Timeout with Tambo: Lessons learned from Dad
By Bill Tamburrino
Chris Marshall graduated from Monte Vista High School and has a degree in mass communications from San Diego State University but he got his education in the school of hard knocks taught by his dad, Danny Marshall.
“My dad and my mom (Sylvia) taught our family (Chris and siblings Dan, Kelly and Annie) how to work and how important hard work is. There was always something to be done around our house when we were growing up, and if there wasn’t Dad would create jobs for us to do. We would move piles of wood, rocks, leaves or junk several times and they usually ended up where they started and we usually ended up pretty tired.
“We dug 3-foot-by-3-foot deep holes in the yard during the summer break only to find out as grown men that all this work was just his way of teaching us to work and stay out of trouble. When I got old enough to really work, Dad taught me how to deal with rejection. I would make ‘cold’ sales calls for his golf component business. He said that on the average you get 299 no answers and one yes out of 300 calls so don’t take too much time talking to the no’s, don’t take it personal but ‘no’ is a big part of business.”
Chris must have learned well. He is now the senior vice president of sales and marketing for SYG Technologies, the world’s leading formed titanium driver manufacturer.
“Chris has a creative side and a competitive side,” said his father. “When he was in seventh grade he did graphic art work, drawing logos and designs for companies. They used his art work. He is also an inventor.”
To state that Chris is an inventor is a massive understatement. He has innovated and invented all of his life. His first invention was recognized when he was only 10 years old. The basketball rims at Casa De Oro Elementary were always bent down, making it impossible for Chris and his schoolmates to play basketball during school. Chris invented a removable basketball rim and showed his drawing to the school janitor. The janitor was also a part-time metal fabricator, so he joined forces with Chris to create a rim that slides in and out of the sleeve fixed to the backboard. Every day the janitor attached and removed the rims before and after school and Chris and his buddies played ball on perfectly straight rims.
He holds multiple patents as well as over 25 new patentable product ideas. His latest invention is a startup company called Atomix Technologies. He has a patent on a bottle cap device that contains vitamin ingredients in the cap. Once attached to a bottle of water, the ingredients are released with a simple twist of the cap. Atomix will be found wherever bottled water is sold, so the potential is obviously massive.
“Most of the vitamin potency in bottled water is lost while the bottle is on the shelf,” said Chris. “Atomix can be used for vitamins, flavor and has some uses that can be used by our military.”
Chris and his father are working together on the Atomix project. Danny believes “Atomix will not only create a successful product in its own right, but it will actually create an entirely new product category in the worldwide beverage market.”
In 1987, Danny started a sales agency, specializing in graphite golf shafts. He got Chris involved and Chris came up with an invention resulting in a machine to overlay a graphite tape in various designs for a decorative effect on the golf shaft. In addition to this invention, Chris developed many other popular cosmetic designs, including the “fade” cosmetic effect. From there it was a natural move for Chris to stay in the golf industry and follow in Danny’s footsteps.
“If you are going into the golf business and you plan on competing with the big boys, you have to go to China,” explained Chris when asked why he goes to China so often. “No companies manufacture golf club components in the United States.”
Chris goes to China at least seven times a year. Danny and Chris are world travelers. Their business ventures have taken them to Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and most of the countries in Europe.
Doing business in China can be challenging. “There is a language barrier. I know enough Chinese to get into a fight but not enough to get out of a fight,” joked Chris.
Danny’s Chinese skills are a little better. “I can ask where the bathroom is and I can ask where to go to eat, but I sometimes get the two mixed up,” deadpanned Danny.
There are cultural differences.
“Chinese people are motivated and inspired by different things than Americans,” said Chris. “To do business with the Chinese you have to learn their culture. They are a very proud people.”
Chris wonders, “how can so many be so happy with so little?”
Both Chris and Danny find this to be an important lesson about the things they value.
“The Chinese don’t have as much wealth or as many freedoms as we do, but they are very proud of what they do have,” stated Danny.
“I deal with three different levels of Chinese workers,” said Danny. “The workers don’t speak any English. Every time I visit our factory, I bring five or six basketballs. We had a decent basketball court built at the factory and they really enjoy playing in pickup games. The Chinese people really love basketball as the Chinese version of the NBA is the most popular spectator sport in China. Chris would like to coach youth and high school basketball clinics with his brother Dan as well as with other coaches in China.
“Anytime you can introduce the great game of basketball to enthusiastic kids, good things will happen.”
There is a definite difference in food.
“Eating in China is a challenge and there is a fear factor involved,” said Chris. “What we know as Chinese food is totally different than what the Chinese actually eat and prepare in restaurants. I have learned enough Chinese to know what to order.”
Travel in China is much more difficult than in the United States. “I have been to many places that most Chinese people can’t go,” Chris said. “People in China can’t just travel any place. It is actually easier for an American to travel in China than it is for most Chinese.”
How big is China? Obviously that a rhetorical question. China is small enough that Chris has bumped into another Ramona resident, Joe Cobian, while both were doing business in China. Joe is in a completely different business than Chris, but he also travels to China frequently.
When asked if there is much animosity against Americans in China, Chris said that the majority of the people treat him well and are very easy to get along with. “They know that we have it good. They are great hosts.”
Danny Marshall not only taught his children to work. He taught them to play sports. “I coached all of my kids in youth sports.”
Both of Danny’s sons coach basketball. Chris coaches in the youth leagues. Chris and his wife Kellie have two daughters, Cameron and McKenna, who play for Chris.
“Occasionally, I have to leave in the middle season to go to China, so I always work with a good assistant coach who can coach when I am gone,” he said. “I use a coaching style of leadership. I try to make everybody feel like they are a part of a team. Practicing and working together are the same in sports and in business.”
Danny also taught Chris lessons that sound like Chinese proverbs. “Don’t bury yourself alive just to prove that you can handle a shovel.” “Be a good listener.” “Stop broadcasting and start tuning in.” “ABC, Always Be Closing.” “Constant networking.” But most important, “be a genuine friend, not just a sales friend. If you can, help your customers in other areas. If you can’t help them, point them to somebody that can. It will always pay off.”
When growing up and attending SDSU, becoming a salesman never entered Chris’ mind. Neither did golf. When he got in the business, he decided to learn to play the game he was selling. He is now a scratch golfer — every time he duffs a shot he scratches his head.
Chris is college educated, but more importantly he also has a great education from life’s experiences. “As my father always used to say: Work hard. Good things will happen!”
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