BND Magazine

August 31, 2014

Ingredients for a great job: Cars, people and money

Matt Rogers has a colorful job.

He sells paint to auto body shops.

The 30-year-old Cooper Color rep was on his way to Freeburg, Sparta, Ruma, Red Bud, Cahokia and Sauget last Tuesday morning.

"I do a loop," said Matt, a friendly guy with blond, close-cropped hair and wearing an aqua collared Cooper Color Inc. logo shirt. "Today, I will be down in Southern Illinois.

"It's nothing for me to drive 600 miles a week. I do outside sales for Cooper Color. My goal is to put in paint mixing systems. I like talking to and building relationships with new customers to earn their business."

Matt has the personality for it.

"I always have something for sale on eBay or craigslist. I'm always selling something to friends or family."

When I was younger, if I had something somebody wanted, I'd sell it -- a TV out of my room. Play Station. Money drives me."

He recently bought and fixed up a 1990 Jeep Wrangler.

"I got it running pretty good. I put brakes on it, painted the floorboard and detailed it inside and out. That was kind of a summer project. I sold it for a pretty good profit."

Matt played soccer and considered becoming a PE teacher before his grandpa Jake Hutchison, of Fairview Heights, sold him on cars. It didn't hurt that sales was Grandpa's business, too.

"He sold chrome bumpers to body shops," said Matt. "I am running a very similar route."

The summer Matt was about 18, Grandpa bought a1989 240SX Nissan for the two to work on.

"It was a way for me and him to hang out," said Matt. "We had to get it running, do body work and get it painted (gun-metal silver). He's more on the mechanical side of cars. I'm on the paint and body side. That's a good team. I think he bought it for $400 and we ended up selling it for two grand."

Matt knew then he wanted a career that involved cars.

"I went to college for Automobile and Collision Repair Technology at SWIC. I took every single class they had that involved a car."

He worked in body shops before trying sales.

David Cooper, Cooper Colors company president, hired Matt a year ago.

"He was very professional, very polite, dedicated. I could see that," said David, whose business has 20 employees with offices in Belleville and Arnold, Mo. "I liked his knowledge of the business, the way he handled himself. Just all of the above. He's been everything we hoped for and then some."

Matt went from driver, to counter guy to having an outside sales route. He checks in with his boss regularly.

"There are no stupid questions," said David. "There are not too many questions. By asking questions, we communicate. It's important to the success of any business to be on the same page with everybody."

We asked Matt a few questions.

What's the best part of selling: "It's just the thrill of them maybe wanting to talk to me and see what we are about. I have been kicked out of (places). I've also been told, 'Why don't you come back and we will set a meeting up.'"

What's so good about the paint you sell? "PPG (Pittsburgh Plate Glass) has been around forever. It's a good stable paint company. We do nothing but paint coatings."

Hardest part of job: "I have to go into a shop I have never been to with people I've never met and start a relationship from scratch. People don't just buy from people they don't know. We have to find common ground, common interests. Hopefully, some day I will be able to sell them something. ...

"I keep stopping by and talking. I try to show them something that interests them, a body shop tool or some sort of paint. You don't want to waste their time or waste your own time. You have maybe 60 seconds to get them interested in something. Once they start buying a little, I talk about switching to our paint."

What gets them interested? "I say, 'I can save you money.'"

What are your other interests? "I have a wonderful wife, Michelle. She's an early education special ed teacher at Freeburg.

"We are high school sweethearts. We've been together since 2001. Back in high school (He's a Belleville East grad), we had matching Mitsubishis. She had a white convertible. I had a red hardtop. She had hers first and I copied her. ... We have two dogs, a puggle and a pitt bull. I like working outside, doing lawns and landscaping, anything outdoors. I also like traveling to new places. We just got back from the Bahamas."

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