Experts say that success in business is all about knowing what you want, doing your homework and then making it happen. For Todd Werstler, the hardest part was deciding what it was he wanted.
As a graduate from the school of business at Wake Forest University, Werstler was recruited for a management training position with Carolina Freight Carriers directly out of college. "Two weeks after receiving my degree I was at work," he explains. "CFCC was recruiting heavily at Wake Forest at the time, and it seemed a logical move to make."
Werstler made his way quickly through the ranks, gaining valuable business experience as a terminal manager in the Washington D.C. area, then opening up a new terminal in nearby Manassas and finally, at age 27, becoming a regional manager for the nationwide common carrier. It was heady stuff for any young man. Problem was, he had grown restless in his job.
"I was single, had no real commitments, and had put a lot of money into the bank," Werstler confides. "All the same, I didn't feel like I was where I wanted to be professionally. So, I started looking around for something else to do."
About that same time, Werstler's father lost his job as a cultured marble salesman in northeastern Ohio -- a victim, it seems, of his own success. "I had brought in a lot of new sales for the company," explains Bob Werstler, Todd's father. "One day the owner came into my office and said he couldn't afford to pay my commissions any longer and he was going to let me go. When Todd found out what happened, he was real upset. He wanted to come home right then and open up a competing cultured marble business. I told him to wait, because both the time and circumstances weren't right. Then I went out and got another job selling cultured marble."
But that experience marked the beginning of the end of his participation in the freight business for the younger Werstler. Although he wasn't exactly sure where his specific interests lie, the seeds of self-determination had been sown. What he did know was he eventually wanted to run his own business.
So what did he do? He quit his job.
"I took a year off to see the world," Werstler says. "It was a tremendous experience traveling around and being a part of what the world has to offer. I would recommend it to anyone who has the good fortune to be in that position."
Doing The Homework
When he returned to Ohio in 1994, Werstler was eager to set up shop in the cultured marble business, but again his father vetoed the idea. "I didn't want to make cultured marble," the elder Werstler explains, "but I was very interested in learning more about this new product called solid surface. I had heard that the manufacturing patents had run out, and that there was a lot of potential for growth within the industry. Todd was intrigued with the idea, too."
The younger Werstler then spent the next year doing research on the intricacies of solid surface manufacturing. While he was at it, he also studied the characteristics of a successful small business startup. In the course of his investigations he learned that most new small businesses fail due to lack of sales, regardless of whether or not those companies produced quality products, or even if they were efficiently run. Sales (or the lack thereof), he learned, were most often the determining factor between success and failure.