Phil is a Sales Trainer & Pinball Wizard
Phil Gerbyshak, VP of Sales Training at Vector Solutions, geeks out on pinball and how it helps with multi-tasking and strategic thinking in his job!
• Getting into pinball
• Skills acquired from playing pinball
• How creating an open work culture involves both the individual and organization
• Go first and help somebody go second
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Welcome to Episode 291 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And” those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures where they work because of it, and I know that this book will really help to spread this message.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my friend and guest, Phil Gerbyshak. He’s the Vice President of Sales Training at Vector Solutions, and now he’s with me here today. Phil, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Phil: Oh, it’s my pleasure, John. It’s great to see you again, buddy. It’s been a while.
John: It has been a little while. You know how it is, 17 rapid fire questions. These are things that I’ve never asked you actually and I probably should have before we started hanging out. Here we go. Favorite color.
John: Orange. I knew that one. Least favorite color. Black. Interesting, okay.
Phil: Because it’s the absence of color.
John: All right. How about chocolate or vanilla?
Phil: Chocolate. Unless it’s ice cream then I like vanilla.
John: Interesting. All right, all right. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Phil: Tom Hanks.
John: Solid answer, solid. More of an early bird or a night owl?
Phil: Oh, I’m actually more of an early bird. You should go to bed before 10 so, yeah, early.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, that’s for sure. How about pens or pencils?
Phil: Pens, absolutely. Fountain pens specifically.
John: Oh, nice. Fancy. Okay, all right. Puzzles, more Sudoku or crossword?
Phil: Crossword. I like words.
John: Yeah. How about a favorite movie of all time?
Phil: Real Genius with Val Kilmer.
John: Oh, wow, blast from the past.
Phil: Yeah. I went to Cal Poly. My cousin actually did. That’s why I love that.
John: That’s fantastic. That’s truly fantastic. How about cats or dogs?
John: Dogs, yeah. Do you have a favorite number?
Phil: 42 because it’s the answer to the universe in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 42.
John: Oh, right.
Phil: 42 is an asterisk and an asterisk is a wild card which means everything is the answer.
John: There you go. How about a least favorite vegetable?
Phil: Least favorite vegetable, probably a pickled beet.
John: Oh, okay. That doesn’t sound great. Cold or warm, it doesn’t matter. Star Wars or Star Trek.
Phil: Well, I prefer the early Star Wars and the late Star Trek, so I have to say both.
John: Okay, okay, both. There you go. You’re a hybrid.
Phil: Yeah. Well Chris Pine is a way better Kirk than Shatner, I think, but I like Mark Hamill more than I like Kylo Ren.
John: I hear you on that. How about a favorite Disney character?
Phil: Favorite — oh, of course. It is Maui from Moana.
Phil: It’s The Rock’s character, right? You’re welcome.
John: Right, right.
Phil: Lin-Manuel Miranda from Hamilton fame.
John: You’re exactly right. That is it. How about, oh, your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Phil: I’m ambidextrous on that too. I’ve got four PCs and three Macs, so, yeah.
John: Holy cow, man. You have all the computers.
Phil: Yeah. Well I was the VP of IT before I started being a sales trainer, so I had to understand them all. Frankly, for work, because I’m more creative, I have my Mac; but for home, I’ve got my Dell.
John: There you go. So, on your Dell, on your mouse, right click or left click?
Phil: Oh, yes, both.
Phil: Right now, I’ve got a regular PC mouse. I will right click all the time. That’s why I transitioned to Mac eventually is because I use the Windows mouse to right click, copy and paste.
John: So, both. You do cheat. We’ve got two more, two more. I’ve got, oceans or mountains. That’s an easy one.
Phil: Oh, oceans, man. That’s why I live in Florida. Madeira Beach is my jam.
John: Yeah, totally. Last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Phil: Favorite thing I have. Honestly, I would have to say it’s my health, very grateful for having health. Because in this day and age, man, it is not taken for granted and I’m grateful for it every day.
