RUSKIN — Robert Graves had what it took to be successful all his life but he didn’t suspect it until he was in the 11th grade.
For a long time his teachers thought he was a slow learner.
Not knowing what it was to hear properly, Graves went through much of his schooling trying to read lips and memorize from books.
“How do you know what you’re missing until you finally have it?” he asked in an interview Jan. 9.
Now Graves is not only at the top of the classes he teaches, he’s winning awards for it.
A third generation Ruskin resident, Robert, now 56, received the national Rookie of the Year Award and was inducted into the $300,000 Sales Club at the Dale Carnegie annual convention held in Hawaii in December.
He also took the local Dale Carnegie award for Business Consultant of the Year and has been informed that he is about to receive Hillsborough Community College’s Alumni of the Year Award as well.
Graves has two certifications to teach Dale Carnegie self-improvement concepts: as a Sales Trainer and a Business Consultant. Employed by Rick J. Gallegos, the local franchise owner of the Dale Carnegie course, Graves gives the classes both in-house for corporations and publicly.
The Dale Carnegie courses teach self-improvement, salesmanship, public speaking, and corporate and interpersonal skills and more, a full description of which may be found on its website on line.
Graves’ wife Marcey Walsh, who also runs her own business, Institute for Pattern Literacy where she researches the relationship between pattern awareness and effective decision making, acts as his connection to people and businesses.
“She makes all my appointments and does all my research so when I meet a client, I know what they’re about and usually what they want from me as well,” he said.
But Graves didn’t always have the confidence and professionalism he now exudes.
“When I was in elementary school, I thought I was slow. My last name starts with a G so when we sat alphabetically, I was in the middle. They put me in extra help classes, like phonics. I realized the 5th grade was easier for me. It was the first time I had a male teacher.”
The pitch of the male voice was easier to understand than the soft-spoken women who he had had as teachers in the lower grades.
Still, even though he knew that class had been easier for him, he didn’t make a solid connection to a hearing problem.
“It’s a hard thing to understand unless you’ve been through it, but nobody told me I couldn’t hear and I really wasn’t aware of being different,” he explained.
Then, in 11th Grade, he transferred to Temple Heights High School.
“That’s where I met Mr. Bailey and Mr. Panky. They changed my life.”
Things began to take off after that, although he still wasn’t fitted for proper hearing aides until after leaving HCC for the University of South Florida several years later.
By that time, however, he did know to enroll only in classes with male teachers, the pitch of whose voice he could hear better.
“I started sitting up front. In grade school, they made you sit alphabetically, but now I had a choice and I knew it was easier for me up there,” he said.
Despite the fact he gained his hearing late, Graves earned a communications degree and an MBA (Master of Business Administration).
He worked at CA Inc., which is now Computers Associates, after that, and took advantage of classes given on site by the company, one of which was Dale Carnegie.
“I joined Dale Carnegie a decade ago while working at CA. I’ve been in IT (information technology) sales since ’85 and became number one in standalone sales, that means I had no help from outside sales reps. I attribute all my success at CA to Dale Carnegie.”
“Typically, people who are hard of hearing don’t react well to other people,” he said. The Dale Carnegie courses gave him the confidence he needed and since he loves people, he excelled.
Awhile back he met Marcey through one of her friends at a swing dance class and they married about a year ago.
Despite the fact she has her own business, the two also formed a partnership around his Dale Carnegie instruction.
“She connects me with clients, watches things in the business world. She’s my right arm,” he said.
Marcey said her training as a “pattern researcher” was a perfect fit.
“He’s the best closer I’ve ever seen,” she said. “He certainly closed the deal with me.”