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February Employee Spotlight: Chris Klein
If you’ve ever worked at or been to RNL, it’s extremely likely that Chris Klein has introduced himself to you. He just celebrated his sixth anniversary at Red Nova Labs, making him our most senior employee. But, honestly, that’s probably not what you know him for. He’s a killer salesman, a charismatic jokester, and a friendly, opinionated idea machine.
Having a conversation with Chris is always entertaining — provided that you get the joke. He’s got wit that’s fun to keep up with and a dry humor that always keeps you guessing. It may be no surprise, then, that the quotes Dan Miller and Austin Jones had to share about him were no different:
Just before our interview, Chris sent me a Slack message saying, “Let’s have a drink and make this the best one yet,” and immediately followed it with, “(Chris is so nervous).” I knew an interview with someone so open was bound to be a good one. Read on to find out if I was right!
Chris: Can I keep the Miike Snow going?
Amy: Of course.
Chris: I’d like to keep this on for comfort. It was already on.
Amy: Those questions I sent you are a starting point. We can go wherever. And then I’ll send it to you so that you can have final say on what’s published. You don’t have to be nervous!
Chris: Oh, I’m not nervous, I just closed a contract and I’m waiting for that to come in. So go ahead. Hang on. I want a beer. Want one?
Amy: I’ve got this hard cider. I do need a bottle opener if you have one. So, you’ve been here the second longest of anyone.
Chris: What do you mean second?
Amy: You’ve been here second longest, right behind Dan.
Chris: Oh yeah, I guess Dan’s not an employee.
Amy: So I guess the first longest employee. Congrats on the sale, by the way.
Chris: Thank you. That’s what I do. Let’s just talk music. Let’s talk Ratatat. You’ve told me you like them.
Amy: Yeah, let’s talk music!
Chris: I could talk hours on that.
Amy: So you’re listening to Miike Snow.
Chris: Not my favorite artist, but I dig it. They are good live.
Amy: How many concerts did you go to last year?
Chris: Last year? 100? Being modest.
Amy: What were some of the bands that you really like seeing?
Chris: That’s such a tough question. Let’s see. I’ve been to so many concerts/festivals, and when you go to festivals, you see 100 different artists. It’s not a full tour set. They each get an hour block. I will say I’m a huge LCD Soundsystem fan. I saw their final show at Madison Square Garden.
Amy: How was that?
Chris: One of the coolest things of my life. It sold out in an hour and we just happened to get tickets. Along with that show I’ve been to Sasquatch, Lollapalooza five times, Coachella three times, and I’m going to Bonnaroo in a couple months.
Oh, and Nathaniel Rateliff is such a huge hit right now. In 2009 or 2010, Daytrotter put this thing on called Barnstormer, where they put on shows in random people’s barns throughout the midwest. The year I went, we caught Nathaniel Rateliff, Ra Ra Riot, Free Energy… It was real intimate. Maybe 50 people there.
Hang on one second. (answers phone) This is Chris, can I help you? … Hey, can I call you right back? I’m in an exit interview. They’re letting me go. … I’m a terrible joker, but can I call you back? … Bye.” That was the guy who’s sending in the contract. We’ll go into sales and I’ll tell you how I sell, but were we talking about music?
Amy: Yes. Do you dance at these festivals you go to?
Chris: I’m the best dancer in this building.
Chris: Yeah, I’ll prove it. I’ve got rhythm that no one else even knows about. I cut the rug. I will out-dance anybody. And they’ll lose trying.
Amy: Awesome. You and Paul Gill can have a Just Dance competition.
Chris: Paul Gill doesn’t have a shot on me.
Amy: (laughs) Okay. So, do I dare ask you the question —
Chris: Ask me anything.
Amy: What’s your favorite band? Or top five?
Chris: It’d have to be a top five. Grateful Dead. Any DFA record, whether it’s Shit Robot, LCD Soundsystem, or Holy Ghost. The Talking Heads are in my top five. So is Willie Nelson. That’s tough. I’m trying to think. I collect records. I have more than 1,500 vinyls.
Amy: Dang. Do you have a record player?
Chris: Yes. This will be good. Music is my passion behind Red Nova and work and, of course, my family. A few years ago I remember going to my folks’ house. They live right down the street. And I asked, “Dad, you still have a turntable?” His response was something like, “Of course I do. What the hell, take it. And take all my records.” I got original Lynyrd Skynyrd, Beatles, and Marvin Gaye. My dad was all soul and funk.