John: It’s hard to argue that one. That’s for sure. When you’re healthy, you can play pinball.
Phil: That’s right.
John: That’s right. So, how did you get started with pinball? Was this from when you were a kid or something that you got into later?
Phil: Yeah. Well, definitely when I was a kid, my mom worked at a place, it was called the Middle Inlet Inn, and my mom was a bartender. She’d bring me along. We didn’t have a babysitter, so mom would bring me along. Sometimes she would have to go attend bar for other customers, so I would get to play a ball or two. I learned to play then. Then as I grew up, pinballs conversation because it’s something in common. My mom, my brothers, we would absolutely play pinball. It was fun. We could play four-player because I have mom and two brothers, so there are four of us. We could play four-player all the time. It was fun.
John: That’s awesome. That’s very cool, man. Yeah, then it’s almost like reliving your childhood every time that you play.
Phil: For sure. Yeah, it’s a great memory. My mom is staying with me right now. We haven’t gone for pinball this time because we’re staying at home, but absolutely we went up to the Replay Arcade Museum up in Tarpon Springs. I’ve played at the Seattle Pinball Museum with my mom and my brother. My brother has four or five games in his house.
John: Very cool. That’s awesome, man. That’s awesome. Do you have like a favorite pinball game?
Phil: Sure. My all-time favorite is either F-14 Tomcat or Millionaire. F-14 Tomcat is a fighter game. It’s got multi-ball. It’s really, really fun. The game is fast. As a Tomcat pilot, ga-ga-ga, shoot that off, right?
John: Right, right.
Phil: Because it’s a game from the ‘80s and ‘90s. And then Millionaire, Millionaire is my favorite because it’s got a spinner. The spinner spins, and it gives you the bonus and some great multi-ball and some great ramps as well. Thankfully my brother has both of those. We grew up, we played F-14 Tomcat in my Uncle Tom’s bar in Crivitz, and we played Millionaire at lunch at the Village Square at lunch and could spend a whole hour just playing pinball with one quarter.
John: That’s incredible. How do you judge a good pinball game, in your mind?
Phil: Well, first of all, it’s got to have multi-ball. I don’t like a lot of the old classic games. I like the newer games. That’s the first thing. Second, it’s got to have a nice backslash. It’s got to be well-lit. The games that are really dark aren’t a lot of fun for me. It’s got to have some action beyond just the game. Something unexpected is really fun. Some have shooters. My new favorite game is Star Wars because Star Wars, you can shoot the Death Star, and it’s got a video element to it. That’s really fun.
Some of the ones that I also really like are music ones. There’s a Kiss game. There’s a Metallica game. There’s an AC/DC game. You get to pick the music that you’re playing when you play the game. It’s really fun because, again, I’m a retro guy. I like the retro stuff. I can listen to Who Made Who or I can listen to Lick It Up, I can listen to Green Hell by Metallic and play pinball too. It’s really fun.
John: Wow. I didn’t even realize that they have that now, with the choose the songs and all that stuff. Because it was mostly, when I was growing up, when there was the multi-ball, that was cool because there are the four fins that are all going or whatever.
John: What do they call them, paddles? I’m not even sure.
John: Flippers, there we go.
Phil: If you remember The Who, those crazy flipper fingers, that was what Tommy had, crazy flipper fingers. That’s how you remember because they’re flipping back and forth like flippers on a fish. Although I will say though, one game that doesn’t get enough credit that I think is really fun is Frank Thomas’ Big Hurt baseball.
Phil: Love that game. You can hit a lot of home runs. What was fun is if you ever got it down the side too fast, it would have the voice go, “Same player shoots again.” It was really fun because it almost mocked you for sucking, but it made you feel good.
John: That’s super funny. It is so amazing, all the different — how they put them together, I guess. Because it’s still the same basic elements, it’s just how you put them together and then the video piece and the music piece that you overlay it with.
