Social Media

My Manchester Story

Joe Messer

by Mam Samba | Mar 26, 2019

Joe Messer, associate professor of entrepreneurial studies and director of the Professional Sales Program, discusses the growing program and the opportunities available to students.

“What was it like launching the sales program in 2014?”

“Our first step was to reach out to companies to see what they were looking for in employees. They all said, ‘You bring us someone who is trained in professional sales and we’ll hire them!’ And with that in mind, we developed this Professional Sales Program and have been growing that program: number one, by informing students what opportunities were out there and, number two, working with companies to come here and talk to our students. Several of our courses include guest speakers who discuss the different opportunities within their companies. We’ve also gotten several companies to do internships with us which has helped the program grow even more. Once students started seeing their peers getting jobs right out of college, more students started to get involved.”

“As this program grows, what is one upcoming project that you’re really excited about?”

“One of the classes I teach is Sales and Entrepreneurship. In this class, students have to come up with their idea and their own product to sell. To take that one step further, I am trying to get students to work with the local vocational school in Wabash and have the vocational school manufacture the products. So we come up with the idea, they prototype the idea, and then we’ll learn how they manufacture the product while the students at the vocational school will learn how to put a business plan together. This will be a great way for us to get into the community. It’s a way for university students to see how product is made and it’s a way for high school [students] to see what life is like at Manchester University.”

“Do you think students realize the vastness of all they can do with this major or minor?”

“No, I don’t think they do. But students spread the word and then other students begin to see the opportunities available, including dual majors. On my January session trip to New Zealand, I talked to a young student who had an interest in orthopedics, but she knew she did not want to become a doctor. She loved the field of study and I told her about being an orthopedic sales person. With that position, you have to understand the anatomy and speak the language – you’d even get to go into live surgeries; however, you don’t do the work but you get to sell the product. Those conversations help enlighten students to think about a different career or area of work.”

“You mentioned your January session trip to New Zealand. Can you talk about that a little more?”

“We were gone for 14 days and the trip focused on the adventure industry. So we did some adventurous things: we climbed the outside of a bridge, [went] bungee jumping, skydiving and white water rafting, swam with dolphins, zip lined and [experienced] a lot of adventure sports! After each adventure, we would talk to the owner and discuss how they sell their product and attract people to these touristy adventures. Prior to each adventure, each student had to complete a write up about the company, and each day, a different student was responsible for that day and would act as our tour guide. [He or she] would have the schedule, location, contact and plan where we stop, where we eat, and absolutely everything; and a different student would be the videographer for the day. We have a videographer because when you’re talking to your boss, you don’t have four hours to explain everything you did on this trip; therefore, the video is chopped down to three minutes for each day and then we combine them all into one big video.”

“And do you also take part in the adventurous activities?”

“Absolutely! I love doing all of those things! Except there were a few I wasn’t supposed to do. My wife told me before I left, ‘You’re an old man and you can’t do these things!’ so I was going to follow orders to not do the bungee jumping or the skydiving. And the students gave me a really hard time! So, I told the students that if the bungee jumping company gives a great presentation, I’ll jump. And what do you know, he gives a great presentation! So, I’m getting ready to go and one of the students sends a picture to my wife! In about two seconds flat I got a text saying ‘no way!’ But, I already had all of the gear on … so I jumped!”

“Was she mad?”

No, she knows I’m a knucklehead! My wife, Robin, a lovely lady, was a Manchester graduate 30 years ago before she moved to Colorado to marry me. And today, we have three lovely kids. Two have graduated from college, one from MU, and the other is a senior in college who desperately needs a haircut. And those are the four reasons why reason I couldn’t go skydiving.”