I got lucky. It’s such a vintage record player. I was ignorant, so I put it on Reddit, and I had a guy immediately go, “I’ll give you $2,500 for the turntable, whether it turns on or not.” I didn’t even know what I had. I looked into it and found out it was just some gem that they don’t make anymore. I told my dad and his response was, “Give it back. We’re selling it.” But it’s mine now. Dad and I go through all his old records all the time. It’s good nostalgia.
Amy: You started collecting records just in the last few years and you’re already up to 1,500? Geez.
Chris: Well, see, my dad gave me the turntable and the amp and, I don’t know, probably 50 records. I’m in sales though, girl. I’ve got a gift for gab. I’ve always been told that. You wanna sum me up? I’m Eddie Haskell. But with manners. So, a lot of family has given me a lot of records. I’ve bought a lot of records. I love music. I’m passionate about music and sales.
Amy: Music and sales. So we should transition into sales then, yes? What sales experience did you have before coming to RNL?
Chris: My folks have always been in sales. My dad’s been in sales his whole life. My first sales job was definitely in grade school, selling myself to my teachers to charm them and get out of trouble. My first big sales job was at Waterway. I worked there for more than five years as a service consultant. I sold ad space for the Lee’s Summit Journal for awhile. And then I came here.
Amy: You’ve been here for six years, right?
Chris: It’s funny you picked me this month because I think just last month was my sixth anniversary.
Amy: Oh, that’s awesome! What has it been like to watch RNL change over the years?
Chris: It’s been awesome. I always hated change and I was scared of it. No one likes change. But if you’re following a good leader, you’re good. To me, not much has changed. In sales, you’re either selling or you aren’t.
Amy: What are some of your favorite memories from working here?
Chris: Getting my own office (laughs). Operation Launchpad was badass. Venture Fridays were fun. Any of our work events are a good time. The Royals games are always fun.
Amy: What’s your favorite part of working here?
Chris: It never gets old. We have a new product that our industry needs every year or so and we get to learn, build, and sell a new technology. I also love my coworkers. There’s a quote from me on our website, which is verbatim what I said: “My favorite part of Red Nova Labs is that I honestly look forward to coming to work every day. Not many people can say that.” A lot of people don’t want to go to work and hate to be there. But we create an environment where people want to work. With the open door policy, if you’re unhappy, your opinion can go to the right person. And they’re going to listen to you.
You and I are having beers right now. You can’t abuse the privileges, but it makes your day and your job awesome. I was telling the new guys… They’ve never had a job anywhere else. I said, “You have no idea how shitty jobs are out there. If you have a bad day here, it’s probably the best day you’ll ever have somewhere else.” That’s my opinion. I’ve had some shitty jobs, but you’ve got to work. It’s part of life. I’d rather have a shitty day here than anywhere else.
Amy: That’s awesome. After all this time, you aren’t getting tired of working here?
Chris: I’ll get tired of working here when our goals change. Of course we’re trying to make money and profit, but as soon as the goals change, we’ll be just like anyone else. I truly feel I got lucky getting to work here.
Amy: What kind of antics go down in the sales pit?
Chris: You know, I don’t know what that means. Sales is you eat what you kill. With the leniency we have, if you aren’t cranking away, you aren’t going to close anything. But as far as antics go, first of all, we’re a bunch of guys. We also have two bathrooms. One door might say women, but it’s all men.
I do like to close myself off a little. Like when I go home after work tonight, I’ll close my door, do my thing, and then reach out and do whatever I want. At work, I like to put my head down and work. You can’t do that with antics.
Now, whenever I leave my room, I interrupt and tell jokes and all that. Actually, I got my job by telling a joke. First of all, I killed the interview. But then they said the joke got me hired. The joke was, “How many kids with ADD does it take to change a lightbulb?” “How many?” “Do you want to go ride a bike?” (laughs) Antics? I don’t know. We’re all pretty close though. We all help each other. The proof is in the pudding. (laughs) What was the next question?
Amy: Do you still like your standing desk?
Chris: (raises desk) Yes, I use it every day. And the whole Josh Groban thing was awesome. First of all, I couldn’t listen to that song for years because it made me cry. I cry in commercials. But when we got these standing desks, I knew it would be the greatest video. Internally it was a hit. I love it. I think it’s the best, and I always show it to people. The video and the desk.
Amy: I love your video. I thought it was really funny. A little random, but how would you describe your sales strategy?
Chris: I’ll try to circle back with an answer here. Sales is… I love sales. I’ve been in sales my whole life. With sales, you’re constantly starting over. There’s always some quota. But you’re always starting over and that’s what drives me. Like if you have a slow year or whatever, there’s always a new goal to hit. There will always be a fresh start. I think of sales as a marathon, not a race. Each month you’re back at the starting line.
