Jack Daly cultivated an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age. When he was 7, he started his first business, making potholders with fabric loops on a metal loom. “I saw little girls selling them to my mom,” he says, “and I thought, ‘I could do that while watching TV.’”
In short order, he “owned the market,” he says. When housewives told him they’d already bought a potholder from little Susie or Mary, he countered: “Yes, but you haven’t bought one from a boy. Do you want one or two?” He didn’t offer discounts. When you own, the market, he confides, you can charge twice the amount that the other vendors are charging.
Today, Daly is a celebrated sales trainer and coach who delivers keynote addresses and workshops on sales, sales management, customer loyalty and personal motivation. He is also the author of the Amazon bestseller “Hyper Sales Growth.” Daly, who keeps that potholder loom on a bookshelf in his home office in Orange County, California, has more than 20 years of business experience, and he’s been the CEO of several fast-growing companies.
But while much of his knowledge comes firsthand, Daly also advanced his education in the classroom. He is a 1978 graduate of the MBA program at Wilmington University — then Wilmington College. “As soon as I walked into a class, I felt that every lecture was real and applicable,” he says. “I knew it would help me in business at that time and in the future.”
Evidently, he learned his lessons well.
The Seeds of Entrepreneurialism
The oldest of five children, Daly was born in Philadelphia, but his family moved to Burlington, N.J., when he was 3. His mother was a housewife, and his father was a banker, who opened new bank locations in the Philadelphia area. When he wasn’t in the development stage of the business, Daly says, his father got “fidgety.”
By 12, Daly had graduated from potholders to newspaper delivery, growing his route from 32 customers to 275 customers. That’s not to say he was spending hours on the streets and sidewalks. Instead, he hired five 11-year-olds to deliver the papers. (You had to be 12 to have your own route.) “I got 70 percent of the income, and they did all the work,” he says. “I did all the collecting.”
Being a manager allowed him to caddy at a private country club, where successful people drove up in expensive cars to hit the links during the workweek. Daly spent four to five hours “interviewing” up to 200 unknowing movers-and-shakers on the greens. After the last hole, Daly scribbled their words of wisdom on the back of the scorecard. Back home, he’d make more detailed notes from the bulleted information.
After graduating from LaSalle University in Philadelphia with a degree in accounting, he went to work for Arthur Anderson. Daly, who’d been promoted twice, left the CPA firm for the “wrong reasons,” he says. “I left to leave as opposed to going toward something.” A new father, he wanted to cut back on business travel, but the human resources department refused to bend. When partners learned that he’d left, they lit into him for not coming to them instead of human resources — another lesson learned.
Daly started working for a national builder, headquartered in the Philadelphia area, who needed someone to manage home loans. He learned the mortgage business inside and out, and went on to start two cutting-edge mortgage companies, which he sold to the Wall Street firms Solomon Brothers and First Boston.
Meanwhile, while running a company for the builder, who’d moved his headquarters to Delaware, Daly decided to get his MBA. However, the builder was pondering a move to Washington, D.C., in the near future. Time was of the essence. If Daly took night courses at most area universities, he’d be going to school for eight years.
He liked that Wilmington University offered an accelerated program with classes that ran over a weekend. He could immerse himself in the classroom work and do the required reading after work at home during the week. He particularly appreciated the instructors, who were business people.
“It was real world experience,” he says. “One day, I decided, I would be the one bringing real world experience to the classroom. The wheels were turning; that’s where I was headed.”
A California State of Mind
Daly wasn’t done with building businesses. In 1985, he moved his wife and two children to California, where he started yet another mortgage company with three colleagues. There were other reasons for the move, namely the weather. An endurance athlete, who participates in marathons and Iron Man competitions, he appreciated the sunshine and warm temperatures. He also likes to be out in the field rather than stuck in an office. “I asked myself, ‘Why am I living in a cold, snowy, wet place when I could be out here in California?’ I said, ‘Let’s go!’”
As CEO, Daly led the new company through a staggering growth spurt. In 18 months, the company had 250 employees and 22 offices, producing $350 million per month in mortgages. In its first three years, the company reported a $42 million profit. He credits consultant Jim Pratt for helping to boost the company’s growth. “He taught us how to run a business and sell better than anybody,” says Daly, who formed a lasting friendship with Pratt. “I told him that at some stage, later in life, I wanted to be a teacher, and he said, ‘You ought to be doing what I’m doing.’” Teach “students” eager to learn sales techniques and see the impact unfold.
In the early 1990s, Daly called Pratt and they formed the Pratt-Daly Corporation, which Pratt still owns. But after a few years, Daly felt as though he had yet to shake “all the entrepreneurial out of me.” He took an opportunity with one of the top five mortgage companies, and in 1998, as a senior partner, he helped the privately held company reach number 10 on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing companies nationwide.
Annual Action Plan
In all, Daly has been CEO of six fast-growth companies. He admits that he still wrestles with the demons that tempt him to lead a new business. But he’s also content with being a professional sales coach and speaker, teaching what he’s learned to others.
He is the brand. Indeed, he changed his website name to jackdaly.net about 12 years ago partly to put his name out there and to allow the site to encompass all his products, from workshops to books, audio and visual material.
At this point in his life, it’s not about hundreds of employees. “I think I would take a bullet before I did that,” he says. He works from home and subcontracts services, such as administrative tasks. “Operating virtually without a band of employees gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of how you live your life,” he says.
Visitors to his website can also view his personal goals under the tab “My Life By Design.” Each year, he plans and tracks his travel, health and personal goals. He gets specific, right down to planning his yearly workouts, alcohol consumption and even his flossing. He makes time for visits with his family, vacations for pleasure and blood donations. It’s all there for the masses to see. “I want to be held accountable for the goals,” he notes.
At the end of the year, he reports on his progress. In 2013, for instance, he planned to work out 228 days and he completed 225. (His business goals are not published online.)
In the world of public speaking, travel is a constant. Daly now takes a calendar at the start of each year and plans his time at home first. At one time, he averaged about 140 nights in a hotel a year for business. Now it’s more like 90. A balanced life, he says, is his idea of happiness.
He is clearly skilled at staying on track. Daly, whose many goals include visiting every presidential library, admires Ronald Reagan for coming into the White House with a short agenda and remaining focused on it. “He often got bashed for falling asleep in meetings, but if meetings weren’t on his agenda points, he had people he trusted to handle that business,” he says.
He acknowledges that finding a balanced life and remaining focused on one’s goals can require tradeoffs. The secret is to define your own success. Daly’s job is not without challenges. He knows that less than 30 percent of the workshop attendees will act on his words. Some people take diligent notes in the 50-page workbook, but leave it behind at the end of the session. (He doesn’t use PowerPoint, which forces attendees to take their own notes rather than copying down words on screens.)
But for those who do act on Daly’s advice, the results can be dramatic. Consider the owner of a translation business who had $4 million in annual sales and seven salespeople when she first met with him. Today her company has more than $600 million in annual sales and more than 400 salespeople.
More than 30 years after graduating from Wilmington University, Daly is now the teacher that he wanted to be while sitting in class. “The adjunct professors were bringing their experience to us, which was so profoundly different than what I might find at other schools,” he says. “At those universities, I might be sitting next to young classmates who had no real world experience and were more concerned with frat parties. I had a wife and kid and I was running a business. I feel like I experienced something special.”
Written by Pam George | Photo courtesy of Jack Daly