Episode 1: Origin Story

The year is 2019 and JR Butler is posted up at one of his favorite spots in Scottsdale, AZ, Fox Cigar Bar. I can picture the scene clearly in my mind as if I were there. JR has a fat cigar sticking out the corner of his mouth and is having a hard time keeping it from falling out because he’s grinning like the cheshire cat. Backward hat, stylish eyeglass frames, small dark clouds wafting into the rafters. He’s clacking away at a laptop that sits on his high-top table. He pumps in his AMEX number from memory into the checkout screen for GoDaddy.com. He’s just locked down shiftgroup.io for the next ten years.

JR and his co-founder and partner, John Davis were serious athletes and eventually crossed paths high up on the hill at Holy Cross. JR played hockey and JD football. Athletics were a giant part of their formative years. It seeped into their identity, as it does with most young people who are serious about it.

“I’m a softball player.”

“I’m a hockey player.”

Everyone ultimately faces the end of their athletic career. It happens at different times for different athletes. Some people are able to be compensated handsomely for their skills while others hang up their swim cap after their last college meet. What are you supposed to do when something that becomes part of the fabric of who you are ends?

After his hockey career ended in college, JR was in a bar in his hometown in 2008, where he bumped into an entrepreneur who owned a technology business.

“JR, what’s next for you?” He asked.

“I’m planning to take the LSATs and go to law school,” JR responded.

“Why? You don’t want to be a lawyer. You’re great with people and you had to be a competitive guy to play college hockey, you should think about tech sales?

“Dude. I don’t own a computer,” JR chuckled back.

“I’m looking for entry-level sales people. You should come and give it a shot. All the habits you developed in hockey will make you a good salesperson. If you stick with it, you’ll make 250k within three years.”

John’s playing days ended at Holy Cross also. His path was different. He packed his bags and headed off to Wall street. He was peddling his resume to all of the big banks in 2008, in the middle of one of the worst financial corrections in world history. Unable to land a spot in New York, he found himself at a bank in Boston where he hunkered down and spent 10 hours a day using Microsoft Excel. After five years in banking, he’s struck with a realization.

“I want to spend time with people. How come we’re not talking to humans?”

He started talking to some friends and his old pal JR. It took him three or four rounds of interviews before he got his story dialed in. Eventually, he ended up at an entry-level sales job at a Fortune 500 company selling software.

Both men attribute their starts to a mix of luck and mentorship. Starting the Shift Group allows them to spend their days working with former athletes looking for a little luck and guidance themselves. Over the years, JR and John have helped countless friends and strangers land sales jobs for free. John literally wrote the book “How to Get a Sales Job.”

You can buy it here: Buy John’s Book

JR and John’s path naturally led to the lightbulb moment where they thought, “ maybe we can get paid for this.” JR secured the domain name and John set up the LLC. They gave themselves a few months to see if they could hit a placement target. They got the model wrong initially until they realized that companies are willing to pay agencies like the Shift Group for access to their pool of candidates.

The Shift Group was off and running.

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