Richard Chapin believes the foundation for success in business is sales. He began his sales career at KFOR radio in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1953, and his philosophy today remains the same.
“All businesses need salespeople,” said Chapin, a 1946 graduate from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration. “The managers I know in broadcasting and in other businesses are crying out for good salespeople.
Whenever I talk to young people, I explain to them that a good salesperson will never want for a job, and most excellent salespeople often make more money than the general managers.”
Though Chapin did not spend a lot of time in a traditional direct sales job, he saw the impact a good salesperson can make early in his career.
“I started in radio in the spring of 1953 and by the fall, I was promoted to general sales manager, so I was not on the street selling for very long,” he said. “Nevertheless, I sensed from the very beginning sales was the key in growing your business, and I learned I could manage sales.”
By the spring of 1954, Chapin turned a one-year sales career into a new position as general manager of KFOR radio and television. Four years later, he became vice president of Stuart Investment Company, the parent company of Stuart Broadcasting. Under his management, Stuart added stations throughout Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa to their two Lincoln stations KFOR and KFRX.
Chapin also helped purchase Imperial Outdoor Advertising for Stuart, with plants and newspapers throughout the Midwest. He was a central figure in the golden age of media in Nebraska but always kept his focus on sales.
“I have spent my career in salesmanship and always felt salespeople have been put in a category secondary to other occupations,” he said. “I’ve seen first-hand nothing could be further from the truth. Salespeople are at the top of my list.”
In the fall of 2014, the Department of Marketing at CBA added an undergraduate certificate program in sales excellence through a new CBA Center of Sales Excellence. When Chapin saw the early growth of the program, he knew it was something he wanted to support. He recently made an endowment to the college in the form of three $2,000 scholarships per year to students enrolled in the sales program, with a preference for those doing a sales internship.
“I wanted to give the sales profession more stature, and I don’t think young people realize the opportunities they have in sales,” said Chapin. “Historically, I don’t think educators have always impressed upon students how well-rewarded you can be in sales. That’s starting to change now that CBA is making it a priority. I don’t think everyone is born a natural salesperson, but I believe anyone can learn sales if they have the desire. Having the sales program in the Department of Marketing is a perfect fit.”
Chapin also sees opportunities for more women to enter the sales field.
“When I started in radio, there were hardly any women working in the business. That has changed the majority of salespeople I see are women. That is terrific because businesses need sales to survive,” he said.
Dr. Ravi Sohi, professor of marketing and Robert D. Hays Distinguished Chair of Sales Excellence, said both students and the program benefit from the scholarships.
“When someone with the stature of Mr. Chapin is taking note of the CBA sales program, and the quality of students coming out of it provides recognition for the program,” said Sohi. “He has been a champion for sales his entire career and these scholarships provides encouragement for new students to enroll.”