Bankrate: You seem to have always worked, even in high school. Was that due to your economic situation growing up?
Sparks: Yeah. First,
we were poor, and then we were lower middle class. It probably wasn't until I
got to college that my dad was a full professor instead of an assistant professor.
Working a variety of jobs was one of the wiser decisions that I made upon graduation
because I did not know what I wanted to do; in college it was investment banking,
then it kind of veered toward law, then neither of those things worked out. So
when I graduated, I didn't know whether I wanted to work for a Fortune 500 company
or a small business. Did I want to be my own boss or did I want to work for someone?
Did I want to have an office to go to every day or did I want some kind of job
where I worked out of my home? I didn't know. I was only 22 years old. And I spent
three years trying to find what it is that I really wanted to do.
You tried working in real estate, right?
Real estate appraisal, yes. And real estate investing.
Did that appeal to you?
Sure, but you need capital, and I had no capital. That probably would have been
the route I would have gone had I had access to capital, but I had none. I mean,
I had no credit and my parents were very poor. How do you get a loan from a bank
when you're 22 and you're not going to live in the house and you have a low income
and nothing in savings?
How did you fare in pharmaceutical sales?
I was all right. I enjoyed that. By that time, we had a baby and our priorities
shifted a little bit. My wife was very clear about wanting to stay home, and we
needed health insurance and a company car and those things. By then, I realized
that pharmaceutical sales would be a very good choice for me because I knew by
then that I didn't want to work in an office; I wanted to have at least some control
over a business. If you're a pharmaceutical rep, you pretty much work out of your
house, you see your boss once every two or three weeks at the most, and your territory
is your own and it's up to you to manage it and do your own scheduling and do
your best to present the products in the way that they should be presented.
Your book with 1964 Olympic 10,000-meter track champion Billy Mills, "Wokini,"
got you published. Did the royalties from that book whet your appetite to be a