Career Transitions: From Sales to Sauce

In Second Acts, Dawn Fallik over at WSJ.com profiles Jim Barbour in A Former Sales Rep Concocts Fresh Start With Barbecue Sauce.” A quick look at Barbour’s career history and you will see that he had a short stint in stockbroking, then spent several years in sales with great companies such as Sony, GlaxoSmithKline and then transitioned to a marketing role with a start-up furniture store.  Today, Barbour is the CEO of FunniBonz, so just how did he create a barbecue sauce that sold over $10,000 in one store within six weeks, just six months after launching his company?:

  • He used his time at the furniture store to figure out what he enjoyed and what he was good at. In his interview with Mrs Mo’s, Barbour reveals that he was fascinated by good food. He also goes on to say that he had “an innate talent for layering and finding a balance when creating a sauce or a dish.”
  • Barbour adopted an entrepreneurial mindset. An entrepreneurial mindset is described as the entrepreneurial spirit, meant to cause the innovative and energetic practice to identify or create an opportunity and take action aimed at realizing it, i.e he was:

(i) Strategically focused, he aligned himself with people and partners who could help him.
(ii) Confident that once people tasted his sauce they would buy it, so he offered samples.
(iii) Persistent, when trying to get into Wholefoods, he always followed up and did not give up. No doubt Barbours’ sales experience came in handy here.
(iv) Resourceful, he approached friends and family to fund the distribution of his sauce.
(v) Bold, he was bored professionally so he took risks. Barbour shares “I finally got to the point where everything in my life has led to this….I’m following my dream.

  • Barbour recognized that you do not always have to start from scratch. Some of the best ideas come from taking something that is okay and making it brilliant, by tweaking a feature/service that is clearly not working well (for you or better yet for many) and does not look like it is going to be fixed in the near future, e.g. mint cars on demand versus zip cars. Mints offer of discounted parking at affiliated parking lots may be just the thing that tips car renters in its favor.

Funnibonz barbecue sauce is sold in over 100 stores across the US, clearly Barbour did not take no for an answer. As you transition through life and your career, there will be many people who will tell you it cannot be done or that you are unnecessarily up-heaving your career. Do not let the naysayers dissuade you. They may be right and then again they may be wrong.  Surround yourself with supportive people, people who have done, what you are trying to do, who can mentor and coach you though your personal transition.  In the words of Vincent van Gogh, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

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