Carson man passes along life lessons |

Carson man passes along life lessons

Sam Bauman
Appeal Staff Writer

Bob Thomas, the former curmudgeon on the Nevada Appeal opinion pages, talks about his latest project with a gleam in his eyes.

“I’ve got 10,000 copies of my new book, ‘The Best-Kept Career Secret: Professional Sales,’ ready to go. I want college students to know that before they quit school or can’t make up their minds about a career that there is hope.”

The book was written with two purposes in mind: To encourage students to get a degree, and help them realize there is a bright future for them in professional sales. There’s no profit in it for Thomas.

Thomas was a national sales manager in aerospace until he got fired. He’d had a successful career in professional sales up until then. But now he was stymied: too experienced for most jobs, not experienced enough for top jobs.

So he came up with an idea: There was a problem out there, and he thought he had a solution. The problem was that most big buildings are cooled by circulating water, and keeping that water free of corrosion was a constant problem.

He contacted some professional friends, all of whom had to be able to live for a year without an income, and formed a company to design and produce a monitoring system for water-cooled buildings. It wasn’t easy; lawsuits flew, but the company forged ahead and finally was a success.

Not too long after that, Thomas and his associates sold the company and could have retired. But he was restless and started another company, with same result. So he did retire – sort of.

He was elected to the school board and the Nevada Legislature. And he wrote blistering editorials for the Appeal, taking on Republicans and Democrats alike, even swinging at newspaper editors and writers.

If that weren’t enough, he wrote a guide to starting a business called “The Fail-Safe Enterprise – A Success Model for Entrepreneurs.”

The book “reveals” his “secrets” in creating a world-class business with zero money invested, zero money borrowed, zero stock and zero venture capital taken.

Meanwhile, he donated $1 million to Hillsdale College in Michigan because he had endowed an internship in professional sales there.

But again, that wasn’t not enough. He was a salesman, and he recalled the problems he had had as a sales manager. “I couldn’t find any good, experienced salesmen able to sell to professionals. They had to have a degree to be able to speak to other professionals.”

So he wrote “The Best Kept Career Secret: Professional Sales.” He paid to have it printed, and this fall, he will embark on a marketing program to get it in the hands of college students.

“I want to rescue those potential dropouts, I want them to find their true aptitudes – not those the college placement base on what a person thinks they are good at, but what they actually have a talent for.”

Thomas wants to change the salesman image. He is a crusader for a better life for those who can do the job. And he’s doing it the nonprofit way.

He has a Rolls Royce in his garage (where he also has an elaborate model railway layout) and a World War II vintage biplane in one of his hangars at the Carson City airport.

His home is large but not pretentious. He owns property in three states.

He wants that good life to be available to a younger generation – through professional sales.

He says, “It’s been a great, exciting life, and I want it to be available to college graduates through the book. After all, sales is the most vital element of a free-market economy.”

• Contact reporter Sam Bauman at or 881-1236.