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Secrets of Success: Darren Kolinsky

Rieva Lesonsky
secrets of success

There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Darren Kolinsky, the president of Action Sales West, a full-service sales and marketing company representing candy and snack manufactures in California and Nevada. The company is responsible for all aspects of the sales for the companies it reps.

Darren was born into the candy business—his father and grandfather started a candy distributing company in 1965. That company was sold to a large distribution company in 2005, and Darren went along with the deal, working there for 18 months. After working as an employee for a few companies, Darren found his way back into the candy business, buying into a small company in 2009 as the fourth partner. Over the next few years he bought out his partners and expanded the company into other areas, markets and product lines.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Darren Kolinsky: I always wanted to be a candy salesman like my dad.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Kolinsky: After my family business sold, I went to work for the company that purchased us, and then on to some other companies as an employee as well. I found that my entrepreneurial spirit was just too strong not be in business for myself!

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Kolinsky: No, it was really a lot of smaller moments that took me here.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Kolinsky: My father trained me, and I owe most of what I know and what I have learned to him. The best advice he gave me was, “When a customer calls, put down your pencil and do what they ask for. When you are done, go back to what you were doing.” I know that sounds simple but I hear his voice in my head almost every day telling me that. The customer is king!

The best advice I ever gave is what I tell my employees: “We don’t sell anything that people will miss if it disappears from the stores. It is a privilege that we have our customers’ business, and we need to appreciate that.”

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Kolinsky: Put the customers’ needs ahead of everything. They need to be the priority because without them, we have nothing.

Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?

Kolinsky: I think that small businesses will always stand the test of time. Small is good as it gives the company the ability to focus and not get lost in the enormity of having so many employees and large company red tape.

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Kolinsky: Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Kolinsky: “Going in one more round when you don’t think you can–that’s what makes all the difference in your life.” –Rocky Balboa

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Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.