path, the things that I enjoyed the most are when I’m dealing directly with my clients, solving problems, creating the relationships, finding the solutions for them, and seeing happy customers form strong partnerships with Elantis. So this is something that I always strive for. I’ve always moved toward roles where I was going be front-facing to clients. I like being the tip of the sword. I like being the boots on the ground and I like going out there and gathering the sales and creating the opportunities for the company. This is something that has led me all the way to Elantis. I do have some experience in technology sales and my knowledge base has advanced quite quickly over the last year in the IT field and I’m very much enjoying it.
Andrea: It’s amazing how much we learn in such a short time at Elantis and learn about our technologies, the solutions, and also the clients we get to work with. So, there’s lots to learn and we continuously learn, too.
Kelley: Things are constantly changing. There’s constantly new technology coming forward that we have to immediately get a hold of and get comfortable with to gain our knowledge base so we can spread that to our customers and our clients that rely on us to make sure that they are, as well, tip of the sword in their areas.
Andrea: So how do you do that? How do you stay in front of the game? How do you learn about your clients’ needs and learn what’s available to them? What are some of the practical things that you do to stay at the top of your game?
Kelley: There is a lot of downtime at night when I spend time making sure that I’m learning. During the day, say when I’m learning new things, I’ll write down what I don’t understand on a little note and be like, “Learn this tonight, then learn this tonight.” Here’s some more reading in the bathroom! (ha ha) There are a lot of times when I’m Googling new things that customers are talking about that I want to make sure that I am up to speed with. The resources within Elantis are also amazing, so I book time with my colleagues who have the technical understanding that I am developing in sales. I want to learn and take a deeper dive into that for my customers. I also spend a lot of time on LinkedIn reading about new technologies and reading about the areas of our field. We have fantastic partners that we deal with. For example, we work with Nintex and Microsoft and we have fantastic relationships with them. So, there’s a wealth of knowledge on their websites. We are regularly creating a cadence of meetings with Nintex and Microsoft to develop our skills within their offerings, as well. So it is never ending, especially in the information technology field. It is extremely important. One of the things that I hear every day is that for companies and our customers, their IT infrastructure and their enterprise content management is extremely important to them. So I take my job very seriously when I’m consulting with my customers, to make sure that they succeed just as much as I do.
Andrea: That’s a great approach. I want to go back to something fun that you mentioned earlier about how one of your first jobs was selling aquarium supplies and fish. Did you always know that sales was something that you wanted to do? Was there someone in your life who inspired you to get into this field?
Kelley: Very good question. Something that I wanted to do and something that I’m good at generally are two different things. I have natural talents in sales, reading people, and quickly understanding their needs. Another thing about me is I’m very empathetic, as well. I genuinely care about my customers and I want to make sure that they are happy, so I think about them a lot. I lose sleep over it if I feel there is a customer that is not getting the experience that they want. So for me, it’s something that I’ve always strived for. Going into the customer service field and into sales, I’m very competitive, as well. Playing sports and whatnot, I like to win, so it was a natural gravitation into sales. I’m not going say it’s something that I super love, as I like to spend my time as a photographer outside in the forest, but we all need to have a career path. In my professional career, sales has definitely been an area that I’ve shined in and that I’ve concentrated on. Developing from that teenager that sold aquarium fish and aquarium tanks way back in Ontario to now selling IT infrastructure solutions and enterprise content management solutions to Fortune 500 companies and sometimes Fortune 100 companies. You can absolutely see how the path has been forged and I’m quite proud of that.
Andrea: You have lots to be proud of—such a path and such an evolution, as well, in your growth, in your development, and in seizing opportunities as they come your way. So congrats on the progress that you’ve made in your career! Looking back on everything that you have accomplished so far, is there one moment that stands out to you as your proudest moment in your career?
Kelley: There has been a lot of triumph there for sure, but I like to always step back and look at a time that I worked for Sony of Canada. This was way back when I was in retail, actually. I was doing the nine to five, weekends, holidays, and it was a grind. I was working as an assistant manager in the Vancouver region and I was asked to relocate to the Sony store in Kelowna as it was not doing very well and I was basically going to go there to babysit the store as they ride the lease out because they were going to close it. So I was like, “I’ll take that opportunity, thank you!” I have developed a role over time as being a person that wants to take on the tough customers and fix the problems, so I always sort of put myself in that role. Well, they sent me down to Kelowna and I took the store over and within one year, I was actually on the stage at the Sony of Canada awards receiving awards for the highest gain in sales and highest gain in profit margin inside of one year. When I left that store, they had actually renewed the lease and purchased the location beside them inside the mall to expand the store. So, we turned that store around from being closed to expanding and growing the store within one year and all it took was a person that cared about the customers. That’s a moment I’m pretty proud of and I was headhunted away immediately on to bigger and better things. That store was quite profitable before the company completely went out of business in the retail side five years later.