Phil: That’s right. How do you the ladders, how do you do the shoots, how do you do the ramps, what triggers the multi-ball, where are the free games, where are the extra balls, what are some of the other goodies you can get, stuff like that. Are there other challenges that you can do to complete the game? Because some games, you’ll never see all the challenges. I’ve got 500, 600, 700 million on a game and still not completed it, and there are some games that get completed way less score than that.
Pinball is really interesting. The common thread, to your point, is the silver ball, that’s the thing, the ramps to shoot them around and then flippers and bumpers. Everything else is optional. Everything else you just figure out, and you lay it out. It’s almost like a golf course. It’s pretty cool.
John: I never really thought about it like that. I didn’t realize that games can finish? Pinball, so what happens at the end?
Phil: Well, not finish like you would at Pac-Man. There’s not an end. By that is you unlock all the goodies, you get all the Easter eggs, you played all the multi-balls, you’ve completed all the missions. Basically it just ends up going on repeat, and you can get more extra games, more extra balls, stuff like that. Once you unlock all the Easter eggs, like Super Mario Brothers, for instance, good example. You can play it forwards, and you will never get to the end of the game. I’ve gotten 256, 356 levels. If you go on reverse, it’s quite different. You get extra guys, and it’s a totally different game.
Pinball is not that way. Pinball does not have a finite end. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, once you beat Mike Tyson, the game is done. Or if you like Cruis’n, if you like Cruis’n, car games, once you beat the last race, it’s over. Pinball, as long as the balls are still there, you’re still playing; but you’ve unlocked all the Easter eggs, you’ve done all the fun stuff, you might as well end. Because at some point you’re playing against the game, not against the score.
John: Right, right. Is this something that you feel like has given you a skill set that you’ve used in your work life?
Phil: Yeah. Well, the ability to multi-think is certainly important in work. As a sales trainer, I have to think about things in different ways, and a lot of the analogies on pinball is a lot like life. We have to think about, okay, if I hit it here and it does this, then what? If I do this, then what? What am I going to do if I get four balls, if too much comes to me at once? A lot of times the answer is I just want to keep each ball juggling just a little bit until I can come up with a strategy.
So, absolutely, John, I think I’ve definitely used that in work as a sales trainer. I’ve used that in sales. I’ve used that as a leader, and I use that to teach. Because sometimes, as hard as I prepare, as hard as I practice to be a really good trainer, to be a really good speaker; sometimes people ask a question I’ve no preparation for. With that, the fact that I have learned to play pinball absolutely helps that, not to mention, it’s a great connector with people. Because if you love pinball, it’s a great connection, and if you don’t, you’re like, eh, whatever. That’s cool.
John: Yeah. Well I remembered it from the first time we met. I was like, yeah, this guy is all about pinball. He loves pinball. It’s not like, yeah, I played it a couple of times. It’s like, no, no, I own some. I love that analogy of just trying to keep each ball in play until you come up with a strategy. Because if they go through the shoot and they’re down, then now you’ve got nothing. It’s like, all right, just keep that going. That’s excellent, and probably why I wasn’t necessarily always that great at pinball because it’s multi-think. I’m like, no.
Phil: That’s okay. You can be more straight line, or I can be more ambidextrous there. We work together, and it works.
John: Yeah, exactly. I just keep banging the — I’m like the foosball person that just keeps spinning it. It’s like, no. You can’t just flipper it nonstop.
Phil: Well you tilt the pinball game so you really can’t do that. Because the magnets, once the magnets get too outbalanced, the game tilts and it’s over. The whole field freezes. Your ball shoots right down and you don’t get any score.
John: Oh, wow. See? Where were you when I was ten years old?
Phil: I believe I was ten years old as well, sir.
John: Right, in Wisconsin.
John: Right? So is this something that you talk about at work?
Phil: For sure. Absolutely. Yeah, I talk about it. It’s on my LinkedIn profile. It’s on a lot of my stuff. My Facebook page is Phil Gerbyshak, speaker, author, pinball wizard, so, absolutely. It’s important to me and, again, it connects. If people want to talk about it, I’m happy to talk about it, but it’s not like I use that analogy with everybody. I’m happy to use their analogy. I’ve tried to fit in their story more than forcing them to fit in mine.
