This month I am changing up my interviews to include a “man in public sector”, Pat Morrison. Pat has a long, diverse history in his Public Sector career and most recently has joined the Catalyst Consulting Group to focus on helping dealers sell to the Federal government.
Michelle: Pat, we have known each other for many years. I was surprised to learn about a lot of your background recently. Can you share with us your path in Public Sector that led you to the commercial furniture industry and your successful career thus far in furniture?
Pat: As far as the furniture industry goes, I have worked for dealers and manufacturers mainly in Federal sales my entire career. I always found selling to the Federal Government interesting, challenging and ultimately, personally and professionally rewarding. I made my first Federal Government sales call at HEW (now HHS) back in 1978 and can still remember thinking that this can be a very cool career. I started as a Federal Government focused salesperson, moved into a Sales Management position in my early 30’s, worked in Palo Alto in a corporate management position and then back to Washington DC to continue to focus on selling to the Federal Government. I also spent seven years at Washington Management Group helping companies of all sizes and solutions succeed in Federal Government sales using the GSA Schedule program. Many mentors along the way helped support my efforts and contributed to my success, ultimately my Dad was my best mentor. Professionally, there was a Contracting Officer at USPTO, Paul Sickler, who acted as a mentor for me by explaining the nuances of Federal Contracting that ultimately made me a better salesperson.
Michelle: What a great career you have had so far. What were the contributing factors that led you to a career in Public Sector?
Pat: Well Michelle, I was born and raised in the DC suburbs and Federal Government was everywhere. I grew up surrounded by it. Then when I went to college I decided to get my BA in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland. For me, this was a natural lead into my career.
Michelle: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. I grew up around the area and my dad was military and then DOD, but I did not get into Public Sector until way late in my career!! So, based on your major I assume you knew from the beginning that you would be involved in Public Sector in some way?
Pat: Correct, I started selling to the Federal Government in 1978 and knew almost right away this was what I would do the rest of my career. There was a level of intrigue and curiosity based on the perceived complexity of the selling process, especially for larger furniture projects.
Michelle: Wow! You do not meet many people that have that experience. That is great and you have had a wonderful career for sure. You are seen as successful in Public Sector, what are the key influential people or factors that supported your success?
Pat: The key factors would be dedication (you have to be all in), persistence (build on success and learn from mistakes) and curiosity (what is the prospect thinking). As for key people, there have been quite a few who have helped me throughout, but my wife, Ann, has always been supportive of everything I have ever wanted to do in my career.
Michelle: Along the way, were there any twists or turns that developed that helped you to learn along the way that you did not anticipate?
Pat: Yes, there were a lot of things I could never have anticipated. Two that stick out to me are:
Understanding the concept of “use it or lose it” spending in Q4. By most accounts, more than 30% or so of the Federal Government spend occurs in Q4 or it is possible they will lose the money, so it took some education to get a better understanding as to how to capitalize on this yearly occurrence.
Taxpayer dollars/Federal Government agency spending process vs. Commercial market budget spending. When you sell commercially, if it is a publicly traded company, it is in essence shareholder money and can be spent by the company based on their purchasing guidelines. Conversely, with the Federal Government it is taxpayers money and there are established contracting rules, like the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) that must be followed for compliance purposes.
Michelle: Those are definitely two topics we need to understand in order to successfully sell to the Federal Government so thanks for helping to educate all of us on those! From inside the vertical, it appears that Public Sector is a growing market in our industry. How do you see a career in Public sector?
Pat: You know Michelle, the Federal Government is almost always in the buy mode, even during a Continuing Resolution and they will also (ultimately) pay their bills. They will not go out of business!! So, based on this I definitely think someone in furniture looking for a career path would be smart to consider Public Sector. There is a need for specialists in our industry.
Michelle: I like to say Federal is recession proof! I also agree a career path in Public Sector would be a wise decision for someone in our industry! So, as we come to a close, could you share one piece of advice, one book and one podcast you would recommend to someone in our industry looking at a career in Public Sector?
Pat: My piece of advice would be LISTEN. In way too many selling situations, for some reason, we like to talk more than listen. When you become a better listener, you become a better salesperson.
The one book I would recommend is for anyone in sales, not just Public Sector and that is the “Secrets of Schedule Sales Success” by Larry Allen. The one podcast would be The Trend Report by Sid Meadows, especially #51😊 I think he does a great job of sharing the different stories of people in our industry and you can learn a lot through his conversations.
Michelle: Pat it has been great hearing your story and getting your words of wisdom. Thank you so much for your time. As the podcast note, I would be remiss if I did not recommend Trend report #77 as well!!
ABOUT PAT MORRISON Senior Consultant, President Catalyst Consulting Group
About Pat Morrison Pat is a Seasoned government sales and marketing executive with successful career building long term and productive relationships in the Federal, State & Local government markets. He has successfully negotiated many government contracts over his career with a concentration in the GSA Schedules program. He is passionate about assisting commercial furniture dealerships intent on increasing revenue and profitability through new market entry into government.
ABOUT MICHELLE WARREN Founder, President Catalyst Consulting Group Michelle Warren is President of Catalyst Consulting Group, a firm specializing in providing strategic solutions to the commercial furniture industry to enhance their sales, positioning, and distribution. With 25 years of industry experience on the dealer and manufacturer side of the industry, Michelle has been recognized as an innovator in selling to the Federal Government, State/Local Government, Higher Education and Cooperative Purchasing. Her expertise includes: sales strategies, strategic planning, 3-5 year road mapping, targeted marketing plans, distribution development, hiring reps, and training for reps and/or dealers. Michelle is known as a “serial networker” in the furniture industry and enjoys meeting people and making connections happen. If you’re interested in connecting - reach out at: Michelle@strategic-catalyst.com, connect on LinkedIn or visit www.strategic-catalyst.com to learn more about her work. As seen in Delve | November 2022 V.32