I don’t know, I was raised with a strong work ethic. You get in what you put out. I’m sure it’s the same for writing: You just put your head down and get cranking. Hold on. I’m going to change music. Should we do St. Lucia, Grateful Dead, or Clapton?
Amy: I would vote St. Lucia.
Chris: You know who that is? I bet we like a lot of the same music.
Amy: I think there’s some overlap there. I really like LCD Soundsystem. I listened to them on the way to work today.
Chris: One of my pictures in my writeup should be James Murphy and I. I have every DFA record on vinyl. They don’t know my name, but I have touched them and reached out to them so much over the years. Every time I order something, they give me limited edition copies and a whole bunch of buttons or stickers. DFA is where it’s at. Anyway, you were asking about sales. You get in what you put out.
Amy: What’s been one of your best encounters with a lead or client?
Chris: The best encounter is just hearing feedback. We have the opportunity of talking to all of our clients, whether they’re prospects, potential clients, or customers. No one gets to talk to them like we do. We get to hear a lot of, “Oh my god, you guys are a breath of fresh air.”
Our sales job is easier because our product is superior and better than everyone else’s out there. So the toughest part and where I stand apart, and it’s no secret, is you’ve got to sell yourself first. I’ll spend 30 minutes on the phone without even bringing up work or products or anything about business. I get a lot of responses where people say, “We knew we were going to work with you after your introduction. I called other companies and they said they only had a couple minutes to talk to me.”
Where we at?
Amy: We’re at the final question.
Amy: We’re down to… You say in your profile that you learned how to win a woman’s heart —
Chris: Wait, hang on. I didn’t talk about the best moment with a client.
Amy: You answered that one.
Chris: Well, I said I like hearing feedback. But I also have some clients who are friends now. I have a couple clients who own some of the biggest and best known fishing rod companies and they’ve sent me a ton of free stuff. But we need to throw my parents in here somewhere. I’m cut from a cloth that no one else is cut from.
Amy: Elaborate on that.
Chris: My dad taught me to be a leader, not a follower. You ask any of my sisters and they’ll say the same thing. Both of my parents taught me morals, but my mom taught me how to respect people and taught me manners. I remember in grade school. Remember when you’d go buy new clothes before summer was over? I remember one time at JCPenney, we were walking in, and my mom stood at the door because I didn’t open the door for her. That happened one time. That’s simple stuff; it’s not a chore. Just open the door for somebody. I talk to my mom every single day. That’s been my best encounter with a client. (grins)
Amy: Aww. That’s sweet.
Chris: Can I give you the secret? No.
Amy: The secret to winning a woman’s heart?
Chris: If I could give you that secret, I’d have you ask my wife. Shit, we could talk about that for a long time. I planned on having four kids by now. But that’s a whole different story. I’ll tell you something. I don’t know if this should go in the post. I’m just talking to you:
You make goals in life in like 8th grade, right? Maybe 6th grade, 8th grade, freshman year, whatever. “I’ll be married by the time I’m 34. I’ll have four kids.” Whatever it is. Well, as you get older, even if you meet those goals, you made those goals when you were 14 years old. There’s a huge difference between 14 and 16, and there’s a huge difference between 14 and 24. I remember my dad forced goals on me early on. He taught me, even if you don’t meet goals, you always try to.
I remade my goals when I was in my 20s and more mature. I realized, yeah, those are good goals, but it’s like basing your adult goals around the Lion King because you liked it as a kid. Can I give you the secret? God, I wish.
Amy: That’s a really good point.
Chris: Anyway, I want to argue something on the record. I think Kansas City is the biggest secret of all time. When I travel, I can’t wait to come home to KC. It’s so friendly.
Amy: It is a gem. People seem to be figuring that out over the last few years.
Chris: KC is awesome.
Amy: That’s a good note to end on. You did it! Nothing to be nervous about!
Chris: It needs to be funnier. People are going to read this and ask why it’s so serious. (gets up from his chair, walks out of his office and into the sales pit)
Amy: (following) It’ll be funny. It doesn’t seem funny now, but your personality shines through.
Chris: (walks by Connor’s desk) Connor knows. Connor can describe me.
Amy: Connor, how would you describe Chris?
Connor: A sales bulldog.
Paul Gill: Offensive. Super cute.
Connor: A pocketful of sunshine.
Amy: Perfect. That’s perfect. You're a pocketful of sunshine. Thank you, Chris!