A Simple Entrepreneur’s Story of “Success”
09.02.15 | Treeline | Dan Fantasia, CEO at Treeline, Incorporated
As the CEO of a sales recruiting firm, I listen to people’s stories every day. I learn about people’s professional lives and personal lives. I learn how they got to where they are today and what their plans are for the future. Stories are powerful and help us piece together our lives and relate to one another. It’s a great skill to be able to articulate your background, especially when interviewing for a new job opportunity.
Ask yourself, can you articulate your background, your experience, your hardships, your motivations and your goals? Can you pull off bullet points from your resume and make it meaningful? Your story makes you unique and makes you…well you. Success is never a straight shot, from point A to point B. It generally has lots of ups and downs and twists and turns.
I have been asked several times by people about how I got to be where I am today and how I started Treeline, Inc. My team has heard my stories, probably more than they’d like, but I figured it’s only fair to open up and share mine with you. Here we go…
I had a taste for entrepreneurship at a young age. I am the third child in a family with 4 children and am the only boy. My dad owned his own business and many times he would take me to work with him to have time together. I learned to work hard at an early age and I now actually think I am a workaholic. I am not sure if that is a strength or weakness, but it is what it is. I enjoy what I do and I love to work.
I have always been competitive and grew up playing sports. At the age of 13, I played on a junior Olympic hockey team overseas. I loved hockey but transitioned into gymnastics going into high school. It was a tough decision, but having a great coach helped. I started very late in a new sport but had tremendous success. The sport was not at all what I thought it would be. I spent every day working on my strength. My joints and bones were constantly in pain, but I learned with commitment and dedication that I could do anything. My early success was also due to have a strong support system. My coaches were influential and still today, I am grateful for their positivity and belief in me.
College and Study Abroad
I attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and I graduated with a degree in architecture. I know what you’re thinking, architecture? The truth is, I love building things and working on projects and I have carried those skills with me into the business world. I loved UMASS and it afforded me so many unforgettable experiences. I spent my senior year in Denmark, where I had an opportunity to travel extensively.
This experience was critical in my life. I traveled during every break, every long weekend and whenever I had a chance. If I had time off I was on a train visiting a new country. This helped me to learn how to survive with a backpack and very little money. More importantly it opened my eyes to different people and cultures. It helped me realize that I was not the center of the universe and helped me grow up. International travel requires responsibility and there are many times when you are vulnerable and need to find a solution.
Post College-A Ski Bum Lifestyle
I arrived home from my travels and started painting houses as I had done every summer since high school. Shortly after my arrival home I had saved enough money to travel the United States with my good friend, Andy. I figured I had seen so many other countries before and that I had yet to see my own. My friend and I assembled makeshift beds in the back of a 1979 Ford Econoline Van and we were off. We headed for Jackson Hole, WY. As big skiers what better mountain than the one with the largest vertical drop in the USA at 4,400 feet?! Nothing beats Corbet’s Couloir. We traveled the country stopping in state parks to sleep and eat. We had very little money and no cell phones. We were on our own. If you met us on the road, it would not be uncommon to find me and Andy eating pasta out of a frisbee, tuna out of the can, Ramen noodles, or whatever cheap food we could get our hands on. We didn’t need anything, we were totally disconnected and experiencing life day-by-day.
When we arrived in Jackson Hole the first thing we needed was a job. We lived in the local camp ground while we looked for work and housing. We would spend our days hiking and hanging out by a public payphone. It was the only way we could call prospective employers and real-estate agents. We would give our payphone number and answer all calls that came in. Our first job was peeling logs on the Snake River, then we built log homes just outside of Jackson Hole and finally we landed jobs on the mountain at Jackson Hole Sports. There we tuned and rented skis. We skied every single day with some of the most incredible skiers around. Tuesdays were big air days and those days were always crazy. We skied hard, both in and out of bounds, and constantly pushed our limits. There was something about climbing above the “treeline” (see what I did there?!) and skiing untouched, ungroomed and unknown terrain. It was a rush.
