Not very many people can say they’ve been at the same company for nearly half a century. Yet Southwestern Advantage President Dan Moore, now retiring after 49 years with Southwestern, has done just that. From college to retirement, he has never had another job or worked with any other company.
“I started with Southwestern Advantage when I was an 18-year-old college freshman coming to sales school for the first time in June 1974,” he says.
He remembers having lunch in the Kirkland House dining hall at Harvard University when a senior student dealer named Marty Fridson first approached him about the opportunity.
“Like many students, I felt overwhelmed and a bit lost by the college experience. Although the opportunity sounded great, I lacked the confidence I could do it successfully. He convinced me to meet with his District Sales Leader. I did and I thought, ‘I need what these guys have,’” Moore recalls.
What followed was nearly five decades of opportunity, impact, and growth, culminating in being named president and at the helm of Southwestern Advantage for the past 15 years.
Moore’s inauguration as a freshman turned into becoming a District Sales Leader. “It was a role I really loved – I loved influencing students individually.”
Then SWA President Jerry Heffel offered him a role as Manager of Marketing Development, which eventually grew to become VP of Business Development. “I decided titles weren’t important – it was more ‘Can we have an impact on people?’”
“I kept on saying yes whenever new opportunities were presented. It was kind of a new habit – always say yes first and figure it out later.”
Moore partnered with Heffel for the next 27 years, helping build the SW Advantage brand.
“Through a lot of good mentorship from Jerry Heffel, Ralph Mosley (former CEO), and Spencer Hays, I learned a great deal and was able to get a Master’s degree from Vanderbilt along the way,” Moore says.
Southwestern Advantage: Then vs. Now
On the surface, a lot has changed since Moore first started as a college freshman.
“What the students do has changed in certain ways due to technology and social media,” Moore explains. “Today, each time students make a sale, they encourage people to do a Facebook post and ask if they can post it on their own business Facebook page, so they’re able to build tremendous community spirit in advance… We’ve become much more skilled at understanding this reach of media and how important it is to always be presenting yourself in the best possible way.”
“We’ve adopted technology in the sales process also,” he says, mentioning new sales technology, such as electronic ordering and payments systems, Sales Rabbit. “And our product line is completely different… better products that incorporate technology.”
He credits Southwestern Family of Companies CEO and Chairman of the Board, Henry Bedford, with the visionary leadership that has empowered these and many other extremely positive innovations. “Henry’s appreciation for what students accomplish through this program is just extraordinary.”
Moore will be the first to tell you that despite these innovations, the fundamentals of success in the program haven’t changed much.
“The real basics of what a student learns and what they go through has changed very little.
It’s still entirely dependent on their willpower, their determination to not give up, to stay the course,” he says. “We’ve always tried to prepare people for the emotional growth they’re going to go through and guide them along the way.”
“The external parts of it have changed – product, how we actually deliver the service to families – but the core things of what it takes to be successful, the work ethic, the attitude, the focus on their goals, seeing the big picture, keeping things in perspective, never giving up – these are the core things that cause a student to come out of it learning so, so much. And being such a better person as a result,” Moore says.
SWFC was established in 1855, and the sales and leadership program now known as Southwestern Advantage was founded in 1868. It is the oldest entrepreneurial and direct-selling program for college and university students in the world. In addition to providing an opportunity for students to pay down their educational expenses, allowing them to gain valuable experience, and building character through running their own business, the experience is also is a gateway to a life-long career.
Upon graduation, just like with Moore’s career trajectory, many participants in the program choose to become sales leaders with Southwestern Advantage, which serves as a training ground for talented top-producers who stay long-term. Many of these leaders launch and lead other businesses that make up SWFC. Moore has been very influential and contributory to the career development and success of many of these leaders throughout his long tenure with SWFC.
Half a Century of Memories
Forty-nine years comes with a lot of milestones, but one of Moore’s favorite memories was also one of the earliest.
“Probably my favorite moment was when I was a senior in college and I didn’t really want to study that night. I heard our District Sales Leader was in town at a different college, so I went to sit through some of his recruiting presentations, and a guy I sold books with brought his sister to hear about the program… I thought she was the most striking person I had ever met in my life. We’ve now been married 44 years.”
Moore remembers his time as a District Sales Leader with great fondness. “To still be in contact with so many students I personally influenced in the 1970s is a tremendous experience,” he says.
“When you see a young person develop and become head of a company it means a lot.”
