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"King of Cold Calls" Speaks to Students

Applies lessons from business to life, faith

Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2008

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Steubenville, OH – Professor Jeff Rankin’s business students crowded into Franciscan University’s Totino Room April 28 for a presentation by Chuck Piola, a Catholic businessman who forged a successful career as a salesman, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker.

Piola’s talk was filled with lively stories, irresistible humor, and heartfelt advice as he encouraged the students to overcome fear, take charge of their lives, be open to opportunity, and strive for success.

Piola, called “The King of Cold Calls” by Inc. magazine, overcame his own fears, a stuttering disability, and attention deficit disorder to forge a career in sales that took him to the top of his profession, including co-ownership of NCO Financial Systems, which generates over $1 billion in annual revenue. Now Piola eagerly shares his wisdom with Franciscan University students through an annual lecture.

“The reason I come every year is that I like what you do here,” said Piola, who has an affinity for the University that began when he attended a retreat at Franciscan in the late 1990s.

When he asked how many had read his book, Going in Cold, How to Turn Strangers Into Clients and Get Rich Doing It, about half the audience raised their hands. Piola covered five main themes from the book—fear, hitting the wall, attitude, courage, and faith—that he said apply to all areas of life, not only a business career.

Piola conquered many personal fears in his life and career. He was 22 before he overcame his stuttering problem, and he went through college as an average student. After a stint as a high school history teacher, Piola decided to take the plunge into sales, which resulted in some risky business encounters at the start of his career.

The key, he said, was to take charge of situations. “Take the risk,” Piola repeated several times. “It’s where life becomes a blast, but you must confront this little guy [fear]. Then you can grow. If you’re an image of God, you’ve got what it takes.”

Another technique he encouraged students to follow was to “seize the moment.” He was 28 years old, married with two kids, and pumping gas in Connecticut when he finally was hired as a door-to-door advertisement salesman. He was hired only on commission, given no car, no gas, no benefits, but the job gave him intense training in sales and eventually led him to start his own company.

Other advice he gave to students included how to think outside the box and the importance of keeping a positive attitude even when you hit the wall, which is bound to happen from time to time through life. “Tomorrow’s a brand new day,” he said, encouraging the students to have faith, because other people have succeeded before them

After his talk freshman business major Julie Sherman said she went out and bought Piola’s book and other books he recommended. “He gives great insights on how to overcome difficulties and how struggles, sweat, and hard work” are inherent in business and in life.

Business major Emily Barnhart appreciated his point that “since we are made in the image of a perfect God, we have all it takes to ‘seize the moment’ and succeed.”

In closing, Piola said the three important relationships to keep balanced in life are your relationship with God, with spouse and family, and with your job. That formula, he said, enabled him to use the financial independence he gained from a successful career to “do good things and make a difference in the world.”

More about Piola can be found on his Web site,

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