Enter the “Real World”
Jackson Hole was incredible, but it was time for me to pursue an even greater challenge…my career. When I returned home, I was broke. The first thing I did was start painting houses to make ends meet and search for a job. The job market was weak, and with no relative work experience I struggled to get my career started.
I ended up finding a night shift position with a CAD/CAM company called Shapex. I quickly moved from manufacturing to design, to sales and to management. My foot was in the door and I was off and running. I moved up very quickly in the company but after 3 years I realized I could no longer advance my career if I stayed, so I went to a recruiting firm for advice.
The company specialized in sales recruitment and before you knew it I was an employee. The company was Diversified Communication. It was an awesome company and I learned what sales truly was and is. The CEO was Tony Natella and not only did he become one of my dearest friends, but he taught me everything I know about selling. He too is a passionate skier and outdoor enthusiast and a positive hard charging person. Tony was instrumental in my career and taught me more than I could ask for. I started in the business as a 100% commission-based sales person, and truthfully I was really bad at recruiting.
I started in July and by the end of my first 6 months I was the lowest producing representative. Luckily, from lifetime experiences I was not going to give up. I promised myself that I would work 24 hours a day to be successful. That’s what I did. I worked tirelessly. The next year I was determined to win and by the end of the year I was the number 3 producer. The company became an Inc. 500 Company and we exploded. I continued to succeed and was promoted as the youngest Managing Partner in company history and #1 sales representative. I then became a top producing manager and built a top notch team of sales professionals. To this day I still thank Tony for all that he taught me.
Building Treeline, Inc.
I left Diversified Communications to start Treeline, Inc. Treeline got its name from my love of skiing and the adrenaline and hard-charging approach you must have when it comes to sales.
I started the company in March of 2001 right as the market crashed, and 6 months before the twin tower terror attack on September 11, 2001. I had a 1 year non-compete that I honored for 3 years. Odds seemed to be against me. Treeline struggled for the first year. I had no clients, no candidates, a house, a beautiful wife, and bills to pay. I went from the number one producer and managing partner in one of the country’s fastest growing companies to an ambitious entrepreneur.
In Sun Tzu book, The Art of War, I always liked this quote. “When your army has crossed the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home.” Well when I started Treeline I definitely burned my boats. Thankfully I had a very supportive and understanding wife who was confident in my ability to not only survive but succeed.
Slowly but surely, the economy started to bounce back, and I began to gain traction. The phone began to ring and I started to build a book of business. I started hiring Sales Consultants to help recruit sales professionals and manage the accounts. We started running out of office space and moved several times to support the demands of the growing team. Quarter-after-quarter we grew. We soon became recognized as the Best Place to Work in Boston, an Inc. 5000 company, and we won best Executive at the Stevie Awards, and much more. We became a recognized name in sales recruiting.
Even as the economy once again endured hardships in 2008, we adapted and evolved. We developed our own proprietary DADOMATCH technology which is revolutionizing the way companies hire sales professionals. We have fused social hiring software with best hiring practices.
More importantly, we have never lost sight of what we set out to do which is become the best sales recruiting company in the industry. We have always been a people-first and focused organization. We are in the business of helping other people grow their careers and companies. As we continue to grow, I remind myself that Treeline is not Treeline without the hardworking people who are part of the team here. For that, I am grateful.
To Be Continued…
I have learned that life has many highs and lows and money comes and goes. Sometimes you have it, and sometimes you don’t. Whether you are reinvesting in your company or fighting off a recession, sometimes you have to be comfortable with sacrifice. I am thankful for all of my life experiences because without them I would not be the person I am today.
I know one thing, no matter what the challenge, no matter how tough or how much work is required, I am never giving up and will always keep a positive, energetic outlook on my life and career.
Thank you for reading and I wish you all continued success in your lives and careers.