Throughout history, leaders have been distinguished by titles. Only an individual with the title of ‘captain’ could pilot a ship, only a ‘general’ could command an army, and only a ‘king’ could govern a people. Regardless, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Occasionally, there comes along an individual so naturally inclined to caring for others that a sort of phenomenon occurs—even without a formal title, this person is designated as a leader. In fact, it may be fairly speculated that the most talented leaders are often title-less. Sam Helgren is one such individual.
As Sam continues to inspire and be inspired by his peers, his capacity to lead will likely attend him, regardless of job title.
Having a sported a variety of hats in a variety of seats, Sam started at England Logistics as an account manager. Rapidly making his way from AM1, to AM2, to AM3 and SAM, Sam demonstrated his intuition for the industry, and his capacity to work hard. Given Sam’s experience, a comfortable transition to a Learning and Development Specialist was made, but his hunger to sell remained. Following his passion, Sam eventually because the National Sales Manager, and then Senior National Sales Manager.
EL: I’m pretty thrilled to be here. I’ve been fortunate enough to associate with you for some time, and I can personally attest to your goodness, and all that you’ve accomplished. And so with that being said, can you give me an introduction to your career path?
Sam: I started off as a fuel account manager back when England Carrier Services was four teams. It’s incredible to see how ECS has grown from when I started six years ago. The tires team had a handful of folks, factoring had just a few people, and there was maybe just 14 or 15 fuel account managers. It’s been really awesome to see the progression of that department, to the point that ECS has now become the largest department.
So I was there for about two years, and then did a very brief stint in talent and development with Elias and Bobby. Finally, Lisa stole me over to national sales. I’ve been with that team for just a little over four years.
EL: I think anybody who’s been around long enough knows that you’ve been a tremendous team player in each of the referenced departments. You’ve also gotten to see the cultivation and the growth of these departments.. What has it been like for you to observe those transformations?
Sam: It’s incredibly rewarding. You always want to see the impact, right?
It’s cool to be able to step back and see the tens of millions of gallons that we’re doing on an annual basis, and understand that six years ago, that would be unfathomable.
I think the coolest thing, though, is we have these huge goals today, and people still wonder how we’re going to accomplish them. And now it’s, it’s easy for me to go back and say, “This isn’t outside of the realm possibility. Not only did we hit these aggressive targets for the past five, six years, but we’ve continued to exceed them.”
EL: It must have been incredible to directly observe some of those changes occurring. I want to know for you specifically, where do you get your biggest hit of dopamine? You’ve referenced growth, but is there any particular part of that process of growing that is especially inspiring or appealing to you?
Sam: It’s seeing people get their big wins. It’s seeing people bring on their first, big customer or overcoming their own hurdles. That for me is really, really cool.
EL: That’s super noble. Can you give me an example of a win in someone you’ve seen that’s been impactful for you? And why was this particular moment so significant?
Sam: There are a plethora of anecdotes. I remember back when I was still getting started, and I was in the trenches with everyone else, and one of the guys that was in my higher class brought on a 50-truck company for a fuel program. That was earth shattering. That event totally changed the dynamic of the fuel team. It was inspiring to see, and it changed our team’s perspective.
EL: I don’t think it’s actually hyperbole. When you’ve got some of these pioneers, one of the greatest fruits that they yield is that of example. You’ve been one of those pioneers in a lot of different senses. So I want to ask you, what part of the mission of England Logistics do you most identify with?
Sam: We talk about COACHTeam all the time. The hard work aspect, paired with accountability, is where I’ve had the most success.
If I could create another letter though, like if there was another C in ‘COACH’, I would say that it should be collaboration.
Diversity of thought is incredibly powerful. Getting perspective from other members on the team, and seeing how they’re successful or even how they’re not, can be a big lesson.
EL: I think that’s very wise. In spirit of that collaboration, and in spirit of really everything that we discussed so far, who has been the hero that you look up to that’s been impactful in your career that you’d like to emulate?
Sam: It’s Lisa, hands down. Lisa is a huge motivator. I think that her gift is finding the silver lining in any situation. Not only that, but also empowering other people to succeed. She clears the path, and then lets people do what they do best. Everyone has hesitancies and doubts and insecurities, but Lisa always assures you that your path is correct.