John: Oh, that’s interesting. Do you ask people maybe what their pinball is for them?
Phil: Of course. I want to know who are they beyond work. I had a training actually this morning with someone who was like, “Oh, wow. I didn’t know any of that stuff about you.” I said, “Well, this is our first opportunity really to talk one-on-one.” Interestingly enough, we started talking about business, and I train. I trained her. She’s a sales professional. Today was the first time we were one-on-one. So today we got to share more personal stuff, and I always ask that.
On LinkedIn, I think the key to using LinkedIn effectively is to connect with people as humans, not just business people because, frankly, social media in general, man, I don’t need more work. By that, I don’t want to make more money. That’s not what I’m saying. If I think about it, I don’t need more work. I need more people that I want to talk to so that I can serve them better so that I can determine whether or not they’re someone that I can work with or not.
That helps me do that because if I connect with someone on a human level, we can have a conversation that’s very conversational, more social, less media, and now we can have an opportunity to see, is there a fit? Hopefully they’ll lower their deflector shields and we’ll have a conversation about stuff that matters to them, which ends up including work, maybe not the first conversation, but eventually it does. When that’s the case, then the magic happens.
John: Right, right. I guess there’s a lot of people that, just in the back of their head, they think, maybe professionalism tells us this lie of only work, put up this veneer, make it very two-dimensional. This is my job. This is where I went to school. Do you have any words of encouragement to people that might be stuck on that?
Phil: Well, first of all, I would say, think about the people that you actually like to talk to. Are they people that just talk about work, or are they people that have a whole life? It’s whole life. I want to talk about pinball. I want to talk about work. I want to talk about your music. Do you surf? Do you swim? Do you like the mountains? Do you like the beach? I want to talk about that stuff. That’s important. If that’s the case, then why not put it out there so people can actually comment on it? Why not just be yourself? I call it finding out what’s your weird and sharing that because we all have something weird. You call it What’s Your “And”? Same thing.
We’ve got to find what makes us different because, honestly, once we can share what makes us different, then we can see what makes us the same. I think that’s really important for folks, and being brave with that. I say being brave because somebody asked about it first, and it’s not often the first person that makes the biggest impact. It’s the second person, the second follower. The leader makes it safe. The next person is the most critical piece because sometimes the leader does, and it’s really awkward because they over-share, they make things uncomfortable; but if we flip it around, the leader goes and then somebody else goes. Now everybody else feels it safe, much like pinball once you unlock the multi-ball.
John: Yeah. It all comes back to pinball. It really does. That’s so great. I never really thought about that, of it’s that second person that makes it not weird because once there are two, well now it’s a thing. Now it’s tradition, if you will. Well everyone’s doing it type of a thing. Where, if it’s just the one person, well it’s just Carl’s whatever. But, no, somebody else did it too, and now it’s a chain. Now it’s one of those email chains from the ‘90s of, if you don’t forward this, then all the bad luck.
Phil: You mean it’s what I get on Facebook Messenger 74 times a day from my friends because they forward it onto me, so, yeah, the same thing.
John: Exactly. That’s a huge point that I never really thought about, of how big of a deal that is for that second person to normalize it, maybe go a little bit further if that first one didn’t go far enough or die within if that one was kind of creepy, but it normalizes it, which is such a great point. Do you feel it’s more on the individual to create that in their little circle or is it on the tone of the top of an organization to make it, this is how we do things here?
Phil: I think it’s both. Usually, someone has to go first, and usually it’s someone at the bottom that does that. Seldom is the CEO or the CFO or the CAO the most gregarious person on the team. Now if it is, fantastic. Let that happen. That absolutely can filter down. If it isn’t, then often filter from the bottom up, and I think that’s okay too, because what happens is the key is to tie that to your organization’s values.
