From Olympian to Top-Tier Sales Leader: Barry Kuzminski Shares What it Takes to Succeed

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Careers in Focus Article by Brian Trota

Barry Kuzminski remembers the 1984 Olympics like it was yesterday. “When I stood on the hill in Los Angeles at Dodgers Stadium..and turned around I noticed my sister and her husband who flew in. I couldn’t believe I was kicking dirt on the very mound that [future Hall of Fame] pitcher Fernando Venezuela had pitched from a few days before.” Kuzminski recounts, “I turned around and stopped my warm-ups because there was a big jumbotron and my name and my hometown was up there in lights. I thought to myself: I made it. That’s when I realized all that hardwork and sacrifice has paid off.”

The Alberta-native spent his childhood on a farm and at the age of 14, the first true harsh reality of life taught Kuzminski a valuable lesson when his father suddenly died. Although the debts were insured by the bank, Kuzminski’s father didn’t have life insurance which made life a bit tougher for the family (it would also serve the young Kuzminski as the basis of a poweful story he would use as a successful insurance advising career in the future.)

Despite the tragedy, the Kuzminski family persevered and did the best they could for the next few years. The years of gruelling farm life prepared the young Kuzminski for whatever life was ready to throw at him. By the late 1970s Kuzminski was off to school at the University of Alberta where he studied economics and agriculture.

However, it was a chance meeting with a baseball player who’s alma mater was the University of Neveda-Reno where Kuzminski found himself with the life-altering option of going to school in the United States on a baseball scholarship. “The thing about athletic an scholarship is that they are only good for that first year. It’s up to you make it on the team every year and after that to keep it and that’s the hard part especially while studying.”

Kuzminski dedicated himself to balancing studying and athletics. After showing that he was an integral part of team as a relief pitcher in the 11-man rotation, he found himself with a sudden opportunity. “One of the starters got injured and in turn I got his starting role. I set 4 or 5 university pitching records.”

What made Kuzminski such a tough competitor was he needed to do to succeed: “This started early in life with me: I assessed who I was competing against and in this case the baseball team and I made sure I did better then they did. I watched them all (the pitchers) and I knew I could do it.” He continues: “I assessed myself and what I had to do–so who was I up against? Nobody told me what to do or coached me. I was just self-taught and that’s how I started making it and understanding that I would never let an opportunity go.”

As Kuzminski’s was nearing his graduation, he was also continuing to garner attention from Major League Baseball teams including the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees.

“I had to make a hard decision–I heard the Canadian National team had a chance to qualify for the Olympics–although my arm was great, I had a bad knee.” Kuzminski says, “I was a realist–I wasn’t going to spend 5 years in the minors and get out with nothing. I had one chance to go to the Olympics so I made the decision to go.”

After going to the Olympics in Los Angeles and pitching in a lion’s share of games, Kuzminski stayed on the National team for another year. It was in 1985 that he made the decision to retire from the baseball and to start making a living.

Kuzminski got right to work as a bellboy and then as a herbicide sales representative but it wasn’t until his next role in insurance sales that he really hit his stride.

“I had a story to tell in my community because everyone knew my father and what he was to the community.” Notes Kuzminski, “I could use my story to help me sell. I set records at Sunlife my first year. My story was relatable, reliable and truthful. Stories truly make the difference.”

The former Olympian understood quickly that he was a natural storyteller whose story resonated with people who he spoke to. “The success in anything is your ability to tell a story and if it’s a personal story it’s easier to tell. And if you can’t find a good story to attach to your career or business then you better find one and make it yours on some level.”

Success in the field gave Kuzminski a chance to be a sales manager in Edmonton and by 1999 he had a chance to truly put his experience and knowledge to the test when he took over the Brantford office where he oversaw a faltering branch and turned into it into a top-10 national wide producer by aggressively recruiting and training talent.

Kuzminski ended up retiring from the insurance industry in 2014 and turned his sights to the employment field. “You know what the funny thing is? After all this time and I had never put a resume together in my life because I never had to.” Kuzminski notes when he was on the hunt for his next career opportunity, “After posting it on Indeed the owners at Express Employment Professionals reached out.”

Fast forward to 2019–Kuzminski is the Business Development Representative at the Express Employment Professionals’ office in Brantford. It’s a role where Kuzminski has thrived in where he helps clients figure out what kind of talent they need within the local market.

Along with his strong work ethic and ability to engage with people Kuzminski continues to live by another simple saying. “As Dr. Dre has said: If you are prepared to do the little things that the others aren’t that’s what is going to make you successful.”

Careers in Focus is a special article published every Friday spotlighing a talented professional and highlighting their career.

Image courtesy of Barry Kuzminski

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