“I was one of the lucky ones,” says Nick Haritos ’83, who, after college graduation, received a customized sales course from his dad. “But what I see Professor Bob Nadeau doing with today’s sales students just blows me away.”
Haritos was recently promoted to president of AIS, a leading national manufacturer of commercial office furniture and seating. The move comes after three and a half years as the firm’s executive vice president of sales and distribution, in which he led efforts throughout North America and supported the company’s ambitious growth plans.
Haritos came to Plymouth State as a football recruit but was sidelined early on by a knee injury. He remained and enjoyed other activities, including membership in the Lambda Chi fraternity and the Big Brother Big Sister student group, on his way to earning his BA in marketing.
“I was fortunate that my dad lined up a sales job for me right out of college,” says Haritos. “I rode in a car with him for two years before he turned over his territory to me, so I had a built-in mentor. It was the best two years of my life to be able to learn from somebody like that.
“Thirty-eight years ago PSU provided me with a solid foundation to begin my business career,” he continues. “There is no comparison, however, to the Professional Sales Program of today under the leadership of Professor Nadeau. The tools and experiential training the students receive—how to handle objections, how to ask questions, how to listen, how to present yourself—is second to none and significantly enhances their ability to excel in a career of sales. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the students over the past few years.”
Haritos has volunteered as a classroom guest lecturer and as a Professional Sales Program coach, and he traveled with students and faculty in 2019 to the University of Toledo Invitational Sales Competition. Together with company colleagues he has run sales simulations for Plymouth State students, through which he identified Julia Thibaudeau ’19. “She’s one of our most successful new hires and is now covering Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont for our firm, and another student, Brock Moody ’19, interned with us as well,” he says.
“Students don’t want a boss, they want a mentor,” explains Haritos. He differentiates his approach from some big companies that might take 200 students into a sales program, with the expectation that 190 are likely to wash out quickly after making cold calls all day. “My team and I, we provide the mentorship, and if you can take somebody like we’ve taken Julia, it works.”
Haritos is happy to help fellow Panthers regardless of whether they may ultimately join AIS. One recent graduate wanted to work in Pennsylvania to be close to her mother, so he connected her with a dealer in Philadelphia. He recalls, “They said it was the best hire they ever made.”
AIS has permanent showrooms at its Leominster, MA, headquarters and in Chicago, New York, and Washington. With locations across the US, it has more than 800 employees and over 1 million square feet of office, showroom, and factory space.
“The really great thing about this role and this industry is that no project and no day is the same,” says Haritos. “I could do 1,000 workstation jobs for Liberty Mutual one day and five workstations for the company down the street the next. It’s all over the place.”
Regarding career highlights, Haritos emphasizes the close and supportive culture that he’s fostered. “In our sales organization, we have had almost no uninitiated turnover in almost three and half years,” he says. “Nobody has left. That’s very unusual and a testament.”
AIS doesn’t sell direct but through a channel of 1,000 dealers nationwide, and all are being forced to do more with less. “We’ve found if we pay special attention to that dealer salesperson and help them, then they’ll keep coming back,” says Haritos. “The easier you make their life the more they will come back to you again and again.”
Haritos shares the benefits of his years of experience when he talks with dealers across the country about hiring challenges. “I tell them, you need to find ‘your Plymouth’ that you can go out and get engaged with.”