Working at Vector, one of our values is teamwork. Well teamwork means we trust each other. We trust each other because we share. We share because it’s safe. Once it’s safe, then we’re cut back. Oh, it’s safe, so we trust each other. We trust each other, so we share. We share because we’re focused on teamwork. It goes both ways there, so I think it’s an and, not an or.
John: No, it is. It certainly helps when people at the top are receptive, but they rarely have that idea, like you said, because they’re worried about bigger things going on. It’s cool that people feel like they can share that because it’s receptive, which is great that you’re there. That’s awesome. Very cool, very cool.
Is there anything that Vector does or places that you’ve seen to encourage the sharing? Is there, not a mandated thing, but a regular thing where people share?
Phil: Yeah. Well, totally out on holidays, it’s often really easy, dressing up for holidays, doing something fun. Again, to that point executives lead, I’ve seen this really well at Vector, believe it or not. For the holidays, I see, for Halloween, we had the executive team dressed up like the cast of Scooby-Doo.
John: Oh, that’s awesome.
Phil: Yeah. That was really great. My boss is the Chief Sales Officer. He dressed up like Fred. We had the CFO, believe it or not, was dressed up like Shaggy.
John: That’s great.
Phil: We had people dressed up like Scooby, like Thelma. It was really cool. They didn’t just stand in their office like, hey, I’m dressed up, look at me. No. They went around, and they passed candy out in their costume, which I thought was really cool. That’s one way.
I think other organizations do that often through their philanthropic efforts. They let employees suggest, hey, what are you passionate about? Whether that’s your favorite LGBTQ+ nonprofit, whether that’s you’re interested in homelessness and ending that and child poverty or whatever that is, that lets people plug in because then it ties to their values and they’re able to let that hang out in ways they wouldn’t.
It isn’t always pinball because pinball sometimes is too much play, but pinball can then come from that because now we’ve made it safe to be different. Being safe to be different then allows us to do things that really aid that organization, help them find their “And” on their own.
John: That’s really great, and such cool examples that people could do easily. It’s just being vulnerable and being okay with just letting your guard down of, yeah, I dressed up like a Scooby Doo character and I’m passing out candy. What’s your problem? type of thing. Not having to be so serious all the time and talking work all the time. Sometimes it’s good to have those little distractions to bring people together tighter, like you were saying. Yeah. That’s awesome, man. That’s so great.
Any words of encouragement to people listening that have a hobby or a passion that they’re like, this has nothing to do with my job? Maybe it’s pinball or maybe it’s something else.
Phil: Yeah. Well, I think, first, ask around. Ask people where it’s already safe. Just ask questions. Hey, do you like pinball? Do you like, whatever your hobby is? Do you do that? Pay attention. You’ll often see clues. You might see a picture of something. You might see a book on a table. You might see something that they post on Instagram or Facebook or something. I’m not encouraging to stalk people, but just pay attention. If they post something in public, they want it remarked on, so do that.
The other thing is go first and help somebody go second. Make it safe for them as well. The third thing I would do, and I would encourage this very much is hang up pictures of what you are interested in. Make your cubicle, make your office more you. Just bring that out so that people can make it safe to ask you questions. Because, much like I said, if you’re asking others questions, that’s great, but if you don’t make it safe for them to ask you questions, a lot of times they’re not going to.
So, while leaders might eat last, leaders need to go first. That doesn’t entitle leaders necessarily, but people on this revolution, the “And” revolution of showcasing who they are beyond work, they have to go first and encouraging that second person as well.
John: And making it easy for them to ask because, yeah, if you have blank walls, then I don’t know what to talk to you about other than that spreadsheet that you have on your desk or whatever. How many pinball machines can you fit in your office, Phil?
Phil: All of them. You know why? Because they’re on my phone. That’s the great part, right?
Phil: Yeah. I can download the Stern Pinball app, it’s called Pinball Arcade, and I can play right on my phone.
