SharpChicks: Ex-Gymnast Becomes Sales Enablement Expert

by Mallory Vonder Haar

Our SharpChicks blog series invites you to learn more about our teammates at AK Operations. 

These are questions that our leadership team hears all the time: “What’s your recruiting strategy? What type of people do you hire?”

This prompted us to look internally at our employees and examine how every individual helps shape not only our culture but also our performance. When you work with such a small team, every employee makes a huge impact on how we serve our clients, collaborate with each other, and contribute to the company’s overall success. I’ve seen this from when I started as Amy’s first hire to this very day with a team of 11 amazing women. 

That’s why I’m sharing my journey to AK Operations—so you can learn more about our culture and why we call ourselves “SharpChicks.” 

Fast Beginnings

I started my career at the age of 22 after graduating from Mizzou with a Bachelor's in Marketing. Throughout college, I knew I wanted to line up a job by graduation so I secured a position at a small lead generation company that focuses on LinkedIn promotions. 

After a year as the top performing Client Success Manager, I knew I needed a bigger challenge so I found a new job at one of the fastest growing lead gen companies in St. Louis. It was there that I ran the Go-to-Market operations and rose to become the Director of Marketing.

We soon brought in a consultant to help us scale by creating more at-bats for our sales teams. She summed up her strategy in one sentence: “Let outbound activity be driven by inbound action.” By the end of our partnership with her, we were booking 150 meetings a month. That consultant was Amy Kohl!

Joining Forces with Amy

After a few years, I had the opportunity to join forces with Amy and help build AK Operations. She saw that I’m extremely competitive and always push myself to be better. Since I’ve started, we’ve talked about why I was perfect as the first hire. I ran fast, would do anything to hit my goals, and, perhaps most importantly, was always willing to learn from my failures.

Mallory Vonder Haar (leftmost) at gymnastics practice around age 7.At gymnastics practice, circa 2000 (leftmost).

The mentality of it being okay to fail was instilled in me at a very young age. I was a gymnast for 14 years. I distinctly remember working on a skill called a “giant” in which you swing 360 degrees around the bar while fully extended. The bars were never my strong suit and this skill was simply one I struggled to do. But after a full YEAR of working on it, even though it took the other girls only a few months, I finally did it. My tenacity and unwillingness to accept failure drove me to keep trying, and with my hard work and team’s support, I was able to finally get this skill and perform it in competitions.

10645166_10152851784904384_3644568745548090128_nAfter a competition (bottom row on the right).

My personal philosophy comes from a Jane Pauley quote: “If you don’t have at least one failure on your resume, you aren’t trying very hard.”

Scaling Up

Since joining AK Operations in 2019, our organization has averaged over 100% in year-over-year revenue growth. Fueling that growth, of course, has been the development of our business strategy, standard operating procedures, leadership, and much more. 

10460271_10202740152800737_5314418571043113155_nAnother practice (second from the left).

When I take a step back, I know that our company’s mentality has been the foundation for our success. Amy and I have always been drawn to those who know what they want, are willing to work hard to get it, and never let hardship knock their focus. That’s why we’ve made a conscious effort to assemble a group of strong women, many of us with a history of competition, teamwork, and sportsmanship that has shaped who we are today.

Connect with Mallory