Sam, who is the current COO and executive vice president of Almo Pro A/V, is one of those people that you just can’t help but like and respect.
Sam started in AV in 1987 as a regional sales manager for Electrograph Systems. He worked his way up through the ranks and was president of the company from 1995-2009. Sadly, in 2009, Electrograph suffered at the hands of the recession and went out of business.
But Sam didn’t let that stop him.
“I was so fortunate at the time. I was able to take 22 of my best people from Electrograph and bring them with me to start the Almo Pro A/V division,” Sam said. “And in just four years, we’ve built the Almo Pro A/V division from $0 to over $160 million a year. But it’s all been because of the people. They’re great, knowledgable people and we started with a strong and solid team.”
What you may not know about Sam is that he’s not only been successful professionally, but also outside of the “9 to 5” – as a swimmer.
As a little kid, Sam took up swimming and playing baseball, but quickly, Sam learned that he was much better at swimming than baseball and began to focus all of his energy in the pool.
He went on to swim in high school and then in college at Johns Hopkins University. His first THREE years at Johns Hopkins he, along with his teammates, were able to bring home THREE Division III NCAA national championships.
It was while he was at Johns Hopkins that he met his wife, Blair. They were the same year in school and both swam on the team, but they didn’t begin dating until after college.
Sam took a break from swimming shortly after college and focused on his career, his new wife and raising three wonderful children, Lauren, Nick and Leah.
But, it wouldn’t be long before Sam knew he needed to jump back in the pool.
Sam continued to swim throughout his adulthood and swam competitively until five years ago.
It was in 2008 when Sam took FOURTH at Masters Nationals (that means he was fourth in the COUNTRY), but he unfortunately experienced a semi-career-ending injury.
“It was 2008. I was swimming the 100 fly in Masters Nationals and I knew that I had done something to my shoulder during the swim,” recalled Sam. “My daughter Lauren had come down to Austin to see me swim. Afterwards, we went out to dinner to celebrate and I had ordered a margarita. When I went to squeeze the lime with my thumb and forefinger, I almost passed out from the pain. I knew I had done something bad.”
It turns out Sam had torn his shoulder in four places, thus ending his competitive swimming career.
Now, Sam continues to swim to stay in shape… and eat more.
But it hasn’t stopped there.
A few years ago, Sam had developed a relationship with the head coach of the Johns Hopkins swim team. They’d get together for lunch a couple times a year and Sam would check to see how the team was doing.
One day coach asked Sam if he wanted to help out. And since then, Sam has coached the Johns Hopkins team on a volunteer basis about two days a week.
When he stated coaching, the teams were finishing about 10th in the country.
Today, the men’s team is ranked 3rd and the women’s team is ranked 5th. In fact, as I was interviewing Sam, he was in Houston, Tex. for the NCAA Division III championships. The team was almost in first place at the time of press. Woo hoo!
But it’s not just the swimming success that makes Sam proud.
“I am so proud of our women’s team,” he said. “Last year our women’s team finished with the second highest GPA of any women’s Division III swim team in the country. We have one girl on our team who is a Rhode’s Scholar and one who has the HIGHEST GPA of any Division III swimmer in the nation. She has a 3.97 GPA and she is a molecular biology major. But what that all tells me is these kids work so hard in the classroom and so hard in the pool, and it’s really a fulfilling hobby to have.”
It’s not just the enjoyment that Sam has received from swimming and coaching all these years, it’s the lessons he’s learned and the experience he’s gained.
“There are a lot of similarities between managing people and coaching a team,” said Sam. “You try to get people to believe in themselves and their abilities – stretch for their goals – in a good way. And honestly, my philosophy in life is you learn more from the failures than the successes. One of the most important things sports teaches you is how to lose. In life, you’re going to fail. You’re going to lose. Bad things are going to happen. While winning is nice, it’s not about that – it’s about how you react when those bad things happen that defines you. It teaches you to carry on and do the right things.
“It’s all about making lemonade out of lemons.”
I couldn’t agree more. I think many of us could learn a lot of somethings from Sam.
Molly Stillman is the director of marketing and new business development for rAVe [Publications]. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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