Andrew Schroeder, YEN Member Insights, October 2011

Andrew Schroeder, SEMA YEN Member of the Month, October 2011

Andrew Schroeder on… Recipes to Succeed 
Vice President, Ben Murphy and Associates; YEN Member  

About Andrew
Sometimes the path to success is right in front of you, other times it’s not even remotely close. The second option was precisely the “path,” if you will, for Andrew Schroeder.

Andrew is the Vice President of Ben Murphy and Associates, a national rep agency. Twelve years ago, Andrew was the manager of a pizza parlor in North Jersey. As his path would have it, the next thing he knew, he had found his calling as a manufacturer’s sales rep. 

So, how did a pizza parlor manager become an automotive sales rep?
I grew up around sports car enthusiasts and spent a lot of time at the racetracks when I was young. I relished the times I could help my uncle and brother work on their cars. The memories are countless and fond; the experience, which I did not know then, became the foundation for my lifetime career.

In 1985 I purchased my first car, a VW GTI. The car didn’t stay stock for long. It was easy to see my passion when I was on the road, but more importantly it flowed from me in just about any conversation I had. Many people tried to guide me on my career path, saying things like “Andrew you can’t toss pizza forever.”  However, I was young. I had enough money to live and to play with my car. My whole life was in front of me. What more did I need?

Then, through a mutual friend I met Ken Gallant. Ken worked for the aftermarket company Ben Murphy and Associates (BMA), and as a young man and car enthusiast it sounded to me like he had the perfect job. 

I was 25 at this point, and after working in restaurants doing everything from washing dishes to being a line cook to managing, I was ready for something more. I remember the day very clearly. I was sitting on a ski slope at Belleayre Mountain in New York with Ken during one of our numerous ski trips. We had been talking about his job more and more lately. I was intrigued, so I simply asked him if they had any openings. Ken said they did need some help at a “Big Show.” I was pumped and ready to help. I wanted to see and learn more. This is when I met Ben Murphy. 

At the end of the show I had a brief conversation with Ben, and he told Ken to hire me to help work Keystone and other accounts. This was the beginning of my new job. I worked 1 or 2 days a week, doing all the things that no one else wanted to do, until I eventually made the switch to full-time. Looking back on it now, I realize that I ended up working one full day at what was one of the first ever Keystone Big Shows. Twelve years later I am fortunate to have been there every year since. 

When Ben tells the story of the day we met, he says he had an epiphany. He says he knew right then and there he had to hire me. Epiphany or not, all I can say is I have been thankful for Ben taking a chance on me everyday since. Ben gave me the opportunity for a “new job.” I turned that into a lifetime career.

What is one factor of your development that you would attribute your current success to?  
When I started my career I didn’t know much, therefore I was not only willing, but also excited to dive in and be “in the trenches.” This allowed me learn from many different angles and exposed me to a myriad of different facets of the industry. I matured quickly in my career, learning in a manner that taught me through vast experiences. Many people don’t want to make the personal sacrifices required to work that way. It is not easy to be “in the trenches.” Given all I have done, I would do it over just the same. To this day I still feel that if you sit in your office rather than getting out there, you are passing up many opportunities that will help you reap the rewards of success. 

It takes hard work and perseverance to succeed and change your life. How important do you feel it is for someone to never forget his or her roots? 
As soon as you forget where you came from, you are doing yourself a wicked injustice. We all neglect the past from time to time when things are going well, but it is important to reflect on what got you there. We can’t forget the experiences that we had before the success. Some things worked, and some didn’t. You need to always learn and evolve in this ever-changing industry. Complacency is death, and to believe you can keep doing things the same way you did 10 years ago is foolish.

It was not all too long ago I was washing dishes for $6.00 an hour. When I look back and see how I have changed and grown it is humbling. We all have our story -- grass rooted or silver spooned.

I work with the mentality to treat everyone equally no matter what their title is. Remember that we all have roots; a story and evolution that got us here… and never forget it.

How do you balance your social life and work to enjoy successes in both? 
After more than a decade, I am still trying to find a balance. Just like your business and your relationships, balance is something that takes continuous effort. Three years ago I made an effort to balance life – not balance my work with my social relationships, but balance MY LIFE. There is a monumental difference. By balancing my life I am taking the 2 major segments of my life and joining them in a way where they work together, rather than having them push and pull. It is all too easy to fall victim to letting one destroy the other.

Setting aside time for social endeavors is essential. It rejuvenates the soul and relaxes the mind. I make a conscious effort to commit to my social life with the same ferocity that I commit to my business -- I fully delve into each singularly. This balance has allowed me to fully enjoy my time away from work and have a healthier personal life. In return, when I am working I am more focused and motivated.

Who do you look to as a role model and why? 
Being a Manufacturer Representative, you have contact with so many different people. Starting my career at 25, many people in the industry touched me in a countless number of ways. However, there are two individuals who stand out -- Gary Peek, Sr. V.P. Sales and Marketing for Eibach Springs and my partner at BMA, Ben Murphy. 

I had the opportunity to work with Gary right from the beginning. Over the years Gary has always been a strong supporter of me, and I truly admire how he approaches business. He has challenged me to be the best I can be, and continues to encourage me to reach farther than I would alone. Gary is the epitome of a mentor and a true testament to gentlemen. 

When I think of my other major role model , words alone cannot convey the significant impact Ben Murphy has had on my life. Ben’s steadfast dedication to entrepreneurship is remarkably inspiring. You cannot leave the room having heard the story of Ben Murphy and not feel empowered to change the world. I always have and always will respect him with great humility for all his battles, conquests and successes. 

Beyond that, Ben has been a strong boss and business partner over the last twelve years. He has allowed me to grow and succeed, while providing me with a sound base and all the tools required to perform. From the beginning Ben told me, “I would rather you make a bad decision than no decision.” This was Ben’s way of letting me know I had the support I needed to make decisions and grow the business. I credit him to this day for those words, and as I now know through the experience of his hand, he is 100% correct. Indecision is success’s worst enemy.

What advice would you give to a YEN member that wants to grow and succeed in this industry?
Listen and Ask.

Listen to everyone around. Learn and absorb everything you can. This will help you to make solid decisions. Also, ask. If you don’t know something and you don’t ask… well, you are right where you started, and not knowing has never gotten anyone anywhere. 

So what’s your secret pizza recipe?
Not happening! I kid. I was actually thinking about the recipe that we used in the pizza place for dough and sauce just last week. To be honest I don’t remember it. However, as with all good things… relish them while you can and then get ready to move on to the next great thing. 

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