James: At 729, we love to sit down and chat with the interesting people that work with us. It’s a chance to shine the spotlight on our amazing team and an opportunity to take a break and connect with each other.
I’m James Studios Director and joining me from Apollo Beach, Florida is Mike Gray, our Senior Solution Delivery Manager here at 729.
Thanks for joining me, Mike.
Mike: Hey James. Thanks for having me. I always love doing fun things like this that get me away from the day-to-day grind and have an opportunity to share why I love 729 and why I’m here.
James: Fantastic. It’s great to have you here. So let’s kick things off by telling us a little bit about yourself and what you do here at 729.
Mike: Sure. So I am a father. I have a beautiful young seven year old daughter who means the world to me. She’s my passion. The reason why I get outta bed every day. But I am a passionate IT sales person. I have over 20 years of consultantative selling, and I always lead every sales opportunity I’m working by doing what’s right for the customer, cuz tenfold that’ll always come back and be rewarding effort from what I’m putting into it.
James: Absolutely. And that’s something that is such a perfect fit with you here at 729 because we are very, very customer-centric. We want to make sure that we’re delivering our clients with successful projects, and you are a key part of that.
What do you like about working for 729?
Mike: The thing I love about 729 is the people, the culture of the company.
Everyone here is a passionate problem solver. They all contribute in their own ways, but it’s really the group of people that come together to bring the right solution to the customer. And with us being a custom design shop, how you can slice that solution, what it looks like, can look multiple different ways.
And so having an awesome team behind me to help me support opportunities and really resolving business imperatives customers don’t really know how to address, is one of the phenomenal things I really like about this organization. That’s where we come together and shine.
James: You know, it really is true.
You know, every project is unique in itself. I mean, after over 20 years of doing this, you know, there’s never been something that’s been the same. Every project is unique and that definitely keeps us on our toes.
What, uh, are your hobbies?
Mike: So there’s three things I love to do, James. The first thing is I’m a passionate cooker.
I love to cook. I actually am a barbecue master, so I don’t use the kitchen inside my house. I do everything on the barbecue, to me it’s the way to cook and how you get to my heart is through food. And the one thing I love about food is I look at it as an art form. It’s not only nice to create, but it’s delicious when you do it well and you get to eat it.
I love to go fishing. That’s something that I do to get away from the hustle and bustle just to see what’s out fighting. Now it’s called fishing for a reason. I don’t really catch stuff very often, but I do enjoy getting away and enjoy fishing. And the last thing that I really like to do is, I love to go shooting.
I’m a big proponent of trap and skeet shooting along with target shooting.
James: It’s funny, I was joking around with you before we hit record on this conversation here that, you know, I was like looking forward to talking to you about something that you had filled out on your questionnaire for this conversation.
And it was cooking. Dude, you are holding back on us. You know, you’re not posting anything in our Food Network channel. What’s the deal?
Mike: You know, it’s– I’m selfish. We can leave it at that.
James: Fair enough. I’m not sure I want to be tortured by pictures of your delicious barbecue creations. Man, I’m hungry right now just thinking about.
All right. Let’s shift gears here a little bit. So, you know, we’re coming, coming out of the, you know, the throes here of our COVID 19 stay-at-home orders.
What did you do during that time to keep yourself entertained?
Mike: You know, that’s a really good question because reality for everyone kind of changed.
And for me, I looked at myself and I actually put myself on a personal health journey. I did a lot of walking. I got out, enjoyed some fresh air. You weren’t going elsewhere, so I told myself, if I have all this extra time today, I might as well get something to benefit– something of good positive benefit from it.
And me putting myself on a health journey and walking and getting an exercise and putting my energy into that is where that extra time went to.
James: That’s fantastic. I did the complete opposite. I just laid around and ate… barbecue. No, just kidding. I live in San Diego. If I was in Apollo Beach, I would be like [knocks on desk], “Mike, give me some of that barbecue!”
Mike: You know, someday, James, we will meet in person and I would be happy to give you some barbecue for sure.
James: Ooh, you know what, I think I’ve got an idea, actually. I’m going to send a box with some dry ice inside of it and just, you know, you can just stuff all the brisket in there and send it right back over to me. Oh my…
Mike: I like the way you think you’re always creative, james .
James: All right, let’s get “philosophical”.
Not to get too serious here, but what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been?
Mike: You know, that’s a great question, and this goes back to my early days of my sales career over 20 years ago, and it was if you don’t ask, you don’t know. So always ask the question, and the stupid question is not the question that’s asked.
So be a hundred percent open to asking whatever question you need for clarity. And if you’re asking something, what’s the worst they can tell you? “No.” Well, that’s not the end of the world. In sales, actually, when you hear the word no, that’s when you start value creation, but that’s a conversation for a different day.
James: Yeah, I mean, I’m gonna deep dive a little bit into that too, just because like when we do get into our conversations with our clients, or customers or prospects, you know, asking those key questions are so critical, and I think that’s what makes you a really good salesperson is that you’re not afraid of asking those questions because that’s information that we need to have on hand to help these companies have their projects become a success with us.
Mike: A hundred percent agree. If you don’t understand what their driving factors are and what they’re looking to resolve, you can’t create a solution that’s gonna best fit their needs.