Moore says another milestone was in 1982 when SWFC went private and he was given the opportunity to become one of the original shareholders.
“It taught me the importance of believing in what you do so strongly you are willing to make a huge commitment to it.”
“Our international growth has also been really stimulating to see,” he says.
Today, about half of Southwestern Advantage participants travel to the U.S. from other countries.
Impacting 100,000 Lives
While Moore estimates SW Advantage has impacted 150,000 -200,000 students throughout the years, 100,000 is the number he keeps front of mind – estimating that he has had the opportunity to impact 100,000 young people directly through the program.
His biggest advice to student dealers is, “having a why that’s focused on a cause that’s bigger than ourselves,” Moore says.
“The why has to be something that’s compelling, that will pull out the best in us, that will ask everything we can. Then make a commitment to that why so we just aren’t going to quit. Everything in life that’s worth doing is often hard to do. Everything in life that makes an impact is often hard to do.”
You also have to make sure the people you hang out with are influencing you in the right way, he says.
“Spending time with people who are uplifting – people who ‘find a way, not an excuse’ is so important. We are living in a very divisive time in our world – politically, socially, economically in so many ways. It’s so easy to get swayed by it one way or another.”
Looking to the Future
“For Advantage, I think it’s going to be a continual growth process of becoming better and better at our 1:1 recruiting,” Moore says. “Some of my dear friends I have today are people I sold books with. What I really get excited about is that relationship-building aspect of what we’ve contributed to people’s lives.”
“I think our product line is going to continue to develop in a big way. We have a product right now called LEAD, which is one of the most exciting innovations we’ve ever had because it focuses on developing character in a young person,” Moore says.
“Dan has played a foundational role in the success of Southwestern Advantage and Southwestern Family of Companies,” said Henry Bedford, CEO and Chairman of the Board at SWFC. “His caring and mentorship of students each summer has been integral in the professional path of many alumni, including many within our very own Family of Companies.”
Moore added, “Working with the dedicated and talented members of Southwestern Advantage Marketing, Sales Support, Customer Contact, and Product Development teams, as well as the tremendous people in corporate support for our Family of Companies, has been a complete privilege. They are generally the ones who have taught me more than the other way around.”
Moore is succeeded as President of Southwestern Advantage by Dave Causer, Vice-President of Sales, who is also president of Global Educational Concepts (GEC).
“Dave was one of the first mentors that I had in this business,” Moore says, going back to the fall of 1974, where the two men were under the same SWA District Sales Leader. “After my first summer, I asked my District Sales Leader who should I spend some time with to discuss some of my goals for the future and he pointed at Dave Causer.”
Causer was one of the youngest people ever promoted to Director of Sales at Southwestern Advantage, and along with Spencer Hays, is one of only two people to build a sales organization of more than 1,000 students. His vision and commitment are the reasons Southwestern Advantage began working with students from Europe 35 years ago. He has been leading sales organizations within the company for more than a half-century.
“His wisdom, straightforward nature, and ability to simplify something complicated and help people believe they can achieve it is just legendary. I’m so excited he’s the next president of the company,” Moore says.
At the heart of everything SWFC does is helping people reach their ultimate potential and preserving the legacy for those who come after us, with the shared goal of global impact.
“I get really excited when I think about the future. I don’t think we’ve ever been in a stronger place as a company,” Moore says.
When asked about retirement, Moore says simply, “I don’t have any regrets about things we wished we’d done. We’ve been able to travel a lot and do things we wanted to do. We’re going to prioritize hiking, traveling outdoors – lots of National Parks,” including time with family.
Moore and his wife Maria have a 3-year-old granddaughter in Michigan and three grown children, Daniel, a sales engineer and former bookman, daughter Mary Catherine, sr. events director in a major hotel in downtown Detroit, and Sarah, a special education teacher in Nashville.
Moore’s new book, Forward to Better: How to Prepare for a Future No One Can Predict, is currently in the editing process. The basic thesis of the book is that we have a limited amount of energy, Moore says.
“We can spend the energy railing against things we can’t control, or we can focus on the things we can.”
“We’re just super grateful folks,” Moore concludes. “My very first thought in the morning is, ‘I’m so grateful to have another day’. I had an older brother and younger sister, and neither one is still living. Just knowing I’ve got another day is a privilege, and an opportunity.”
For more on the Southwestern Advantage program: https://southwesternadvantage.com/leadership-program/