John: Oh, that’s fantastic. So now there’s pinball on the phone now. Of course there is. Why wouldn’t there be?
Phil: Yeah, and it’s really fun. Again, a lot of times it isn’t that I play it. It’s that I can share it. Somebody asks me about pinball, be like, “No, dude, are you really into that?” Then I can get my phone, and I’ll be like, “No, no, hold on. Here’s a pinball game that I love to play. Give it a shot.” I’ll show them how to play. Their eyes will just light up. They thought I was kidding, or they thought it was because I like The Who. Now I do like The Who, but really I like pinball the game, not just Pinball Wizard, the song.
John: Yes, exactly. It’s just that happens to be the theme song.
Phil: That’s right.
John: Yeah, just nice coincidence. This has been awesome, man, and so many great nuggets for people to take away to apply in their world pretty simply. That’s the thing about a lot of this is it’s simple but not easy, I guess, but those ideas are really excellent for people to use. Thank you, man.
Before we wrap this up though, it’s only fair that I turn the tables. You are now the host of the show. You can rapid fire question me now since I so rudely started out with that.
Phil: So, pinball for you, do you play? What’s your game?
John: You know I haven’t played pinball in so long, but I’m trying to remember what games — I don’t even remember, but I feel like there was a baseball one that I did really like because it had the baseball diamond. There would be runners that would advance and what have you. I can relate to that, being a baseball player as well. It was like, oh, it’s taking that sport and applying it in this game, so that was always fun. I guess I didn’t do it often enough to fully appreciate, but now, the next time I see one, my mind is blown right now.
Phil: There you go.
John: I can’t unsee it.
Phil: Board games or video games.
John: Video games, man. Original NES. I have it in my basement, the original when I was a kid. It still works. The Duck Hunt doesn’t work on the flat screens anymore. Now what’s so cool about that is I went out online and because the chips can hold so much more information now, I have one cartridge that has like 400 NES games. I mean, Tyson’s Punch Out, Mario 1, 2, 3, all that stuff, all the way from Excitebike to Zelda and all that in between. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.
Phil: That’s fantastic. So, sports games or action games.
John: Oh, wow. I’m going to go sports. I’m going to go sports games probably more for that realistic side of it again and also the competitive side of it where I can place my friend. There was a friend growing up. We used to always play Nintendo baseball. Every time he was losing in the bottom of the ninth and the he hits a ground ball for the third out and then he accidentally hit reset, so then he could claim that he was undefeated. I’m like, “You’re a punk, man.” The sports ones were always fun because they were more interactive, I guess. You could play against someone.
Phil: RBI baseball or Tecmo Super Bowl.
John: Oh, wow. That’s a real hard one. I don’t know. Am I allowed to be Bo Jackson in the Tecmo?
Phil: Well, you must pick the open rates, of course.
John: Yeah, that’s exactly right because then you never get tackled.
Phil: That’s right.
John: Man, that’s a really hard question. Probably both. I don’t even know. I’m going to cheat and cop out like you did.
Phil: That’s fair. Last question, what is the first video game you remember playing?
John: Oh, wow. It would have been on an Atari. It might have been Pac-Man. It might have been Pac-Man. Yeah. Although I do remember Pong. I do remember Pong, but I’m not sure if that was the first one I played. It might have been Pac-Man. Yeah. What about you? I’ll throw it back really quick.
Phil: Oh, of course I played Pong, but the one that I remember the best playing was Enduro Racer, the old racing game, because all you could see were headlights when you get fog and you get headlights.
John: And they were square.
Phil: Yeah, and they were square, and you only got four different directions you could go.
Phil: And a button that you couldn’t hit to do anything because you’re not shooting out of your car, right? So, yeah, early racing games, not as much fun as one might think.
John: Right. That’s awesome, man. That’s so cool. Well this has been so much fun, Phil. Thanks for being with me on What’s Your “And”?
Phil: Yeah, thanks for having me.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Phil and his pinball machines or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on that page, please click that big green button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.