Playing golf taught Shaw Blackmon III how to deal with rejection as a salesman.
Blackmon, 41, has played golf since he was a kid. He was on his high school golf team that won a state championship, and he landed a golf scholarship to the University of Georgia.
All of that experience came in handy when he became a salesman at National Bank Products Inc., a company founded by his father.
Blackmon is now president of that company, which sells financial documents and supplies and provides regulatory research support to banks and other financial institutions. The company also makes and sells a wide range of promotional products, such as embroidered shirts and jackets and screen-printed apparel.
Some days Blackmon struck out making any sales when he first started the job. But he didn’t let it get him down.
“It just made me try harder. It made me double my efforts or maybe even change tactics,” he said. “Of course, maybe golf taught me that. ... You are taught incessantly to put bad holes or bad shots behind you and move on. I think like most sales organizations, we recognize that it’s a numbers game. The more people you see and the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to find somebody who can use your product or service.”
Bo Beck, branch banker at BB&T’s office at Houston County Galleria, has known Blackmon since they were classmates in elementary school.
Beck said he’s not surprised Blackmon has had such a successful career.
“Shaw has always been a very driven person,” Beck said. “His parents certainly put a good foundation for him to see and uphold their values. ... He’s somebody you can count on to be there for you and ... help you anytime you need help. He has a lot of integrity. ... If you didn’t know Shaw, you wouldn’t know he’s as successful as he is because he doesn’t put it out there. He’s just down to earth and a quality human being.”
Focused on golf to earn scholarship
Born in Florida, Blackmon was just 6 weeks old when his family moved to Warner Robins. He was fortunate to be raised by a large, extended family with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all nearby, he said.
Blackmon played football and Little League baseball, but he gravitated toward golf about the seventh grade “because of my size and speed,” he said. He played at International City Golf Club.
“During the summer my mother would drop me off when the sun came up and pick me up when the sun went down,” he said. “I would play however many holes I could get in and hit as many golf balls as I could.”
When he was a senior at Warner Robins High, his golf team won the state championship in 1991.
“I wasn’t even the best player on my high school team,” he said.
Blackmon often hung out at his father’s office and got to know the people who worked there. Two of his uncles also worked at the company.
During high school the only paying job he had was purging files at National Bank Products with his brother for six weeks during the summer.
“What I was working toward was some level of scholarship,” concentrating on golf and making good grades, he said. “I was in the top 15 in my class of 400 to 500 students.”
The work paid off when he received a coveted golf scholarship to UGA.
Blackmon changed his mind several times about a career, and it wasn’t a given that he would follow his father, Zell Shaw Blackmon Jr., into the family business.
“I started off in college in pre-med,” he said. “I made it about a year and a half.”
But since he was on a scholarship and played golf mostly in the afternoons -- the same time he had science labs -- he had to make a choice.
“I figured I could come back to pre-med if I wanted to,” he said.
Blackmon switched to a business major.
Career begins in sales
During his last quarter at UGA, Blackmon traveled with one of his uncles who was the national sales manager at National Bank Products.
“I attended our first sales meeting before I graduated,” he said. “I graduated on Saturday and started (work) on Monday.”
Blackmon quickly discovered he liked selling.
“It was pretty neat. Our business is about people, our customers. If you like people, you will enjoy doing what we do. We are not a high-pressure sales organization,” he said. “Obviously we are as interested in making money as anybody, and we watch our bottom line very closely. Our niche has been developing a relationship and serving our customer and not trying to force the sale.”
Lloyd McDonald has known Blackmon since they were in the sixth grade together. He said he “thought all along that no matter what Shaw did, he would be very successful.”
McDonald, the band director at Feagin Mill Middle School, said he met Blackmon on a field trip to Washington, D.C.
“He is very driven, and he’s very hard working,” McDonald said. “Shaw is extremely personable, which is why he’s been a good salesman. ... He’s the kind of person who can talk to anybody and make other people feel at ease. He’s one of those folks (who) when he talks to you, he takes an interest in you.”
From his 1996 graduation until 2003, Blackmon was a sales representative and information officer.
Blackmon said going to work at his father’s business was the toughest business decision he’s had to make. As the son of the boss, Blackmon felt the need to show he was more than capable.
“It was a source of humility for me,” he said. “I knew I had to work harder. ... I nearly burned myself out. I would get up at about 5 in the morning (and) jog about two miles. I would leave so I could be at the door of my first bank at 9 o’clock. If I got done and if I didn’t sell anything, I would make myself make cold calls. ... I would go home to dinner, and I would come back and get ready for the next day.”
After his first year with the company, Blackmon helped put in new wiring and cables as well as update the software and network system.
From 2003 to 2004, Blackmon still worked in sales and became the company’s chief operating officer. He was named president in 2005.
At the company’s founding, 99 percent of its business came from banks and financial institutions that bought compliance and operational forms, he said. Now most banks can get more of what they need online.
In the mid-1980s, the company worked on developing the promotional products side of the business.
“Then when I started with the business in the mid-90s, early 2000, we got into doing our own production,” he said. “We bought our (embroidery) machines and brought in-house our graphic artist and started doing it ourselves.”
His father “technically retired about six years ago,” but he remains chairman of the board and is a major stockholder, Blackmon said.
“He still has an office we call his even thought he’s retired,” he said.
National Bank Products, which has 42 employees, is still small enough to offer personal service.
“We still like people who want to buy from people,” he said. “We have sales reps in 10 states. We physically call on our customers. We believe in that. ... We like to put a face with our product.”
Outside of work, golfing is still part of Blackmon’s life. Beck said he’s the better golfer of a group of longtime friends who play together.
“I love playing with Shaw because he’s so good, and he kind of makes us play a little bit better,” Beck said. “He doesn’t try to intimidate or anything. He’s just as easygoing of a guy as you will meet. He’s fun to be around.”