Andrea: There’s something great about timing, right?! What an amazing story and obviously you made an impact on that branch and are continuing to make an impact in your current role here. So what gets you excited to come to work every day? What do you wake up looking forward to?
Kelley: I wake up looking forward to earning my free time. I know it’s a very interesting way to say that. I take my work extremely seriously, but I also take my time off very seriously. For me, it needs to be a balance of time off and time at work to be able to keep Kelley very happy and going. So when I wake up in the morning, I immediately concentrate on work and I want to make sure that I make a difference. As I’ve said before, I am driven by how well I treat my customers, the experience that my customers have, and what I am providing for my company, as well. So when I get up in the morning, I look forward to having a positive day and changing some customers’ minds, making a sale, and improving a customer’s IT infrastructure so their company grows, as well. I’m looking for positive results so at the end of the day I can earn my free time and be able to turn my phone off and be happy. So this is something that is really important to me every day when I wake up. When I wake up, I want to go to work and I want to work hard and earn my free time. Earning my free time means doing well in my role, and that’s very important to me.
Andrea: You seem to be very intrinsically motivated. You mentioned earlier how much you enjoy solving problems. Whenever you face challenges or you have a problem, how do you overcome them? What’s your approach to that?
Kelley: There are many approaches that I can take depending on what the problem is, but problem solving is something that, in a modern world, everybody has to have some skills in and understand what their resources are. But at Elantis, we are a team, we are a tight team, and we are a team that leans heavily on each other. When I am faced with a problem that I feel can be solved with the team, it’s the engagement of our resources here at Elantis. We have extremely skilled resources here that save my butt every day on my knowledge base and helping me solve problems in IT world. In the information technology world, the problems can be very, very real. Projects don’t tend to go exactly how they’re planned and when we propose something to a customer, it is an estimate, so when a project starts until all the way when the project ends, we have to make sure that we’re working as a team and we’re monitoring everything and that I have a team that I can rely on, as well. When it comes to problem solving, for me it’s engaging my resources, working together as a team, and then breaking the problem down into what its root cause is. A lot of times for me, solving a problem isn’t solving the initial problem. It’s solving that problem and then forging a path so that problem doesn’t occur again or we have new developments in place that can offset that. At that point, it’ll help make the company run a little smoother and hopefully our customers are seeing the results from that, but it’s rolling with the punches as well. In an IT project, there’s a lot of unknowns when we get into a customer’s environment. Having the relationship with our clients and making sure that we all know what we’re doing and have a clear line of communication if anything is going off the rails so we all can deal with it quickly and effectively and move forward. My problem has to resolve in moving forward. And that’s usually how I approach it. With Elantis, it’s rare that I can solve an IT problem directly by myself. It takes a team and we all work together to do that, and that’s one of the things I really, really like about being here at Elantis.
Andrea: How great is it, though, that we know that we’re not alone in this, right? We have each other’s back and we’re all shooting for the same thing. We all want it to succeed, and we’ll do what we can to support each other through it. I have one more question for you, Kelley. What is next for you in your career in sales?
Kelley: I don’t plan on leaving Elantis unless I’m asked to. (ha ha) I want to develop here and my career path is going to weigh very heavily on gaining relationships with my customers and growing my customer base with a large amount of trusted consultative clients that I work with. So I want to have a nice, tightknit group of customers that I can rely on and they can rely on me. And then we have a very, very close relationship within Elantis, as well. So as the company grows and as we gain our client base as well, I would love to move into an area once I have the knowledge base that I want to attain that I can pass that knowledge onto possibly another sales team underneath me where we can be making a difference and I can take my sales career and everything that I’ve learned right back from the 90s all the way up until now and spread that knowledge onto a younger group of go-get-‘em salespeople and account managers. So that would be a great long-term goal with Elantis as we grow—that I stay here and develop my role into more of a management style.
Andrea: Well, you’ve got a great path behind you and a great path ahead of you. You have everything you need to succeed. Thank you so much for your time today, Kelley. I appreciate you sharing your story with us. And I appreciate your contributions here at Elantis.
Kelley: Thank you so much, Andrea.
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