EL: I agree with you that Lisa is an excellent example of somebody that generates enthusiasm, because she’s already got it. Sounds like you really have had quite an array of resources for success.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out to attain the level success that you have?
Sam: Leverage your relationships. You can only do so much by yourself. It’s okay to learn from other people. That’s half the battle, right? Also, make sure that you have a good support network. I think that is how you get things done, by having people that you can lean on to leverage their time and their knowledge and their expertise. That’s how I’ve been successful.
EL: So if I’m listening to this, and I’m now receiving input that cultivating relationships really is king in a lot of different ways, then what is your advice in cultivating relationships? What helps you to establish a successful relationship? And how do you define them?
A successful relationship is built on a common foundation and a mutual understanding.
So, I know just enough about a little bit of everything to get myself into trouble. That has broken down the walls, more times than not, including my all-time favorite interaction a new customer.
We hadn’t signed the dotted line with them yet. This was a finalist interview. The company was based in Japan, and the transportation and senior leadership had flown out for these finalists. These individuals were very astute, and very hard for me to read. As we’re talking, I’m getting no feedback. I don’t know if we’re sinking, I don’t know if we’re swimming.
At the end of the interview, they started talking a bit more about their company. They told me that they owned a baseball team in Japan. And I actually knew about this! There’s a Japanese baseball team that I follow called the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. So I told them, “Oh, yeah, I know. We beat you five-three last night.” And we start talking baseball—
EL: They had to be in absolute disbelief, right?
Sam: Oh yeah. They’re like, “How the heck does this American dude follow obscure Japanese baseball?”
EL: They probably thought you had done some HEAVY homework.
Sam: Oh yeah. They were like, “No kidding!” I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve been a fan of the carp for years. You know, we didn’t get the pennant last year in the Pacific League, but we’re coming for you hard this year!” And that would probably be like, my favorite customer memory. I loved seeing these guys that were so hard to read totally crack and open up.
EL: I love this idea of finding genuine commonality. I think we hear beaten to death, “Find something that you can both relate on.” But what you’re saying is that’s great advice, but you got to know what you’re talking about to a degree.
I mean, you fake it ‘till you make it. I’m a firm believer in that. But you can only fake it so much.
At some point people are going to sense a little bit of disingenuousness.
EL: That’s definitely going to be damaging. But even if it’s not something that you know a ton about, working off that small portion that you do know, with genuine interest, I think that’s where the code seems to be cracked.
Sam: Whatever it is, be passionate about it. You know?
EL: Even if you have to fake it ‘till you make it.
Sam: Right. Sometimes you fake it, and you become passionate about it.
EL: If you can become passionate by accident, you are really doing something right.
I just have some conclusive questions here. Given all the history that you have here, what do you want to implement more in your career going forward? What do you want to see in yourself?
Sam: I feel like I’ve been an inch deep and a mile wide. I’d like to get more in depth with a company involvement. I touched a lot of different things last year, but I’d like to get more heavily involved in fewer things. I really want to make an impact.
EL: Got it. Anyone can show up and can keep the seat warm, but that impact is definitely what’s going to create a legacy. Now last thing, if you’ve got 20 minutes, what do you do with your time besides change lives? Is there anything else you do in this life beside follow Japanese baseball?
Sam: I’ve always been active, I’ve always ran, biked and things like that. Then I got into a bike accident last year and messed my shoulder up. So I’ve been running a ton more. And the more I run, the more I realize that I can push myself further and further and further. If I have 20 minutes, or if I have two hours, then I’m hitting the trails. My hope before the end of the year is to do a 50 miler.
EL: Wow, that’s incredible.
Sam: I want to do a 100 miler in the next year or so. I don’t know why I want to do it. I think I just want to see how far I can go.
EL: What a beautiful analogy to end the interview on, right? Step by step, you’re accomplishing monumental things. And we all want to see how far you can go.
We’re on the search for more senior account managers. If this interview resonated with you, apply at this link: https://www.englandlogistics.com/search-all-available-jobs/