“I would say just never be satisfied. I’m never satisfied. I always want better.”

Carl Little is all about wanting better. Not just for himself or his family, but everyone he meets. Carl is a serial entrepreneur who has founded, grown and sold four office equipment sales and service companies. As gifted a salesman as Carl is, his true gift lies in the way he connects people. A true servant leader, Carl is warm and caring and puts people together for their mutual benefit.

From Coach to Copier Salesman

Carl came to Kansas from New England, the eldest of five children from hard-working parents. He studied at Ottawa University where he also played football. “I graduated Ottawa University in 1974, went to Washburn University as a football coach and women’s basketball coach. And we all got fired one day because of some indiscretions of our head coach, head basketball coach of Washburn, head football coach at Washburn decided to change wives.”

“So they fired us all and I was looking for a job, and Xerox called and said, ‘I’d like to talk to you about being a salesperson.’ I said, ‘A salesperson, I don’t even like salespeople, don’t want to be one.’ So I became one. I thought I could work June, July, and August to be a great summer job and to go back and coach in the fall. I made so much money in the summer, I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t afford to go back.”

Making Things Better

After marrying his wife and adopting her special needs son, Carl left Xerox to work for Savin. “They moved us to Texas and I called on dealers in west Texas for two years. Hated traveling four nights a week.” That got Carl thinking about how to make things better. “I woke up one day and I said, these guys all drive Mercedes Benzes and I drive a Volkswagen, so why don’t I be a dealer? So decided to buy a dealership.” Carl bought the dealership over the phone, and moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, to run it. It was a hard go at first. Carl didn’t think he’d be able to make payroll. His wife told him at lunch “‘well I would finish your sandwich if I were you because you’ve got a mentally retarded developmentally disabled son Nicholas, and I’m pregnant.’ I didn’t know she was pregnant until lunch. She said ‘I’d finish your sandwich. I’d go back to work because you have no choice. You move me 700 miles away from my family and so get your ass back to work and go sell something ‘cause you gotta make payroll on Friday.’ So I did. I’ve not gone to lunch for 35 years, cause I don’t want to go through that again.”

Carl later sold that business to Danka from Tampa, Florida. Danka moved him to Kansas City where Carl ran that company for 8 years before he was fired. Fired for making too much money. Which, Carl says, “I probably was.” He then started another copier business in Lincoln, Nebraska with offices in Omaha, Carney, and Council Bluffs Iowa. Carl sold that company to Konica-Minolta. “They gave me a contract to stay with them and I stayed 18 months. I hated every day because I wasn’t the owner. And I couldn’t make any decisions.” Carl moved to Sumner One, a company he’s proud to be part of. “Five years ago I joined this company. I hated these guys when I competed against them because they were really good and really honest and they are really good and really honest. … And they really care about their employees and really care about their clients. And I love working for them.”

On Being Successful

READ
Listen. Trust. Succeed, Executive Summit: Mike Theissen

“There’s a lot of entrepreneurs and [they] think they can do it by themselves. They can’t. I mean you can make pretty good money but you can’t make a lot of money. And I wasn’t about making a lot of money…but we made a lot because we worked hard and we were fair with our people. We paid them well, but we expect them to do their job.”

“My Dad told me that you’ll never have to ask for a raise or promotion or more money if you just bust your butt for people. And he said, ‘get there early in the morning, stay late. Help people achieve the goals they want and you’ll be fine.’ My Dad did not graduate from eighth grade.”

You know, in growing our companies, we had great people. I mean, we had fantastic people at managing our business for us…I hired the best people I could add. A lot of times [they] came from the competition and they just didn’t like working for those people. And they came to us and we treat them right.”

“I love my business. I also love my family. I would say just, boy, just love what you do. If you’re not happy, you don’t do it. Yeah. I’ve always had jobs. I loved the job at Washburn when I was coaching football. I loved that job and I was really devastated when I lost that job. I got fired because of somebody else’s actions. But it turned out to be pretty good because the Xerox thing was good. It was a great summer job and everything I’ve done has just been better. Cause you make it better. It’s up to you. It’s not up to your people. It’s up to you. You decide what you’re going to do now. You gotta hire the best people. You’ve got to  let them do their jobs and make them do their jobs, but just never be satisfied.”

To learn more about Sumner One and what Carl can do for you, visit their website at https://www.sumnerone.com