So understand that. And also, the other important thing is to also understand what’s the driving factor they’re looking to get out of this. Because if you’re able to understand what the business problem is and what the result they’re looking for, that’s when you know where you can really shine to create that value for them.
James: What advice would you give someone who wants to join our team?
Mike: The advice I would give to anyone that wants to join 729 is to always be themselves. Don’t try to fit a mold of a company. Be your individual. That’s the value you bring to the table.
I remind myself, when I get outta bed in the morning, yes, I do go to work for a company, but I’m getting out of bed to provide for myself, so I need to be myself in order to be able to achieve my goals, and provide for myself.
Another thing I would say, and especially in technology sales, is continual education. It’s very, very important. There’s a lot of different technology platforms you work with. The more you can get yourself certified, have an understanding of that technology where it applies to the business.
Just allows you to bring more value in your conversations, especially when you’re going through discovery, because you can understand the ins and outs and maybe what they’re looking for and get some additional clarity around that to really shine and be able to create that.
James: 100% great advice there for sure.
This next question, always controversial. But we have to ask. Cats are dogs?
Mike: A hundred percent dogs. And the reason for… the reason for that is cats are great companions. I’m not saying they’re not, but they live within four walls. A dog you’re able to go out and have adventures with and have more activities and excitement with.
James: Yeah. I’ve taken an informal kind of survey here with the cats versus dogs tally. This company definitely leans dog.
James: I would say 90/10 actually.
Mike: Wow. Okay.
James: Yeah. I think… I can only think of one person right now that has… that has a cat .
Mike: I betcha I know who that is!
James: No, it’s not me, actually! I don’t… I don’t have cats anymore. I don’t have any dog– pets anymore, unfortunately. But, anyway, this is not about me, it’s about you.
This section of the interview, I always feel like– I know my name is James, but– James Lipton, I don’t know if you’re familiar with him. He was the host of “Inside the Actor’s Studio”.
He was great. Unfortunately he has passed on. But anyway, this is my James Lipton moment here. Let’s talk about your favorite word in the English language. What might that be?
Mike: You know, my favorite word in the English language is God, because without God you don’t have full meaning of life, and that’s how I operate my day-to-day activities by being whole.
James: And how about your favorite word in another language?
Mike: You know, that would have to be “gringo”. And that comes to the fact that I used to be a valet attendant years and years ago, and there’s a lot of Portuguese and Spanish speaking people that we had working with us. And I always knew in conversations if I heard the word gringo, they were referring to me.
James: What is the most inspiring part of your job?
Mike: The most inspiring part about my job is actually resolving complex business imperatives. Helping the organization to get more outta what they have in place today, either by giving them additional feature functionality that they don’t have out of the box, or giving them advanced integration or capabilities from a workflow perspective to really support their business and their use case.
And I’m a firm believer that there are three areas when you look at technology sales and talking to an organization that you should provide, that is people, process, and technology, which equates to performance and when you provide them performance to do more than what they can’t do today. That is the rewarding part of my job.
Now I am in sales, so I do love to make commissions, but to me that’s not the end all goal for me, it’s resolving the customer’s business imperative, helping them get from point A to point B, and knowing that it’s been done correctly, so that way they can have additional value.
James: You know, it really is kind of magical.
You know, I don’t know if you experience this, but seeing these projects go from end to end. It… it really does speak to how an idea can come to reality. It’s fun to see it happen over the life… over the lifespan of projects.
Mike: It is. And the best part is, is when you get entrenched in a project and you’re working on a specific task, when they see the value of outside thinkers and looking at different aspects, the other things that come to the table to work on and help support that weren’t even in the thought process previously, that’s when you know you’re doing the right thing as an organization by providing that value.
James: That’s the perfect segue into this next question. If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
Mike: My superpower would be time. Cuz that’s one thing no one ever gets back and it’s very, very valuable.
And so if I could control time or give myself more time today, that’s what I wanna put my superpower heroes to.
James: This is my time machine question. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Mike: So, I wanted to be a firefighter when I was a kid. I did do youth volunteer firefighting for several, several years.
And I really, really enjoyed it. But as I’ve gotten older, I realized being a firefighter is amazing to provide those services to people needs and what you see and how you can understand how a fire works and spreads is very, very cool. , but at day’s end, it’s not the best way to provide for yourself.
So I’ve changed to IT sales .
James: Fair enough. If you were a pasta shape, what shape would you be and why?
Mike: Now James, I think you know this question knowing me, but I would be a barbecue cuz why shouldn’t pasta be cooked on a barbecue? Cuz I do everything on the barbecue.
James: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
Mike: Yeah, you know, I have a saying that I go by, um, not everything fits in a square box and life is not always black and white. And I like to think that all the magic happens in gray. My last name being “Gray”. That’s where I create my value for my customers, is by helping them blend those colors together to create value.
James: Mike Gray, Senior Solution Delivery Manager here at 729 Solutions where we are a full service agency providing design, UI/UX, software development, and professional services. If you need help with your project, please set up a call with Mike. He’d love to speak with you about your needs and talk about how 729 can help make your project a success.
Thanks for taking some time out to have a chat with me, Mike. I had a great time.
Mike: Thanks James. I appreciate it. I did as well.
I might not always be the sharpest crayon, so I don’t always color between the lines. But, I know enough to be dangerous, so I’m happy to contribute wherever I can.
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