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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

After a Mid-Career Pivot, This Former Business Owner is Thriving as a Sales Director

Jennifer Stevens, a sales director at Koalafi
Jennifer Stevens, a sales director at Koalafi.
| Courtesy of Koalafi

For most of her working life, Jennifer Stevens owned and ran a collections agency—but after 13 years, she took a leap and pivoted to a career in sales. 

“I was always told if you could collect then you could sell, which is what ultimately started my journey in sales,” Stevens says. “I thrive in challenging environments that are competitive by nature and allow me to inspire others to become the best version of themselves.”

A little more than a year into her first job in sales, Stevens learned about the point-of-sale financing provider, Koalafi, from one of her mentors. She joined Koalafi in 2019 as a collections manager, and has since worked her way up to a sales director. 

“I missed the financial services industry terribly and was ready to go back to my roots,” she says. “I loved the idea of working for an organization that assisted customers with making purchases that make a difference in their day-to-day lives.”

Stevens shares how Koalafi empowers associates to learn and grow, tips for standing out in a sales interview, and her approach to leadership.

How did you know Koalafi would be a good fit?

I was very impressed during the interview process. The panel was extremely knowledgeable, passionate, and appeared truly happy to work at Koalafi. They hired me as a leader in the organization while I was five months pregnant. It was at that exact moment that I knew the company would be a good fit for me. And within the first few weeks I was able to see just how innovative, collaborative, and transparent Koalafi truly is.

You’ve been promoted three times since joining Koalafi. In what ways does the company encourage internal mobility?

As an organization, we collaborate often within our own teams, cross-functionally, and through social engagements. The high level of collaboration creates valuable exposure and allows us to learn, grow, and seek mentors in other departments. For example, our women’s network provides an opportunity to connect across the organization, foster open communication, support one another, build relationships, and grow professionally. 

It is often said that you don’t grow when you are comfortable. At Koalafi, if you want an opportunity to grow, it’s there. Step up and say “yes.” Take on a new project, mentor an associate, run a meeting, create a new process, lead a committee, or take a class to learn a skill. Be uncomfortable. Growth is far more than a promotion; it’s about making mistakes, learning, serving others, accepting feedback, and having the ability to always keep going.

What is one highlight of your career thus far at Koalafi?

The biggest highlight has been developing and streamlining sales processes to make the organization much more efficient and less prone to risk. I’ve applied my extensive background in operations to create processes and procedures that increase efficiency, reduce manual tasks, develop call center strategies, and enable reporting visibility. During my time here, we also implemented Salesforce and transitioned our inside team onto a VOIP platform. Both platforms increased efficiency and allowed a strategic partnership with marketing.

What are you working on that’s particularly interesting?

People and processes are truly my passions. I’m currently working on revamping our account management structure by developing a process that focuses on the needs of the individuals at the merchants we support. I strive to create an environment where Koalafi is an extension of their business by adding value, resources, and training, as well as increasing revenue for our merchant partners. We understand the challenges our partners face day-to-day, and work collaboratively to be part of that solution. In an environment with constant product enhancements and changing business needs, it is critical to remain focused on relationships and provide clear and transparent communication.

What has your experience been like as a woman in leadership at Koalafi?

In my career at Koalafi, I have overseen multiple teams and led many people. I have had the opportunity to be mentored by some amazing leaders within the organization who pushed me to grow. They encouraged me to take on tasks outside of my comfort zone and challenge those around me to do the same.

Every year, I ask my team for their goals, both personal and professional. I am blessed to watch the majority of my team accomplish what they set for themselves. They become better parents, spouses, leaders, or homeowners. That is what being a female leader is like at Koalafi: It gives me the ability and satisfaction to serve others and help those around me reach their full potential.

Being any leader, especially a female leader, is a journey. It is not always easy, but it is worth it. You have an opportunity to impact every life you interact with.

What is your leadership style like?

I lead by example, value my team, and learn from those around me. I always face challenges head on and do not micromanage my team. My goal as a leader is to build respect, trust, and loyalty. Clear expectations and consistent feedback are pillars to my leadership approach. Leadership is not one size fits all. You must meet people where they are in their careers.

How would you “sell” working at Koalafi to a candidate?

Koalafi is an organization that supports both team and individual efforts and trusts its associates with meaningful work. At Koalafi, we encourage and support associate advancement, both personally and professionally. There is always someone to encourage you, mentor you, seek guidance from, and offer support. We are a high-functioning team. A day won’t go by without feeling like you accomplished something. We are innovative and always looking for ways to challenge the status quo, push boundaries, and grow. If you want to be challenged, encouraged, and grow personally and professionally, this is the company for you.

What does it take to succeed in sales at Koalafi?

The most successful individuals at Koalafi have a drive for success. They put hard work in and truly care about relationships. They are passionate about what they do and believe in our product. They are competitive, have a high sense of integrity, and believe in transparency from the start of the sale through the entire relationship. To succeed you have to build genuine connections with our merchant partners and treat others as you would want to be treated.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

I have received so much wonderful advice throughout my career and I treasure it all. The best advice is to always advocate for what you believe in, because no one will advocate on your behalf more than you will. Advocate for what is right, openly address what you believe is wrong, and search for that next innovative idea that no one has thought of yet. Do not be afraid to be the most persistent person in the room.

What advice do you have for sales job candidates at Koalafi? How can they stand out?

I am always impressed by those who have done deeper research beyond a quick glance at our website. Candidates who go the extra mile to visit a few of our merchant partners’ websites, read our reviews prior to an interview, and ask thoughtful questions always stand out. Be as specific as possible with your answers and tailor your experience to the interview questions you’re being asked. Genuine excitement and engagement throughout your interview process goes a long way.